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not to mention, that Milton had a design in his youth, of making Arthur his hero ; that Dryden has given us a sketch of his intended poem on the same subject; and that even Blackmore had taken the same story; whose steps it were a disgrace to follow.
It only remains, therefore, to have recourse to allegory and tradition ; and to give the poem a double sense; in the first of which, its subject is simply this, the discovery of our island by the Tyrian adventurers, who first gave it the name of Britain ; in the fema cond, or allegorical sense, it exhibits the character above mentioned, of a perfect king of this country,-a character the most glorious and beneficial of any that the warmest ima . gination can form. It represents the danger to which a king of England must neceffarily be exposed, the vices which he must avoid, and the virtues and great qualities with which he must be adorned. On the whole, Britain Discovered, is intended as a poetical panegyriç on our excellent Constitution, and as a
pledge of the author's attachment to it; as a national epic poem, like those of Homer, Virgil, Tasso, Camoëns, designed to celebrate the honours of his Country, to display in a Atriking light the most important principles of politics and morality, and to inculcate these grand maxims, that nothing can shake our state, while the true liberty of the subject remains united with the dignity of the sovereign, and, that in all states, virtue is the only sure basis of private and public happiness.
A work of this nature might indeed have been written in prose, either in the form of à treatise, after the example of Aristotle, or of a dialogue, in the manner of Tully, whose fix books on government are now unhappily lost; or perhaps in imitation of Lord Bolingbroke, who has left us something of the same kind in his idea of a patriot king: but as poetry has the allowed advantage over mere prose, of instilling moral precepts in a manner more lively and entertaining, it was
thought proper to deliver the whole subject in regular measure, under the fiction of ari heroic adventure.
The poem will be written in rhyme, like the translation of the Iliad by Pope, and of the Eneid by Dryden ; since it has been found by experience, that the verses of those poets not only make a deeper impression on the mind, but are more easily retained in the memory, than blank verse, which must neceffarily be too diffuse, and in general cani only be distinguished from prose by the affectation of obsolete or foreign idioms, inverfions, and swelling epithets, all tending to destroy the beauty of our language, which consists in a natural sweetness and unaffected perspicuity : not to insist that a writer who finds himself obliged to confine his sentiments in a narrow circle, will be less liable to run into luxuriance, and more likely to attain that roundness of diction so justly admired by the ancients. As to the monotony which many people complain of in our English rhymes, that defect, which is certainly no
small one, if we admit only those endings which are exactly similar, must be compensated by a judicious variation of the pauses, an artful diversity of modulation, and chiefly by avoiding too near a return of the same endings.
The machinery is taken partly from the Socratic doctrine of attendant spirits or benevolent angels, like Thyrsis in the Masque of Comus ; and partly from the Scriptural account of evil spirits worshipped in Afia, under the names of Baal, Aftartè, Nifroc, Dagon, Mammon, Moloch, and in ancient Europe, where Cadmus introduced them under those of Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Neptune, Vulcan, Pluto. If any objection be made to these machines, they may be considered as allegorical, like Spenser's knights and paynims; the good spirits may be said to represent the virtues, and the evil ones the vices.
The action, or story of the piece, is raised upon the tradition before-mentioned, that the Phoenicians first discovered the island of
Britain ; but the rest must be wholly supplied by invention.
A prince of Tyre, therefore, whom we may name Britanus or Britan, shocked at the cruelty of his countrymen in facrificing their prisoners to idols, and at their impiety in paying divine honours to evil spirits, had meditated á voyage to some distant coast; with which intent, pretending to prepare for an expedition against some rival, nation, he had built a number of barques, and secured to his interests a company of enterprizing youths, but was doubtful whither he should direct his course, till his attendant fpirit, Ramiel, appeared to him in a vision, commending his pious resolution, and advising him to seek a beautiful isle in the west, where, after a variety of dangers on earth and sea, he would reign in peace, and be the progenitor of a noble race, who would profefs a true and benevolent religion, and excel all other nations in learning, arts, and valour, At the same time, the spirit shewed him the picture of a lovely nymph who then ruled