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Cedite Romani Scriptores, cedite Graii.
Give place, ye Roman, and ye Grecian Wits.

S HERE is nothing in Nature more irk.

some than general Discourses, especial

ly when they turn chiefly upon Words. p for this Reason I shall wave the Dif

cussion of that point which was started

© fome Years since, Whether Milton's Paradise Lost may be called an Heroic Poem? Those who will not give it that Title, may call it (if they please) a Divine Poem. It will be sufficient to its Perfection, if

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it has in it all the Beauties of the highest kind of Poe-

try; and as for those who alledge it is not an Heroic

Poem, they advance no more to the Diminution of it,

than if they should say Adam is not Æneas; nor Eve


I shall therefore examine it by the Rules of Epic

Poetry, and see whether it falls short of the Iliad
or Æneid, in the Beauties which are essential to that
Kind of Writing. The first Thing to be considered
in an Epic Poem, is the Fable, which is perfect or
imperfect, according as the Action which it relates
is more or less fo. This Action should have three
Qualifications in it. First, It should be but One
Action. Secondly, It should be an Entire Action ;
and Thirdly, It should be a Great A&tion. To con-
sider the Action of the Iliad, Æneid, and Paradise
Loft, in these three several Lights. Homer, to pre.
serve the Unity of his Action, hastens into the Midít
of Things, as Horace has observed : Had he gone up
to Leda's Egg, or begun much later, even at the

Rape of Helen, or the Investing of Troy, it is mani.

felt that the Story of the Poem would have been a

Series of several Actions. He therefore opens his

Poem with the Discord of his Princes, and artfully

interweaves, in the several succeeding parts of it,

an Account of every Thing material which relates

to them, and had passed before this fatal Disfenfion.

After the fame Manner, Æneas makes his first Ap.

pearance in the Tyrrhene Seas, and within the Sight

of Italy, because the Action proposed to be celebra.

ted was that of his settling himself in Latium. But

because it was necessary for the Reader to know what

had happened to him in the taking of Troy, and in

the preceding Parts of his Voyage, Virgil makes his

Heroe relate it by way of Épisode in the second

and third Books of the Æneid: the Contents of bath

which Books come before those of the first Book

in the Thread of the Story, tho’ for preserving of

thiş Unity of Action, they follow it in the Difpo.


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fitiort of the. Poem. Milton, in Imitation of these two great Poets, opens his Parad se Loft with an infernal Council plotting the Fall. of Manj, which is the Action he proposed to celebrate; and as for those Great Actions, the Battle of the Angels, and the Creation of the World, (which preceded in Point of Time, and which, in my Opinion, would have entirely destroyed the Unity of bis Principal Action, had he related them in the same Order that they happened) he cast them in- Vid. the End to the fifth, fixth and seventh Books, of Spectator by way of 'Episode to this noble 327. Poem.

ARISTOTLE himself allows, that Homer has nothing to boast of as to the Unity of his Fable, though at the same time that great Critic and Philosopher endeavours to palliate this Imperfection in the Greek Poet by imputing it in some Measure to the very Nature of an Epic Poem. Some have been of Opinion, that the Æneid also labours in this particular, and has Episodes which may be looked upon as Excrefcencies rather than as Parts of the Action. On the contrary, the Poem, which we have now under our Conlideration, hath no other Episodes than such as natlle rally arise from the Subject, and yet is filled with such a Multitude of astonifhing Incidents, that it gives us at the same time a Pleasure of the greatest Variety, and of the greatest Simplicity ; uniform in its Nature, though diversified in the Execution.

I must observe also, that as Virgil in the Poem which was designed to celebrate the Original of the Roman Empire, has described the Birth of its great Rival, the Carthaginian Commonwealth: Milton with the like Art in his Poem on the Fall of Man, has related the Fall of those Angels who are his professed Enemies. Beside the many other Beauties in such an Episode, its running parallel with the great Action of the Poem, hin. ders it from breaking the Unity so much as another Episode would have done, that had not so great an . B 3


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