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Never to manly age that son shall rise,
Or with increasing graces glad my eyes;
For Ilion now (her great defender slain)
Shall sink a smoking ruin on the plain.
Who now protects her wives with guardian care?
Who saves her infants from the rage of war?
Now hostile fleets must waft those infants o'er
(Those wives must wait them) to a foreign shore !
Thou too, my son! to barbarous climes shalt go,
The sad companions of thy mother's woe:
Driven hence a slave before the victor's sword;
Condemn'd to toil for some inhuman lord:
Or else some Greek, whose father prest the plain,
Or son, or brother, by great Hector slain;
In Hector's blood his vengeance shall enjoy,
And hurl thee headlong from the towers of Troy.
For thy stern father never spar'd a foe:
Thence all these tears, and all this scene of woe!
Thence many evils his sad parents bore,
His parents many, but his consort more.
Why gav'st thou not to me thy dying hand?
And why receiv'd not I thy last command?
Some word thou would'st have spoke, which, sadly
My soul might keep, or utter with a tear; [dear,
Which never, never could be lost in air,
Fix'd in my heart, and oft repeated there!"
Thus to her weeping maids she makes her moan:
Her weeping handmaids echo groan for groan.

The mournful mother next sustains her part:
"Oh thou, the best, the dearest to my heart!
Of all my race thou most by Heaven approv'd,
And by th' immortals ev'n in death belov'd!
While all my other sons in barbarous bands
Achilles bound, and sold to foreign lands,
This felt no chains, but went, a glorious ghost,
Free and a hero, to the Stygian coast.
Sentenc'd, 'tis true, by his inhuman doom,
Thy noble corpse was dragg'd around the tomb
(The tomb of him thy warlike arm had slain);
Ungenerous insult, impotent and vain!

Yet glow'st thou fresh with every living grace;
No mark of pain, or violence of face;
Rosy and fair, as Phœbus' silver bow
Dismiss'd thee gently to the shades below!"

Thus spoke the dame, and melted into tears. Sad Helen next, in pomp of grief, appears : Fast from the shining sluices of her eyes Fall the round crystal drops, while thus she cries: "Ah, dearest friend! in whom the gods had join'd

The mildest manners with the bravest mind;
Now twice ten years (unhappy years!) are o'er
Since Paris brought me to the Trojan shore;
(O had I perish'd ere that form divine
Seduc'd this soft, this easy heart of mine!)
Yet was it ne'er my fate, from thee to find
A deed ungentle, or a word unkind :

When others curst the authoress of their woe,
Thy pity check'd my sorrows in their flow:
If some proud brother ey'd me with disdain,
Or scornful sister with her sweeping train;
Thy gentle accents soften'd all my pain.
For thee I mourn; and mourn myself in thee,
The wretched source of all this misery!
The fate I caus'd, for ever I bemoan;
Sad Helen has no friend, now thou art gone!
Thro' Troy's wide streets abandon'd shall I roam
In Troy deserted, as abhorr'd at home!"

So spoke the fair, with sorrow-streaming eye: Distressful beauty melts each stander-by;

On all around th' infectious sorrow grows;
But Priam check'd the torrent as it rose :-
"Perform, ye Trojans! what the rites require,
And fell the forests for a funeral pyre;
Twelve days, nor foes nor secret ambush dread;
Achilles grants these honours to the dead."

He spoke; and, at his word, the Trojan train
Their mules and oxen harness to the wain,
Pour thro' the gates, and, fell'd from Ida's crown,
Roll back the gather'd forests to the town.
These toils continue nine succeeding days,
And high in air a sylvan structure raise;
But when the tenth fair morn began to shine,
Forth to the pile was borne the man divine,
And plac'd aloft: while all, with streaming eyes,
Beheld the flames and rolling smokes arise.
Soon as Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
With rosy lustre streak'd the dewy lawn,
Again the mournful crowds surround the pyre,
And quench with wine the yet-remaining fire.
The snowy bones his friends and brothers place
(With tears collected) in a golden vase ;
The golden vase in purple palls they roll'd,
Of softest texture, and inwrought with gold.
Last o'er the urn the sacred earth they spread,
And rais'd the tomb, memorial of the dead
(Strong guards and spies, till all the rites were done,
Watch'd from the rising to the setting Sun).
All Troy then moves to Priam's court again,
A solemn, silent, melancholy train:
Assembled there, from pious toil they rest,
And sadly shar'd the last sepulchral feast.
Such honours Ilion to her hero paid,

And peaceful slept the mighty Hector's shade.










THE fables of poets were originally employed in representing the divine nature, according to the notion then conceived of it. This sublime subject occasioned the first poets to be called divines, and poetry the language of the gods. They divided the divine attributes into so many persons; be cause the infirmity of a human mind cannot sufficiently conceive, or explain, so much power and action in a simplicity so great and indivisible as that of God. And, perhaps, they were also jealons of the advantages they reaped from such excellent and exalted learning, and of which they thought the vulgar part of mankind was not worthy.

They could not describe the operations of this almighty cause, without speaking at the same time of its effects: so that to divinity, they added physiology; and treated of both, without quitting the umbrages of their allegorical expressions.

But man being the chief and the most noble of all that God produced, and nothing being so proper, or more useful to poets, than this subject; they added it to the former, and treated of the doctrine of morality after the same manner as they did that of divinity and philosophy; and from morality, thus treated, is formed that kind of poem and fable which we call Epic.

The poets did the same in morality, that the divines had done in divinity. But that infinite variety of the actions and operations of the divine nature (to which our understanding bears so small a proportion) did, as it were, force them upon dividing the single idea of the Only One God into several persons, under the different names of Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, and the rest.

And on the other hand, the nature of moral philosophy being such, as never to treat of things in particular, but in general; the epic poets were obliged to unite in one single idea, in one and the same person, and in an action which appeared singular, all that looked like it in different persons and in various actions; which might be thus contained as so many species under their genus.

The presence of the Deity, and the care such an august cause is to be supposed to take about any action, obliges the poet to represent this action as great, important, and managed by kings and princes. It obliges him likewise to think and speak in an elevated way above the vulgar, and in a style that may in some sort keep up the character of the divine persons he introduces. To this end serve the poetical and figurative expression, and the majesty of the heroic verse.

But all this, being divine and surprising, may quite ruin all probability; therefore the poet should take a particular care as to that point, since his chief aim is to instruct, and without probability any action is less likely to persuade.

Lastly, since precepts ought to be concise, to be the more easily conceived, and less oppress the memory; and since nothing can be more effectual to this end than proposing one single idea, and collecting all things so well together, as to be present to our minds all at once; therefore the poets have reduced all to one single action, under one and the saine design, and in a body whose members and parts should be homogeneous.

fine it thus:

work, and all its parts: thus, since the end of the epic poem is to regulate the manners, it is with this first view the poet ought to begin.

But there is a great difference between the philosophical and the poetical doctrine of manners. The schoolmen content themselves with treating of virtues and vices in general; the instructions they give are proper for all states of people, and for all ages. But the poet has a nearer regard to his own country, and the necessities of his own nation. With this design he makes choice of some piece of morality, the most proper and just he can imagine; and in order to press this home, he makes less use of the force of reasoning, than of the power of insinuation; accommodating himself to the particular customs and inclinations of those who are to be the subject, or the readers, of his work.

Let us now see how Homer has acquitted himself in these respects.

He saw the Grecians, for whom he designed his poem, were divided into as many states as they had capital cities. Each was a body politic apart, and had its form of government independent from all the rest. And yet these distinct states were very often obliged to unite together in one body against their common enemies. These were two very different sorts of government, such as could not be comprehended in one maxim of morality, and in one single poem.

The poet, therefore, has made two distinct fables of them. The one is for Greece in general, united into one body, but composed of parts independent on each other; and the other for each particular state, considered as they were in time of peace, without the former circumstances and the necessity of being united.

As for the first sort of government, in the union, or rather in the confederacy of many independent states; experience has always made it appear, "That nothing so much causes success as a due subordination, and a right understanding among the chief commanders. And on the other hand, the inevitable ruin of such confederacies proceeds from the heats, jealousies, and ambition of the different leaders, and the discontents of submitting to a single general." All sorts of states, and in particular the Grecians, had dearly experienced this truth. So that the most useful and necessary instruction that could be given them, was, to lay before their eyes the loss which both the people and the princes must of necessity suffer, by the ambition, discord, and obstinacy of the latter.

What we have observed of the nature of the epic Homer then has taken for the foundation of his poem, gives us a just idca of it, and we may de-fable this great truth: That a misunderstanding between princes is the ruin of their own states. "The epic poem is a discourse invented by art," I sing," says he, "the anger of Achilles, so perto form the manners, by such instructions as are nicious to the Grecians, and the cause of so many disguised under the allegories of some one im-heroes' deaths, occasioned by the discord and sepaportant action, which is related in verse, after a ration of Agamemnon and that prince." probable, diverting, and surprising manner."



Is every design which a man deliberately undertakes, the end he proposes is the first thing in his mind, and that by which he governs the whole

But that this truth may be completely and fully known, there is need of a second to support it. It

necessary, in such a design, not only to represent the confederate states at first disagreeing among themselves, and from thence unfortunate; but to show the same states afterwards reconciled and united, and of consequence victorious.

Let us now see how he has joined all these in one general action.

Several princes independent on one another

were united against the common enemy. The person whom they had elected their general, offers an affront to the most valiant of all the confederates. This offended prince is so far provoked, as to relinquish the union, and obstinately refuse to fight for the common cause. This misunderstanding gives the enemy such an advantage, that the allies are very near quitting their design with dishonour. He himself who made the separation, is not exempt from sharing the misfortune which he brought upon his party. For having permitted his intimate friend to succour them in a great necessity, this friend is killed by the enemy's general. Thus the contending princes, being both made wiser at their own cost, are reconciled, and unite again: then this valiant prince not only obtains the victory in the public cause, but revenges his private wrongs, by killing with his own hands the author of the death of his friend."

This is the first platform of the poem, and the fiction which reduces into one important and universal action all the particulars upon which it


In the next place it must be rendered probable by the circumstances of times, places, and persons: some persons must be found out, already known by history or otherwise, whom we may with probability make the actors and personages of this fable. Homer has made choice of the siege of Troy, and feigned that this action happened there. To a phantom of his brain, whom he would paint valiant and choleric, he has given the name of Achilles; that of Agamemnon to his general; that of Hector to the enemy's commander, and so to the rest.

Besides, he was obliged to accommodate himself to the manners, customs, and genius of the Greeks his auditors, the better to make them attend to the instruction of his poem: and to gain their approbation by praising them; so that they might the better forgive him the representation of their own faults in some of his chief personages. He admirably discharges all these duties, by making these brave princes and those victorious people all Grecians, and the fathers of those he had a mind to commend.

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There are two virtues necessary to one in au. thority; prudence to order, and care to see his orders put in execution. The prudence of a politician is not acquired but by a long experience in all sorts of business, and by an acquaintance with all the different forms of governments and states. The care of the administration suffers not him that has the government to rely upon others, but requires his own presence: and kings, who are absent from their states, are in danger of losing them, and give occasion to great disorders and confusion.

These two points may be easily united in one and the same man. "A king forsakes his kingdom to visit the courts of several princes, where he learns the manners and customs of different nations. From hence there naturally arises a vast number of incidents, of dangers, and of adventures, very useful for a political institution. On the other side, this absence gives way to the disorders which happen in his own kingdom, and which end not till his return, whose presence only can re-establish all things." Thus the absence of a king has the same effects in this fable, as the division of the princes had in the former.

But not being content, in a work of such a length, to propose only the principal point of the The subjects have scarce any need but of one moral, and to fill up the rest with useless orna- general maxim, which is, to suffer themselves to ments and foreign incidents, he extends this moral be governed, and to obey faithfully; whatever rea by all its necessary consequences. As for instance, son they may imagine against the orders they rein the subject before us, it is not enough to know ceive. It is easy to join this instruction with the that a good understanding ought always to be other, by bestowing on this wise and industrious maintained among confederates: it is likewise of prince such subjects as, in his absence, would equal importance that, if there happens any di- rather follow their own judgment than his comvision, care must be taken to keep it secret from mands; and by demonstrating the misfortunes the enemy, that their ignorance of this advantage which this disobedience draws upon them, the evil may prevent their making use of it. And in the consequences which almost infallibly attend these second place, when their concord is but counter-particular notions, which are entirely different feit and only in appearance, one should never from the general idea of him who ought to gopress the enemy too closely; for this would discover the weakness which we ought to conceal from them.

The episode of Patroclus most admirably furnishes us with these two instructions. For when he appeared in the arms of Achilles, the Trojans, who took him for that prince now reconciled and united to the confederates, immediately gave ground, and quitted the advantages they had before over the Greeks. But Patroclus, who should


But as it was necessary that the princes in the Iliad should be choleric and quarrelsome, so it is necessary in the fable of the Odyssey that the chief person should be sage and prudent. This raises a difficulty in the fiction; because this person ought to be absent for the two reasons above mentioned, which are essential to the fable, and which constitute the principal aim of it: but he cannot absent himself, without offending against

anther maxim of equal importance, viz. That a king should upon no accounts leave his country.

It is true, there are sometimes such necessities as sufficiently excuse the prudence of a politician in this point. But such a necessity is a thing impertant enough of itself to supply matter for another poem, and this multiplication of the action would be vicious. To prevent which, in the first place, this necessity, and the departure of the hero, must be disjoined from the poem; and in the second place, the hero having been obliged to absent himself, for a reason antecedent to the action, and placed distinct from the fable, he ought not so far to embrace this opportunity of instructing himself, as to absent himself voluntarily from his own government. For, at this rate, his absence would be merely voluntary, and one might with reason lay to his charge all the disorders which might arise.

Thus, in the constitution of the fable, he ought not to take for his action, and for the foundation of his poem, the departure of a prince from his own country, nor his voluntary stay in any other place; but his return, and this return retarded against his will. This is the first idea Homer gives us of it 1. His hero appears at first in a desolate island, sitting upon the side of the sea, which, with tears in his eyes, he looks upon as the obstacle which had so long opposed his return, and detained him from revisiting his own dear country.

And lastly, since this forced delay might more naturally and usually happen to such as make voyages by sea; Homer has judiciously made choice of a prince, whose kingdom was in an


Let us see then how he has feigned all this action, making his hero a person in years, because years are requisite to instruct a man in prudence and policy.

“A prince had been obliged to forsake his native country, and to head an army of his subjects in a foreign expedition. Having gloriously performed this enterprise, he was marching home again, and conducting his subjects to his own state. Bat spite of all the attempts, with which the eagerness to return had inspired him, he was stopt by the way by tempests for several years, and cast upon several countries, differing from each other in manners and government. In these dangers, his companions, not always following his orders, perished through their own fault. The grandees of his country strangely abuse his absence, and raise no small disorders at home. They consume his estate, conspire to destroy his son, would constrain bis queen to accept of one of them for her husband; and indulge themselves in all violence, so much the more, because they were persuaded he would never return. and discovering himself only to his son and some But at last he returns, others, who had continued firm to him, he is an eye-witness of the insolence of his enemies, punishes them according to their deserts, and restores to his island that tranquility and repose to which they had been strangers during his ab

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As the truth, which serves for foundation to this fiction, is, that the absence of a person from his wwn home, or his neglect of his own affairs, is the

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cause of great disorders: so the principal point of absence of the hero. This fills almost all the poem: the action, and the most essential one, is the for not only this real absence lasted several years, but even when the hero returned, he does not diswhence he reaped so much advantage, has the same cover himself; and this prudent disguise, froni effect upon the authors of the disorders, and alt others who knew him not, as his real absence had before, so that he is absent as to them, till the very moment of their punishment.

joined the fiction to the truth, he then makes After the poet had thus composed his fable, and choice of Ulysses, the king of the isle of Ithaca, and bestowed the rest upon Telemachus, Penelope, to maintain the character of his chief personage, Antinous, and others, whom he calls by what' names he pleases.

advices, which are so many parts and natural conI shall not here insist upon the many excellent sequences of the fundamental truth; and which tions which are the episodes and members of the the poet very dexterously lays down in those ficentire action. Such for instance are these advices: vernment, which the prince keeps secret; this is not to intrude one's self into the mysteries of gorepresented to us by the winds shut up in a bullhide, which the miserable companions of Ulysses would needs be so foolish as to pry into: not to suffer one's self to be led away by the seeming Syrens' song invited2: not to suffer one's self to he charms of an idle and inactive life, to which the sensualised by pleasures, like those who were changed into brutes, by Circe: and a great many people. other points of morality necessary for all sorts of

the Iliad, where the subjects suffer rather by the This poem is more useful to the people than ill conduct of their princes, than through their the fault of Ulysses that is the ruin of his subjects. own miscarriages. But in the Odyssey, it is not This wise prince leaves untried no method to make them partakers of the benefit of his return. Thus of Achilles, which had caused the death of so the poet in the Iliad says, "he sings the anger many Grecians;" and, on the contrary, in the Odyssey he tells his readers, perished through their own fault." "that the subjects



for the simplicity of his design, because he has ARISTOTLE bestows great encomiums upon Homer included in one single part all that happened at the siege of Troy. And to this he opposes the igunity of the fable or action was sufficiently prenorance of some poets, who imagined that the served by the unity of the hero; and who composed their Theseids, Heraclids, and the like, wherein they only heaped up in one poem every thing that happened to one personage.

ducing the unity of the fable into the unity of the
He finds fault with those poets who were for re-
hero, because one man may have performed
several adventures, which it is impossible to reduce


2 Improba Syren desidia,


Wader any one general and simple head. This reducing of all things to unity and simplicity, is what Horace likewise makes his first rule.

Denique sit quodvis simplex duntaxat, & unum.

According to these rules, it will be allowable to make use of several fables; or (to speak more correctly) of several incidents, which may be divided into several fables, provided they are so ordered, that the unity of the fable be not spoiled. This liberty is still greater in the epic poem, because it is of a larger extent, and ought to be entire and complete.

I will explain myself more distinctly by the

practice of Homer.

No doubt but one might make four distinct fables out of these four following instructions.

1. Division between those of the same party exposes them entirely to their enemies.

11. Conceal your weakness; and you will be dreaded as much, as if you had none of those imperfections, of which they are ignorant.

III. When your strength is only feigned, and founded only in the opinion of others; never venture so far as if your strength was real.

iv. The more you agree together, the less hurt

can your enemies do you.

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It is plain, I say, that each of these particular maxims might serve for the ground work of a fiction, and one might make four distinct fables out of them. May not one then put all these into one single epopea? Not unless one single fable can be made out of all. The poet indeed may have so much skill as to unite all into one body, as members and parts, each of which taken asunder would be imperfect and if he joins them so, as that this conjunction shall be no hindrance at all to the unity and regular simplicity of the fable. This is what Homer has done with such success in the composition of the Iliad.

1. The division between Achilles and his allies tended to the ruin of their designs. 2. Patroclus comes to their relief in the armour of this hero, and Hector retreats. 3. But this young man, pushing the advantage which his disguise gave him too far, ventures to engage with Hector himself; but not being master of Achilles' strength (whom he only represented in outward appearance) he is killed, and by this means leaves the Grecian affairs in the same disorder, from which, in that disguise, he came to free them. 4. Achilles, provoked at the death of his friend, is reconciled, and revenges his loss by the death of Hector. These various incidents being thus united, do not make different actions and fables, but are only the uncomplete and unfinished parts of one and the same action and fable, which alone, when taken thus complexly, can be said to be complete and entire and all these maxims of the moral are easily reduced into these two parts, which, in my opinion, cannot be separated without enervating the force of both. The two parts are these, that a right understanding is the preservation, and discord the destruction of states.

Though then the poet has made use of two parts in his poems, each of which might have served for a fable, as we have observed: yet this multiplication cannot be called a vicious and irregular polymythia, contrary to the necessary unity and

simplicity of the fable; but it gives the fable andther qualification, altogether necessary and regu lar, namely, its perfection, and finishing stroke.



poet undertakes, proposes, and builds upon. So THE action of a poem is the subject which the that the moral and the instructions which are the end of the epic poem are not the matter of it. Those the poets leave in their allegorical and figurative obscurity. They only give notice at the exordium, that they sing some action: the revenge of Achilles, the return of Ulysses, &c.

Since then the action is the matter of a fable, it is evident, that whatever incidents are essential to the fable, or constitute a part of it, are necessary also to the action, and are parts of the epic matter, none of which ought to be omitted. Such, for instance, are the contention of Agamemnon and Achilles, the slaughter Hector makes in the Grecian army, the re-union of the Greek princes; and, lastly, the re-settlement and victory which was the consequence of that re-union.

There are four qualifications in the epic action: the first is its unity, the second its integrity, the third its importance, the fourth its duration.

The unity of the epic action, as well as the unity of the fable, does not consist either in the unity of the bero, or in the unity of time: three things, I suppose, are necessary to it. The first is, to make use of no episode, but what arises from is as it were a natural member of the body. The the very platform and foundation of the action, and second is, exactly to unite these episodes and these members with one another. And the third is, never to finish any episode so as it may seem to be an entire action; but to let each episode still appear in its own particular nature, as the member of a body, and as a part of itself not complete.


ARISTOTLE not only says, that the epic action should be one, but adds, that it should be entire, perfect, and complete; and for this purpose, ought to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. These three parts of a whole are too generally and universally denoted by the words, beginning, middle, and end; we may interpret them more precisely, and say, that the causes and designs of an action, are the beginning: that the effects of these causes, and the difficulties that are met with in the execution of these designs, are the middle; and that the unraveling and resolution of these difficulties are the end.


HOMER'S design in the Iliad, is to relate the this action is the change of Achilles from a calm anger and revenge of Achilles.. The beginning of of his passion, and all the illustrious deaths it is the to a passionate temper. The middle is the effects cause of. The end of this same action in the return of Achilles to his calmness of temper again.

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