The Preface to the Aeneis of Virgil (1718) - Part 2

Part 2

By more Incidents then I do not mean (as I said) more Men killed, more Battles fought, more Speeches spoke; but more memorable and surprizing Events. Take these Poems therefore purely as Romances; and consider them only with regard to the History, and Facts contained in them, the Plots, the Actions, Turns, and Events; That of _Virgil_ is more copious, full, various, and surprizing, and every way more entertaining, than Those of _Homer_. Then is there any Comparison between the Subjects of the Poems?

Between the Anger of _Achilles_, (if That be the Subject of the _Iliad_) and the Return of _Ulysses_ in Those of the Greek Poet; and the Founding of _Rome_, and the Glory of the _Romans_ in That of the Latin one?

It is said by Mr. _Dryden_[12], and others, that _Homer_'s Moral is more n.o.ble than _Virgil_'s; but for what Reason I know not. The Quarrel of _Achilles_ and _Agamemnon_ teaches us the ill Consequences of Discord in a State; and the Story of the Dogs, the Sheep, and the Wolf, in _aesop_'s Fables, does the same.[13] This indeed is a very good Lesson; but it seems too narrow, and particular, to be the _Grand Moral_ of an Heroic Poem. It is proper, if you please, to be _inserted_ in such a Work; and many more as important as This are interspersed up and down, and mentioned among other Things, both in That of _Virgil_, and in Those of _Homer_. But how much more n.o.ble, extensive, and truly Heroic a Moral is This; That Piety to G.o.d, and Justice and Goodness to Men, together with true Valour, both Active, and Pa.s.sive, (not such as consists in Strength, Intrepidity, and Fierceness only, which is the Courage of a Tyger, not of a Man) will engage Heaven on our Sides, and make both Prince, and People, victorious, flourishing, and happy? And This is the Moral of the _aeneis_, properly so called. For tho' _Virgil_ had plainly another End in view, which was to conciliate the Affections of the _Roman_ People to the new Government of _Augustus Caesar_; upon which _Bossu_, and after him Mr. _Dryden_, have largely, and excellently discoursed: Yet this is rather of a Political, than of a Moral Nature.

Mr. _Pope_ seeming to acknowledge that the Moral of the _aeneis_ is preferable to That of the _Iliad_, only says that the same Arguments upon which that Preference is grounded might set the _Odyssee_ above the _aeneis_. But as he does not give Reasons for that a.s.sertion, it will be sufficient to say, that there seems to me to be at least as much Morality in _Virgil_'s Poem, as in the _Odyssee_ it self; and that particularly in the Characters of the Heroes, _aeneas_ as much excels _Ulysses_ in Piety, as _Achilles_ does _aeneas_ in rapid Valour. And for Virtue in general, the Point between the two Heroes last mentioned is entirely yielded by every Body in favour of _Virgil_'s; the very Moral of the _Iliad_ requiring that it's Heroe should be immoral. But sure it is more artful and entertaining, as well as useful and instructive, to have the Moral of the Poem so cast and contrived, that the Person in it may be good and virtuous, as well as great and brave. It will be said, _Homer_ could not avoid that Inconvenience; _Achilles_ having a known Character before: It may be so; and I am glad of that Excuse: But still _so it is_; and it would have been _better_, if it had been _otherwise_. Or if you will have it as Mr. _Pope_ puts it, (less, I think, to _Homer_'s Advantage) He did not design to do otherwise: "They blame him (says he) for not doing what he never designed: As because _Achilles_ is not as good, and perfect a Prince as _aeneas_, when the very Moral of his Poem required a contrary Character." I wish then his Design had been _different_: Because if it had, it would have been _better_. If a Man does ill; is it an Answer to say, He designed to do so? The Account which _Horace_ gives of _Achilles_ is a very true one:

_Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer; Jura negat sibi nata, nihil non arrogat armis._

Heroic Virtues, no doubt! An admirable Character of a Demi-G.o.d!

But who will contend that the _Grecian_ Poet is comparable to the _Roman_, in his exquisite Understanding of humane Nature, and particularly in his Art of moving the Pa.s.sions? Which is one of the most distinguishing Characters of a Poet, and in which he peculiarly triumphs and glories. I mention only the fourth _aeneid_, (tho' an hundred other Instances might be mentioned) and desire That Book alone may be matched in this respect by all _Homer_'s Works put together. And yet I am not unmindful of several excellent pathetical Pa.s.sages in both those immortal Poems.

What has been hitherto discoursed, includes both Judgment and Invention.

That _Homer_ excels _Virgil_ in the latter of These, is generally taken for granted. That he invented _before_ him, and invented _more_, is an undoubted Truth: But it does not from thence follow that he invented _better_, or that he had a _better Invention_. For to say that _Virgil_ betrays a Barrenness of Genius, or Scantiness of Imagination, (even in comparison with _Homer_) is a most groundless, and unjust Reflection upon him. It is his exact Judgment which makes both his Fancy, and his Fire seem less to Some, than they really are. And then we must consider that it was the Fashion among the _Romans_ to adopt all Learning of the _Greeks_ into their own Language: It was so in Oratory, and Philosophy, as well as in Poetry. And therefore it is no Consequence that _Virgil_ was of a narrower Invention than _Homer_ himself, because in many things he copied from him: And yet That Inference is continually made, and those things unreasonably confounded. And after all; _Virgil_ did not copy so much from _Homer_, as some would make us believe; from whose Discourse, if we had no other Evidence, one would imagine the Latin to be little more than a Translation, and an Abridgment of the Greek. The admirable Choice of his Subject, and Heroe, for the Honour of his Country; his most artfully interweaving the _Roman_ History, especially at those three remarkable Divisions in the First, the Sixth, and the Eighth Books; his Action, and the Main of his Fable; the exquisite Mechanism of his Poem, and the Disposition of it's Parts, are entirely his own; as are most of his Episodes: And I suppose it will be allowed that his Diction and Versification were not taken from _Homer_. To pa.s.s over many other things which might be mentioned, and some of which I shall mention in my Notes; Why must _Dido_ and _aeneas_ be copied from _Calypso_ and _Ulysses_? The Reason is plain: _Dido_ and _Calypso_ were Women, (if the latter, being a G.o.ddess, may be called so;) and _Ulysses_ and _aeneas_ were Men; and between those Men and Women there was a Love-Adventure, and a Heroe detained by it. That is all the Resemblance between the Persons immediately concerned. _Jupiter_'s Message by _Mercury_ indeed is plainly taken from _Homer_ by _Virgil_: But _Virgil_ might very well think of that Imitation, after he had laid the Plan of _Dido_'s Episode; which is quite of another Nature from _Calypso_'s, and introduced with a quite different Design. For the same Reason, I suppose, the Conversation between _Venus_ and _Jupiter_ in the First _aeneid_ must be taken from _Homer_; because _Thetis_ has a Conference with that G.o.d (in favour of her Son too) in the First _Iliad_. _Virgil_ mentions Sea and Land, Heaven and Earth, Horses and Chariots, G.o.ds and Men; nay he makes use of Hexameter Verse, and the Letters of the Alphabet; and _Homer_, tho' in a different Language, had I confess, done all This before him. But where _Virgil_ really does (as he often does) imitate _Homer_; how does he at the same time _exceed_ him! What Comparison is there between the Funeral Games for _Patroclus_, and those for _Anchises_? Between the Descent of _Ulysses_ into h.e.l.l, and that of _aeneas_? Between the merely ornamental Sculptures upon _Homer_'s _Vulcanian_ Shield, and the _Roman_ History, and the Triumphs of _Augustus_ upon _Virgil_'s? In my Notes I shall be more particular: At present, I cannot forbear saying, that to be _such_ an Improver is at least almost as much Glory, as to be the original Inventer.[14]

As the Case is stated between these two great Poets by the most moderate Criticks; _Homer_ excelled in Fire, and Invention; and _Virgil_ in Judgment. _Invention_ has been already enough considered: _Judgment_, and _Fire_ are farther to be discoursed of. That _Virgil_ excelled in Judgment, we all allow. But _how far_ did he excel? Did he not _very much_? Almost beyond Comparison? I shall here say very little of _Homer_'s Errours, and _Virgil_'s Excellencies in that Respect. The latter I shall speak of in my Notes; And the former I have no mind to: Both, because it has been so frequently, and largely done already; and also, because it is an uneasy Task; and I had much rather remark upon Beauties, than upon Faults; especially in one of the greatest Men that ever lived; and for whom I have an exceeding Love, and Veneration. I think he is unjustly censured by my Lord _Roscommon_, and Others, for his _Railing Heroes, and Wounded G.o.ds_. The one was agreeable to the Manners of those Ages, which he best knew: And as to the other, Those who are thus wounded are subordinate Deities, and supposed to have Bodies, or certain Vehicles equivalent to them. Indeed, as _Jupiter_ is invested with Omnipotence, and other Attributes of the supreme G.o.d; I know not how to account for his being bound and imprisoned by his Subjects, and requiring the a.s.sistance of a Giant to release him: And tho' the _Wound_ of _Mars_ may be no Impropriety; yet his _Behaviour_ upon it is very strange: He roars, and runs away, and tells his Father; and the G.o.d of War is the veriest Coward in the Field. Nor can I forbear thinking, notwithstanding all the Refinements of Criticks, and Commentators, that the Figure which _Vulcan_ makes in the Synod of the G.o.ds is a little improper, and unheroical. But, as I said, I care not to insist upon these Things; nor do I deny that _Virgil_ has Faults, and that too in his first Six Books, which are most correct, and least liable to Exception. I shall in my Remarks take Notice of some Pa.s.sages, which I think to be such. No _Mortal_ was ever yet the Author of a Work absolutely perfect: There are but _Two_ such in the World; if we may properly say so: For the _World_ it self is one of them.

_Virgil_ then greatly excelled _Homer_ in Judgment: So much, that had he been greatly excelled by him in Fire, the Advantage, upon the Comparison in these two Respects, would have been on his Side. But I shall not consider, on the other hand, how far _Homer_ exceeded _Virgil_ in Fire; because I utterly deny that he exceeded him in it at all.

This, I am sensible, will seem a bold a.s.sertion. Many who, upon the Whole, prefer _Virgil_, give him up here: Many, I say; for Some do not.

And never was any Author more injured, than he has been, by some Criticks, especially _Modern ones_, in the Article of Genius, and Poetical Fire. What do these Gentlemen call Fire? Or how much Fire would they have? It is impossible to instance in Particulars here; I shall do That in my Notes: I can now only refer to some general Heads, among a Mult.i.tude more, which I cannot so much as mention. In the First Book, _Juno_'s Speech, _aeolus_, the Storm, the Beginning of _Dido_'s Pa.s.sion: Almost the whole Second Book throughout: _Polyphemus_, and _aetna_ in the Third: The Sports, and the Burning of the Ships, in the Fifth: The Sibyl's Prophetick Enthusiasm, and the Descent into h.e.l.l in the Sixth: _Juno_'s Speech again, the Fury _Alecto_, the Occasion of the War, and the a.s.sembling of the Forces in the Seventh: The Story of _Cacus_ in the Eighth, the _Cyclops_, and the Shield: In the Ninth, the Beginning of warlike Action; at

_Hic subitam nigro glomerari pulvere nubem Prospiciunt Teucri, & tenebras insurgere campis,_ &c.

_Nisus_ and _Euryalus_; and the amazing Exploits of _Turnus_ in the Enemy's City: In the Tenth, the Arrival of _aeneas_ with his Fleet and Forces, at

_Ardet apex capiti, cristisque a vertice flamma Funditur, & vastos umbo vomit aureus ignes,_ &c.

It is needless, and would be almost endless, to recite the Rapidity of the War in the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Books; _Mezentius_; _Camilla_; the Speeches of _Turnus_, to _Drances_, to _Latinus_, to his Sister _Juturna_; and lastly, the single Combat between _aeneas_ and Him:

_At Pater aeneas, audito nomine Turni, Deserit & muros, & summas deserit arces; Praecipitatque moras omnes, opera omnia rumpit, Laet.i.tia exultans, horrendumque intonat armis: Quantus Athos,_ &c.

Which reminds me, by the way, that the same Persons, who blame _Virgil_ for want of Fire, blame his Heroe for want of Courage; and with just as much Reason. I agree, that each of these Poets in his Temper and Spirit extremely resembles his Heroe: And accordingly, _Homer_ is no more superior to _Virgil_ in _true Fire_, than _Achilles_ is to _aeneas_ in _true Courage_. But what necessarily supposes the Poetical Fire, and cannot subsist without it, has not been yet mentioned upon this Head; tho' it was taken Notice of upon another: I mean, _Moving the Pa.s.sions_, especially those of Terrour and Pity. The Fourth Book throughout I have above referred to: The Death of _Priam_; The Meeting of _aeneas_ and _Andromache_; _Nisus_ and _Euryalus_ again: _Evander_'s Concern for his Son before his Death, and his Lamentation after it; The Distress of _Juturna_, and the Fury in the Shape of an Owl flapping upon the Shield of _Turnus_, are some Instances selected out of many. The Truth is, (so far as it appears from their several Works) the _Greek_ Poet knew little of the Pa.s.sions, in comparison of the _Roman_.

It must be observed, that tho' most of the Instances, which I have now produced out of _Virgil_, are taken from warlike Adventures; yet it is a great Errour to think (as some do) that all Fire consists in Quarrelling and Fighting: as do nine Parts in ten of _Homer_'s, in his _Iliad_. The Fire we are speaking of, is _Spirit_ and _Vivacity_; _Energy_ of _Thought_, and _Expression_; which way soever it _affects us_; whether it fires us by _Anger_, or _otherwise_; nay, tho' it _does not fire us at all_, but even produces a _quite contrary Effect_. However it may sound like a Paradox; it is the Property of this Poetical Flame to chill us with Horrour, and make us weep with Pity, as well as to kindle us with Indignation, Love, or Glory: It is it's Property to cool, as well as to burn; and Frost and Snow are it's Fuel, as much as Sulphur.

_----Jamque volans, apicem, & latera ardua cernit Atlantis duri, clum qui vertice fulcit; Atlantis, cinctum a.s.sidue cui nubibus atris Piniferum caput, & vento pulsatur, & imbri: Nix humeros infusa tegit, tum flumina mento Praecipitant senis, & glacie riget horrida barba._

In these Lines we have the Images of a h.o.a.ry old Man, a vast rocky Mountain, black Clouds, Wind and Rain, Ice and Snow; One shrinks, and shivers, while one reads them: And yet the World affords few better Instances of Poetical Fire; which is as much shewn in describing a Winter-piece, as in describing a Battle, or a Conflagration. However, as it appears from the Examples before cited, _Virgil_ was not deficient even in That sort of Fire which is commonly called so, the fierce, the rapid, the fighting: And where he either shews not That, or none at all, 'tis not because he _can't_, but because he _w'on't_; because 'tis not proper. To explain my self, I refer the Reader to my Remark upon V. 712 of the First Book. Excepting some uncorrect Verses, _Virgil_ never flags: Or when he appears to do so, it is on purpose; according to that most true Opinion of my Lord _Roscommon_:

_For I mistake; or far the greatest Part Of what some call Neglect, was study'd Art.

When_ Virgil _seems to trifle in a Line; 'Tis like a Warning-piece, which gives the Sign, To wake your Fancy, and prepare your Sight To reach the n.o.ble Height of some unusual Flight._

His very Negligences are accurate, and even his Blemishes are Beauties.

Besides; a considerable Number of Verses together may have little, or no Fire in them; and yet be very graceful, and deserve great Praise.

_Virgil_ (which I think is not so observable in _Homer_) can be elegant, and admirable, without being in a Hurry, or in a Pa.s.sion. He is sometimes higher indeed, and sometimes lower: but he always flies; and that too (as Mr. _Segrais_ judiciously observes) always at a Distance from the Ground: He rises, and sinks, as he pleases; but never flutters, or grovels. Can the same be as truly said of _Homer_? His Fire in the main is divine; but as I think he has too much of it in some Places, has he not too little in others? Mr. _Dryden_ says, [15]_Milton runs into a flat Thought, sometimes for a hundred Lines together_. Which, I think, is not true: He sometimes flags in many Lines together; and perhaps the same may be as truly said of his Greek Master. In _Homer_ methinks I see a Rider of a n.o.ble, generous, and fiery Steed; who always puts him upon the Stretch, and therefore sometimes tires him: _Virgil_ mounted upon the same, or such another, gives him either the Reins, or the Curb, at proper times; and so his Pace, if not always rapid, as it should not be, is always stately, and majestick; and his Fire appears by being suppressed, as well as by being indulged. For the Judgment of this incomparable Poet, in alternately suppressing, and indulging his Divine Fury, puts me in mind of his own _Apollo_ overruling and inspiring his own _Sibyl_; which whole Pa.s.sage, by the way (for I shall cite but Part of it) is it self one of the n.o.blest Instances of Poetical Fire this Day extant in the whole World. My Application a little perverts it: But That is a small Circ.u.mstance in Allusions.

_At Phbi nondum patiens immanis in antro Bacchatur vates, magnum si pectore possit Excussisse Deum_; tanto magis ille fatigat Os rabidum, fera corda domans, fingitque premendo.

But afterwards;

_Talibus ex adyto dictis c.u.maea Sibylla Horrendas canit ambages, antroque remugit, Obscuris vera involvens_; ea fraena furenti Concut.i.t, & stimulos sub pectore vert.i.t Apollo.

What was my Lord _Roscommon'_s Precept, was _Virgil_'s Practice,

_To write with Fury, but correct with Phlegm:_

Things very consistent in their own Nature. And therefore I must insist that _Virgil_ was no way deficient in Poetical Fire; and that _Homer_ excelled him not in that Particular. By which last I always mean, that either _Homer_ had not _more_ of it, or if he had _more in the Whole_, he had _too much_ in _some_ Instances, and _too little_ in _others_. If His were _more_ than _Virgil_'s, (tho' even That I question) it was not _better_; no nor _so good_: considering how their Fire was disposed, or (if I may so speak) situated in their several Const.i.tutions; and what use they severally made of it in their Writings. And therefore upon this Article I must take the Liberty to say, Mr. _Pope_ is not just to _Virgil_, as well as to some other Poets, in the Preface to his admirable Translation of _Homer_. "This Fire (says he) is discerned in _Virgil_; but discerned as through a Gla.s.s, reflected, and rather shining than warm, but every-where equal and constant: In _Lucan_, and _Statius_, it bursts out in sudden, short, and interrupted Flashes: In _Milton_, it glows like a Furnace, kept up to an uncommon Fierceness by the Force of Art: In _Shakespear_, it strikes before we are aware, like an accidental Fire from Heaven: But in _Homer_, and in Him only, it burns every where clearly, and every where irresistibly." Supposing his Account of _Lucan_ and _Statius_ to be true: I no more know how to distinguish it from his Account of _Shakespear_, than I agree with him in the Character he gives of that great Man. For Fires from Heaven do not _often_ strike; and when they do, are of no long Continuance: And so _Shakespear_'s, like That of the other Two before mentioned, is supposed to _burst out in short, sudden, and interrupted Flashes_: For Instance, like Lightning; which is the only Fire from Heaven that we ordinarily see, or hear of, and even That not very frequently. For if any other Celestial flashes are here meant, they indeed may be more Divine; but they are much more rare, and short, than Those of _Statius_ and _Lucan_.

Whereas _Shakespear_, in my Judgment, has more of the Poetical Fire, than either of those Poets. _Milton_ indeed had more of it than He: and therefore I am no less suprized at the Character here given of his Fire, that _it glows like a Furnace, kept up to an uncommon Fierceness by the Force of Art_: Because, tho' his Art, Learning, and Use of Books, especially of _Homer_, be very great; yet he is most distinguished by natural Genius, Spirit, Invention, and Fire; in all which perhaps he is not very much inferiour to _Homer_ himself. Whose Fire again does not, I conceive, _burn every where clearly, and irresistibly_: Or if it did, it would be no Commendation. For the small Praise here given to _Virgil_, is, in my Opinion, no true Praise at all: His Fire is not every where equal: and it would be a Fault in him, if it were; as I have above observed. But waving That; Surely such an Account of _Virgil_'s Fire was never given by any Critick before. _It is discerned_: As faint, and lessening an Expression, as could have been thought of. And how is it even _discerned_? Only _through a Gla.s.s_: And lest we should imagine That Gla.s.s to be a _Burning-Gla.s.s_; it is _reflected_, and _rather shining, than warm_. Now I desire to be informed, what truer Idea any one can have of the coldest, and most spiritless Writer in the World; supposing him only to be a good Judge, and a Man of tolerable Parts. If I am my self a little warm upon this Subject, I hope it may be pardoned upon such an Occasion; when so great a Genius as _Virgil_'s is unjustly censured by so great a Genius as Mr. _Pope_'s. However it be; _Homer_, according to this Account, remains the Sun of Poetry: For I know of no other Luminary (to which he may be compared) whose Fire _burns every where clearly, and every where irresistibly_. Whereas, if we must pursue these Similes of Light, and Fire, (tho', like other Similes, they do not answer in every Particular) I should rather say, as I hinted in the Beginning of this Preface, that the Fire of Poetry arose in _Homer_, like Light at the Creation; shining, and burning, it is true, but enshrined in a Cloud: But was afterwards transplanted into _Virgil_, as into the Sun; according to the Account which _Milton_ gives of Both:[16]

_Let there be Light, said G.o.d; and forthwith Light Ethereal, first of Things, Quintessence pure, Sprang from the Deep; and from her native East To journy thro' the airy Gloom began, Sphear'd in a radiant Cloud: For yet the Sun Was not; She in a cloudy Tabernacle Sojourn'd the while.----_


_Of Light by far the greater Part he took, Transplanted from her cloudy Shrine, and plac'd In the Sun's...o...b.. made porous to receive And drink the liquid Light; firm to retain Her gather'd Beams, great Palace now of Light._

If it be said, that according to this Account, _Homer_ has the Advantage; because _all_ the Light is supposed to have been first in him, and only a _Part_ of it (tho' the greatest) transferred to _Virgil_: it must be remembered that we are only making a _Comparison_: For if it were an exact _Parallel_, we must conceive (which we are far from doing) that the _very individual_ Fire of the _Greek_ Poet was transferred into the _Roman_; and that the one ceases to exist separately from the other. But besides; admitting _Homer_ to have the Advantage _so far_ as this Objection supposes; yet still _Virgil_ has it _upon the Whole_, even with respect to Fire, of which we are now discoursing. Tho' the Light in the cloudy Shrine were _more_ than That in the Sun; yet in the Sun it is placed in a _higher_, and more _regular_ Sphere; more _aptly disposed_ for _warming_ and _illuminating_, and more _commodiously situated_ for the Delight and Benefit of Mankind. "The _Roman_ Author (we are told) seldom rises into very astonishing Sentiments, where he is not fired by the _Iliad_.[17]"

Tho' I absolutely deny the Matter of Fact yet supposing it were true, still _fired he is_: The Poetical Spirit is in him, however he came by it; and that too _better_, if not _more_, than in him from whom he is imagined to have received it. How far the Reader will be of my Opinion upon this Head I know not: But to me the Truth of what I have urged resembles the _Things_ of which I have been speaking: It _shines_ like the _Light_, and _burns_ like the _Fire_.

As to _Similes_, _Homer_ is supposed to have the full Propriety of _Them_; and even the greatest Part of _Virgil_'s must be His. That a great Number of _Virgil_'s are taken from him, I deny not; but most of them are exceedingly improved by being transplanted: Tho' I believe if he had taken fewer from _Homer_, and given us more of his own, his Poem would have been so much the better. Not that he really has copy'd from _Homer_ in this Instance, near so much as some Criticks pretend; and he has more Similes entirely his own; than the aforesaid Criticks will allow him. In my Remarks I shall mention some Particulars.

Generally speaking, _Homer's Descriptions_ are admirable. But even in this View, I think Those are unjust to _Virgil_, who do not allow that he excels his Master. Consider the several Instances already cited, upon the Article of Poetical Fire; for most of them may be equally applied to This. What Images! what Paintings! what Representations of Nature! what Nature it self, do we find and feel in them! Besides a Mult.i.tude of others, which cannot now be so much as mentioned: I must here again refer to my Notes for Particulars.

For _Style_, _Diction_, and _Verification_, _Homer_, I acknowledge, is allowed the Triumph, even by the Generality of _Virgil_'s Party: particularly by _Rapin_; as he is likewise by him in the Instances of _Fire_, and _Description_, above-mentioned. However, that I may not be thought singular in my Opinion, a Character which I by no means desire; it may be considered that I agree with _Scaliger_ in his express a.s.sertions, and with my Lord _Roscommon_ in his Hints and Insinuations, not to mention other Authorities; when I frankly declare my Sentiments, that the _Roman_ Poet is superiour to the _Grecian_ even in this Respect. The _Greek_ Language, it is true, is superiour to the _Latin_, in This, as well as in every thing else; being the most expressive, the most harmonious, the most various, rich, and fruitful, and indeed, upon all Accounts, the best Language in the World. But if notwithstanding this great Advantage, _Virgil_'s Diction and Versification be preferable to _Homer_'s; his Glory for That very Reason will be so much the greater. _Homer's Epithets_, for the most part, are in _Themselves_ exceedingly beautiful; but are not many of them _superfluous_? Whether many, nay all, of those Particles which are commonly (and indeed, I think, falsly enough) called Expletives, be significant or no, I do not now dispute: But admitting them to be so; are not too many little Words, whether _Expletives_, nay whether _Particles_, or not, often crouded together? ? e? d? p?t? t?? ?at?, _&c._ and ? ?? ?? ?? p?t? ?a? s?, _&c._ are not, I own, very agreeable Sounds to my Ears; and many more of the same Kind are to be met with. Moreover, does not _Homer_ make an ill use of one great Privilege of his Language, (among many others) I mean That of dissolving Diphthongs, by so very frequently inserting a Word of five, or six Syllables, to drag his Sense to the End of a Verse, which concludes with the long Word aforesaid? Those Words, even at the End of a Verse, are sometimes indeed very agreeable: But are they not often otherwise? Especially at the Close of a Paragraph, or Speech; when for the most part too they are Epithets: and yet more especially, when those Epithets are of little Significancy? I shall give but one Instance, tho' it were very easy to produce many; and That shall be the last Line of the _Iliad_: Upon which, compared with the last of the _aeneis_, I cannot but think that

_Vitaque c.u.m gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras_,

is a n.o.bler Conclusion of an Heroic Poem, than

?? ?? ?' ?f?ep?? t?f?? ??t???? ?pp?d????.

A thousand things of the same, or of the like Nature, might be mentioned: And I am aware that such Observations will by some Criticks be called _modern Criticisms_. But be That as it will; I am for Truth and Reason, whether it be called Ancient, or Modern.

To display the Excellence of _Virgil_'s Style, Diction, and Versification, cannot be the Business of this Preface: Here again I must refer to my Notes. I only observe, that nothing can be more sublime, and majestick, than some Parts; nothing more sweet, and soft, than others; nothing more harmonious, flowing, numerous, and sounding than both his Soft, and his Sublime. As to which latter, when he describes the Fury, Noise, and Confusion of War, I recollect That of my Lord _Roscommon_;

_Th'_ aeneian _Muse, when she appears in State, Makes all_ Jove's _Thunder on her Verses wait._

And That of _Virgil_ himself:

_----Quo non praestantior alter aere ciere viros, Martemque accendere cantu._

For those Lines may as well be applied to the Trumpet of _Virgil_, as of _Misenus_. Not but that in this way of Writing, I mean the Martial, and the Furious, _Homer_, setting aside his Redundancy, is at least equal to _Virgil_; perhaps superiour. But then he is not comparable to him in the other Part, the smooth, the soft, and the sweetly flowing. This in _Virgil_ always puts me in mind of some Verses of his own, which I have elsewhere cited: Verses, which, in the Sixth Eclogue, the Speakers apply to each other; and which, above all Writers, are most applicable to Him, who gives Speech to them both.

_Tale tuum carmen n.o.bis, divine Poeta, Quale sopor fessis in gramine, quale per aestum Dulcis aquae saliente sitim restinguere rivo.

Nam neque me tantum venientis sibilus Austri, Nec percussa juvant fluctu tam littora, nec quae Saxosas inter decurrunt flumina valles._

But the exquisite Art of _Virgil_'s Versification is seen in his varying the Pauses, and Periods, and Cadence of his Numbers; in being rough or smooth, soft or vehement, long or short, _&c._ according to the Nature of the Ideas he would convey to the Mind: in which, I think, he exceeds all Writers, whether Ancient or Modern; and is in particular the best Versifier, as well as, upon the whole, the best Poet in the World.

Upon the Subject of _Speeches_, Mr. _Pope_ tells us, "That in _Virgil_ they often consist of general Reflections, or Thoughts, which might be equally just in any Person's Mouth upon the same Occasion. As many of his Persons have no apparent Characters; so many of his Speeches escape being applied, and judged by the Rule of Propriety. We oftner think of the Author himself, when we read _Virgil_, than when we are engaged in _Homer_. All which are the Effects of _a colder Invention_, that interests us less in the Action described: _Homer_ makes us Hearers, and _Virgil_ leaves us Readers." I have the Misfortune to be of a quite different Sentiment. If _Virgil_ outshines _Homer_ in any thing, it is especially in his _Speeches_. Which are all, so far as it is necessary, adapted to the Manners of the Speakers, and diversified by their several Characters. Nor do I know of any one Beauty by which _Virgil_ is more peculiarly distinguished, than That of his Speeches: Considering the Sweetness and Softness of some, the Cunning and Artifice of others; the Majesty and Gravity of a third sort; the Fire and Fury of a fourth: In which two last Kinds especially we have the united Eloquence of Oratory, and Poetry; and read _Tully_ involved in _Virgil_. That the Characters of the Heroes are more particularly marked and distinguished in the _Greek_, than in the _Latin_, I readily acknowledge. In That the _Iliad_ excels the _aeneis_; and, I think, in nothing else. And the Controversy between these two great Poets Should, in my Opinion, be thus determined: "That _Virgil_ is very much obliged to _Homer_; and _Homer_'s Poems, upon the whole, very much exceeded by _Virgil_'s."