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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 descriptions; 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 shall begin with considering him in this part, as it is naturally the first; and I speak of it both as it means the design of a poem, and as it is taken for fiction.

Fable may be divided into the Probabie, 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 short and single subject that ever was chosen by any Poet. Yet this he has supplied with a vaster variety of incidents and events, and crowded with a greater number of councils, speeches, battles, and episodes of all kinds, than are to be found even in those poems whose fchemes are of the utmost latitude and irregularity. The action is hurried on with the most vehement Spirit, and


its whole duration employs not so much as fifty days. Virgil, for want of so 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 generally carried it fo far as to fuo perinduce 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 design 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 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 action for those of Archemoras. If Ulysses visits the Mades, 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 Armida. If Achilles be abfent from the army on the score of a quarrel through half the poem, Rinaldo must absent himielf just as long on the like account. If he gives his hero a suit of celeftial armour, Virgil and Tailo make the same present to theirs. Virgil has not only observed this close imitation 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 (says Macrobius) almost word for word from Pisander, as the


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loves of Dido and Æneas are taken from those of Med dea and Jafon in Apollonius, and several others in the fame manner.

To proceed to the Allegorical Fable: if we reflect upon those innumerable knowledges, those secrets of nature and physical philosophy, which Homer is gene. rally 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 accufation 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 impressiuns of them. Every one has something so singularly 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 fingle 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 softness and tenderness for his people : we find in Idomeneus a plain direct soldier, in Sarpedon

a gallant


à 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 one. For example, the main characters of Ulyses and Nestor confist in wisdom; and they are diftin&t 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 no way peculiar but as it is in a superior degree; and we see nothing that differences the courage of Mnestheus from that of Sergesthus, Cloanthus, or the reft. In like manner it may be remarked of Statius's heroes, that an air of impetuolity runs through them all; the fame horrid and savage courage appears in his Capaneus, Tydeus, Hippomedon, &c. They have a pari.. ty 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


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