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• 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 fulleit splendor : it grows in the progress both upon himself and others, and becomes on fire, like a chariot-wheel, by its own rapidity. Exact difpofition, just thought, correct elocution, polished numbers, may have been found in a thousand; but this poetical fire, his “ 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 absurdities, 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 Starius, 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 Homer, and in him only, it burns every where clearly, and every where irrefilibiy.

I shall here endeavour to Thew, how this vaft Invention 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 distinguishes him from 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 seemed 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 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 thall begin with considering him in this part, as it is naturally the first; and I speak of it both as it means the delign 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 Iliad is the anger of Achilles, the most Mort and single subject that ever was chosen by any poet,

Yet this he has supplied with a valter variety of incidents and events, and crowded with a greater number of counsels, speeches, battles, and episodes of all kinds, than are to be found even in those poems whose schemes are of the utmost Latitude and irregularity. The action is hurried on with the malt vehement spirit, and its whole duration employs not so much as fifty days. Virgil, for want of lo 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 general. ly 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 desige 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 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 acion for those of Archemorus. If Ulysses visits the Prades, 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 Arnida. 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 celestial armour, Virgil

and Tasso make the fame present to theirs. Virgil has not only observed this close imia tation 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 (fays Macrobius) almost word for word from Pisander, as the loves of Dido and Æneas are taken from those of Medea and Jason in Apollonius, and several others in the same 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 consideration 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 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 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 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 those 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 poetic, 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 nature 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 so many, with so visible and surprizing a variety, or given us such lively and affecting impressions of them. Every one has something so fingularly his own, that no painter could have distinguished them more by their features, than the poet has by their manners. Nothing can be more exact than the distinctions he has observed in the different degrees of virtues and vices. The single quality of courage is wonderfully diversified in the several characters of the Iliad. That of Achilles is furious and intractable ; that of Diomede. forward, yet listening to advice, and subject to command ; that of Ajax is heavy, and self-confiding : of Hector, active and vigilant; the courage of Agamemnon is inspirited by love of empire and ambition; that of Menelaus mixed with softnets and tenderness for his people : we find in Idomeneus, a plain direct foldier, in Sarpedon a gallant and generous one. Nor is this judicious and astonishing diversity to be found only in the principal quality which constitutes the main of each character, but even in the under parts of it, to which he takes care to give a tincture of that principal ong. For example, the main characters of Ulysses and Nestor consist in wisdom ; and they are diftinct in this, that the wisdom of one is artificial and various, of the other natural, open and regular. But they have, besides, characters of courage ; and this quality also takes a different turn in each from the difference of his prudence ; for one in the war depends still upon caution, the other upon experience. It would be endless to produce instances of these kinds. The characters of Virgil are far from striking us in this open manner; they lie in a great degree hidden and undistinguished, and where they are marked most evidently, affect us not in proportion to those of Homer. His characters of valour are much alike; even that of Turnus seems po way peculiar but as it is in a superior degrce; and we fee nothing that differences the courage of Mneftheus from that of Sergefthus, Cloanthus, or the reit. In like manner it may be remarked of Statius's heroes, that an air of impetuofity runs through them all; the same horrid and favage courage appears in his Capaneus, Tydeus, Hippomedon, &c. They have a parity of character, which makes them seem brothers of one family. I believe when the reader is led into this track of reflection, if he will pursue it through the Epic and Tragic writers, he will be convinced how infinitely fuperior in this point the Invention of Homer was to that of all others.

The fpeches are to be considered as they flow from the characters, being perfect or defective as they agree o disagree with the manners of those who ulter them." As there is more variety of characters in the Iliad, so there is of speeches, ihan in any other poem. Every thing in it has manners (as Aristotle expresses it) that is, every thing is acted or spoken. It is hardly credible in a work of such length, how small a number of lines are employed in narration. In Virgil the dramatic part is less in proportion to the narrative ; and the speeches often confilt of general reflections or thoughts, which might be equally just in any person's mouth upon the fame oecasion. As many of his persons have no apparent characters, fo many of his speeches escape being applied and judged by the rule of propriety. We oftner think of the author himself when we read Virgil, than when we are engaged in Homer: all which are the effects of a colder invention, that interests us less in the action described : Homer makes us hearers, and Virgil leaves us readers.

If in the next place we take a view of the sentiments, the same presiding faculty is eminent in the sublimity and fpirit of his thoughts. . Longinus has given his opinion, that it was in this part Homer principally excelled. What were alone sufficient to prove the grandeur and excellence of his sentiments in general, is, that they have so remarkable a parity with those of the scripture ; Duport, in his Gnomologia Homerica, has collected innumerable instances of this fort. And it is with justice an excellent modern writer allows, that if Virgil has not so many thonghts that are low and vulgar, he has not so many that are fublime and noble; and that the Roman author seldom rises into very astonishing sentiments, where he is not fired by the Iliad.

If we observe his descriptions, images, and limiles, we shall find the invention still predominant. To what else can we ascribe that vast comprehenlion of images of every sort, where we see cach cireunifiance of art, and individual of nature summoned together by The extent and fecundity of his imagination : to which all things in their various views presented themselves in an instant, and had their impressions taken off to perfection at a heat? Nay, he not only gives us the full prospeels of things, but several unexpected peculiarities and Gide-views, unobserved by any painter but Homer. Nothing is fo surprizing as the descriptions of his battles, which take up no less than half the Iliad, and are supplied with so vast a variety of incidents, that no one bears a likeness to another ; such different kinds of deaths, that no two heroes are wounded in the same manner; and such a profusion of noble ideas, that every baule rises above the last in greatness, horror, and confusion

It is certain there is not near that number of images and descriptions in any Epic Poet ; though every one has affilted himself with a great quantity out of him: and it is evident of Virgil elpecially, that he has scarce any comparifons which are not drawn from his master.

If we descend from hence to the expreffion, we see the bright imagination of Homer, shining out in the most enlivened forms of it. We acknowledge him the father of poetical diction, the first who taught that language of the Gods to men. His expression is like the colouring of some great masters, which discovers itself to be laid on bolily, and executed with rapidity. It is indeed the strongest and most glowing imaginable, and touched with the greatest fpirit. Aristotle had reaion to say, He was the only poet who had found out living words; there are in him n:ore daring figures and metaphors than in any good author whatever. An arrow is impatient to be on the wing, and a weapon thirsts to drink the blood of an enemy, and the like ; yet his expression is never too big for the fense, but juftly great in proportion to it. It is the sentiment that Swells and dills out the diction,

which rises with it, and forms itself about it: for in the same degree that a thought is wars mer, an expression will be brighter ; as that is more strong, this will become more per{picuous : like glass in the furnace, which grows to a greater magnitude, and refines to a greater clearness, only as the breath within is more powerful, and the heat more intense.

To throw his language more out of profe, Homer seems to have affected the compound epithets. This is a sort of composition peculiarly proper to poetry, not only as it heightened the diction, but as it aslifted and filled the numbers with greater sound and pomp, and likewise conduced in some measure to thicken the images. On this last consideration I cannot but attribute these also to the fruitfulness of his invention, since (as he has managed them) they are a sort of fupernumerary pi&tures of the persons or things to which they are joined. We see the motions of Hector's plumes in the epithet xopusaiola, the landscape of Mount Neritus in that of vochquno-, and so of others ; which particular images could not have been infifted upon so long as to express them in a description (though but of a single line) without diverting the reader too much from the principal action or figure. As a metaphor is a short fimile, one of those epithets is a short description.

Lastly, if we consider his versification, we shall be fen ble what a fare of praise is due to his invention in that.. He was not satisfied with his language as he found it settled in any one part of Greece, but searched through its differing dialects with this particular view, to beautify and perfe&t his numbers : be considered these as they had a greater mixture of vowels and consonants, and accordingly employed them as the verse required either a greater smoothness or strength. What he most affected was the Ionic, which has a peculiar sweetness from its never using contractions, and from its custom of resolving the dipthongs into two fyllables ; so as to make the words open themselves with a more spreading and sonorous Auency. With this he mingled the Attic contractions, the broader Doric, and the feebler Eolic, which often rejects its aspirate, or takes off its accent; and completed this variety by altering some letters with the licence of poetry. Thus his meafures, instead of being fetters to his sense, were always in readiness to run along with the warmth of his rapture, and even to give a farther representation of his notions, in the correspondence of their sounds to what they signified. Out of all these he has derived that barmony, which makes us confess he had not only the richest head, but the finest ear, in the world. This is so great a truth, that whoever will but consult the tune of his verses, even without understanding them (with the same fort of diligence as we daily see practised in the case of Italian Operas) will find more sweetness, variety, and inajesty of sound, than in any other language or poetry. The beauty of his numbers is allowed by the criticks to be copied but faintly by Virgil himself, though they are so just to ascribe it to the nature of the Latin tongue : indeed the Greek has come advantages both from the natural sound of its words, and the turn and cadence of its verse, which agree with the genius of no other language : Virgil was very senlble of this, and used the utmost diligence in working up a more intractable language to whatsoever graces it was capable of ; and in particular never failed to bring the found of his line to a beautiful agreement with its sense. If the Grecian poet has not been so frequently celebrated on this account as the Roman, the only reason is that fewer criticks have understood one language than the other. Dionysius of Halicarnassus has pointed out many of our Author's beauties in this kind, in his treatise of the Composition of Words. It fuffices at present in observe of his numbers, that they flow with so much ease, as to make one imagine Homer had no other care than to transcribe as fast as the Muses distared: and at the same time with so much force and inspired vigour, that they awaken and raise us like the sound of a trumpet. They roll along as a plentiful river, always in motion, and always full: while we are borne away by a ride of verse, the most rapid, and yet the most fimooth imaginable.

Thus on whatever side we contemplate Homer, what principally strikes us is his Invention. leis that which forms the character of each part of his work; and accordingly we find it to have made his fable more extensive and copious than any other, his manners

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more lively and strongly marked, his speeches more affecting and transported, his sentiments more warm and sublime, his images and descriptions are full and animated, his exprellion more raised and daring, and his numbers more rapid and various. I hope in what has been said of Virgil with regard to any of these heads, I have no ways derogated from his character. Nothing is more absurd or endless, than the common method of comparing eminent writers by an opposition of particular passages in them, and forming a judgment from thence of their merit upon the whole. We ought to have a certain knowledge of the principal character and distinguished excellence of each : it is in that we are to consider him, and in proportion to his degree in that we are to admire him. No author or man ever excelled all the world in more than one faculty; and as Homer has done this in Invention, Virgil has in Judgment. Not that we are to think Homer wanted Judgment, because Virgil had it in a more eminent degree; or that Virgil wanted invention, because Homer posseft a larger share of it: each of these great authors had more of both than perhaps any man besides, and are only said to have less in comparison with one another. Homer was the greater genius, Virgil the better artist. In one we most admire the man, in the other the work: Homer hurries and transports us with a commanding impetuosity, Virgil leads us with an attractive majefty: Homer scatters with a generous profusion, Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence: Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a boundless overflow; Virgil like a river in its banks, with a gentle and constant stream. When we behold their battles, methinks the two poets resemble the heroes they celebrate : Homer, boundless and irrelistible as Achilles, bears all before him, and shines more and more as the tumult increases ; Virgil, calmly daring, like Æneas, appears undisturbed in the midst of the action ; disposes all about him, and conquers with tranquillity. And when we look upon their machines, Homer seems like his own Jupiter in his terrors, shaking Olympus, scattering the lightnings, and firing the heavens ; Virgil, like the same power in his benevolence, counselling with the Gods, laying plans for empires, and regu. larly ordering his whole creation.

But, after all, it is with great parts, as with great virtues ; they naturally border on fome imperfection; and it is often hard to distinguish exactly where the virtue ends, or the fault begins. As prudence may sometimes fink to suspicion, so may a great judgment decline to coldness ; and as magnanimity may run up to profusion or extravagance, so may a great invention to redundancy or wildness. If we look upon Homer in this view, we Thall perceive the chief objections against him to proceed from so noble a cause as the ex. cess of this faculty.

Among these we may reckon some of his Marvellous Fictions, upon which so much criticism has been spent, as furpassing all the bounds of probability. Perhaps it may be with great and superior fouls, as with gigantic bodies, which exerting themselves with unusual strength, exceed what is commonly thought the due proportion of parts, to become miracles in the whole; and like the old heroes of that make, commit something near extravagance, amidst a series of glories and inimitable performances. Thus Homer has his speaking horses, and Virgil his myrtles distilling blood, where the latter has not so much as contrived the easy intervention of a Deity to save the probability.

It is ouing to the same vast invention, that his fimiles have been thought too exuberant and full of circumstances. The force of this faculty is seen in nothing more, than in its inability to confine itself to that single circumstance upon which the comparison is grounded : it runs out into embellishments of additional images, which however are so managed as not to overpower the main one. His fimiles are like pictures, where the principal figure has not only its proportion given agreeably to the original, but is also fet off with occasional ornaments and prospects. The same will account for his manner of heaping a number of comparisons together in one breath, when his fancy suggested to him at once fo many various and correspondent images. The reader will easily extend this observation to more objections of the same kind.

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