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Similitude. An Animal, no bigger than a Mite, cannot appear persect to the Eye, because the Sight takes it in at once, and has only a consused Idea of the whole, and not a distinct Idea of all its Parts; If on the contrary you should suppose an Animal of ten thousand Furlongs in length, the Eye would be so filled with a single Part of it, that it could not give the Mind an Idea of the whole. What these Animals are to the Eye, a very short or a very long Action would be to the Memory. The first would be, as it were, lost and swallowed up by it, and the other difficult to be contained in it. Homer and Virgil have shewn their principal Art in this Particular; the Action of the Iliad, and that of the Æneid, were in themselves exceeding short, but are so beautisully extended and diversified by the Intervention [Invention] of Episodes, and the Machinery of Gods, with the like Poetical Ornaments, that they make up an agreeable Story sufficient to employ the Memory without overcharging it. Milton's Action is enriched with such a variety of Circumstances, that I have taken as much Pleasure in reading the Contents of his Books, as in the best invented Story I ever met with. It is possible, that the Traditions on which the Iliad and Æneid were built, had more Circumstances in them than the History of the Fall of Alan, as it is related in Scripture. Besides it was easier for Homer and Virgil to dash the Truth with Fiction, as they were in no danger of offending the Religion of their Country by it. But as for Milton, he had not only a very sew Circumstances upon which to raise his Poem, but was also obliged to proceed with the greatest Caution in every thing that he added out of his own Invention. And, indeed, notwithstanding all the Restraints he was under, he has filled his Story with so many surprising Incidents, which bear so close an Analogy with what is delivered in Holy Writ, that it is capable of pleasing the most delicate Reader, without giving Oftence to the most scrupulous.


The Modern Criticks have collected from several Hints in the Iliad and Æneid the Space of Time, which is taken up by the Action of each of those Poems; but as a great Part of Milton's Story was tranfacted 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 determined number of Years, Days, or Hours. f

This piece of Criticifm on Milton's Paradise Lost, Jhall be carried on in following [Saturdays] Papers.

T See p. 151.



Notandifunt tibi Mores. Hor.

{Note well the Manners.}

Saturday, January 12. 1712.

AVING examined the Action of Paradife Lost, let us in the next place consider the Actors. These are what Aristotle means by [This is Aristotle's Method of considering; first] the Fable, and [secondly] the Manners, or, as we generally call them in Englisli, the Fable and the Characters.

Homer has excelled all the Heroic Poets that evei wrote, in the multitude and variety of his Characters. Every God that is admitted into his Poem, acts a Part which would have been suitable to no other Deity. His Princes are as much distinguished by their Manners as by their Dominions ; and even those among them, whose Characters seem wholly made up of Courage, differ from one another as to the particular kinds of Courage in which they excell. In short, there is scarce a Speech or Action in the Iliad, which the Reader may not ascribe to the Person that speaks or acts, without seeing his Name at the Head of it.

Homer does not only out-shine all other Poets in the Variety, but also in the Novelty of his Characters. He has introduced among his Grœcian Princes a Person, who had lived thrice the Age of Man, and conversed with Thefeus, Hercules, Polyphemus, and the first Race of Heroes. His principal Actor is the Off-spring [Son] of a Goddess, not to mention the Son [Offspring] of Aurora [other Deities], who has [have] likewise a Place in his Poem, and the venerable Trojan Prince, who was the Father of so many Kings and I Heroes. There is in these several Characters of Homer.



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 fame time, to give them the greater variety, he has described a Vulcan, that is, a Buffoon among his Gods, and a Therftes among his Mortals.

Virgil falls infinitely short of Homer in the Characters of his Poem, both as to their Variety and Novelty. Æneas is indeed a perfect Character, but as for Achates, tho' he is stiled the Hero's Friend, he does nothing in the whole Poem which may deserve that Title. Gyas, Mnesteus, Sergeslus, and Cloanthus, are all of them Men of the same Stamp and Character,

Fortemque Gyan,fortemque Cloanthum [Virg.]

There are indeed several very natural Incidents in the Part of Afcanius; as that of Dido cannot be sufficiently admired. I do not see any thing new or particular in Turnus. Pallas and Evander are [remote] Copies of Heclor and Priam, as Laufus and Mezentius are almost Parallels to Pallas and Evander. The Characters of Nifus and Eurialus are beautisul, but common. [We must not forget the Parts of Sinon, Camilla, and some few others, which are beautiful Improvements on the Greek Poet.] In short, there is neither that Variety nor Novelty in the Persons of the Æneid, which we meet with in those of the Iliad.

If we look into the Characters of Milton, we shall find that he has introduced all the Variety that his Poem was capable of receiving. The whole Species of Mankind was in two Persons at the time to which the Subject of his Poem is confined. We have, however.fourdistinctCharactersinthesetwoPersons. We fee Man and Woman in the highest Innocence and Perfec

Ition, and in the most abject State of Guilt and Infirmity. The two last Characters are, indeed, very common and obvious, but the two first are not only more magnificent, but more new than any Characters either in Virgii or Homer, or indeed in the whole Circle of Nature.

Milton was so sensible of this Defect in the Subject of his Poem, and of the few Characters it would afford ALLEGORICAL CHARACTERS NOT PROPER TO AN EPIC. 33

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 beautisul 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 I Epic Poem; because there is not that measure of Pro- j bability annexed to them, which is requisite in Writings of this kind, [as I shall shew more at large hereafter.] Virgil has, indeed, admitted Fame as an Actress in the Æneid, 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, par-| ticularly in the Dispensary and the Lutrin, several, Allegorical Persons of this Nature, which are very beautisul in those Compositions, 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 surther add, that if such empty unsubstantial Beings may be ever made use of on this occasion, there were never any more nicely imagined, and employed in more proper Actions, than those of which I am now speaking, f

Another Principal Actor in this Poem is the great Enemy of Mankind. The part of Ulysses in Homer's, Odyssey is very much admired by Aristotle, 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 mentioned, makes a much longer Voyage than Ulysses, 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.

t See also pp. 45; 70-72; 133-135.

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