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Writers of my own Time, than to publish any of their Faults and Imperfections. In the mean while I should take it for a very great Favour from some of my underhand Detractors, if they would break all Measures with me so sar, as to give me a Pretence for examining their Performances with an impartial Eye: Nor shall I look upon it as any Breach of Charity to criticise the Author, so long as I keep clear ot the Person.

In the mean while, till I am provoked to such Hostilities, I shall from Time to Time endeavour to do Justice to those who have distinguished themselves in the politer Parts of Learning, and to point out such Beauties in their Works as may have escaped the Observation of others.

As the first Place among our English Poets is due to Milton, and as I have drawn more Quotations out of him than from any other, I shall enter into a regular

(Criticism upon his Paradise lost, which I shall publish every Saturday till I have given my Thoughts upon that Poem. I shall not however presume to impose upon others myown particular Judgment on this Author, but only deliver it as my private Opinion. Criticism is of a very large Extent, and every particular Master in this Art has his favourite Passages in an Author, which do not equally strike the best Judges. It will be sufficient for me if I discover many Beauties or Impersections which others have not attended to, and I should be very glad to see any of our eminent Writers publish their Discoveries on the same Subject. In short, I would always be understood to write my Papers of Criticism in the Spirit which Horace has expressed in those two famous Lines,

Si quid novisli retlim islis

Candidus imperti,fi non his utere mecum.

If you have made any better Remarks of your own, communicate them with Candour; if not, make use of these I present you with.


Cedite Romani Scriptores, cedite Graii. Propert. { Give place, ye Roman, and ye Grecian Wits.}

Saturday, January, 5. 1712.


{HERE is nothing in Nature so irksom[e] as general Discourses, especially when they turn chiefly upon Words. For this Reason I (hall wave the Discussion of that Point which was started some Years since, Whether Milton's Paradife Lost may be called an Heroick Poem? Those who will not give it that Title, may call it (if they please) a Divine Poem. It will be sufficient to its Perfection, if it has in it all the Beauties of the highest kind of Poetry; and as for those who fay [alledge] it is not an Heroick Poem, they advance no more to the Diminution of it, than if they should fay Adam is not Æneas, nor Eve Helen.

I shall therefore examine it by the Rules of Epic Poetry, and see whether it falls short of the Iliad or Æneid, in the Beauties which are essential to that kind of Writing. The first Thing to be considered in an Epic Poem, is_the Fable, which is perfect or imperfect, according as the Action which it relates is more or less so. This Action should have three Qualifications in it. First, It should be but one Action. Secondly, It should be an entire Action; and Thirdly, It should be a great Action. To consider the Action of the Iliad, Æneid, and Paradife Lost in these three several Lights. Homer to preserve the Unity of his Action hastens into the midst of things, as Horace has observed: Had he gone up 16 THE FABLE PERFECT OR IMPERFECT AS IS THE ACTION.

to Zeda's Egg, or begun much later, even at the Rape of Helen, or the Investing of Troy, it is manisest that the Story of the Poem would have been a Series of several Actions. He therefore opens his Poem with the Discord of his Princes, and with great Art interweaves in the several succeeding parts of it, an account of every thing [material] which relates to the Story [them], and had pasted before that satal Distension. After the same manner Æneas makes his first appearance in the Tyrrhene Seas, and within sight of Italy, because the Action proposed to be celebrated was that of his Settling himself in Lalium. But because it was necessary for the Reader to know what had happened to him in the taking of Troy, and in the preceding parts of his Voyage, Virgil makes his Hero relate it by way of Episode in the second and third Books of the Æneid. The Contents of both which Books come before those of the first Book in the Thread of the Story, tho* for preserving of this Unity of Action, they follow them in the Disposition of the Poem. Milton, in Imitation of these two great Poets, opens his Paradise Lost with an Insernal Council plotting the Fall of Man, which is the Action he proposed to celebrate; and as for those great Actions, which preceded in point of time, the Battel of the Angels, and the Creation of the World, (which would have entirely destroyed the Unity of his Principal Action, had he related them in the same Order that they happened) he cast them into the fifth, sixth and seventh Books, by way of Episode to this noble Poem.

Aristotle himself allows, that Homer has nothing to boast of as to the Unity of his Fable, tho' at the fame time that great Critick and Philosopher endeavours to palliate this Impersection in the Greek Poet, by imputing it in some Measure to the very Nature of an Epic Poem. Some have been of Opinion, that the Æneid labours also in this particular, and has Epilodes which may be looked upon as Excrescencies rathei than as Parts of the Action. On the contrary, the THE ACTION MUST BE ONE, ENTIRE, AND GREAT. 17

Poem which we have now under our Consideration, hath no other Episodes than such as naturally arise from the Subject, and yet is filled with such a multitude of astonishing Circumstances [Incidents], that it gives us at the fame time a Pleasure of the greatest Variety, and of the greatest Simplicity. {uniform in its Nature, though diversified in the Execution.}

I must observe also, that as Virgil in the Poem which ,was designed to celebrate the Original of the Roman Empire, has described the Birth of its great Rival, the Carthaginian Commonwealth. Milton with the like Art in his Poem on the Fall of Man, has related the Fall of those Angels who are his professed Enemies. Besides the many other Beauties in such an Episode, it's running Parallel with the great Action of the Poem, hinders it from breaking the Unity so much as another Episode would have done, that had not so great an Affinity with the principal Subject. In short, this is the fame kind of Beauty which the Criticks admire in the Spanish J^ryar, or the Double Difcovery, where the two different J?lots look like Counterparts and Copies of one another.

The second Qualification required in the Action of an Epic Poem is, that it should be an entire Action: An Action is entire when it is compleat in all its Parts; or as Aristotle describes it, when it consists of a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. Nothing should go before it, be intermix'd with it, or follow after it, that is not related to it. As on the contrary, no single Step should be omitted in that just and regular Progress [Process] which it must be supposed to take from its Original to its Consummation. Thus we fee the Anger of Achilles in its Birth, its Continuance and Effects; and Æneas's Settlement in Italy, carried on through all the Oppositions in his way to it both by Sea and Land. The Action in Milton excels (I think) both the former in this particular; we fee it contrived in Hell, executed upon Earth, and punished by Heaven. The parts of it are told in the most distinct manner,


and grow out of one another in the most natural Method.

The third Qualification of an Epic Poem is its Greatnefs. The Anger of Achilles was of such Consequence, that it embroiled the Kings of Greece, destroy'd the Heroes of Troy, and engaged all the Gods In Factions. Æneas's Settlement in Italy produced the Cæfars, and gave Birth to the Roman Empire. Milton's Subject was still greater than either of the former; it does not determine the Fate of single Persons or Nations, but of a whole Species. The united Powers of Hell are joyned together for the Destruction of Mankind, which they effected in part, and would have completed, had not Omnipotence it self interposed. The principal Actors are Man in his greatest Perfection, and Woman in her highest Beauty. Their Enemies are the fallen Angels: The Messiah their Friend, and the Almighty their Protector. In sliort, every thing that is great in the whole Circle of Being, whether within the Verge of Nature, or out of it, has a proper Part assigned it in this noble Poem.

In Poetry, as in Architecture, not only the whole, but the principal Members, and every part of them, should be Great. I will not presume to fay, that the Book of Games in the Æneid, or that in the Iliad, are not of this nature, nor to reprehend Virgil's Simile of a Top, and many other of the fame nature in the Iliad, as liable to any Censure in this Particular; but I think we may fay, without offence to [derogating from] those wondersul Performances, that there is an unquestionable Magnificence in every Part of Paradife Lost, and indeed a much greater than could have been formed upon any Pagan System.

But Aristotle, by the Greatness of the Action, does not only mean tnat it should be great in its Nature, but also in its Duration, or in other Words, that it should have a due length in it, as well as what we properly call Greatness. The just Measure of this kind of Magnitude, he explains by the following

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