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no violent scolding, nor abusive language; but the poem opens with the utmost magnificence.
The subject of the Æneid, which is the estaba Jishment of Æneas in Italy, is extremely happy. Nothing could be more interesting to the Romans, than Virgil's deriving their origin from so famous a hero as Æneas. The object was splendid itself; it gave the poet a theme, taken from the traditionary history of his country; it allow-, ed him to adopt Homer's mythology, and afforded him frequent opportunities of glancing at all the future great exploits of the Romans, and of describing Italy in its ancient and fabulous state.
Unity of action is perfectly preserved in the Æneid. The settlement of Æneas in Italy by order of the gods, is constantly kept in view. The episodes are properlylinked to the main subject; and the nodus or intrigue of the poem is happily formed. The wrath of Juno, who opposes Æneas, gives rise to all his difficulties, and connects the human with the celestial operations, through the whole poem.
Great art and judgment are displayed in the Æneid; but even Virgil is not without bis faults. One is, that he has so few marked characters. Achates, Cloanthes, Gyas, and other Trojan beroes, who accompanied Æneas into Italy, are undistinguished figures. Even Æneas himself is not a very interesting hero. He is described indeed, as pious and brave; but his character is not marked by those strokes that touch the heart. The character of Didò is the best supported in the whole Æneid. Her warmth of passion, keenness of resentment, and violence of character, exhibit a more animated figure than any other Virgil bas drawn.
The management of the subject, also, is in some respects exceptionable. The six last books received not the finishing hand of the author; and, for this reason, he ordered his poem to be committed to the flames. The wars with the Latins are in dignity inferior to the more interesting objects previously presented to us; and the reader is tempted to take part with Turnus against Æneas.
The principal excellency of Virgil, and what he possesses beyond all poets, is tenderness. His soul was full of sensibility. He felt himself all the affecting circumstances in the scenes he describes; and knew how, by a single stroke, to reach the heart, In an epic poem, this merit is next to sublimity. The second book of the Æneid, is one of the greatest masterpieces ever executed. The death of old Priam, and the family pieces of Æneas, Anchises, and Creusa, are astender as can be conceived. In the fourth book, the unhappy passion and death of Dido are admirable. The interview of Æneas with Andromache and Helenus, in the third book; the episodes of Pallas and Evander, of Nisus and SuryaJus, of Lausus and Mezentius, are all striking instances of the power of raising the tender emotions. The best and most finished books are the first, second, fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and twelfth.
Virgil's battles are in fire and sublimity, far inferior to Homer's. But in one important episode, the descentinto hell, he has outdone Homerin the Odyssey, by many degrees. There is nothing in all antiquity, equal in its kind to the sixth book of the Æneid. The scenery, the objects, and the description are great, solemn and sublime.
With regard to the comparative merit of these two great princes of epic poetry, it must be allowed that Homer was the greater genius, and Virgil the more correct writer. Homer is more original, more bold, more sublime, and more forcible. In judgment they are both eminent. Homer has all the Greek vivacity; Virgil all the Roman stateliness. The imagination of Homer is the most copious; that of Virgil the most correct. The strength of the former lies in warming the fancy; that of the latter in touching the heart. Homer's style is more simple and animated; Virgil's more elegant and uniform.
LUCAN'S PHARSALIA. Lucan is inferior to Homer and Virgil ; yet he deserves attention. There is little invention in his Pharsalia ; and it is conducted in too historical a manner to be strictly epic. It may be arranged, however, in the epic class, as it treats of great and heroic adventures. The subjecí of the Pharsalia, has all the epic dignity and grandeur; and it possesses unity of object, viz. the triomph of Cæsar over Roman liberty.
But, though the subject of Lucan is confessedly heroic, it has two defects. Civil wars present objects too shocking for epic poetry, and furnish odious and disgusting views of human nature. But Lucan's genius seems to delight in savage
The other defect of Lucan's subject is, that it was too near the time in which he lived. This deprived him of the assistance of fiction and ina
chinery; and thereby rendered his work less splendid and amusing. The facts, on which he founds his poem, are too well known, and too recent, to admit fables and the interposition of gods.
The characters of Lucan are drawn with spirit and force. But, though Pompey is his hero, he has not made him very interesting. He marks not Pompey by any high distinction, either for magnanimity or valour. He is always surpassed by Cæsar. Cato is Lucan's favourite chare acter; and, whenever he introduces bim, he rises above himself.
In managing his story, Lucan confines himself too much to chronological order. This breaks the thread of his parration, and hurries him from place to place. He is also too digressive; frequently quitting his subject, to give us some geographical description, or philosophical disquisition.
There are several poetical and spirited des. criptions in the Pharsalia ; but the strength of this poet does not lie either in narration or description. His narratiop is often dry and harsh; his descriptions are often overwrought, and employed on disagreeable objects. His chief merit consists in his sentiments; which are noble, striking, glowing and ardent. He is the most philosophical, and the most patriotic poet of an, tiquity. He was a stoic; and the spirit of that philosophy breathes through his poem. He is elevated and bold; and abounds in well timed exclamations and apostrophes.
As bis vivacity and fire are great, he is apt to be carried away by them. His great defect is wapt of moderation. He knows not where to
stop. When he would aggrandize his object, he becomes tumid and unnatural. There is much bombast in his poem. His taste is marked with the corruption of his age; and instead of poetry, he often exbibits declamation.
On the whole, however, he is an author of lively and original genius. His high sentiments, and his fire,serve to atone for many of his defects. His genius had strength, but no tenderness not amenity. Compared with Virgil he has more fire and sublimer sentiments; but in every thing else, falls intinitely below him, particularly in purity, elegance, and tenderness.
Statius, and Silius Italicus, though poets of the epic class, are too inconsiderable for particular criticism.
TASSO'S JERUSALEM. JERUSALEM Delivered, is a strictly regular epic poem, and abounds with beauties. The subject is the recovery of Jerusalem from infidels, by the united powers of Christendom. The enterprise was splendid, venerable, and heroic; and an interesting contrast is 'exhibited between the Christians and Saracens. Religion renders the subject august, and opens a natural field for machinery and sublime description. The action ton, lies in a country, and in a period of time, sufliciently remote to admit an intermixture of fable with history
Rich invention is a capital quality in Tasso, He is full of events, finely diversified. He never fatigues his reader by mere war and fighting