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in imitation of these two great like art in his poem on the fall of poets, opens his Paradise Lost with Man, has related the fall of those an infernal council plotting the fall Angels who are his profeffed eneof Man, which is the action he mies. Beside the many other beauproposed to celebrate ; and as for ties in such an episode, its runthose great actions, the battle of ning parallel with the great action the Angels, and the creation of the of the poem, hinders it from breakworld, (which preceded in pointing the unity so much as another of time, and which, in my opinion, episode would have done, that had would have entirely destroyed the not so great an affinity with the unity of his principal action, had principal subje&. In short, this is he related them in the same order the same kind of beauty which the that they happened) he cast them critics admire in the Spanish Fryar, into the fifth, fixth and seventh or the Double Discovery, where books, by way of episode to this the two different plots look like
counterparts and copies of one anoAristotle himself allows, that ther. Homer has nothing to boast of as : The second qualification required to the unity of his fable, tho' at in the action of an epic poem is, the fame time that great critic and that it hould be an entire action : philosopher endevors to palliate An action is entire when it is comthis imperfe&tion in the Greek poet plete in all its parts ; or as Aristotle by imputing it in some measure to describes it, when it consists of a the very nature of an epic poem. beginning, a middle, and an end. Some have been of opinion, that Nothing Thould go before it, be inthe Æneid also labors in this parti- termix'd with it, or follow after it, cular, and has episodes which may that is not related to it. As on the be looked upon as excrescencies contrary, no single step should be rather than as parts of the action. omitted in that jutt and regular proOn the contrary, the poem, which gress which it must be supposed to we have now under our confidera- take from its original to its contion, hath no other episodes than summation. Thus we see the anger such as naturally arise from the of Achilles in its birth, its contifubject, and yet is filled with such nuance, and effects; and Æneas's a multitude of astonishing inci- settlement in Italy, carried on dents, that it gives us at the same through all the oppositions in his time a pleasure of the greatest va- way to it both by sea and land. riety, and of the greatest fimpli. The action in Milton 'excels (I city; uniform in its nature, tho' think) both the former in this pardiversified in the execution. ticular; we see it contrived in Hell,
I must observe also, that, as Vir- executed upon Earth, and punished gil in the poem which was designed by Heaven. The parts of it are to celebrate the original of the Ro- told in the most distinct manner, man empire, has described the birth and grow out of one another in the of its great rival, the Carthaginian most natural order. common-wealth: Milton, with the
The third qualification of an a 'much greater than could have epic poem is its greatness. The been formed upon any Pagan anger of Achilles was of such con- fyftem. fequence, that it embroiled the But Aristotle, by the greatness of kings of Greece, destroyed the he- the action, does not only mean that roes of Afia, and engaged all the it should be great in its nature, but Gods in factions. Æneas's settle- also in its duration; or in other ment in Italy produced the Cæsars, words, that it should have a due and gave birth to the Roman length in it, as well as what we empire. Milton's fubject was fill properly call greatness. The just greater than either of the former; measure of this kind of magnitude, it does not determin the fate of he explains by the following fimilifingle persons or nations, but of a tude. An animal, no bigger than whole species. The united Powers a mite, cannot appear perfect to of Hell are joined together for the the eye, because the fight takes it destruction of mankind, which they in at once, and has only a confused effected in part, and would have idea of the whole, and not a distinct completed, had not Omnipotence idea of all its parts; If on the conitself interposed. The principal trary you should suppose an aniactors are Man in his greatest per- mal of ten thousand furlongs in fection, and Woman in her highest length, the eye would be so filed beauty. Their enemies are the with a single part of it, that it fallen Angels : The Mefliah their could not give the mind an idea of friend, and the Almighty their pro- the whole. What these animals tector. In short, every thing that are to the eye, a very short or a is great in the whole circle of be- very long action would be to the ing, whether within the verge of memory. The first would be, as it nature, or out of it, has a proper were, loft and swallowed up by it, part assigned it in this admirable and the other difficult to be conpoem.
tained in it. Homer and Virgil In poetry, as in architecture, not have shown their principal art in only the whole, but the principal this particular; the action of the members, and every part of them, Iliad, and that of the Æneid, were should be great.
I will not pre- in themselves exceeding fhort, bat sume to say, that the book of games are fo beautifully extended and diin the Æneid, or that in the Iliad, versified by the invention of epiare not of this nature, nor to re- sodes, and the machinery of Gods, prehend Virgil's fimile of the top, with the like poetical ornaments, and many other of the fame kind that they make up an agreeable in the Iliad, as liable to any cen- . ftory fufficient to employ the me fure in this particular ; but I think mory without overcharging it. Milwe may say, without derogating ton's action is enriched with such a from those wonderful performances, variety of circumstances, that I have that there is an indisputable and taken as much pleafare in reading unquestioned magnificence in every the contents of his books, as in the part of Paradise Lost, and indeed best invented story I ever met with.
It is poffible, that the traditions, HAVING examined the action on which the Iliad and Æneid were of Paradise Lost, let us in the next built, had more circumstances in place consider the actors. This is them than the history of the fall Aristotle's method of considering ; of Man, as it is related in Scrip- first the fable, and secondly the ture. Befides it was easier for manners, or as we generally call' Homer and Virgil to dash the truth them in English, the fable and the with fiction, as they were in no characters. danger of offending the religion of Homer has excelled all the he. their country by it. But as forroic poets that ever wrote, in the Milton, he had not only a very multitude and variety of his chafew circumstances upon which to racters. Every God that is admitraise his poem, but was also obliged ted into his poem, acts a part which to proceed with the greatest cau- would have been suitable to no' tion in every thing that he added other Deity. His princes are as out of his own invention. And, much distinguished by their manindeed, notwithstanding all the re ners as by their dominions; and ftraints he was under, he has filled even those among them, whose his story with fo many furprising characters seem wholly made up of incidents, which bear so close ana- courage, differ from one another logy with what is delivered in holy as to the particular kinds of courage Writ, that it is capable of pleasing in which they excel. In short, the most delicate reader, without there is scarce a speech or action giving offense to the most scru. in the Iliad, which the reader may palous.
not ascribe to the person that speaks The modern critics have col- or acts, without seeing his name at lected from several hints in the the head of it. Iliad and Æneid the space of time, Homer does not only out-shine which is taken up by the action all other poets in the variety, but of each of thofe poems; but as also in the novelty of his cha2. great part of Milton's story racters. He has introduced among was transacted in regions that lie his Grecian princes a person, who out of the reach of the sun and the had lived in three ages of men, sphere of day, it is impoffible to and conversed with Theseus, Hergratify the reader with such a cules, Polyphemus, and the first calculation, which indeed would race of heroes. His principal actor be more curious than instructive; is the son of a Goddess, not to none of the critics, either an- mention the ofspring of other Deicient or modern, having laid down ties, who have likewise a place in rules to circumscribe the action of his poem, and the venerable Troan epic poem within any deter- jan prince who was the father of mined number of years, days, or so many kings and heroes. There hours.
is in these several characters of
Homer, a certain dignity as well But of this more particularly as novelty, which adapts them in hereafter.
a more peculiar manner to the
nature of an heroic poem. Tho'characters in these two persons. We at the same time, to give them the see Man and Woman in the highest greater variety, he has described a innocence and perfection, and in Vulcan, that is, a buffoon among the most abject state of guilt and his Gods, and a Thersites among infirmity. The two last characters his mortals.
are, indeed, very common and obVirgil falls infinitely short of vious, but the two firft are not only Homer in the characters of his more magnificent, but more new poem, both as to their variety and than any characters either in Virgil novelty. Æneas is indeed a perfect or Homer, or indeed in the whole character, but as for Achates, tho' circle of nature. he is stiled the heroe's friend, he Milton was so sensible of this does nothing in the whole poem defect in the subject of his poem, which may deserve that title. Gyas, and of the few characters it would Mnestheus, Sergestus, and Cloan- afford him, that he has brought inthus, are all of them men of the to it two actors of a shadowy and same stamp and character, fictitious nature, in the persons of ---- fortemque Gyan, fortemque has wrought into the body of his
Sin and Death, by which means he Cloanthum.
fable a very beautiful and wellThere are indeed several very na- invented allegory. But notwithtural incidents in the part of Asca- standing the fineness of this allegory nius; as that of Dido cannot be may atone for it in some measure; sufficiently admired. I do not see I cannot think that persons of such any thing new or particular in Tur- a chimerical existence are proper
Pallas and Evander are re- actors in an epic poem; because mote copies of Hector and Priam, there is not that measure of probaas Lausus and Mezentius are almost bility annexed to them, which is parallels to Pallas and Evander. requisite in writings of this kind, The characters of Nisus and Euri- as I shall show more at large herealus are beautiful, but common. after. We must not forget the parts of Si Virgil has, indeed, admitted non, Camilla, and some few others, Fame as an actress in the Æneid, which are fine improvements on the but the part she acts is very short, Greek poet. In ihort, there is nei. and none of the most admired cirther that variety nor novelty in the cumstances in that divine work, persons of the Æneid, which we We find in mock-heroic poems, meet with in those of the Iliad. particularly in the Dispensary and
If we look into the characters the Lutrin, several allegorical perof Milton, we shall find that he has sons of this nature, which are very introduced all the variety his fable beautiful in those compositions, and was capable of receiving. The may, perhaps, be used as an arguwhole species of mankind was in ment, that the authors of them two persons at the time to which were of opinion, such characters the subject of his poem is confined. might have a place in an epic work. We have, however, four distinct For my own part, I should be glad
the reader would think so, for the Angels are indeed as much' diver-fake of the poem I am now exa- sified in Milton, and distinguished mining, and must further add, that by their proper parts, as the Gods if such empty unfubftantial beings are in Homer or Virgil. The reader may be ever made use of on this will find nothing ascribed to Uriel, occasion, never were any more Gabriel, Michael
, or Raphael, nicely imagined, and employed in which is not in a particular manmore proper actions, than those of ner suitable to their respective chawhich I am now speaking.
racters. Another principal actor in this There is another circumstance in poem is the great enemy of man- the principal actors of the Iliad kind. The part of Ulysses in Ho- and Æneid, which gives a peculiar mer's Odyssey is very much ad- beauty to those two poems, and mired by Aristotle, as perplexing was therefore contrived with very that fable with very agreeable plots great judgment. I mean the auand intricacies, not only by the thors having chosen for their hemany adventures in his voyage, roes persons who were so nearly and the subtlety of his behaviour, related to the people for whom but by the various concealments they wrote. Achilles was a Greek, and discoveries of his person in se- and Æneas the remote founder of veral parts of that poem. But the Rome. By this means their countrycrafty being I have now mentioned, men (whom they principally propomakes a much longer voyage than sed to themselves for their readers) Ulysses, puts in practice many more were particularly attentive to ali wiles and stratagems, and hides the parts of their story, and fymhimself under a greater variety of pathized with their heroes in all shapes and appearances, all of their adventures. A Roman could which are severally detected, to the not but rejoice in the escapes, sucgreat delight and surprise of the cesses, and victories of Æneas, and reader.
be grieved at any defeats, misfor-' We may likewise observe with tunes, or disappointments that behow much art the poet has varied fel him; as a Greek must have had several characters of the persons the same regard for Achilles. And that speak in his infernal assembly, it is plain, that each of those poems On the contrary, how has he repre. have lost this great advantage, sented the whole Godhead exert- among those readers to whom their ing itself towards Man in its full heroes are as ftrangers, or indiffebenevolence under the three-fold rent persons. distinction of a Creator, a Re Milton's poem is admirable in deemer, and a Comforter!
this respect, since it is imp ble Nor muft we omit the person of for any of its readers, whatever Raphael, who, amidst his tender- nation, country or people he may ness and friendhip for Man, shows belong to, not to be related to the such a dignity and condescenfion in persons who are the principal actors all his speech and behaviour, as are in it; but what is still infinitely suitable to a superior nature. The more to its advantage, the principal