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Virgil's battles are far inferior to Homer's in point of fire and sublimity; but there is one important episode, the descent into hell, in which he has outdone Homer in the Odyssey by many degrees. There is nothing in all antiquity equal, in its kind, to the sixth book of the Æneid. The scenery, and the objects, are great and striking; and fill the mind with that solemn awe, which was to be expected from a view of the invisible world. There runs through the whole description a certain philosophical sublime; which Virgil's Platonic genius, and the enlarged ideas of the Augustan age, enabled him to support with a degree of majesty, far beyond what the rude ideas of Homer's age suffered him to attain. With regard to the sweetness and beauty of Virgil's numbers, throughout his whole works, they are so well known, that it were needless to enlarge in the praise of them.

Upon the whole, as to the comparative merit of these two great princes of epic poetry, Homer and Virgil, the former must, undoubtedly, be admitted to be the greater genius; the latter, to be the more correct writer. Homer was an original in his art, and discovers both the beauties and the defects which are to be expected in an original author, compared with those who succeed him : more boldness, more nature and ease, more sublimity and force; but greater irregularities and negligencies in composition. Virgil has, all along, kept his eye upon Homer; in many places, he has

not so much imitated, as he has literally translated him. The description of the storm, for instance, in the first Æneid, and Æneas's speech upon that occasion, are translations from the fifth book of the Odyssey; not to mention almost all the similes of Virgil, which are no other than copies of those of Homer. The pre-eminence in invention, therefore, must, beyond doubt, be ascribed to Homer. As to the pre-eminence in judgment, though many critics are disposed to give it to Virgil, yet, in my opinion, it hangs doubtful. In Homer, we discern all the Greek vivacity; in Virgil, all the Roman stateliness. Homer's imagination is by much the most rich and copious; Virgil's, the most chaste and correct. The strength of the former lies, in his power of warming the fancy; that of the latter, in his power of touching the heart. Homer's style is more simple and animated; Virgil's more elegant and uniform. The first has, on many occasions, a sublimity to which the latter never attains; but the latter, in return, never sinks below a certain degree of epic dignity, which cannot so clearly be pronounced of the former. Not, however, to detract from the admiration due to both these great poets, most of Homer's defects may reasonably be imputed, not to his genius, but to the manners of the age in which he lived; and for the feeble passages of the Eneid this excuse ought to be admitted, that the Æneid was left an unfinished work.





AFTER Homer and Virgil, the next great epic poet of ancient times, who presents himself, is Lucan. He is a poet who deserves our attention, on account of a very peculiar mixture of great beauties with great faults. Though his Pharsalia discover too little invention, and be conducted in too historical a manner, to be accounted a perfectly regular epic poem, yet it were the mere squeamishness of criticism to exclude it from the epic class. The boundaries, as I formerly remarked, are far from being ascertained by any such precise limit, that we must refuse the epic name to a poem which treats of great and heroic adventures, because it is not exactly conformable to the plans of Homer and Virgil. The subject of the Pharsalia carries, undoubtedly, all the epic grandeur and dignity; neither does it want unity

of object, viz. the triumph of Cæsar over the Roman liberty. As it stands at present, it is, indeed, brought to no proper close. But either time has deprived us of the last books, or it has been left by the author an incomplete work.

Though Lucan's subject be abundantly heroic, yet I cannot reckon him happy in the choice of it. It has two defects. The one is, that civil wars, especially when as fierce and cruel as those of the Romans, present too many shocking objects to be fit for epic poetry, and give odious and disgusting views of human nature. Gallant and honourable achievements furnish a more proper theme for the epic muse. But Lucan's genius, it must be confessed, seems to delight in savage scenes; he dwells upon them too much; and, not content with those which his subject naturally furnished, he goes out of his way to introduce a long episode of Marius and Sylla's proscriptions, which abounds with all the forms of atrocious cruelty.

The other defects of Lucan's subject is, its being too near the times in which he lived. This is a circumstance, as I observed in a former Lecture, always unfortunate for a poet, as it deprives him of the assistance of fiction and machinery, and thereby renders his work less splendid and amusing. Lucan has submitted to this disadvantage of his subject; and in doing so, has acted with more propriety, than if he had made an unseasonable attempt to embellish it with machinery; for

the fables of the gods would have made a very unnatural mixture with the exploits of Cæsar and Pompey; and instead of raising, would have diminished the dignity of such recent and wellknown facts.

With regard to characters, Lucan draws them with spirit and with force. But, though Pompey be his professed hero, he does not succeed in interesting us much in his favour. Pompey is not made to possess any high distinction, either for magnanimity in sentiment or bravery in action, but, on the contrary, is always eclipsed by the superior abilities of Cæsar. Cato is, in truth, Lucan's favourite character, and wherever he introduces him, he appears to rise above himself. Some of the noblest, and most conspicuous passages in the work, are such as relate to Cato; either speeches put into his mouth, or descriptions of his behaviour. His speech, in particular, to Labienus, who urged him to inquire at the oracle of Jupiter Ammon concerning the issue of the war (Book ix. 564), deserves to be remarked, as equal, for moral sublimity, to any thing that is to be found in all antiquity.

In the conduct of the story, our author has attached himself too much to chronological order. This renders the thread of his narration broken and interrupted, and makes him hurry us too often from place to place. He is too digressive also;

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