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Many characters enliven the poem ; and these distinctly marked and well supported. Godfrey, the leader of the enterprise, is prudent, moderate, and brave ; Tancred amorous, generous, and gallant. Ri. naldo, who is properly the hero of the poem, is passionate and resentful; but full of zeal, honor, and hero. ism. Solyman is highminded; Erminia tender; Armida artful and violent, and Clorinda masculine. In drawing characters Taffo is fuperior to Virgil, and yields to no poet, but Homer.
He abounds in machinery. When celestial beings interpose, his machinery is noble. But devils, enchanters, and conjurers act too great a part throughout his poem. In general the marvellous is carried to extravagance. The poet was too great an admirer of the romantic spirit of knight errantry.
In describing magnificent objects his style is firm and majestic. In gay and pleasing description it is soft and msinuating. Erminia's pastoral retreat in the seventh book, and the arts and beauty of Armida in the fourth book, are exquisitely beautiful. His battles are animated, and properly varied by incidents. It is rather by actions, characters, and descriptions, that he interests us, than by the sentimental part of his work. He is far inferior to Virgil in tenderness; and, when he aims at being sentimental and pathetic, he is apt to become artificial.
It has often been objected to Tasso, that he abounds in point and conceit ; but this censure has been carried too far. For in his general character he is masculine and strong. The humor of decrying him passed from the French critics to those of England. But their strictures are founded either in ignorance or prejudice. For the Jerusalem is in my opinion the third regular epic poem in the world.; and stands next to the Iliad and Æneid. In fimplicity and fire. Taffo is inferior to Homer ; in tenderness to Virgil ;. in fublimity to Milton ;, but for fertility of invention, variety of incidents, expression of characters, richness of description, and beauty of style, no poet, except the three just named, can be.compared to him.
THE LUSJAD OF CAMOENS..."
THE Portuguese boast of Camoens, as the Ital ians do of Tasso. The discovery of the East Indies by Vasco de Gama, an enterprise alike splendid and interesting, is the subject of the poem of Camoens. The adventures, distresses, and actions of Vasco and his countrymen, are well fancied and described; and the Lusiad is conducted on the epic plan.. The incidents of the poem are magnificent ;, and, joined with some wildness and irregularity, there is displayed in it much poetic fpirit, strong fancy, and bold description. In
the poem however there is no attempt toward painting characters. Vasco is the hero, and the only personage, that makes any figure.
The machinery of the Lufiad is perfectly extravagant; being formed of an odd mixture of Christian ideas and Pagan mythology. Pagan divinities appear to be the deities ; and Christ and the Holy Virgin to be inferior agents. One great object however of the Portuguese expedition is to extend the empire of Christianity, and to extirpate Mahometanism. In this religious undertaking the chief protector of the Portuguese is Venus, and their great adversary is Bacchus. Jupiter is introduced, as foretelling the downfal of Mahomet. Vasco during a storm implores the aid of Christ and the Virgin ; and in return to this prayer Venus appears, and, discovering the storm to be the work of Bacchus, complains to Jupiter, and procures the winds to be calmed. All this is most preposterous; but toward the end of his work the poet offers an awkward apology for his mythology; making the goddess Thetis inform Vasco that she and the other heathen divinities are no more, than names to describe the operations of Providence.
In the Lusiad however there is fome fine machinery of a different kind. The appearance of the genius of the river Ganges in a dream to Emanuel, king of Portugal, inviting him to discover his secret springs, and acquainting him, that he was the monarch, destin.
ed to enjoy the treasures of the East, is a happy idea. But in the fifth canto the poet displays his noblest conception of this fort, where Vasco recounts to the king of Melinda all the wonders of his voyage. He tells him that, when the fileet arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, which never had been doubled before by any navigator, there appeared to them suddenly a huge phantom, rising out of the sea in the midst of tempeft and thunder, with a head, that reached the clouds, and a countenance, that filled them with terror. This was the genius of that hitherto unknown ocean ; and he menaced them in a voice of thunder for invading those unknown feas; foretelling the calamities, that were to befal them, if they fhould proceed ; and then with a mighty noise disappeared. This is a very folemn and striking piece of machinery ; and shows that Camoens was a poet of a bold and lofty imagination.
The TELEMACHUS OF FENELON.
T would be unpardonable in a review of epic poets to forget the amiable Fenelon. His work, though in prose, is a poem; and the plan in general is well contrived, having epic grandeur and unity of action. He employs the antient mythology; and excels in application of it. There is great richness as well, as beauty, in his descriptions. To soft and calm foenes his genius
is more peculiarly suited ; fuch, as the incidents of pase toral life, the pleasures of virtue, or a country Aourishing in peace.
His first books are eminently excellent. The adventures of Calypso are the chief beauty of his work. Vivacity and intereft join in the narration. In the books, which follow, there is less happiness 'in the execution, and an apparent languor. The author in warlike adventures is most unfortunate.
Some critics have refused to rank this work among epic poems. Their objection arises from the minute details it exhibits of virtuous policy, and from the discourses of Mentor, which recur too frequently, and too much in the strain of commonplace morality. To these peculiarities, however the author was led by the design, with which he wrote, that.of forming a young prince to the cares and duties of a virtuous monarch.
Several epic poets have described a descent into hell; and in the prospects, they have given us of the invisible world, we may observe the gradual refinement in the opinions of men concerning a future state of rewards and punishments. Homer's descent of Ulysses into hell is indistinct and dreary. The scene is in the country of the Cimmerians, which is always covered with clouds and darkness ; and, when the spirits of the dead appear, we liardly know whether Ulysses is above or below ground. The ghosts too, even of the heroes, appear dillatisfied with their condition.