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Joft their influence with their novelty ; what remaios but a tyrant divested of power, who will never be seen without a mixture of indignation and disdain ? The only defire which this object could gratify, will be transferred to another, not only without reluctance, but with triumph. As resentment will succeed to disappointment, a desire to mortify will succeed to a de. fire to please; and the husband may be urged to folicit a mistress, merely by a rememberance of the beauty of his wife, which lasted only till she was known.
Let it, therefore, be remembered, that none can be disciples of the Graces, but in the school of Virtue; and that those who wish to be lovely, must learn early to be good.
Hlic enim debet toto animo a poeta in disolutionem nodi;
agi; eaque præcipua fabulæ pars est que requirit plurimum diligentia.
The poet ought to exert his whole strength and spirit
in the solution of his plot; which is the principal part of the fable, and requires the utmost diligence and care.
Of the three only perfect Epopees, which, in the compass of so many ages, human wit has been able to preduce, the conduct and constitution of the Odyssey seem to be the most artificial and judicious.
Aristotle observes, that there are two kinds of fables, the fimple and the complex. A fable in tragic or epic poetry, is denominated fimple, when the events it contains follow each other in a continued and unbroken tenour, without a Recognition or discovery, and without a Peripetie or unexpected change of fortune. A fable called complex, when it contains both a discovery
and peripitie. And this great crític, whose knowledge of human nature was consummate, determines, that fables of the latter species far excel those of the former, because they more deeply interest, and more irresistibly move the reader, by adding surprise and astonishment to every other passion which they excite.
The philosoplier, agreeably to this observation, prefers the Oedipus of Sophocles, and the. Iphigenia in Tauris and Alceftes of Euripides, to the Ajax, Philoctetes, and Medea of the fame writers, and to the Prometheus of Eschylus : because these last are all uncomplicated fables; that is, the evils and misfortunes that befal the personages represented in these dramas, are unchangeably continued from the beginning to the end of each piece. For the fame reasons, the Athaliah of Racine, and the Meropes of Maffei and Voltaire, are beyond comparison the most affe&ting stories that have been handled by any modern tragic writer : the discoveries, that Joas is the king of Israel, and that Egiftus is the son of Merope, who had just ordered him to be murdered, are so unexpected, but yet so probable, that they may juftly be esteemed very great efforts of judgment and genius, and contribute to place these two poems at the head of dramatic compofitions.
The fable of the Odyssey being complex, and containing a discovery and a change in the fortune of its hero, is upon this Gingle consideration, exclusive of it's other beauties, if we follow the principles of Aristotle, much superior to the fables of the Iliad and the Æneid, which are both simple and unadorned with a peripetie or recognition. The naked story of this poem, stript of all its ornaments, and of the very names of the cha
racters, is exhibited by Aristotle in the following paf. lage, which is almof literally translated.
“A man is for several years absent from his home; " Neptune continually watches and persecutes him « his retinue being destroyed, he remains alone : but “ while his estate is wasting by the suitors of his wife, * and his son's life is platted against, he himself fud" denly arrives after many storns at fca, discovers him" felf to some of his friends, falls on the suitors, esta. "blishes himself in fafety, and destroys his enemies. This is what is effential to the fable; the episodes
the rest." From these observations on the nature of the fable of the Odyssey in general, we may proceed to consider it more minutely. The two chief parts of every epic fable are its Intrigue or Plot, and its Solution or Unravelling. The intrigue is formed by a complication of different interests which keep the mind of the reader in a pleasing fufpence, and fill him with anxious wishes to see the obftacles that oppose the designs of the hero, happily removed. The solution consists in removing these difficulties, in satisfying the curiosity of the reader by the completion of the intended action, and in leaving his mind in perfect repose, without expectation of any farther event. Both of these should arise naturally and easily out of the very effence and subject of the poem itself, should not be deduced from circumstances foreign and extrinfical, should be at the fame time probable yet wonderful.
The anger of Neptune, who resented the punishment which Ulyffes had inflicted on his fon Polypheme, induces him to prevent the return of the hero to Ithaca, by driving him from country to country by violent
tempests; and from this indignation of Neptune is formed the intrigue of the Odyssey in the first part of the poem ; that is, in plain prose,
66 what more na“ tural and usual obstacle do they encounter who take “ long voyages, than the violence of winds and storms?” The plot of the second part of the poem is founded on circumstances equally probable and natural'; on the unavoidable effects of the long absence of a master, whose return was despaired of, the infolence of his fervants, the dangers to which his wife and his fon were exposed, the ruin of his estate, and the disorder of his kingdom,
The address and art of Homer in the gradual folution of this plot, by the most probable and easy expe. dients, are equally worthy our admiration and applause. Ulyfies is driven by a tempest to the island of the Phæ. acians, where he is generously and hospitably received: During a banquet which Alcinous the king has prepared for him, the poet most artfully contrives that the bard Demodocus should fing the destruction of Troy. At the recital of his past labours, and at hearing the names of his old companions, from whom he was now separated, our hero could no longer contain himself, but bursts into tears and weeps bitterly. The curiofity of Alcinous being excited by this unaccountable forrow, he intreats Ulyffes to discover who he is, and what he has suffered; which request furnishes a most proper and probable occasion to the hero to relate a long series of adventures in the four following books ; an occasion much more natural than that which induces Eneas to communicate his history to Dido.
By this judicious conduct, Homer taught his fucceffors the artful manner of entering abruptly into the midst of the