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fue their obfervations through an uniform and bounded walk of Art, than to comprehend the vast and various extent of Nature.
Our author's work is a wild paradise, where if we cannot see all the beauties so distinctly as in an ordered garden, it is only because the number of them is infinitely greater. It is like a copious nursery, which contains the feeds and first productions of every kind, out of which those who followed him have but selected some particular plants, each according to his fancy, to cultivate and beautify. If some things are too luxuriant, it is owing to the richness of the foil; and if others are not arrived to perfection or maturity, it is only because they are over-run and opprest by those of a stronger
It is to the strength of this amazing invention we are to attribute that unequalled fire and rapture, which is fo forcible in Homer, that no man of a true poetical fpirit is master of himself while he reads him. What he writes, is of the most animated nature imaginable ; every thing moves, every thing lives, and is put in action. If a council be called, or a battle fought, you are not coldly informed of what was said or done as from a third person; the reader is hurried out of him-, self by the force of the Poet's imagination, and turns in one place to a hearer, in another to a spectator. The course of his verses resembles that of the army he describes,
Οι δ' άρ' ίσαν, ωσεί τε συρί χθών πάσα νέμοίίο. " They pour along like a fire that sweeps the whole
fe earth before it." It is however remarkable that his fancy, which is every where vigorous, is not discovered immediately at the beginning of his poem in its fullest splendor : it grows in the progress both upon himself and others, and becomes on fire, like a chariot-wheel, by it own rapidity. Exact disposition, just thought, correct elocution, polished numbers, may have been found in a thousand ; but this poetical fire, this " vivida vis animi,” in a very few. Even in works where all those are imperfect or neglected, this can overpower criticism, and make us admire even while we disapprove. Nay, where this appears, though attended with absurNities, it brightens all the rubbish about it, till we see nothing but its own splendor. This fire is discerned in Virgil, but discerned as through a glass, reflected from Homer, more shining than fierce, but every where equal and constant: in Lucan and Statius, it bursts out in sudden, short, and interrupted flashes : in Milton it glows like a furnace kept up to an uncommon ardor by the force of art : in Shakespeare, it strikes before we are aware, like an accidental fire from heaven : but in Ho. mer, and in him only, it burns every where clearly, and every where irresistibly.
I shall here endeavour to Thew, how this vast Inyention exerts itself in a manner superior to that of any poet, through all the main constituent parts of his work, as it is the great and peculiar characteristic which dif. tinguishes him from all other authors.
This strong and ruling faculty was like a powerful ftar, which, in the violence of its courfe, drew all things
within its vortex. It seemed not enough to have taken in the whole circle of arts, and the whole compass of nature, to fupply his maxims and reflections; all the inward passions and affections of mankind, to furnish his characters ; and all the outward forms and images of things, for his defcriptions; but, wanting yet an ampler sphere to expatiate in, he opened a new and boundless walk for his imagination, and created a world for himself in the invention of Fable. That which Aristotle calls the “ Soul of poetry,” was first breathed into it by Homer. I shall begin with considering himn in this part, as it is naturally the first ; and I speak of it both as it means the design of a poem, and as it is taken for fiction.
Fable may be divided into the Probabie, the Allegorical, and the Marvellous. The Probable Fable is the recital of such actions as though they did not happen, yet might, in the common course of nature : or of such as, though they did, become fables by the additional episodes and manner of telling them. Of this fort is the main story of an Epic poem, the return of Ulysses, the settlement of the Trojans in Italy, or the like. That of the Iliad is the anger of Achilles, the moit short and single subject that ever was chosen by any Poet. Yet this he has supplied with a vaster variety of incidents and events, and crowded with a greater number of councils, speeches, battles, and episodes of all kinds, than are to be found even in those poems whose fchemes are of the utmost latitude and irregularity. The action is hurried on with the most vehement Spirit, and
ils whole duration employs not so much as fifty days. Virgil, for want of fo warm a genius, aided himself by taking in a more extensive subject, as well as a greater length of time, and contracting the design of both Homer's poems into one, which is yet but a fourth part as large as his. The other Epic poets have used the fame practice, but generally carried it fo far as to superinduce a multiplicity of fables, destroy the unity of action, and lose their readers in an unreasonable length of time. Nor is it only in the main design that they have been unable to add to his invention, but they have followed him in every episode and part of story. If he has given a regular Catalogue of an Ariny, they all draw up their forces in the same order. If he has funeral
games for Patroclus, Virgil has the same for An
and Statius (rather than omit them) destroys the unity of his action for those of Archemoras. If Ulyra ses visits the thades, the Æneas of Virgil, and Scipio' of Silius, are sent after him. If he be detained from his return by the allurements of Calypso, fo is Æneas by Dido, and Rinaldo by Armida. If Achilles be abSent from the army on the score of a quarrel through half the poem, Rinaldo must absent himself just as long on the like account. If he gives his hero a suit of celeftial armour, Virgil and Tatio make the same present to theirs. Virgil has not only observed this close imitation of Homer, but, where he had not led the way, supplied the want from other Greek authors. Thus the story of Sinon and the taking of Troy was copied (says Macrobius) almoft word for word from Pisander, as the B 3
loves of Dido and Æneas are taken from those of Mea dea and Jason in Apollonius, and several others in the fame manner.
To proceed to the Allegorical Fable: if we reflect upon those innumerable knowledges, those secrets of nature and physical philosophy, which Homer is generally supposed to have wrapped up in his Allegories, what a new and ample scene of wonder may this confideration afford us! how fertile will that imagination appear, which was able to clothe all the properties of elements, the qualifications of the mind, the virtues and vices, in forms and persons; and to introduce them into actions agreeable to the nature of the things they shadowed! This is a field in which no succeeding poets could dispute with Homer; and whatever commendations have been allowed them on this head, are by no means for their invention in having enlarged his circle, but for their judgment in having contracted it. For when the mode of learning changed in following ages, and science was delivered in a plainer manner; it then became as reasonable in the more modern poets to lay it afide, as it was in Homer to make use of it. And perhaps it was no unhappy circumstance for Virgil, that there was not in his time that demand upon him of fo great an invention, as might be capable of furnishing all those allegorical parts of a poem.
The Marvellous Fable includes whatever is supernatural, and especially the machines of the Gods. He feems the first who brought them into a system of machinery for poetry, and such a one as makes its greatest