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to extend, to several of the female poets in this na-
The marvellous is indeed fo much promoted by machinery, that it is not wonderful to find it embraced by the plurality of writers, and perhaps of readers. If indulged at all, it is generally indulged to excess. Homer introduceth his deities with no greater ceremony than as mortals; and Virgil has still lefs moderation : a pilot spent with watching cannot fall afleep, and drop into the sea by natural means : one bed cannot receive the two lovers, Æncas and Dido, without the immediate interposition of superior powers. The ridiculous in such fictions, must appear even through the thickest vail of gravity and fuleninity.
Angels and devils ferve equally with Hcathen deities as materials for figurative language ; perhaps better among Christians, because we believe in thein, and not in Heathen deities. But every one is fenfi. ble, as well as Boileau, that the invisible powers in our creed make a much worse figure as actors in a modern poem, than the invisible powers in the Heathen creed did in ancient poems; the cause of which is not far to feek. The Heathen dcities, in the opinion of their votaries, were beings elevated one step only above mankind, subject to the same passions, and directed by the same motives ; therefore not altogether improper to mix with mien in an important action. In our creed, fuperior beings are placed at such
a mighty distance from us, and are of
There can be no doubt that an historical poem admits the embellishment of allegory, as well as of metaphor, fimile, or other figure. Moral truth in particular, is finely illustrated in the allegorical man. ner : it amuses the fancy to find abstract terms, by a sort of magic, metamorphos'd into active beings; and it is highly pleasing to discover a.general propobition in a pictured event. But allegorical beings fhould be confined within their own sphere, and never be admitted to mix in the principal action, nor to co-operate in retarding or advancing the catastrophe. This would have a still worse effect than inviable powers ; and I am ready to aflign the reason. The iniresiion of real existence, essential to an epic poen, is inconfistent with that figurative existence which is cflential to an allegory;* and therefore no means can more effectually prevent the impression of realitv, than to introduce allegorical beings co-operating with those whom we conceive to be really existing. The love-episode, in the Henriade,t insufferable by the discordant mixture of allegory with real lifs, is copied from that of Rinaldo and Armida, in the Gierujalemme liberata, which hath no merit to in title it to be copied. An allegorical object, such as Fame in the Æneid, and the Temple of Love in the Henrinde, may find place in a description : But to introduce Discord as a real personage, imploring the assistance of Love, as another real personage, to enervate the courage of the hero, is making these figurative beings act beyond their sphere, and creating a Strange jumble of truth and fiction. The allegory of Sin and Death in the Paradise Loft, is, I presume, not generally relished, though it is not entirely of the fame nature with what I have been condemning: in a werk comprehending the achievements of superior beings, there is more room for fancy than where it is confined to human actions.
beings, * Set chap: 20. le&t. 6.
+ Canio g.
What is the true notion of an episode ? or how is it to be distinguished from the principal action? Every incident that promotes or retards the catastrophe, must be part of the principal action. This clears the nature of an episode ; which may be defined,
An incident connected with the principal action, but contributing neither to advance nor to retard it.” The descent of Æneas into hell doth not advance nor retard the catastrophe, and therefore is an epifode. The story of Nisus and Euryalus, producing an alteration in the affairs of the contending parties, is a part of the principal action. The family scene in the sixth book of the Iliad is of the same nature; for by Hector's retiring from the field of battle to visit his wife, the Grecians had opportunity to breathe, and even to turn upon the Trojans. The unavoidable effect of an episode, according to this definition, must be, to break the unity of action ; and therefore it ought never to be indulged, unless to unbend the mind after the fatigue of a 'long narration. An episode, when such is its purpose, requires the following conditions : it ought to be well connected with the principal action : it ought to be lively and interesting : it ought to be short ; and à time ought to be chosen when the principal a&tion. relents. *
In the following beautiful episode, which closes the fecond book of Fingal, all these conditions are united.
* Homer's description of the shield of Achilles is properly introduco, ed at a time when the action relenti, and the reader can bear an intere Tuption. Bur the author of Telemachus describes the shield of bat young hero in the heat of battle : a very iinproper time for an interruption,
Comal was a son of Albion; the chief of an hundred hills. His deer drank of a thousand streams ; and a thousand rocks replied to the voice of his dogs. His face was the mildness of youth ; but his hand the death of heroes. One was his love, and fair was the! the daughter of mighty Conloch. She appeared like a fun-beam among women, and her hair was like the wing of the raven. Her foul was fixed on Comal, and the was his companion in the chace. Often met their eyes of love, and happy were their words in secret. But Gormal loved the maid, the chief of gloomy Ardven. He watched her lone steps on the heath, the foe of unhappy Comal.
One day tired of the chace, when the milt had conceal. ed their friends, Comal and the daughter of Conloch met in the cave of Roman. It was the wonted haunt of Comal. Its fides were hung with his arms; a hundred shields of thongs were there, a hundred helms of founding steel. Rest here, said he, my love Galvina, thou light of the cave of Ronan : a deer appears on Mora's brow ; I go, but foon will return. I fcar, said she, dark Gormal. my foe : Į will rest here : but soon return, my love.
He went to the deer of Mora. : The daughter of Conloch, to try his love, clothed her white fide with his ar
mour, and strode from the cave' of Ronan. Thinking i her his foe, his heart beat high, and his colour changed.
He drew the bow: the arrow Hew: Galvina fell in blood. He ran to the cave with hasty fteps, and called the daughter of Conloch. Where art thou, my love? but no answer. He marked, at lengin, her heaving heart beating againt the inortal arrow. O Conloch's daughter, is it thou! he sunk upon her breait.
The hunters found the hapless pair. Many and filent were his steps round the dark dwelling of his love. The fleet of the ocean came : he fought, and the strangers fell : he searched for death over the field ; but who could kill the mighty Comal ? Throwing away his shield, an arrow found his manly breast. He fleeps with his Galvina ; their green tombs are seen by the mariner, when he bounds on the waves of the north.
Next, upon the peculiarities of a dramatic poem. And the first I shall mention is a double plot ; one
of which must resemble an episode in an epic poem ; for it would distract the spectator, instead of entera taining him, if he were forc'd to attend, at the same time, to two capital plots equally interesting. And even supposing it an under-plot like an episode, it feldom hath a good effect in tragedy, of which simplicity is a chief property; for an inteitsting subject that engages our affections, occupies our whole attention, and leaves no room for any separate concern.* Variety is more tolerable in comedy, which pretends only to amuse, without totally occupying the mind. But even there, to make a double plot agreeable, is no flight effort of art: the underplot ought not to vary greaily in its tone from the principal ; for discordant emotions are unplealant when jumbled together ; which, by the way, is an insuperable objection to tragi-comedy. Upon that account, the Provok'd Husband deserves censure ;
* Racine, in his preface to the tragedy of Berenice, is sensible that simplicity is a great beautv in tragedy, bui miliakes the caute. • Nothing says he) but verifimilitude vleases in tragedy : but wh:re is the vera ilimilitude, that within the compass of a day, events should be crowded which commonly are extended through monihs ?" This is miliaking the accuracy of imiration for the probability or improbability of future events.' I explain mylell. The verifimilitude required in tragedy is, that the actions correspond to the manners, and the man is io nature. When this reiemblance is preierved, the imitation is jött, hicarle it is, a true copy of nature. But I deny that the verifimilitude of tu!!!.events, meaning the pobability of future events, is any rule in pizredv. A number of extraordinary events, are, it is true, feidom crowa d withia in the compafs of a day : but what feldom happens may happro; and when such events, fall out, they apar no less natural' thun the most ordinary accidents. To make verilimilitude in the fenle of probability a governing rule in tragedy, would anni ilate that fortui writing aleogether; for it would exclude all extraordinary events, in which ihe life of uegedy confits. It is very improbable or inkelv, pitching upon any man at random, that he will sacrifice his life and fure tune for his milliels or for his country : yet vihen that event happens, fuppofing it confurnable to the character, we recognise the veriti milia iude as to nature, whatever want of yerilimilitude or of probability there was e privri tha: luck would be the eyeni,