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THE MOST HONOURABLE
LORD MARQUIS OF NORMANBY, EARL OF MULGRAVE,* &c. AND KNIGHT
OF THE MOST NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER.
A HEROIC poem, truly such, is undoubtedly up, like a knight-errant, in an enchanted castle, the greatest work which the soul of man is ca- when he should be pursuing his first adventure. pable to perform. The design of it is to form Statius, as Bossu has well observed, was amthe mind to heroic virtue by example. It is bitious of trying his strength with his master conveyed in verse, that it may delight, while it Virgil, as Virgil had before tried his with Hoinstructs : the action of it is always one, entire, mer, The Grecian gave the two Romans an and great. The least and most trivial episodes, example, in the games which were celebrated or under-actions, which are interwoven in it, at the funerals of Patroclus. Virgil imitated are parts either necessary or convenient to car- the invention of Homer, but changed the sports. ry on the main design ; either so necessary, But both the Greek and Latin poet took their that, without them, the poem must be imperfect, occasions from the subject; though to confess or so convenient, that no others can be imagine the truth, they were both ornamental, or, at best, ed more suitable to the place in which they are. convenient parts of it, rather than of necessity There is nothing to be left void in a firm build- arising from it. Statius, who, through his whole ing; even the cavities ought not to be filled with poem, is noted for want of conduct and judg. rubbish, (which is of a perishable kind, de- ment, instead of staying, as he might have done, structive to the strength,) but with brick or for the death of Capaneus, Hippomedon, Tystone, though of less pieces, yet of the same na- deus, or some other of his seven champions, ture, and fitted to the crannies. Even the least (who are heroes all alike,) or more properly for portions of them must be of the epic kind : all the tragical end of the two brothers, whose exeihings must be grave, majestical, and sublime; quies the next successor had leisure to perform nothing of a foreign nature, like the trifling novels, when the siege was raised, and in the interval bewhich Ariosto,* and others, have inserted in twixt the poet's first action and his second-went their poems; by which the reader is misled out of his way, as it were on prepense malice, into another sort of pleasure, opposite to that to commit a fault. For he took his opportunity which is designed in an epic poem. One raises to kill a royal infant by the means of a serpent, thc soul, and hardens it to virtue; the other (that author of all evil,) to make way for those softens it, and unbends it into vice. One con- funeral honours which he intended for him. duces to the poet's aim, the completing of his Now, if this innocent had been of any relation work, which he is driving on, labouring and to his Thebais-if he had either furthered or hastening in every line ; the other slackens his hindered the taking of the town—the poet might pace, diverts him from his way, and locks him have found some sorry excuse, at least, for de
The early editions, by an absurd and continued rules. On the contrary, they often drop the mask blunder, read Aristotle. Ariosto, and indeed all the in the middle of the romantic wonders which they heroic Italian poets, Tasso excepted, have chequer relate; and plainly show, how very far they are ed their romantic fictions with lighter stories, such from considering the narrative as serious. It was, as those of Jocondo and of Adonio, in the " Orlan. therefore, consistent with their plan, to admit do Furioso." But neither Ariosto, nor his prede. such light and frivolous narratives, as might relieve cessors Boiardo and Pulci, ever entertained the idea the general gravity of their tale, which resembled an of writing a regular epic poem after the ancient epic poem as little as a melo-drama does a tragedy.
* Mulgrave's early and intimate connexion with our author has been nften noticed in this edition. In the reign of William III he remained in a sort osdi gruce, from his attachment to the exiled king: yet, in 1694, he was created Marquis of Normanby; in the reign of the queen, he rose still higher; and it is said that the dignities, offices, and influence, which he then enjoyed, were the reward of the ambitious love which he had dared to entertain for that princess, when she was only the Lady Anne, second daughter to the Duke of York.-See Dryden's Life; also Dedication to Aurung Zebe.
taining the reader from the promised siege. teach them, that their action being less, and be On these terms, this Capaneus of a poet en ing also less diversified with incidents, their orb, gaged his two immortal predecessors ; and of consequence, must be circumscribed in a less his success was answerable to his enter
compass, which they reduced within the limits prise.*
either of a natural or an artificial day; so that, as If this economy must be observed in the mi- he taught them to amplify what he had shortennutest parts of an epic poem, which, to a com ed, by the same rule, applied the contrary way, mon reader, seem to be detached from the body, he taught them to shorten what he had amplified. and alrcost independent of it; what soul, though Tragedy is the miniature of human life ; an epic sent into the world with great advantages of poem is the draught at length. Here, my lord, nature,
cultivated with the liberal arts and sci I must contract also; for before I was aware, I ences, conversant with histories of the dead, was almost running into a long digression, to and enriched with observations on the living, prove, that there is no such absolute necessity can be sufficient to inform the whole body of so that the time of a stage action should so strictly great a work? I touch here but transiently, be confined to twenty-four hours, as never to exwithout any strict method, on some few of those ceed them, for which Aristotle contends, and many rules of imitating nature, which Aristotle the Grecian stage has practised. Some longer drew from Homer's Iliads and Odysseys, and space on some occasions, I think, may be allowwhich he fitted to the drama ; furnishing him- ed, especially for the English theatre, which self also with observations from the practice of the requires more variety of incidents than the theatre,when it flourished under Æschylus, Euri- French. Corneille himself, after long prace pides,and Sophocles : for the original of the stage tice, was inclined to think, that the time allotwas from the epic poem. Narration, doubtless, ted by the ancients was too short to raise and preceded acting, and gave laws to it : what at finish a great action: and better a mechanic first was told artfully, was, in process of time, rule were stretched or broken, than a great represented gracefully to the sight and hearing. beauty were omitted. To raise, and afterwards These episodes of Homer, which were proper to calm the passions—to purge the soul from for the stage, the poets amplified each into an pri de, by the examples of human miseries, action; out of his limbs they formed their bodies; which befall the greatest—in few words, to exwhat he had contracted, they enlarged ; out of pel arrogance, and introduce compassion, aro one Hercules, were made infinity of pigmies, the great effects of tragedy ; great, I must conyet all indued with human souls ; for from him, fess, if they were altogether as true as they are their great creator, they have each of them the pompous. But are habits to be introduced at divinæ particulum aure. They flowed from three hours' warning? are radical diseases so him at first, and are at last resolved into him. suddenly removed? A mountebank may proNor were they only animated by him, but their mise such a cure, but a skilful physician will measure and symmetry was owing to him. His not undertake it. An epic poem is not in so one, entire, and great action was copied by them much haste": it works leisurely; the changes according to the proportions of the drama. If which it makes are slow; but the cure is likely he finished his orb within the year, it sufficed to to be more perfect. The effects of tragedy, as
• I quote, from Mr. Malone, Mr. Harte's vindica. the horrors of a future war. This is intimated in tion of Statius; premising, however, that it is far some measure by the derivation of the word Arche. from amounting to an exculpation of that boisterous morus."-Note on Mr. Walter Harte's Translation author, whose works have fallen into oblivion even of the Sirth Book of the Thebaid. among scholars, in due proportion to the ripening of Notwithstanding what Mr. Harte has stated, our poetical taste.
author seldom mentions Statius, without reproba "Mr. Dryden, in his excellent Preface to the ting his turgid and bombast style. Æneid, takes occasion to quarrel with Statius, and : Dryden, as was excellently observed by Sir calls the present book (the sixth) an ill-timed and Samuel Garth, in his " Funeral Eulogy," always injudicious episode.' I wonder so severe a remark thought that species of composition most excellent could pass from that gentleman, who was an admi upon which his labour had been more immediately rer of our author, even to superstition. I own I can employed. In the" Essay upon Dramatic Poesy," scarce forgive myself to contradict so great a poet, he had preferred the tragedy to the epic poem, and and so good a critic : talium enim virorum ui ad. here he has reversed their station, and rank. I miratin marima, ita censura dificilis. However, think the principal disunction is noticed below. the present case may admit of very allevialing cir: Tragedy is addressed, as it were, to the eye; and, cumstances. It may be replied, in general, that the the whole scene, to be enjoyed, even in perusal, must design of this book was to give a respite to the main be supposed present to the observation. But epic action, introducing a mournful, but pleasing varia poetry is, by its nature, narrative ; and, therefore, tion, from terror to pily. It is also highly probable, while it is capable of the beauties of more extended that Status had an eye to the funeral obsequies of description, and more copious moralily, it is exclu. Polydore and Anchises, mentioned in the third and ded from that immediate and energetic appeal to the 6th books of Virgil We may also look upon them scnses manifested in the drama. is a prelude, opening the mind by degrees to receive
I said, are too violent to be lasting. If it be them; and what we abhor we never imitato. answered, that, for this reason, tragedies are The poet only shows them, like rocks or quickoften to be seen, and the dose to be repeated, sands, lo be shunned, this is lacitly to confess, that there is more vir. By this example, the critics have concluded, lue in one heroic poem than in many tragedies. that it is not necessary the manners of the hero A man is humbled one day, and his pride re should be virtuous. They are poetically good, turns the next. Chymical medicines are ob- if they are of a piece ; though, where a character served to relieve ofiener than to cure : for it is of perfect virtue is set before us, it is more loves the nature of spirits to make swift impressions, ly; for there the whole hero is to be imitated. but not deep. Galenical decoctions, to which This is the Eneas of our author ; this is that I may properly compare an epic poem, have idea of perfection in an epic poem, which paintmore of body in them ; they work by their sub ers and statuaries have only in their minds, and stance and their weight. It is one reason of which no hands are able to express. These are Aristotle's to prove, that tragedy is the more the beauties of a god in a human body. When noble, because it turns in a shorter compass : the picture of Achilles is drawn in Iragedy, he the whole action being circumscribed within is taken with those warts, and moles, and hard the space of four-and-twenty hours. He might features, by those who represent him on the prove as well, that a mushroom is to be prefer- stage, or he is no more Achilles ; for his creared before a peach, because it shoots up in the tor, Homer, has so described him. Yet even compass of a night. A chariot may be driven thus he appears a perfect hero, though an imround a pillar in less space than a large machine, perfect character of virtue. Horace paints him because the bulk is not so great. Is the Moon after Horner, and delivers him to be copied on a more noble planet than Saturn, because she the stage with all those imperfections.* Theremakes her revolution in less than thirty days, fore they are either not faults in a heroic poem, and he in little less than thirty years ? Both o: faults common to the drama. Afier all, on their orbs are in proportion to their several the whole merits of the cause, it must be acmagnitudes; and, consequently, the quickness knowledged, that the epic poem is more for the or slowness of their motion, and the time of their manners, and tragedy for the passions. The circumvolutions, is no argument of the greater passions, as I have said, are violent; and acuto or less perfection. And, besides, what virtue distempers require medicines of a strong and is there in a tragedy, which is not contained in speedy' operation. Ill habits of the mind are an epic poem, where pride is humbled, virtue like chronical diseases, to be corrected by derewarded, and vice punished; and those more grees, and cured by alteratives ; wherein, though amply treated, than the narrowness of the dra- purges are sometimes necessary, yet diet, good ma can admit ? The shining quality of an epic air, and moderate exercise, have the greatest hero, his magnanimity, his constancy, his pa- part. The matter being thus stated, it will aptience, his piety, or whatever characteristical pear, that both sorts of poetry aro of use for their virtue his poet gives him, raises first our admi- proper ends. The stage is more active; tho ration. We are naturally prone to imitate what epic poem works at greater leisure, yet is activewe admire ; and frequent acts produce a habit. If the hero's chief quality be vicious, as, for ex because it contains an accurate picture of human ample, the choler and obstinate desire of ven
nature, which can never be truly presented, without conveying a lesson of instruction.
But it may geance in Achilles, yet the moral is instructive :
shrewoiy be suspected, that the moral was as little and, besides, we are informed in the very pro
intended by the author, as it would have been the position of the Iliads, that this anger was perni- nant with morality, though a detail of facts be only
object of a historian, whose work is equally pregcious ; that it brought a thousand ills on the intended. We may be pretty sure, that Homer Grecian camp. The courage of Achilles is pro
meant his Achilles, the favourite of the gods, as a posed to imitation, not his pride and disobe
character approaching perfection ; and if he is
cruel, proud, disobedient, and vengeful, I am afraid dience to his general, nor his brutal cruelty to it was only because these attributes, in a savage his dead enemy, nor the selling his body to his
state, are deemed as little derogatory from the
character of a hero, as dissipation and gallantry are father. * We abhor these actions while we read blemishes in that of a modern fine gentleman.
• The opinion of Horare is a confirmation of what • The cant of supposing, that the riad contained is stated above. None of the ancients ventured to an obvious and intentional moral, was at this time impute the rudeness of Homer's characters to the so established among the critics, that even Dryden
harburity of the poet's age. The faults which they durst not shake himself free of it, In all probability, could not shut their eyes against, must, they thought, the ancient blind bard only thought of so arranging have been equally apparent to the bard himself; his splendid tale of Proy divine, that it should arrest although, in all probability, he meant that these the attention of his hearer3. Doubtless, an admira. very attributes in his heroes should be considered as ble moral may be often extracted from his poem;
too, when need requires ; for dialogue is imitaled routed armies, in Homer or in Virgil; but no by the drama, from the more active parts of it. Hercules contra duos in the drama. I forbear to One puts off a fit, like the quinquia, and relieves instance in many things, which the stage cannot us only for a time; the other roots out the dis- or ought not to represent; for I have said altemper, and gives a healthful habit. The sun ready more than I intended on this subject, and enlightens and cheers us, dispels fogs, and should fear it might be turned against me, that I warms the ground with his daily beams; but the plead for the pre-eminence of epic poetry, becorn is sowed, increases, is ripened, and is cause I have iaken some pains in translating reaped for use in process of time, and in its pro- Virgil, if this were the first iime that I had de per season. I proceed, from the greatness of livered my opinion in this dispute. But I have the action, to the dignity of the actors; I mean more than once already maintained the rights of to the persons employed in both poems. There my two masters against their rivals of the scene,* likewise tragedy will be seen to borrow from the even while I wrote tragedies myself, and had no epopee ; and that which borrows is always of thoughts of this present undertaking. I submit less dignity, because it has not of its own. A my opinion to your judgment, who are better subject, it is true, may lend to his sovereign; qualified than any man I know, to decide this but the act of borrowing makes the king inferior, controversy. You come, my lord, instructed in because he wants, and the subject supplies. the cause, and needed not that I should open it. And suppose the persons of the drama wholly Your“ Essay of Poetry,'t which was published fabulous, or of the poet's invention, yet heroic without a name, and of which I was not honourpoetry gave him the examples of that invention, ed with the confidence, I read over and over because it was first, and Homer the common with much delight, and as much instruction, and, father of the stage. I know not of any one ad- without flattering you, or making myself more vantage which tragedy can boast above heroic moral than I am not without some envy. I poetry, but that it is represented to the view, as was loth to be informed how an epic poem should well as read, and instructs in the closet, as well be written, or how à tragedy should be contrived as on the theatre. This is an uncontended ex- and managed, in better verse, and with more cellence, and a chief branch of its prerogative; judgment, than I could teach others. A native yet I may be allowed to say, without partiality, of Parnassus, and bred up in the studies of its that herein the actors share the poet's praise. fundamental laws, may receive new light from Your lordship knows some modern tragedies his contemporaries; but it is a grudging kind of which are beautiful on the stage, and yet I am praise which he gives his benefactors. He is confident you would not read them. “ Tryphon more obliged, than he is willing to acknowledge ; the stationer"* complains, they are seldom asked there is a lincture of malice in his commendafor in his shop. The poet who flourished in the Lions ; for where I own I am taught, I confess scene, is damned in the ruelle it nay more, he is my want of knowledge. A judge upon the not esteemed a good poet by those, who see and bench may, out of good nature, or at least intere hear his extravagancies with delight. They est, encourage the pleadings of a puny counselare a sort of stately fustian, and lofty childish- lor ; but he does not willingly commend his ness. Nothing but nature can give a sincere brother sergeant al the bar, especially when he pleasure ; where that is not imitated, it is gro- controls his law, and exposes that ignorance tesque painting ; "the fine woman ends in a which is made sacred by his place. I gave the fish's tail."
unknown author his due commendation, I must I might also add, that many things, which not confess; but who can answer for me and for the only please, but are real beauties in the reading, rest of the poets who heard me read the poem, would appear absurd upon the stage; and those not only the speciosa miracula, as Horace calls • Dryden, in the “Essay on Dramatic Poesy," them, of transformations, of Scylla, Antiphates, against the French dramatists.
maintains the cause of Shakspeare and Jonson and the Læstrygons, which cannot be represent # It appeared first in 1882, and drew the public ed even in operas; but the prowess of Achilles
attention by much sound criticism, expressed in
pointed language; although the verse is so untunaor Æneas would appear ridiculous in our dwarf ble and rugged, as to sound very disagreeably to heroes of the theatre. We can believe they modern ears. Dryden is mentioned with only a
qualified degree or respect, and that paid solely to • “Bibliopola Tryphon," a character twice men his satirical powers : tioned by Martial, Epig. lib. iv. 72. xiii. 3. Dryden
The laureat here may justly claim our praise, probably means Tonson.
Crown'd by Mac-Flecnoe with immortal bays; + A Gallicism for the toilet, at which the ladies
Yet once his Pegasus has borne deld weight, of Dryden's time, in imitation of their neighbours
Rid by some lumpish minister of state. of France, were wont to receive visits, and hear recitations and readings.
The last couplet allades to the “Hind and Panther.
whather we should not havo been better pleased and this loose proceeding I shall use through all to have seen our own names at the bottom of the this prefalory dedication. Yet all this while I title-page? Perhaps we commended it the have been sailing with some side-wind or other more, that we might seem to be above the cen- toward the point I proposed in the beginning, sure. We are naturally displeased with an un- the greatness and excellency of a heroic poem, known critic, as the ladies are with a lampooner, with some of the difficulties which attend that because we are bitten in the dark, and know not work. The comparison, therefore, which I where to fasten our revenge. But great excel- made betwixt the epopee and the tragedy, was lencies will work their way through all sorts of not altogether a digression ; for it is concluded opposition. I applauded rather out of decency, on all hands, that they are both the masterthan affection; and was ambitious, as some yet pieces of human wit. can witness, to be acquainted with a man, with In the mean time, I may be bold to draw whom I had the honour to converse, and that this corollary from what has been already said, almost daily, for so many years together. Hea that the file of heroic poets is very short; all ven knows, if I have heartily forgiven you this are not such who have assumed that lofty title in deceit. You extorted a praise, which I should ancient or modern ages, or have been so esteemwillingly have given, had I known you. Noth- ed by their partial and ignorant admirers. ing had been more easy, than to commend a There have been but one great Ilias, and one patron of a long standing. The world would Æneis, in so many ages. The next, but the join with me, if the encomiums were just; and, next with a long interval betwixt, was the Jeruif unjust, would excuse a grateful fatterer. But salem;* I mean not so much in distance of to come anonymous upon me, and force me to time, as in excellency. After these three are commend you against my interest, was not allo- eniered, some lord-chamberlain should be apgether so fair, give me leave to say, as it was pointed, some critic of authority should be set politic; for, by concealing your quality, you before the door, lo keep out a crowd of little mighe clearly understand how your work suc- poets, who press for admission, and are not of ceeded, and that the general approbation was quality. Mævius would be deafening your lordgiven to your merit, not your titles. Thus, like ship's ears with his Apollos, you stood unseen behind your own Ve.
Fortunam Priami cantabo, et nobile beliumnus, and received the praises of the passing multitude; the work was commended, not the mere fustian, as Horace would tell you, from beauthor; and I doubt not, this was one of the hind, without pressing forward, and more smoke most pleasing adventures of your life. *
than fire. Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto,t would I have detained your lordship longer than I cry out," Make room for the Italian poets, the intended in this dispute of preference betwixt descendants of Virgil in a right line :" father Le the epic poem and the drama, and yet have not Moine, with his Saint Louis ; and Scuderi with formally answered any of the arguments which his Alaric, for a godly king and a Gothic conare brought by Aristotle on the other side, and queror; and Chapelain would take it ill that his sel in the fairest light by Dacier. But sup- Maid should be refused a place with Helen and pose, without looking on the book, I may have Louched on some of the objections ; for, in this • Tasso's “Jerusalem Delivered" seems to have
been the first heroic poem attempted upon a classiaddress to your lordship, I design not a treatise
cal model, after the revival of literature. of heroic poetry, but write in a loose epistolary + Pulci wrote the " Moragante Maggiore," Boiar. way, somewhat tending to that subject, after
do the "Orlando Innamorato," and Ariosto the wellthe example of Horace, in his First Épistle of known continuation of that poem, called the "or
The first two poems, like the the Second Book to Augustus Cæsar, and in “Amadigi," and a number of others in the same that to the Pisos, which we call his " Art of taste, are rather to be considered as an improve
ment upon the old metrical romances, than as at. Poetry;" in both of which he observes no method
tempts at epic poetry. At the same time, these au. that I can trace, whatever Scaliger the father, or thors do not always expect their readers to receive Heinsius, may have seen, or rather think they introduce at every turn some ludicrous image, to
with gravity the marvels which they narrate; but had seen. I have taken up, laid down, and re show how little they are themselves serious. Alsumed, as often as I pleased, the same subject; brilliancy of imagination, and beauty of expression
though Ariosto is immeasurably distinguished by
from the rest of those romancers, yet even his de• Our author mentions elsewhere, " The Essay of lightful work may be more properly termed a roPoetry, which I publicly valued before I knew the mance of chivalry than an epic poem; a distinction author of Il." Although his lordship's experiment wbich the Tuscan bard can hardly regret, since it proved thus successful, I may be permitted to hint, has afforded, throughout Europe, more general dethat most noble autbors may find it rather hazard. light than all the epics in the world, if we except
those of Homer and Virgil.