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Writ, and especially the Jewish Prophets, in which we find a spirit of poetry surprisiogly sublime and majestick ; but these are obvious to every one's reading. The East seems indeed to have been principally the region of tbese figurative and emblematical writings. Sir John Chardin, in his Travels, has given us a translation of several pieces of modern Persian poetry, which show that there are traces of the same gepius remaining among the present inhabitants of those countries. But, not to prolong this Discourse, I shall only add one instance of a very ancient Allegory, which has all the properties in it I have mentioned; I mean that in Xenophon, of the Choice of Hercules, when he is courted by Virtue and Pleasure, which is said to have been the invention of Prodicus. This fable is full of spirit and elegance ; the characters are finely drawn, and consistent, and the moral is clear. I shall not need to say any thing more of it, but refer the reader to the second volume of the Tatler, where he will find it very beautifully translated.
After what has been said, it must be confessed that, excepting Spenser, there are few extraordipary instances of this kind of writing among the Moderns the great mines of invention have been opened long ago, and little new ore seems to have been discovered or brought to light by lalter ages.
With us the art of framing fables,
apologues, and allegories, which was so frequent among the writers of antiquity, seems to be, like the art of painting upon glass, but fittie practised, and in a great measure lost. lours are not so rich and transparent, and are either so ill prepared, or so unskilfully laid on, that they often sully the light which is to pass through them, rather than agrecably tincture and beautify it. Boccalini must be reckoned one of the chief modern masters of Allegory ; ye: his Fables are often flat and ill chosen, and his invention seems to have been rather fruitful than elegant. I cannot, however, conclude this Essay on Allegory without observing, that we have had the satisfaction to see this kind of writing very lately revived by an excellent genius among our. selves, in the true spirit of the Ancients. I need only mention the Visions in the Tatler and Spectator, by Mr. Addison, to convince every one of this. The Table of Fame, the Vision of Justice, that of the different Pursuits of Love, Ambition, and Avarice ; the Vision of Mirza, and several others; and especially that admirable Fable of the two Families of Pain and Pleasure, which are all imagined and writ with the greatest strength and delicacy, may give the reader an idea, more than any thing I can say, of the perfection to which this kind of writing is capable of being raised. We have likewise, in the second volume 'of the Guardian, a very good example, given us
by the same hand, of an Allegory in the particu. lar manner of Spenser. HUGAES.
ON THE FAERIE QUEENE.
By what has been offered in the foregoing Discourse on Allegorical Poetry, we may be able not only to discover many beauties in the Faerie Queene, but likewise to excuse some of its irregularities. The chief merit of this poem consists in that surprising vein of fabulous invention which runs through it, and enriches it every where with ima. gery and descriptions more than we meet with in any other modern poem.
The Author seems to be possessed of a kind of poetical magick ; and the figures he calls u
up to our view rise so thick upon us, that we are at once pleased and distract. ed by the exhaustless variety of them, so that his Taults may, in a manner, be imputed to his excellencies : his abundance betrays him into excess, and his judgment is overborne by the torrent of his imagination.
That which seems the most liable to exception in this Work is the model of it, and the choice the Author has made of so romantick a story.
The several Books appear rather like so many several poems than one entire fable: each of them has its peculiar Knight, and is independent of the rest; and though some of the persons make their appearance in different Books, yet this bas very little effect in connecting them. Prince Arthur is, indeed, the principal person, and has therefore a share given him in every Legend; but his part is not considerable enough in any one of them : he appears and vanishes again like a spirit; and we lose sight of him too soon to consider him as the hero of the Poem.
These are the most obvious defects in the Fable of the Faeric Queene. The want of unity in the story makes it difficult for the reader to carry it in his mind, and distracts too much his attention to the several parts of it; and indeed, the whole frame of it would appear monstrous, if it were to be examined by the rules of epick poetry, as they have been drawn from the practice of Homer and Virgil : but as it is plain the Author never designed it by those rules, I think it ought rather to be considered as a poem of a particular kind, describing, in a series of Allegorical adventures or episodes, the most noted virtues and vices. To compare it, therefore, with the models of Antiquity, would be like drawing a parallel between the Roman and the Gothick architecture. In the first there is, doubtless, a more natural grandeur and simplicity
in the latter we find great mixtures of beauty and barbarism, yet assisted by the invention of a variety of inferior ornaments; and, though the former is more majestick in the whole, the latter, may be very surprising and agreeable in its parts.
It may seem strange, indeed, since Spenser appears to have been well acquainted with the best writers of Antiquity, that he has not imitated them in the structure of his story. Two reasons may be given for this : 'the first is, that, at the time when he wrote, the Italian poets, whom he has chiefly imitated, and who were the first revivers of this art among the Moderns, were in the highest vogue, and were universally read and admired: but the chief reason was, probably, that he chosc to frame his Fable after a model which might give the greatest scope to that range of fancy which was so remarkably his talent. There is a bent in nature which is apt to determine inen that particular way in which they are most capable of excelling; ani, though it is certain he might have formed a better plan, it is to be questioned whether he could have executed any other so well,
It is probably for the same reason that, among the Italian poets, he rather followed Ariosto, whom he found more agreeable to his genius than Tasso, who had formed a better plan, and from whom he has only borrowed some