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Resignation are our prime Virtues; and that these include no Action, but that of the Soul : When as, on the contrary, an Heroique Poem requires, to its necessary Design, and as its last Perfection, some great Action of War, the Accomplishment of some 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 Mort, as much, or more of the Active Virtue, than the Suffering. But to this, the Answer is very obvious. GOD has plac'd us in our feveral Stations; the Virtues of a private Christian are Patience, Obedience, Submission, and the like; but those of a Magiltrate, or General, or a King, are Prudence, Counsel, active Fortitude, coercive Power, awful Command, and the Exercise of Magnanimity, as well as Justice. So that this Objection hinders not, but that an Epique Poem, or the Heroique A&ion of fome Great Commander, enterpriz'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 Hea. tbens ; 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 expe&ted from our own or any other now extant, tho' more refin'd; and therefore we are to rest contented with that only Inferiority, which is not possibly to be remedy'd.
I wihh I cou'd as easily remove that other Dif ficulty which yet remains. 'Tis objected by a great French Critique as well as an admirable Poet, yet living, and whom I have mentioned with that Honour which his Merit exacts froin 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 e did not only interest themselves in the Event of
Wars (which is the Effect of a Superiqur Proviedence) but also espous’d the several Parties, in a : visible Corporeal Descent, manag'd their Intriegues,
and fought their Battels sometimes in opposition to each other: Tho' Virgil (more discreet than Homer in that last Particular) has contented himself with the Partiality of his Deities, their Favours,
their Counsels or Commands, to those whose Cause e they had espous'd, without bringing them to the
Outragiousness of Blows. Now, our Religion
the Remainders of God's Hoft, and the Race of Fiends ; pulls the Devils backwards by the Tails, and drives them from their Quarry ; or otherwise the whole Business had miscarry'd, and Jerusalem remain'd untaken. This, says Boileau, is a very unequal Match for the poor Devils, who are sure to come by the worst of it in the Combat; for nothing is more easy, than for an Almighty Power to bring his old Rebels to Reason, when he pleases. Consequently, what Pleasure, what Entertainment can be rais'd from so pitiful a Machine, where we see the Success of the Battle from the very Beginning of it; unless that, as we are Chriftians, we are glad that we have gotten God on our fide, to maul our Enemies, when we cannot do the work our selves? For if the Poet had given the Faithful more Courage, which had cost him nothing, or at least had made them exceed the Turks in Number, then he might have gain'd the Victory for us Christians, without interesting Heaven in the Quarrel ; and that with as much Ease, and as little Credit to the Conqueror, as when a Party of 100 Soldiers defeats another which consists only of yo.
This, my Lord, I confels, is such an Argument against our Modern Poetry, as cannot be answered by those Mediums which have been us'd. We cannot hitherto boast, that our Religion has furnith'd us with any such Machines, ase have made the Strength and Beauty of the Ancient Buildings.
But what if I venture to advance an Invention of my own, to fapply the manifest Defeet of our new Writers? I am sufficiently sensible of my Weakness', and 'tis not very probable that I should succeed in such a Project, whereof I have not had the least Hint from any of my Predeceffors, the Poets, or any of their Seconds, and Coadjutors;
the Critiques. Yet we see the Art of War is improv'd in-Sieges, and new Instruments of Deatha are invented daily: Something new in Philosophy and the Mechanicks is discover'd almoft every Year: And the Science of former Ages is improv'd by the succeeding. I will not detain you with a long Preamble to that, which better Judges will, perhaps, conclude to be little worth.
'Tis this, in short, That Christian Poets have not hitherto been acquainted with their own Strength. If they had search'd the Old Testament as they ought, they might there have found the Machines which are proper for their Work; and those more certain in their effect, than it may be the New Testament is, in the Rules sufficient for Salvation. The perufing of one Chapter in the Prophecy of Daniel, and accommodating what there they find, with the Principles of Platonique Philosophy, as it is now Christiani’zd, wou'd have the Ministry of Angels as Nrong an Engine, for the working up Heroique Poetry, in our Religion, as that of the Ancients has been to raise theirs by all the Fables of their Gods, which were only receiv'd for Truths by the most ignorant and weakest of the People.
'Tis a Do&trine almost universally receiv'd by Christians, as well Protestants as Catholicks, That there are Guardian Angels appointed by God Almighty, as his Vicegerents, for the Protection and Government of Cities, Provinces, Kingdoms, and Monarchies; and those as well of Heathens, as of true Believers. All this is so plainly prov'd from those Texts of Daniel, that it admits of no farther Controversie. The Prince of the Persians, and that other of the Grecians, are granted to be the Guardians and Prote&ing Ministers of those Empires. It cannot be deny'd, that they were opposite, and relisted one another St. Michael is mention'd by
his Name, as the Patron of the Jews, and is now taken by the Christians, as the Protector General of our Religion, Thele Tutelar Genii, who presided over the several People and Region's committed to their Charge, were watchful over them for good, as far as their Commissions cou'd poffibly extend. The general Purpose, and Defign of all, was certainly the Service of their Great CREATOR. But 'tis an undoubted. Truth, 'that for Ends best known to the Almighty Majesty of Heaven, his Providential Designs for the Benefit of his Creatures, for the Debaling and Punifhing of fome Nations, and the Exaltation and Temporal Reward of others, were not wholly known to these his Ministers; else why thofe fa&ious Quarrels, Controversies, and Battels, amongst themfelves, when they were all united in the fame Design, the Service and Honour of their Common Matter? But being instructed only in the general, ind. zealous of the main Design; and as Finite Beings, not admitted into the Secrets of Government, the last Resorts of Providence, or capable of discovering the final Purposes of GOD, who can work Good out of Evil, as he pleafes; and irresistibly sways all manner of Events on Earth, diretting them finally for the bett, to his Creation in general, and to the ultimate End of his own Glory n particular: They must of neceffity be fometimes norant of the Means conducing to those Ends, in which alone they can jar and oppose each other. One Angel, as we may fuppofethe Prince of Perfia, is he is callid, judging, that it would be more for God's Honour and the Benefit of his people, that the Median and Persian Monarchy, which deliver'd them from the Babylonish Captivity, should still be uppermost; And the Patron of the Grecians, to whom the Will of God might be more parcicularly