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fentment, and violence of character exhibit a more ani. mated figure, than any other, Virgil has drawn.
The management of the subject also is in some refpects exceptionable. The fix 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 Æncas.
The principal excellency of Virgil, and what he pola fesses beyond all poets, is tenderness. His soul was full of sensibility. He felt himself all the affecting circumstances in the fcenes, he describes ; and knew how by a single stroke to reach the heart. In an epic poem this merit is next to fublimity. 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 as tender, 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 Euryalus, 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, fecond, fourth, fixth, seventh, eighth, and twelfth.
Virgil's battles are in fire and sublimity far inferior to Homer's. But in one important episode, the descent into hell, he has outdone Homer in the Odyssey by many degrees. There is nothingi n all antiquity, equal in its kind to the sixth book of the Æneid. The scensry, the objects, and the description are great, folemn, and fublime.
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 fublime, 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. Ho. mer's style is more simple and animated; Virgil's more elegant and uniform.
L UCAN is inferior to Homer and Virgil ; yet he deserves attention. There is little invention in his Phar. falia ; 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 adven
Lures. The subject of the Pharfalia has all the epic dignity and grandeur ; and it possesses unity of object, viz. the triumph 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 difgusting views of human nature. But Lucan's genius seems to delight in favage scenes.
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 machinery; and thereby rendered his work less splendid and amusing. The facts, on which he founds his poem, were 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 valor. He is always surpassed by Cæsar. Cato is Lucan's favorite character; and, whenever he introduces him, he rises above himself.
In managing his story Lucan confines himself too much to chronological order. This breaks the thread of his narration, and hurries him from place to place. He is also too digressive ; frequently quitting his fub
ject, to give us some geographical description, or phi losophical disquisition.
There are several poetical and spirited descriptions in the Pharsalia ; but the strength of this poet does not lie either in narration or description. His narration 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 philofophical, and the most patriotic poet of antiquity. He was a stoic ; and the spirit of that philosophy breathes through his poem. He is elevated and bold; and a bounds in well timed exclamations and apostrophes.
As his vivacity and fire are great, he is apt to be carried away by them. His great defect is want of moderation. He knows not, where to stop. When he would aggrandize his objects, 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 exhibits 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, nor amenity. Compared with Virgil, he has more fire and sublimer sentiments; but in every thing else falls infinitely below him, para ticularly in purity, elegance, and tenderness.
· Statius and Silius Italicus, though poets of the epic class, are too inconsiderable for particular criticism.
J ERUSALEM DELIVERED is a strictly regu. lar epic poem, and abounds with beauties. The subject is the recovery of Jerusalem from Infidels by the united powers of Christendom. The enterprize 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 too lies in a country, and in a period of time, fufficiently remote,, to admit an intermixture of fable with.
Rich invention is a capital quality in Tåsso. He is full of events, finely diversified. He never fatigues his reader by mere war and fighting. He frequently shifts the scene ; and from camps and battles transports us to more pleasing objects. Sometimes the solemnities. of religion ; sometimes the intrigues of love; at other times the adventures of a journey, or the incidents of pastoral life, relieve and entertain the reader. The work at the same time is artfully connected; and in the midt of variety there is perfect unity of plan.