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cide with some pause in the action. In this respect, a dramatic or epic poem ought to resemble a sentence or period in language, divided into members that are distinguished from each other by proper pauses; or it ought to resemble a piece of music, having a full close at the end, preceded by imperfect closes that contribute to the melody. Every act in a dramatic poem ought therefore to close with some incident that makes a pause in the action ; for otherwise there can be no pretext for interrupting the representation: it would bė absurd to break off in the very heat of action ; against which every one would exclaim: the absurdity still remains where the action relents, if it be not actually suspended for some time. This rule is also applicable to an epic poem; though in it a deviation from the rule is less remarkable; because it is in the reader's power to hide the absurdity, by proceeding instantly to another book. The first book of Paradise Lost ends without any close, perfect or imperfect: it breaks off abruptly, where Satan, seated on his throne, is prepared to harangue the convocated host of the fallen angels; and the second book begins with the speech. Milton seems to have copied the Æneid, of which the two first books are divided much in the same manner. Neither is there any proper pause at the end of the fifth book of the Æneid. There is no proper pause at the end of the seventh book of Paradise Lost, nor at the end of the eleventh. In the Iliad little attention is given to this rule.

This branch of the subject shall be closed with a general rule, That action being the fundamental part of every composition, whether epic or dramatic, the sentiments and tone of language ought to be subservient to the action, so as to appear natural and proper for the occasion. The application of this rule to our modern plays, would reduce the bulk of them to a skeleton.

After carrying on together epic and dramatic compositions, I shall mention circumstances peculiar to

each; beginning with the epic kind. In a theatrical entertainment, which employs both the eye and the ear, it would be a gross absurdity to introduce upon the stage superior beings in a visible shape. There is no place for such objection in an epic poem; and Boileau,* with many other critics, declares strongly for that sort of machinery in an epic poem. But waiving authority, which is apt to impose upon the judgment, let us draw what light we can from reason. I begin with a preliminary remark, That this matter is but indistinctly handled by critics; the poetical privilege of animating insensible objects for enlivening a description, is very different from what is termed machinery, where deities, angels, devils, or other supernatural powers, are introduced as real personages, mixing in the action, and contributing to the catastrophe; and yet these are constantly jumbled together in the reasoning. The former is founded on a natural principle; but, can the latter claim the same authority? far from it; nothing is more unnatural. Its effects, at the same time, are deplorable. First, It gives an air of fiction to the whole, and prevents that impression of reality which is requisite to interest our affections, and to move our passions. This of itself is sufficient to explode machinery, whatever entertainment it may

afford to readers of a fantastic taste or irregular imagination. And, next, were it possible, by disguising the fiction, to delude us into a notion of reality, which I think can hardly be, an insuperable objection would still remain, that the aim or end of an epic pnem can never be attained in any perfection, where machinery is introduced; for an evident reason, that virtuous emotions cannot be raised successfully but by the actions of those who are endued with passions and affections like our own, that is, by human actions; and as for moral instruction, it is clear, that none can be drawn from beings who act not upon the same princi

* Third part of his Art of Poetry.


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• ples with us. A fable in Esop's manner is no objection

to this reasoning : his lions, bulls, and goats, are truly
men in disguise; they act and feel in every respect as
human beings; and the moral we draw is founded on
that supposition. Homer, it is true, introduces the
gods into his fable: but the religion of his country
authorized that liberty ; it being an article in the
Grecian creed, that the gods often interpose visibly and
bodily in human affairs. I must however observe, that
Homer's deities do no honor to his poems: fictions that
transgress the bounds of nature seldom have a good
effect; they may inflame the imagination for a mo-
ment, but will not be relished by any person of a cor-
rect taste. They may be of some use to the lower
rank of writers; but an author of genius has much
finer materials, of nature's production, for elevating
his subject and making it interesting.

One would be apt to think that Boileau, declaring
for the heathen deities as above, intended them only
for embellishing the diction; but unluckily he banishes
angels and devils, who undoubtedly make a figure in
poetic language equal to the heathen deities. Boileau,
therefore, by pleading for the latter in opposition to
the former, certainly meant, if he had any distinct
meaning, that the heathen deities may be introduced
as actors. And, in fact, he himself is guilty of that
glaring absurdity, where it is not so pardonable as in
an epic poem. In his ode upon the taking of Namur,
he demands, with a most serious countenance, whether
the walls were built by Apollo or Neptune ? and in
relating the passage of the Rhine, anno 1672, he de-
scribes the god of that river as fighting with all his
might to oppose the French monarch; which is con-
founding fiction with reality at a strange rate. The
French writers in general run into this error: wonder-
ful the effect of custom, to hide from them how ridicu.
lous such fictions are !

That this is a capital error in the Gierusalemme Liberata, Tasso's greatest admirers must acknowledge: a

situation can never be intricate, nor the reader ever in
pain about the catastrophe, as long as there is an an-
gel, devil, or magician, to lend a helping hand. Vol-
taire, in his essay upon epic poetry, talking of the
Pharsalia, observes judiciously, “That the proximity.
of time, the notoriety of events, the character of the
age, enlightened and political, joined with the solidity of
Lucan's subject, deprived him of poetical fiction.” Is
it not amazing, that a critic, who reasons so justly with
respect to others, can be so blind with respect to him-
self? Voltaire, not satisfied to enrich his language with
images drawn from invisible and superior beings, in-
troduces them into the action : in the sixth canto of
the Henriade, St. Louis appears in person, and terrifies
the soldiers; in the seventh canto, St. Louis sends the
God of Sleep to Henry; and, in the tenth, the demons
of Discord, Fanaticism, War, &c. assist Aumale in a
single combat with Turenne, and are driven away by
a good angel brandishing the sword of God. To blend
such fictitious personages in the same action with mor-
tals, makes a bad figure at any rate; and is intolerable
in a history so recent as that of
fection is not the lot of man.* Nunes

I have tried serious reasonings upon this subject;
but ridicule, I suppose, will be found a more successful
weapon, which Addison has applied in an elegant man-

Whereas, the time of a general peage is, in all

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But per




* When I commenced author, my aim was to amuse,

and perhaps
to instruct, but never to give pain. I accordingly avoided every
living author, till the Henriade occurred to me as the best instance
I could find for illustrating the doctrine in the text; and I yielded
to the temptation, judging that my slight criticisms would never
reach M. de Voltaire. They have however reached him; and
have, as I am informed, stirred up some resentment. I am afflicted
at this information ; for what title have I to wound the mind more
than the body? It would besides show ingratitude to a celebrated
writer, who is highly entertaining, and who has bestowed on me
many a delicious morsel. My only excuse for giving offence is
that it was undesigned: for, to plead that the censure is just, is

As the offence was public, I take this opportunity to
make the apology equally so. I hope it will be satisfactory: per-
haps not.- owe it, however, to my own character.

*2 3 48 that the sentiment of all

no excuse.

Kortline Viribill Eng. 1726. At the Consles

ion of the 70 year svar, 1863, pranes Ems-were Bilder Corn wwepriae

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appearances, drawing near; being informed that there are several ingenious persons who intend to show their talents on so happy an occasion, and being willing, as much as in me lies, to prevent that effusion of nonsense which we have good cause to apprehend, I do hereby strictly require every person who shall write on this subject, to remember that he is a Christian, and not to sacrifice his catechism to his poetry. In order to it, I do expect of him, in the first place, to make his own poem, without depending upon Phæbus for any part of it, or calling out for aid upon any of the muses by name. I do likewise positively forbid the sending of Mercury with any particular message, or dispatch, relating to the peace; and shall by no means suffer Minerva to take upon her the shape of any plenipotentiary concerned in this great work. I do further declare, that I shall not allow the destinies to have had a hand in the deaths of the several thousands who have been slain in the late war; being of opinion, that all such deaths may be well accounted for by the Christian system of powder and ball. I do therefore strictly forbid the fates to cut the thread of man's life upon any pretence whatsoever, unless it be for the sake of the rhyme. And whereas, I have good reason to fear, that Neptune will have a great deal of business on his hands, in several poems which we may now suppose are upon the anvil, I do also prohibit his appearance, unless it be done in metaphor, simile, or any very short allusion: and that even here he may not be permitted to enter, but with great caution and circumspection. I desire that the same rule may be extended to his whole fraternity of heathen gods; it being my design to condemn every poem to the flames in which Jupiter thunders, or exercises any other act of authority which does not belong to him. In short, I expect that no Pagan agent shall be introduced, or any fact related, which a man cannot give credit to with a good conscience. Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to ex

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