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PREFACE

TO

HOMER's ILI A D.

Η O MER is univerfally allowed to have had the greatest Invention of any writer whatever. The praife of Judgment Virgil has justly contefted with him, and others may have their pretenfions as to particular excellencies; but his Invention remains yet unrivalled. Nor is it a wonder if he has ever been acknowledged the greatest of poets, who most excelled in that which is the very foundation of poetry. It is the Invention that in different degrees diftinguishes all great Geniuses: The utmoft ftretch of human study, learning, and industry, which mafter every thing befides, can never attain to this. It furnishes Art with all her materials, and without it, Judgment itself can at best but steal wifely for Art is only like a prudent fteward that lives on managing the riches of Nature. Whatever praises may be given to works of Judgment, there is not even a fingle beauty in them, to which the Invention must not contribute. As in the most regular gardens, Art can only reduce the beauties of Nature to more regularity, and fuch a figure, which the common eye may better take in, and is therefore more entertained with. And perhaps the reason why common Critics are inclined to prefer a judicious and methodical genius to a great and fruitful one, is, because they find it easier for themselves to pursue their observations through an uniform and bounded walk of Art, than to comprehend the vast and various extent of Nature.

Our Author's work is a wild paradife, where if we cannot fee all the beauties fo diftinctly as in an ordered garden, it is only because the number of them is infinitely greater. 'Tis like a copious nursery which contains the feeds and firft productions of every kind, out of which those who followed him have but felected fome particular plants, each according to his fancy, to cultivate and beautify. If fome things are too luxuriant, it is owing to the richness of the foil; and if others are not arrived to perfection or maturity, it is only because they are over-ran and oppreffed by those of a stronger

nature.

It is to the ftrength of this amazing invention we are to attribute that unequalled fire and rapture, which is fo forcible in Homer, that no man of a true poetical fpirit is mafter of himself while he reads him. What he writes, is of the moft animated nature imaginable; every thing moves, every thing lives, and is put in action. If a council be called, or a battle fought, you are not coldly informed of what is faid or done, as from a third perfon; the reader is hurried out of himfelf by the force of the Poet's imagination, and turns in one place to a hearer, in another to a spectator. The courfe of his verfes resembles that of the army he defcribes,

Οἱ δ ̓ ἀξ ἴσαν, ὡσεί τε πυρὶ χθὼν πᾶσα νέμοιο

They pour along like a fire that fweeps the whole earth before it. 'Tis however remarkable, that his fancy, which is every where vigorous, is not discovered immediately at the beginning of his poem in its fulleft fplendor: It grows in the progrefs both upon himself and others, and becomes on fire like a chariot-wheel, by its own rapidity. Exact difpofition, juft thought, correct elo

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cution, polished numbers, may have been found in a thoufand; but this poetical fire, this Vivida vis animi, in a very few. Even in works where all thofe are imperfect or neglected, this can overpower criticifm, and make us admire even while we difapprove. Nay, where this appears, though attended with abfurdities, it brightens all the rubbish about it, till we fee nothing but its own fplendor. This Fire is difcerned in Virgil, but difcerned as through a glafs reflected from Homer, more fhining than fierce, but every where equal and conftant: In Lucan and Statius, it bursts out in sudden, fhort, and interrupted flashes: In Milton it glows like a furnace kept up to an uncommon ardor by the force of art: In Shakespear, it ftrikes before we are aware, like an accidental fire from heaven: But in Homer, and in him only, it burns every where clearly, and every where irresistibly.

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I fhall here endeavour to fhow, how this vaft Invention exerts itself in a manner fuperior to that of any poet, through all the main conftituent parts of his work, as it is the great and peculiar characteristick which distinguishes him from all other authors.

This ftrong and ruling faculty was like a powerful ftar, which, in the violence of its course, drew all things within its vortex. It feemed not enough to have taken in the whole circle of arts, and the whole compass of nature to fupply his maxims and reflections; all the inward paffions 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 fphere to expatiate in, he opened a new and boundless walk for his imagination, and created a world for himfelf in the invention of Fable. That which Ariitotle calls the Soul of poetry, was firft breathed into it by Homer. I fhall begin with confidering him in this part, as it is

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naturally the first, and I fpeak of it both as it means the design of a poem, and as it is taken for fiction.

Fable may be divided into the probable, the allegorical, and the marvellous. The probable fable is the recital of fuch actions as though they did not happen, yet might, in the common courfe of nature: Or of fuch as though they did, become fables by the additional episodes and manner of telling them. Of this fort is the main ftory of an Epick poem, the return of Ulyffes, the fettlement of the Trojans in Italy, or the like. That of the Iliad is the anger of Achilles, the moft fhort and fingle fubject that ever was chosen by any Poet. Yet this he has fupplied with a vafter variety of incidents and events, afid crowded with a greater number of councils, fpeeches, battles, and episodes of all kinds, than are to be found even in those poems whofe fchemes are of the utmost latitude and irregularity. The action is hurried on with the most vehement fpirit, and its whole duration employs not fo much as fifty days. Virgil, for want of fo warm a genius, aided himself by taking in a more extenfive fubject, as well as a greater length of time, and contracting the defign 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 fame practice, but, ge-. nerally carried it fo far as to fuperinduce a multiplicity of fables, destroy the unity of action, and lofe their readers in an unreasonable length of time. Nor is it only in the main defign that they have been unable to add to his invention, but they have followed him in every episode and part of ftory. If he has given a regular catalogue of an army; they all draw up their forces in the fame order. If he has funeral games for Patroclus, Virgil has the fame for Anchises, and Statius (rather than omit them) destroys the unity of his action for thofe of Archemorus. If Ulyffes vifit the fhades, the Æneas of

Virgil and Scipio of Silius are fent after him. If he be detained from his return by the allurements of Calypfo, fo is Æneas by Dido, and Rinaldo by Armida. If Achilles be abfent from the army on the fcore of a quarrel through half the poem, Rinaldo must absent himself juft as long on the like account. If he gives his hero a fuit of celeftial armour, Virgil and Taffo make the fame prefent to theirs. Virgil has not only obferved this clofe imitation of Homer, but where he had not led the way, fupplied the want from other Greek authors. Thus the story of Sinon, and the taking of Troy, was copied (fays Macrobius) almoft word for word from Pifander, as the Loves of Dido and Æneas are taken from thofe of Medea and Jafon in Apollonius, and feveral others in the fame manner.

To proceed to the allegorical fable: If we reflect upon thofe innumerable knowledges, thofe fecrets of nature and phyfical philosophy, which Homer is generally supposed to have wrapped up in his allegories, what a new and ample scene of wonder may this confideration 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 perfons; and to introduce them into actions agreeable to the nature of the things they fhadowed? This is the field in which no fucceeding poets could difpute 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 afide, as it was in Homer to make use of it. And perhaps it was no unhappy circumstance

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