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Affinity with the principal Subject. In short, this is the same Kind of Beauty which the Critics admire in the Spanish Friar, or the Double Discovery, where the two different Plots look like Counterparts and Copies of one another.
THE second Qualification required in the A&tion of an Epic Poem is, that it hould be an entire Action : An Action is entire when it is complete in all its Parts; or, as Arijiotle describes it, when it consists of a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. Nothing should go before it, be intermixed with it, or follow after it, that is not related to it. As on the contrary, no fingle Step should be omitted in that just and regular Progress which it must be supposed to take from its Original to its Consummation. Thus we see the Anger of Achilles in its Birth, its Continuance, and Effects; and Æneas's Settlement in Italy, carried on through all the Oppositions in his Way to it both by Sea and Land. The Action in Milton excels (I think) both the former in this Particular; we see it contrived in Hell, executed upon Earth, and punished by Heaven. The Parts of it are told in the most distinct Manner, and grow out of one another in the most natural Order.
THE third Qualification of an Epic Poem is its Greatnefs. The Anger of Achilles was of such Confequence, that it embroiled the Kings of Greece, deftroyed the Heroes of Aha, and engaged all the Gods in Factions. Æneas's Settlement in Italy produced the Cæfars, and gave birth to the Roman Empire. Milton's Subject was still greater than either of the former; it does not determine the Fate of single Persons or Nations, but of a whole Species. The United. Powers of Hell are joined together for the Destruction of Mankind, which they effected in Part, and would have completed, had not Omnipotence itself interposed. The principal Actors are, Man in his greatest Perfection, and Woman in her highest Beauty. Their Enemies are the fallen Angels : The
Messiah their Friend, and the Almighty their Protector. In short, every thing that is great in the whole Circle of Being, whether within the Verge of Nature, or out of it, has a proper Part assigned it in this admirable Poem.
IN Poetry, as in Architecture, not only the Whole, but the principal Members, and every. Part of them, hould be Great. I will not presume to fay, that the Book of Games in the Æneid, or that in the lļiad, are not of this Nature, nor to reprehend Virgil's Simile of the Top, and many other of the fame Kind in the Iliad, as liable to any Censure in this Particular; but I think We may fay, without derogating from those wonderful Performances, that there is an Indifputable and Unquestioned Magnificence in every Part of Paradise Loft, and indeed a much greater than could have been formed upon any Pagan System.
BUT Aristotle, by the Greatness of the Action, does not only mean that it should be great in its Nature, but also in its Duration; or in other Words, That it should have a due Length in it, as well as what we properly call Greatness. The juft Measureof this kind of Magnitude, he explains by the following Similitude. An Animal, no bigger than a Mite, cannot appear perfect to the Eye, because the Sight takes it in at once, and has only a confused Idea of the Whole, and not a distinct Idea of all its Parts : If on the contrary you should suppose an Animal of ten thousand Furlongs in Length, the Eye would be so filled with a single Part of it, that it could not give the Mind an Idea of the Whole. What these Animals are to the Eye, a very short, or a very long Action would be to the Memory. The first would be, as it were, loft and swallowed up by it, and the other difficult to be contained in it. Homer. and Virgil have fewn their principal Art in this Particular; the Action of the 'Iliad, and that of the neid, were in themfelves exceeding short, but are so beautifully extended
and diversified by the Invention of Episodes, and the Machinery of Gods, with the like poetical Ornaments, that they make up an agreeable Story sufficient to employ the Memory without overcharging it. Milton's Action is enriched with such a variety of Circunstances, that I have taken as much Pleasure in read. ing the Contents of his Books, as in the best invented Story I ever met with. It is possible, that the Traditions, on which the Iliad and Æneid were built, had more Circumstances in them than the History of the Fall of Man, as it is related in Scripture. Befides, it was easier for Homer and Virgil to dash the Truth with Fi&tion, as they were in no Danger of offending the Religion of their Country by it. But as for Milton, he had not only a very few Circumfances upon which to raise his Poem, but was also obliged to proceed with the greatest Caution in every Thing that he added out of his own Invention. And, indeed, notwithstanding all the Restraints he was under, he has filled his Story with so many surprising Incidents, which bear so close an Analogy with what is delivered in Holy Writ, that it is capable of pleasing the most delicate Reader, without giving Offence to the most scrupulous.
THE modern Critics have collected from several Hints in the liad, and Æneid the Space of Time, which is taken up by the Action of each of those Poems;
but great Part of Milton's Story was trans. acted in Regions that lie out of the Reach of the Sun, and the Sphere of Day, it is impoffible to gratify the Reader with such a Calculation, which indeed would be more curious than instructive ; none of the Critics, either Ancient or Modern, having laid down Rules to circumscribe the Action of Vid. Speel. an Epic Poem with any Determined Num- 308. ber of Years, Days, or Hours.
But of this more particularly hereafter,
SPECTATOR, N° 273.
Notandi funt tibi Mores. Note well the Manners.
AVING examined the Action of Paradise
Actors. This is Aristotle's Method of confidering ; first the Fable, and secondly the Manners, or, as we generally call them in English, the Fable and the Characters.
HOMER has excelled all the Heroic Poets that ever wrote, in the Multitude and Variety of his Characters. Every God that is admitted into his Poem, acts a Part which would have been suitable to no other Deity. His Princes are as much diftinguished by their Manners as by their Dominions; and even those among them, whose Characters seemt wholly made up of Courage, differ from one another as to the particular Kinds of Courage in which they excel. In short, there is scarce a Speech or Action in the Iliad, which the Reader may not ascribe to the Person that speaks or acts, without seeing his Name at the Head of it.
HOMER does not only outshine all other Poets in the Variety, but also in the Novelty of his Characters. He has introduced among his Grecian Princes a Person, who had lived in three Ages of Men, and conversed with Theseus, Hercules, Polyphemus, andi the first Race of Heroes. His principal Actor is the Son of a Goddess, not to mention the Offspring of other Deities, who have likewise a Place in his Poem, and the venerable Trojan Prince who was the Father of so many Kings and Heroes. There is in
these several Characters of Homer, a certain Dignity as well as Novelty, which adapts them in a more peculiar Manner to the Nature of an heroic Poem. Tho' at the fame Time, to give them the greater Variety, he has described a Vulcan, that is, a Buffoon, among his Gods, and a Therfites-among his Mortals.
VIRGIL falls infinitely short of Homer in the Characters of his Poem, both as to their Variety and Novelty. Æneas is indeed a perfect Character, but as for Achates, tho' he is stiled the Heroe's Friend, he does nothing in the whole Poem which may deferve that Title. Gyas, Mnestheus, Sergestus, and Cloanthus, are all of them Men of the fame Stamp and Character. fortemque Gyan, fortemque Cloanthum.
Virg. THERE are indeed several very natural Incidents in the Part of Ascanius; as that of Dido cannot be fufficiently admired. I do not see any Thing new or particular in Turnus. Pallas and Evander are remote Copies of Hector and Prium, as Lausus and Mezentius are almost Parallels to Pallas and Evander. The Characters of Nisus and Euryalus, are beautiful, but common. We must not forget the Parts of Sinon, Camilla, and some few others, which are fine Improvements on the Greek Poet. In short, there is neither that Variety nor Novelty in the Persons of the Æneid, which we meet with in those of the Iliad.
IF we look into the Characters of Milton, we fall find that he has introduced all the Variety his Fable was capable of receiving. The whole Species of Mankind was in two Perfons at the Time to which she Subject of his Poem is confined. We have, howa ever, four distinct Characters in these two Persons. We see Man and Woman in the highest Innocence and Perfection, and in the most abject State of Guilt and Infirmity. The two laft Characters are, indeed, very common and obvious, but the two first are not only more magnificent, but more new than any Cha