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OMER is universally allowed to have bad the
greatest Invention of any writer whatever. The
praise of Judgment Virgil has justly contested with
him, and others may have their pretensions as to
particular excellencies; but his Invention remains
K 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 po-
etry. It is the Invention that in different degrees dis-
tinguishes all great geniuses: the utmost stretch of
human study, learning, and industry, which masters
every thing besides, can never attain to this. It fur-
nishes Art with all her materials, and without it, Judg-
ment itself can at best but steal wisely: for Art is only
like a prudent steward, that lives on managing the
riches of Nature. Whatever praises may be given to
works of judgment, there is not even a single beauty
in them to which the Invention must not contribute;
as in the most regular gardens, Art can only reduce
the beauties o f Nature to more regularity, and such
a figure, as 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 fruit-
ful one, is because they find it easier for themselves,
to pursue their observations through a uniform and
bounded walk of Ait, than to comprehend the vast
and various extent of Nature.

Our author's work is a wild paradise, where if we can-
not see all the beauties so distinctly as in an ordered
garden, it is only because the number of them is infi-


nitely greater. It is like a copious nursery, which
contains the 6eeds and first productions of every kind,
out of which those who followed him have but se-
lected some particular plants, each according to his
fancy, to cultivate and beautify. If some things are
too luxuriant, it is ow ing to the richness of die soil;
and if others are not arrived to perfection or maturity,
it is only because tbey are overrun and oppressed by
those of a stronger nature.

It is to the strength of this amazing Invention we
are to attribute tliat unequalled fire and rapture, which
is so forciblevn Homer, that no man of a true poetical
spirit is master of himself while he reads him. What he
writes, is of the most animated nature imaginable;
every thing moves, every thing fives, and is put in ac-
tion. If a coimeil be called, or a battle fought, you are
not coldly informed of what was said or done as from
a third person; the reader is hurried out of himself by
the force of the Poet's imagination, and turns in one
place to a hearer, in another to a spectator. The
course of his verses resembles that of the army he de-

Oi o aj> ktkv, a&ti n zfugt %Buv XSOLPX VS/LLOtlo.

" They pour along like a fire that sweeps the whole
" earth before it." It is however remarkable, that his
fancy, which is every where rigorous, is not discovered
immediately at the beginning of his poem in its fullest
splendor: it grows ia the progress both upon himself
and others, and becomes on fire, like a chariot-wheel,
by its own rapidity. Exact disposition, just thought,
correct elocution, polished numbers, may have been
found in a thousand; but tins poetic fire, this " vivida
vis animi," in a very few. Even in Avorks where all
those are imperfect or neglected, this can overpower
criticism, and make us admire even while we disap-
prove. Nay, where this appears, though attended with
absurdities, it brightens all the rubbish about it. till we


see nothing but its own splendor. This Fire is discerned
in Virgil, but discerned as through a glass, reflected
from Horaer, more shining than fierce, but every where
equal and constant: in Lucan and Statius, it bursts out
in sudden, short, and interrupted flashes: in Milton it
glows like a furnace kept up to an uncommon ardor
by the ibrce of art: iu Shakspeare, it strikes before we
are aware, like an accidental fire from heaven: but in
Homer, and in him only, it bums every where clearly,
and every where irresistibly.

I shall here endeavour to show, how this vast In-
vention exerts itself in a manner superior to that of
any poet, through all the main constituent parts of his
work, as it is the great and peculiar characteristic
which distinguishes him from all other authors.

This strong and ruling faculty was like a powerful
star, which, in the violence of its course, drew all things
within its vortex. It seemed not enough to have taken
in the whole circle of arts, and the whole compass of
nature, to supply his maxims and reflections; all the
inward passions and affections of mankind, to furnish
his characters; and all the outward forms and images
of things for his descriptions; but wanting yet an am-
pler sphere to expatiate in, he opened a new and
boundless walk for his imagination, and created a
world for himself in the invention of Fable. That
which Aristotle calls the " Soul of poetry," was first
breathed into it by Homer. I shall begin with consider-
ing him in this part, as it is naturally the first, and I
speak of it both as it means the design of a poem, and
as it is taken for fiction.

Fable maybe divided into the Probable, the Allegori-
cal, and the Marvellous. The Probable Fable is the reci-
tal of such actions as though they did not happen, yet
might, in the common course of nature: or of such as,
though they did, become fables by the additional epi-
sodes and manner of telling them. Of this sort is the
main story of an Epic poem, the Return of Ulysses, the


Settlement of the Trojans in Italy, or the like. That of
the Iliad is the Anger of Achilles, the most short and sin-
gle subject that ever was chosen by any Poet. Yet this
he has supplied with a vaster variety of incidents and
events, and crowded with a greater number of coun-
cils, speeches, battles, and episodes of all kinds, than
are to be found even in those poems whose schemes
are of the utmost latitude and irregularity. The action
is hurried on with the most vehement spirit, and its
whole duration employs not so much as fifty days.
Virgil, for want of so warm a genius, aided himself by
taking in a more extensive subject, as well as a greater
length of time, and contracting the design of both Ho-
mer's poems into one, which is yet but a fourth part
as large as his. The other Epic Poets have used the
same practice, but generally earned it so far as to su-
perinduce a multiplicity of fables, destroy the unity of
action, and lose their readers in an unreasonable length
of time. Nor is it only in the main design that they
have been unable to add to his Invention, but they
have followed him in every episode and part of story.
If he has given a regular Catalogue of an Army, they
all draw up their forces in the same order. If he has
Funeral Games for Patroclus, Virgil has the same for
Anchises; and Statius (rather than omit them) destroys
the unity of his action for those of Archemoras. If
Ulysses visits the shades, the jEneas of Virgil, and
Scipio of Silius, are sent after him. If he be detained
from his return by the allurements of Calypso, so is
iEneas by Dido, and Rinaldo by Armida. If Achilles
be absent from the army on the score of a quarrel
through half the poem, Rinaldo must absent himself
just as long, on the like account. If he gives his hero
a suit of Celestial Armour, Virgil and Tasso make the
same present to theirs. Virgil has not only observ-
ed this close imitation of Homer, but, where he had
not led the way, supplied the want from other Greek
authors. Thus the story of Sinon and the taking of


Troy was copied (says Maerobius) almost woid for
word from Pisander, as th<* loves of Dido and /Eneas
are taken from those of Medea and Jason in Apollo-
nins, and several others in the same manner*

To proceed to the Allegorical Fable: If we reflect
upon those innumerable knowledges, those seerets
of nature and physical philosophy, which Homer is
generally supposed to have wrapped up in his Alle-
gories, what a new and ample scene of wonder may
this consideration afford us! how fertile will that ima-
gination appear, which was able to clothe all the pro-
perties of elements, the qualifications of the mind, the
virtues and vices, in forms and persons; and to intro-
duce them into actions agreeable to the nature of the
things they shadowed! Thi3 is a field in which no suc-
ceeding poets could dispute with Homer; and what-
ever 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 chan-
ged in following ages, and science was delivered in a
plainer manner; it then became as reasonable in the
more modern poets to lay it aside, as it was in Homer
to make use of it. And perhaps it was no unhappy cir-
cumstance for Virgil, that there was not in his time
that demand upon him of so great an invention, as
might be capable of furnishing all those allegorical
parts of a poem.

The Marvellous Fable includes whatever is super-
natural, and especially the machines of the Gods. He
seems the first who brought them into a system of
machinery for poetry, and such a one as makes its
greatest importance and dignity. For we find those,
authors who have been offended at the literal notion
of the Gods, constantly laying their accusation against
Homer as the chief support of it. But whatever cause
there might be to blame his machines in a philosonhi-
cal or religious view, they are so perfect in the poetic,


that mankind hare been ever since contented to fol-
low them: none have been able to enlarge the sphere
of poetry beyond the limits he has set: every attempt
of this nature has proved unsuccessful; and after all
the various changes of times and religions, his Gods
continue to this day the Gods of poetry.

We come now to the Characters of his Persons; and
here we shall find no author has ever drawn so many,
with so visible and surprising a variety, or given us
such lively and affecting impressions of them. Every
one has something so singularly his own, that
no painter could have distinguished them more by
their features, than the poet has by their manners.
Nothing can be more exact than the distinctions he has
observed in the different degrees of virtues and vices.
The single quality of courage is wonderfully diversi-
fied in the several characters of the Iliad. That of
Achilles is furious and intractable; that of Diomed for-
ward, yet listening to advice and subject to command:
•that of Ajax is heavy, and self-confiding; of Hector,
active and vigilant: the courage of Agamemnon is in-
spirited by love of empire and ambition: that of Me-
nelaus mixed with softness and tenderness for his
people: Ave find in Idomeneus a plain direct soldier,
in Sarpedon a gallant and generous one. Nor is this
judicious and astonishing diversity to be found only
in the principal quality which constitutes the main of
each character, but even in the under parts of it, to
which he takes care to give a tincture of that principal
one. For example, the main characters of Ulysses and
Nestor consist in wisdom; and they are distinct in this,
that the wisdom of one is artificial and various; of
the other, natural, open, and regular. But they have,
besides, characters of courage; and this quality also
takes a different turn in each from the difference of
his prudence: for one in the war depends still upon
caution, the other upon experience. It would be end-
less to produce instances of these kinds. The charac-


ters of Virgil are far from striking us in this open
manner; they he in a great degree hidden and un-
distinguished, and where they are marked most evi-
dently, affect us not in proportion to those of Homer.
His characters of valor are much alike; even that of
Turnus seems no way peculiar hut as it is in a supe-
rior degree; and we see nothing that differences the
courage of Menestheus from that of Sergestus, Cloan-
thus, or the rest. In like manner it may be remarked
of Statius's heroes, that an air of impetuosity runs
through them all; the same horrid and savage courage
appears in his Capaneus, Tydeus, Hippomedon, &c.
They have a parity of character, which makes them
seem brothers of one family. I believe when the reader
is led into this track of reflection, if he will pursue it
through the Epic and Tragic waken, he will be con-
vinced how infinitely superior hi this point the Invenr
tion of Homer was to that of all others.

The Speeches are to lie considered as they flow'from
the characters, being perfect or defective as they agree
or disagree with the manners of those who utter them.
As there is more variety of characters in the Iliad, so
there is of speeches, than in any other poem. Every
thing in it has manners (as Aristotle expresses it); that
is, every thing is acted or spoken. It is hardly credible,
in a work of such length, how small a number of lines
are employed in narration. In Virgil the dramatic part
is less in proportion to the narrative; and the speeches
often consist of general reflections or thoughts, which
might be equally just in any person's mouth upon the
same occasion. As many of his persons have no appa-
rent characters, so many of his speeches escape being
applied and judged by the rule of propriety. "We of-
tener think of the author himself when we read VirgiL
than when we are engaged in Homer; all of which are
the effects of a colder invention, that interests us less
in the action described: Homer makes us hearers, and
Virgil leaves us readers.

A 2


If in the next place we take a view of the Senti-
ments, the same presiding faculty is eminent in the
sublimit)' and spirit of his thoughts. Longinus has
given his opinion, that it was in this part Homer
principally excelled. What were alone sufficient to
prove the grandeur and excellence of his sentiments
in general, is, that they have so remarkable a parity
with those of the Scripture: Duport, in his Gnomologia
Hornerica, has collected innumerable instances of this
sort. And it is with justice an excellent modern writer
allows, that if Virgil has not so many thoughts that are
low and vulgar, he has not so many that are sublime
and noble; and that the Roman author seldom rises
into very astonishing sentiments, where he is not fired
by the Iliad.

If we observe his Descriptions, Images, and Similes,
we shall find the Invention still predominant. To what
else can we ascribe that vast comprehension of images
of every sort, where we see each circumstance of art,
and individual of nature sununoned together, by the
extent and fecundity of his imagination; to which all
things, in their various views, presented themselves in
an instant, and had their impressions taken off to per-
fection, at a heat? Nay, he not only gives us the full
prospects of things, but several unexpected peculiari-
ties and side-views, unobserved by any painter but
Homer. Nothing is so surprising as the descriptions of
his battles, which take up no less than half the Iliad,
and are supplied with so vast a variety of incidents,
that no one bears a likeness to another; such different
kinds of deaths, that no two heroes are wounded in th«
same manner; and such a profusion of noble ideas, that
every battle rises above the last in greatness, horror,
and confusion. It is certain there is not near that
number of images and descriptions in any Epic Poet;
though every one has assisted himself with a great
quantity out of him: and it is evident of Virgil espe-


cialLy, that he has scarce any Comparisons which art*
not drawn from his master.

If we descend from hence to the Expression, we see
the bright imagination of Homer shining out in the
most enlivened forms of it. We acknow ledge him the
father of poetical diction, the first who taught that
language of the Gods to men. His expression is like the
coloring of some great masters, which discovers itself
to be laid on boldly, and executed with rapidity. It is
indeed the strongest and most glow ing imaginable, and
touched with the greatest spirit. Aristotle had reason
to say. He was the only poet who had found out living
w ords; there are in him more daring figures and meta-
phors than in any good author whatever. An arrow is
impatient to be on the wing, and a weapon thirsts to
drink the blood of an enemy, and the like. Yet his ex
pression is never too big for the sense, but justly great
in proportion to it. It is the sentiment that sw T ells and
fills out the diction, which rises with it, and forms itsek
about it: for in the same degree that a thought is
warmer, an expression will be brighter; as that is more
strong, this will become more perspicuous: like glass in
the furnace, which grows to a greater magnitude and
refines to a greater clearness, only as the breath within
is more powerful, and the heat more intense.

To throw his language more out of prose, Homer
seems to have affected the Compound Epithets. This
was a sort of composition peculiarly proper to poetry,
not only as it heightened the diction, but as it assisted
and filled the numbers with greater sound and pomp,
and likewise conduced in some measure to thicken the
images. On this last consideration I cannot but attri-
bute these also to the fruitfulness of his Invention,
since (as he has managed them) they are a sort of
supernumerary pictures of the persons or things to
which they are joined. We see the motion of Hector"*
plumes in the epithet y.oovSxioXo;, the landscape


of mount Xeritus in that of fivocnpuXXOf , and so of
others; which particular images could not have been
insisted upon so long as to express them in a descrip-
tion (though but of a single line) without diverting the
reader too much from the principal action or figure.
As a metaphor is a short simile, one of these epithets is
a short description.

Lastly, if we consider his Versification, we shall be
sensible what a share of praise is due to his Invention
in that. He was not satisfied with his language as he
found it settled in any one part of Greece, but search-
ed through its diffeiing dialects with this particular
view, to beautify and perfect his numbers: he con-
sidered these as they had a greater mixture of vowels
or consonants, and accordingly employed them as the
verse required either a greater smoothness or strength.
What he most affected was the Ionic, which has a pe-
culiar sweetness from its never using contractions, and
from its custom of resolving the diphthongs into two
syllables; so as to make the words open themselves with
a more spreading and sonorous fluency. "With this he
mingled the Attic contractions, the broader Doiic, and
the feebler iEolic, which often rejects its aspirate, or
takes off its accent; and completed this variety by-
altering some letters with the license of poetry. Thus
his measures, instead of being fetters to his sense, Vere
always in readiness to run along with the warmth of
his rapture, and even to give a further representation
of his notions, in the correspondence of their sounds lo
what they signified. Out of all these he has derived
that harmony, wliich makes us confess he had not only
the richest head, but the finest ear in the world. This
is so great a truth, that whoever will but consult the
tune of his verses, even without understanding them
(with the same sort of diligence as we daily see prac-
tised in the case of Italian Operas) will find more
sweetness, variety, and majesty of sound, than in any
other language or poetry. The beauty of his Bombers

I '


\g allowed by the critics to be copied but faintly by
Virgil himself, though they are so just as to ascribe
it to the nature of the Latin tongue: indeed the Greek
has some advantages both from the natural sound of
its words, and the turn and cadence of its verse, which
agree with the genius of no other language. Virgil was
very sensible of this, and used the utmost diligence in
working up a more intractable language to whatso-
ever graces it was capable of; and in particular never
failed to bring the sound of his line to a beautiful agree-
ment with its sense. If the Grecian poet has not been
so frequently celebrated on this account as the Ro-
man, the only reason is, that fewer critics have under-
stood one language than the other. Dionysius of
Hahcarnassus has pointed out many of our authors
beauties of this kind, in his treatise of the Composition
of Words. It suffices at present to observe of his num-
bers, that they flow with so much ease, as to make
one imagine Homer had no other care than to tran-
scribe as fast as the Muses dictated: and at the same
time with so much force and inspiriting vigor, that
they awaken and raise us like the sound of a trumpet.
They roll along as a plentiful river, always in motion,
and always full; while we are borne away by a tide of
verse, the most rapid, and yet the most smooth ima-

Thus, on whatever side we contemplate Homer,
what principally strikes us is his Invention. It is that
which forms the character of each part of his work;
and accordingly we find it to have made his fable
more extensive and copious than any other, his man-
ners more lively and strongly marked, his speeches
more affecting and transported, his sentiments more
warm and sublime, his images and descriptions more
full and animated, his expression more raised and
daring, and his numbers more rapid and various. 1
hope, in wliat has been said of Virgil, with regard to
any of ihese heads, I have no w ay derogated from his.


character. Nothing is more absurd or endless, than
the common method of comparing eminent writers
by an opposition of particular passages in them, and
forming a judgment from thence of their merit upon
the whole. We ought to have a certain knowledge of
the principal character and distinguishing excellence
of each: it is in that we are to consider him, and in
proportion to his degree in that we are to admire him.
No author or man e> er excelled all the world in more
than one faculty; and as Homer has done this in
Invention, Virgil has in Judgment. Not that we
are to think Homer wanted Judgment, because
Virgil possessed it in a more eminent degree; or
that Virgil wanted Invention, because Homer had
a larger share of it: each of these great authors
had more of both than perhaps any man besides, and
are only said to have less in comparison with one
another. Homer was the greater genius, Virgil the
better artist. In one we most admire the man, in the
other the work: Homer hurries and transports us with
a commanding impetuosity, Virgil leads us with an
attractive majesty: Homer scatters with a generous
profusion, Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence:
Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a
boundless overflow; Virgil, like a river in its banks,
with a gentle and constant stream. When we behold
their battles, methinks the two poets resemble the
heroes they celebrate: Homer, boundless and irresis-
tible as Achilles, bears all before him, and shines
more and more as the tumult increases; Virgil,
calmly daring like iEneas, appears undisturbed in
the midst of the action; disposes all about him, and
conquers with tranquillity. And when we look upon
their machines., Homer seems like his own Jupiter in
his terrors, shaking Olympus, scattering the light-
nings, and firing the heavens; Virgil, like the same
power in his benevolence, counselling with the gods,
laying plans for empires, and regularly ordering his
whole creation.

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