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the prominent lesson of his

poem. It is

supposed, that piety to the gods and resignation to the divine will are this predominant moral. Piety and resignation to the gods are certainly principal traits in the character of his hero Æneas. He designed his hero through many difficulties and conflicts finally to triumph, and, therefore, it might be expected, that his poem would be so managed as to derive the final triumph of his hero from his ascendant virtue, and to illustrate the excellence of piety by a striking exhibition of its rewards. But the conduct of the poem presents no such view, and the piety of Æneas appears to have but little influence on his fortunes. Not all his piery can soften the sira sæva Junonis; nor is the interposition of any god, not even of the supreme Jove, in his favour, ever, that I remember, referred to his piety. The maternal piety of Venus, and not the resigned piety of Æneas to the gods in general, appears to be his most effectual friend. Virgil clothes his hero with the virtue of piery, but,

having done this, the conduct and the machinery of the poem are but little accommodated thereto. Virgil, I think, was of the Stoic sect, and, with submission to my lords the critics, I would offer a conjecture, that the Stoic maxim is not foreign to the spirit and conduct of the Æneid, viz. that a consistency of character and steady pursuit of one great object will be attended with an honourable issue, and triumph over the opposition both of gods and men. If there were but a moral in it, but unfortunately it is of such stubborn materials as to defy moral, I should mention one leading object of the Æneid with more assurance; that he intended to flatter his own nation in the character of their supposed progenitor, and to persuade them, that the empire, which they had usurped over the rights of nations, was founded in the immutable decrees of the Fates.

Upon the whole it does not appear, that Homer at all, and Virgil very little, if at all, wrote under the influence of a refined and

subtle

subtle moral. Of other epic poets among the ancients, if epic poets they may be called, such as Lucan and Statius, it is hardly pretended; and therefore this moral, which is so interwoven with the fine-spun theory of the critics, from Aristotle down to Bossu, to which the whole poem is to be subservient, and for which all the celestial machinery is provided, may be little better

be little better than a dream, like the allegorical creation of the gods, who act so distinguished a part in the ancient epopæią, which is to be the subject of our next examination.

VOL. II.

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ESSAY

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ESSAY XI.

0" ON THE MACHINERY OF THE ANCIENT EPIC

POEM, continued.

'he principal object, for which this essay was undertaken, remains for the consideration of the present evening; viz. dismissing the supposition of any one great moral, and the allegorical interpretation of a more than human machinery, as subservient to the illustration of this moral, let us receive the epic poem of the ancients with its terrestrial and celestial agents, and inquire, whether the ancient-epopoeia derives any advantage from the introduction of this supernatural machinery; whether, the character of the gods and goddesses of the Greek and Ro: man Heaven being in every view inferior to that of men, the assigning to such contemptible personages so principal a part does

H 2

not

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