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LOW THOUGHTS ARE TO BE AVOIDED. V)

Epigrammatick Turns of Lucan, none of those swelling Sentiments which are so frequently] in Statius and Claudian, none of those mixed Embellishments of Taffo. Everything is just and natural. His Sentiments shew that he had a persect Insight into Human Nature, and that he knew every thing which was the most proper to affect it. *I remember but one Line in hiia which has been objected against, by the Criticks, as a point of Wit. It is in his ninth Book, where yunp speaking of the Trojans, how they survived the Ruins of their City, expresses her self in the following Words;

Num capti potuere capi, num incenfa cremarunt Pergama 1

Were the Trojans taken even after they were Captives, or did Troy burn even when it was in Flames 1

Mr. Dry den has in some Places, which I may hereafter take notice of, misrepresented Virgil's way of thinking as to this Particular, in the Translation he has given us of the Æneid. I do not remember that Homer any where salls into the Faults above mentioned, which were indeed the salse Refinements of later Ages. Milton, it must be consest, has sometimes erred in this Respect, as I shall shew more at large in another Paper; tho' considering how all the Poets of the Age in which he writ, were insected with this wrong way of thinking, he is rather to be admired that he did not give more into it, than that he did sometimes comply with that [the] vicious Taste which prevails so much among Modern Writers.

But since several Thoughts may be natural which are low and groveling, an Epic Poet should not only avoid such Sentiments as are unnatural or affected, but also such as are low and vulgar. Homer has opened a great Field of Raillery to Men of more Delicacy than Greatness of Genius, by the Homeliness of some of his Sentiments. But, as I have before said, these

* From * I remember* to * FlamesV omitted in second edition.

30 SENTIMENTS EXCITING LAUGHTER SHOULD BE EXCLUDED.

are rather to be imputed to the Simplicity of the Age in which he lived, to which I may also add", of that which he described, than to any Impersection in that Divine Poet. Zoilus, among the Ancients, and Monsieur Perrault, among the Moderns, pushed their Ridicule very sar upon him, on account of some such Sentiments. There is no Blemish to be observed in Virgil under this Head, and but very sew in Milton.

I shall give but one Instance of this Impropriety of Sentiments in Homer, and at the same time compare it with an Instance of the same nature, both in Virgil and Milton. Sentiments which raise Laughter can very seldom be admitted with any decency into , an Heroic Poem, whose Business it* is to excite Passions of a much nobler Nature. Homer, however, in his Characters of Vulcan and Tlierfites, in his Story of Mars and Venus, in his Behaviour of Irus, and in other Passages, has been observed to have lapsed into the Burlesque Character, and to have departed from that serious Air which seems essential to the Magnificence of an Epic Poem. I remember but one Laugh in the whole Æneid, which rises in the Fifth Book upon Monœtes, where he is represented as thrown overboard, and drying himself upon a Rock. But this Piece of Mirth is so well timed, that the severest Critick can have nothing to say against it, for it is in the Book of Games and Diversions, where the Reader's Mind may be supposed to be sufficiently relaxed for such an Entertainment The only Piece of Pleasantry in Paradise Lost, is where the Evil Spirits are described as rallying the Angels upon the Success of their new invented Artillery. This Passage I look upon to be the silliest [most exceptionable] in the whole Poem, as being nothing else but a string of Punns, and those too very indifferent ones.

Satan beheld their Paght,

And to his Mates thus in derision calFd.

O Friends, why come not on theje Vision fraud / THE ONLY PIECE OF PLEASANTRY IN 'PARADISE LOST.' 31

Eer while they fierce were coming, and when we,

To entertain them fair with open Front,

And Breast, (what could we more) propounded terms

Of Composition, straight they chang'd their Minds,

Flew off, and into strange Vagaries fell,

As they would dance, yet for a Dance they feem'd

Somewhat extravagant, and wild, perhaps

For Joy of offer'd Peace; but Isuppose

If our Proposals once again were heard,

We should compel them to a quick Result.

To whom thus Belial in like gamesome mood. Leader, the Terms we sent, were Terms of weight, Of hard Contents, andfull of force urg'd home, Such as we might perceive amus'd them all, And stumbled many; who receives them right, Had need, from Head to Foot, well understand; Not understood, this Gift they have besides, They shew us when our Foes walk not upright,

Thus they among themselves in pleasant vein Stood scoffing

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The SPECTATOR.

Ne quicunque Deus, quicunque adhibebitur her os,

Regali conspeclus in auro nuper &* qftro,

Migret in Obfeuros humili fermom tabernas:

Aut dum vitat humum, nubes 6r inania captet. Hoi.

\But then they did not wrong themselves so much,

To make a God, a Hero, or a King

{Strips of his golden Crown, and purple Robe)

Descend to a Mechanick Dialecl;

Nor (to avoid such Meanness) soaring high,

With empty Sound, and airy Notions, sly.

Roscommon.}

Saturday, January 26. 1712.

WING already treated of the Fable, the Characters, and Sentiments in the Paradise Lost, we are in the last place to consider the Language; and as the learned World is very much divided upon Milton as to this Point, I hope they will excuse me if I appear particular in any of my Opinions, and encline to those who judge the most advantagiously of the Author.

It is requisite that the Language of an Heroic Poem should be both Perspicuous and Sublime. In proportion as either of these two Qualities are wanting, the Language is imperfect. Perspicuity is the first and most necessary Qualification; insomuch, that a good-natured Reader sometimes overlooks a little Slip even in the Grammar or Syntax, where it is impossible for him to mistake the Poet's Sense. Of this kind is that Passage in Milton, wherein he speaks of Satan.

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THE LANGUAGE SHOULD BE PERSPICUOUS AND SUBLIME. 33

God and his Son except, I

Created thing nought valiid he nor sliunn'd. \

And that in which he describes Adam and Eve.

Adam the goodliest Man of Men fnce born
His Sons, the fairest of her Daughters Eve.

It is plain, that in the former of these Passages, according to the natural Syntax, the Divine Persons mentioned in the first Line are represented as created Beings; and that in the other, Adam and Eve are confounded with their Sons and Daughters. Such little Blemishes as these, when the Thought is great and natural, we should, with Horace, impute to a pardonable Inadvertency, or to the Weakness of Human Nature, which cannot attend to each minute Particular, and give the last finishing to every Circumstance in so long a Work. The Ancient Criticks therefore, who were acted by a Spirit of Candour, rather than that of Cavilling, invented certain figures of Speech, on purpose to palliate little Errors of this nature in the Writings of those Authors, who had so many greater Beauties to atone for them.

If Clearness and Perspicuity were only to be consulted, the Poet would have nothing else to do but to cloath his Thoughts in the most plain and natural Expressions. But, since it often happens, that the most obvious Phrases, and those which are used in ordinary Converfation, become too familiar to the Ear, and contract a kind of Meanness by passing through the Mouths of the Vulgar, a Poet should take particular -are to guard himself against Idiomatick ways of ■peaking Ovid and Lucan have many Poornesses of Expression upon this account, as taking up with the irft Phrases that offered, without putting themselves o the trouble of looking after such as would not only lave been natural, but also elevated and sublime. Itfilton has but few Failings in this kind, of which,

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