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20 THE ACTION NOT LIMITED TO ANY PARTICULAR TIME.
The Moder n Criticks have collected from several Hints in the Iliad and Jfrzc-id the Space of Time, which is taken up by the Action of each of those Poems; but as a great Part of sl[ilt0n's Story was transacted in Regions that lie out of the reach of the Sun and the Sphere of Day, it is impossible to gratifie the Reader with such a Calculation, which indeed would be more curious than instructive; none of the Criticks, either Ancient or Modern, having laid down Rules to circumscribe the Action of an Epic Poem with any determinednumber of Years, Days, orxHours.1'
Tszis -zbieze of Critzkzsm on Milton's Paradise Lost,
flall be carriea' 0n in following [Saturdays] Papers.
22 CHARAC PERS OF HOMER, VIRGIL, AND MILTON COMPARED.
a certain Dignity as well as Novelty, which adapts them in a more peculiar manner to the Nature of an Heroic Poem. Tho', at the same time, to give them the greater variety, he has described a Vulcan, that is, a Buffoon among his Gods, and a Taerfites among his Mortals. Virgil falls infinitely short of Homer in the Characters of his Poem, both as to their Variety and Novelty. Am-as is indeed a perfect Character, but as for Aclzates, tho' he is stiled the Hero's Friend, he does nothing in the whole Poem which may deserve that Title. Gyas, Mnesleus, Sergeslus, and Cloanthus, are all of them Men of the same Stamp and Character,
ALLEGORICAL CHARACTERS NOT PROPER TO AN EPIC. 23
him, that he has brought into it two Actors of a Shadowy and Fictitious Nature, in the Persons of Sin and Death, by which means he has interwoven in the Body of his Fable a very beautiful and well invented Allegory. But notwithstanding the Fineness of this Allegory may atone for it in some measure; I cannot think that Persons of such a Chymerical Existence are proper Actors in an Epic Poem; because there is not that measure of Probability annexed to "them, which is requifite in Writings of this kind. [as I shall shew more at large hereafter.] Virgil has, indeed, admitted Fame as an Actress in the .-fneizl, but the Part she acts is very short, and none of the most admired Circumstances in that Divine Work. We find in Mock-Heroic Poems, particularly in the Diflenfizry and the Lutrin, several Allegorical Persons of this Nature, which are very beautiful in those Compofitions, and may, perhaps, be used as an Argument, that the Authors of them were of Opinion, that?" such Characters might have a Place in an Epic Work. For my own part, I should be glad the Reader would think so, for the sake of the Poem I am now examining, and must further add, that if such empty unsubstantial Beings may be ever made use of on this occafion, there were never any more nicely imagined, and employed in more proper Actions, than those of which I am now speaking.-[ Another Principal Actor in this Poem is the great Enemy of Mankind. The part of Ulifles in Homer's Ozlyflcy is very much admired by Arislotle, as perplexing that Fable with very agreeable Plots and Intricacies, not only by the many Adventures in his Voyage, and the Subtilty of his Behaviour, but by the various Concealments and Discoveries of.his Person in several parts of that Poem. But the Crafty Being I have now mention ed, makes a much longerVoyage than Ul)Q7"es, puts in practice many more Wiles and Stratagems, and hides himself under a greater variety of Shapes and Appearances, all of which are severally detected, to the great Delight and Surprize of the Reader.
24, THE 1-'RINCIPAL ACTORS IN AN EPIC POEM SHOULD
We may likewise observe with how much Art the Poet has varied several Characters of the Persons that speak in his infernal Assembly. On the contrary, how has he represented the whole Godhead exerting it self towards Man in its full Benevolence under the Three-fold Distinction of a Creator, a Redeemer and a Comsorter !
Nor must we omit the Person of Raphael, who amidst his Tenderness and Friendship for Man, shews such a Dignity and Condescention in all his Speech and Behaviour, as are suitable to a Superior Nature. [The Angels are indeed as much diverfified in slsilton, and distinguished by their proper Parts, as the Gods are in Hbmer or Virgil. The Readerwill find nothing ascribed to Uricl, Gabriel, slsichael, or Raphael, which is not in a particular manner suitable to their respective Characters.]
There is another Circumstance in the principal Actors of the Iliad and .-Em-id, which gives a particular [peculiar] Beauty to those two Poems, and was therefore contrived with very great Judgment. I mean the Authors having chosen for their Heroes Persons who were so nearly related to the People for whom they wrote. Achilles was a Greek, and .-fineas the remote Founder of Rome. By this means their Countrymen (whom they principally proposed to themselves for their Readers) were particularly attentive to all the parts of their Story, and sympathized with their Heroes in all their Adventures. A Roman could not but rejoice in the Escapes, Successes and Victories of .-Emas, and be grieved at any Defeats, Misfortunes, or Disappointments that befel him; as a Greek must have had the same regard for Achilles. And it is plain, that each of those Poems have lost this great Advantage, among those Readers to whom their Heroes are as Strangers, or inditserent Persons.
-Milt0n's Poem is admirable in this respect, fince it is impossible for any of its Readers, whatever Nation, Country or People he may belong to, not to be related to the Persons who are the principal Actors in lt ; but what is still infinitely more to its Advantage, the principal Actors in this Poem are not only our