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PREFACE TO THE ILIAD,

Homer is universally allowed to have had the greatest invention of any writer whatever. The praise of judgment Virgil has justly contested with him, and others may have their pretensions as to parti, cular excellencies; but his invention remains yet unrivalled. Nor is it a wonder if he has ever been acknowledged the greatest of poets, who most excelled in that which is the very foundation of poetry It is the invention that in different degrees distinguishes all great geniuses: the utmost stretch of buman study, learning, and industry, which masters every thing besides, can never attain to this. It furnishes art with all her materials, and without it, judgment itself can at best but steal wisely; for art is only like a prudent steward that lives on managing the riches of nature. Whatever praises may be given to works of judgment, there is not even a single beauty in them to which the invention must not contribute : as in the most regular gardens, art can only reduce the beauties of nature to more regularity, and such a figure, which the common eye may better take in, and is therefore more entertained with. And perhaps the reason why common critics are inclined to prefer a judicious and methodical genius to a great and fruitful one, is, because they find it easier for themselves to pure sue their observations 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 nure sery, which contains the seeds 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 soil ; 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 Dature.

It is to the strength of this amazing invention we are to attribute that unequalled fire and rapti se, which is so forcible in Homer, that no man of a true poetical spirit is master of himself while he reads him. What he writes, is of the most animating 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 himself by the force of the pott's imagination, and turns in one place to a hearer, in another to a spectator, The course of his terses resembles that of the army he describes.

Οι δ' άρ' ίσαν, ωσιι τι τυρί χθών πάσα νίμοιτο. They pour along like a fire that sweeps the whole 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 splendour : it grows in the progress both upon hiinself and others, and becomes on fire, like a chariot-wheel, by its 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. Eren in works where all those are imperfect or neglected, this can Gerpower criticisin, and make us admire even while we disapprove. Nay, where this appears, though attended with absurdities, it brightens all the rubbish abont it, till we see nothing but its own splendour. This fire is discerned in Virgil, but discerned as through a glass, reflected from Homer, more shining phan fierce, but every where equal and constant : in Lucan and Statius, it bursts out in sudden, short, aoil interrupted tlashes : in Milton it glows like a furnace kept up to an uncommon arduur by the force of art: in fhakespeare it strikes before we are aware, like an accidental fire from heaven: but in llomncs, and in him only, it bums every where clearly, and every where irresistibly.

I shall here endeavour to show, how this vast invention exerts itself in a manner superior to that of ans pot, through all the main constituent parts of his work, as it is the great and peculiar characteristic such distinguishes hin frota all other authors.

This strong and ruling faculty was like a powerful star, which, in the violence of its course, drew all things within its vortex. It seemned not enough to have taken in the whole circle of arts, and the whole compass of nature, to supply his maxims and reflections; all the ini.ard passions and affections of inankind, to furnish his characters; and all the outward forms and images of things, for his descriptions; 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 him 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 probable, 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 sort 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 liad is the anger of Achilles, the most 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 poeins whose schemes are of the utmost latitude and irregularity. The action is hurried on with the most vehement spirit, and its whole duration employs unt so much as fifty days. Virgil, for want of so 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 same practice, but generally carried it so 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 himn in every episode and part of story. If he has given a regular catalogue of an army, they all draw up their forces in, the same order. If he has funeral games for Patroclus, Virgil has the same for Anchises ; and Statius (rather than omit them) destroys the unity of his action for those of Archemoras. If Ulys. ses visits the shades, the Æneas of Virgil, and Scipio of Silius, are sent after him. If he be detained from his return by the allurements of Calypso, so 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 hiinself just as long on the like account. If he gives his hero a suit of celestial armour, Virgil and Tasso inake the same present to theirs. Virgil has not only observed this close imitation of Ho. iner, 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) almost word for word from Pis sander, as the loves of Dido and Æneas are taken from those of Medea and Jason in Apollonius, and several others in the saine manner.

To proceed to the allegorical fable: if we reflect upon those innumerable knowledges, those secrets of nature and physical philosophy, whịch Homer is generally supposed to have wrapped up in his Allegories, what a new and ample scene of wonder may this consideration afford us! how fertile will that imagination appcar, 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 ports 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 aside, 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 so great an inyention, as might be capabļe of furrishing all those allegorical parts of a poem.

The marvellous fable includes whaterer is supernatural, and especially the machines of the gods. He seems the first who brought them into a system of machinery for poetry, and such a one as makes its greatest importance and dignity. For we find thosc authors who have been offended at the literal notion of the gods, constantly laying their accusation against Homer as the chief support of it. But whatever cause there might be to blame his machines in a philosophical or religious view, they are so perfect in the poetio, that mankind have been ever since contented to follow them: none have been able to enlarge the sphere of poetry beyond the limits he has set : every attempt of this natura has proved unsuccessful; and after all the various changes of times and religions, his gods continue to this day the gods of poetry.

We come now to the characters of his persons; and here we shall find no author has ever drawn sc

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