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Jerusalem fifty Sons, only because Homer had bestowed the like Number on King Priam; he kills the youngest in the same manner, and has provided his Hero with a Patroclus, under another Name, only to bring him back to the Wars, when his Friend was kill'd. The French have perform'd nothing in this kind, which is not as below those two Italians, and subject to a thousand more Reflections, without examining their St. Lewis, their Precelle, or their Alarique : The Engliso have only to bcast of Spencer and Milton, who neither of them wanted either Genius or Learning, to have been perfect Poets ; and yet both of them are liable to many Censures. For there is no Uniformity in the Design of Spencer : He aims at the Accomplishment of no one Action: He raises up a Hero for every one of his Adventures, and endows each of them with some particular Moral Virtue, which renders them all equal, without Subordination or Preference. Every one is most Valiant in his own Legend; only we must do him that Justice to observe, that Magnanimity, which is the Character of Prince Arthur, shines throughout the whole Poem; and succours the rest, when they are in Distress. The Original of every Knight was then living in the Court of Queen Elizabeth; and he attributed to each of them that Virtue which he thought most conspicuous in them: An ingenious Piece of Flattery, tho' it turn'd not much to his Account. Had he liv'd to finish his Poem, in the fix remaining Legends, it had certainly been more of a Piece; but cou'd not have been perfect, because the Model was not true. But Prince Arthur, or his chief Patron Sir Philip Sidney, whom he intended to make happy by the Marriage of his Gloriana, dying before him, depriv'd the Poet, both
of Means and Spirit, to accomplish his Design : For the rest, his obsolete Language, and the ill Choice of his Stanza, are Faults but of the Second Magnitude: For notwithstanding the first he is still intelligible, at least after a little Pra&tice; and for the lart, he is the more to be admir'd; that labouring under such a Difficulty, his Verses are so numerous, to various, and so harmonious, that only Virgil, whom he professedly imitated, has surpass’d him, among the Romans; and only Mr. Waller among the English.
As for Mr. Milton, whom we all admire with so much Justice, his Subject is not that of an Heroick Poem, properly so call’d. His Design is the losing. of our Happiness ; his Event is not prosperous, like that of all other Epique Works : His Heavenly Machines are many, and his Human Perfons are but two. But I will not take Mr. Rhymer's Work out of his Hands : He has promis'd the World a Critique on that Author; wherein, tho' he will not allow his Poem for Heroick, I hope he will grant us, that his Thoughts are elevated, his Words founding, and that no Man has so happily copy'd the Manner of Homer; or fo copiously tranflated his Grecisms, and the Latin Elegancies of Virgil. 'Tis true, he runs into a flac Thought, sometimes for a hundred Lines together, but 'tis when he is got into a Track of Scripture : His antiquated Words were his Choice, not his Necessity; for therein he imitated Spencer, as Spene cer did Chaucer. And tho', perhaps, the love of their Masters, may have transported both too far, in the frequent use of them; yet in my Opinion, obsolete Words may then be laudably reviv'd, when either they are more founding, or more significant than those in Practice: Aud when their Obscurity
is taken away, by joining other Words to them, which clear the Šenfe; according to the Rule of Horace, for the Admission of new Words. But in both Cases, a Moderation is to be observ'd in the use of them. For unnecessary Coinage, as well as unnecessary Revival, runs into Affectation; a Fault to be avoided on either hand. Neither will I juNify Milton for his blank Verse, tho' I may excuse him, by the Example of Hanabal Caro, and other Italians who have us'd it: For whatever Causes he alledges for the abolishing of Rhime (which I have not now the Leisure to examine) his own particular Reason is plainly this, that Rhime was not his Talent; he had neither the Ease of doing it, nor the Graces of it; which is manifest in his Juvenilia, or Verses written in his Youth; where his Rhime is always constrain'd and forc'd, and comes hardly from him at an Age when the Soul is most pliant; and the Passion of Love makes almost every Man a Rhimer, tho' not a Poet.
By this time, my Lord, I doubt not but that you wonder, why I have run off from my Biafs so long together, and made fo tedious a Digression from Satyr to Heroick Poetry. But if you will not excuse it, by the tatling Quality of Age, which, as Sir William Davenant says, is always Narrative ; yet I hope the Usefulness of what I have to say on this Subject, will qualify the Remoteness of it; and this is the last time I will commit the Crime of Prefaces, or trouble the World with my No. tions of any thing that relates to Verse. I have then, as you fee, observ'd the Failings of many great Wits amongst the Moderns, who have attempted to write an Epique Poem: Belides these, or the like Animadversions of them by other Meni, there is yet a farther Reafon given, why they car
I O N. not possibly succeed, so well as the Ancients, ever tho’ we cou'd allow them not to be inferiour, either in Genius or Learning, or the Tongue in which they write; or all those other wonderful Qualifications which are necessary to the forming of a true accomplish'd Heroick Poet. The Fault is laid on our Religion: They say that Christianity is not capable of those Embellishments which are afforded in the Belief of those Ancient Heathens.
And 'tis true, that in the severe Notions of our Faith, the Fortitude of a Christian consists in Patience and Suffering for the Love of GOD, whatever Hardships can befal in the World; not in any great Attempts, or in performance of those Enterprises which the Poets call Heroique; and which are commonly the Effects of Interest, Oftentation, Pride, and Worldly Honour. That Humility and Resignation are our prime Virtues ; and that'these include no A&tion, but that of the Soul: When as, on the contrary, an Heroique Poem requires, to its necessary Design, and as its laft Perfe&ion, some great Adion of War, the Accomplishment of fome extraordinary Undertaking, which requires the Strength and Vigour of the Body, the Duty of a Soldier, the Capacity and Prudence of a General; and, in short, as much, or more of the A&tive Vir tue, than the Suffering. But to this, the Answer is very obvious. GOĎ has plac'd us in our several Stations; the Virtues of a private Christian are Patience, Obedience, Submission, and the like; but those of a Magistrate, or General, or a King, are Prudence, Counsel, active Fortitude, coercive Pow. er, awful Command, and the Exercise of Magnanimity, as well as Justice. So that this Objection hilders not, but that an Epique Poem, or the Heroique Action of some Great Commander, en
terpriz'd for the Common Good, and Honour of the Christian Cause, and executed happily, may be as well written now, as it was of old by the Heathens; provided the Poet be endu'd with the same Talents; and the Language, tho’ not of equal Dignity, yet as near approaching to it, as our Modern Barbarism will allow, which is all that can be expected from our own or any other now extant, tho' more refin'd; and therefore we are to relt contented with that only Inferiority, which is not poflībly to be remedy’d.
I wih I cou'd as easily remove that other Difficulty which yet remains. 'Tis objected by a great French Critique as well as an admirable Poet, yet living, and whom I have inentioned with that Honour which his Merit exacts from me, I mean Boileau, That the Machines of our Christian Re ligion in Heroique Poetry, are much more feeble to support that Weight than those of Heathenism. Their Do&rine, grounded as it was on ridiculous Fables, was yet the Belief of the two Victorious Monarchies, the Grecian and Roman. Their Gods did not only interest themselves in the Event of Wars (which is the Effect of a Superiour Providence) but also espous'd the several Parties, in a visible Corporeal Descent, manag’d their Intreigues, and fought their Battels sometimes in opposition to each other : Tho' Virgil (more difcreet than Homer in that last Particular) has contented himself with the Partiality of his Deities, their Favours, their Counsels orCommands, to those whose Cause they had espous'd, without bringing them to the Outragiousness of Blows. Now, our Religion (says he) is depriv’d of the greatest part of those Machines; at least the inolt shining in Epique Poetry. Tho' St. Michael in Ariosto seeks out