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the glowing enthusiasm, and disposition to admiration, which prevail in the heroic ages, and are highly favourable to exertions, in the more exalted branches of poetry: ! Whatever might have been the forms and subjects of. the poetry, which was popular in the heroic ages; it will readily be conceived, that it must have borne the character of the times, and consisted rather in the rapid . and extemporaneous effusions, of the bard, and excursive minstrel, than the set and studied compositions of the regular poet. All the kinds of poetry, which prevail in those periods of society, will dwell on external circumstances, and rest in the events, that are the consequences of human passions and feelings. We shall not find, among the productions of such ages, many instances of works, that descend into the bosoms, and secret thoughts, of men; 'to analyse the passions, and delineate their workings. To do this, requires more study and reflection, more knowledge of human nature, and stronger habits of observation, joined with more skill and exactness in composition, than falls to the share of early poets, in tlie ruder ages. In periods, like those, to which I allude, there is much activity and little speculation. All is energy, tumult, and pas- '. sion. Things, not words, or abstract ideas, are the objects of attention. Seldom is leisure allowed, for study and meditation, and scanty indeed, is the room indulged to that kind of philosophical refinement, which makes the mind an object to itself, and turns inward, to contemplate, and mark in detail, its several workings, and the various symptoms of its operations. The passions are then seen only in their consequences; in the events which they cause; and studied only through the medium of experience and historical tradition. They are not considered a priori in the abstract, or as separate from the particular, or individual, over whom they
are supposed to have dominion. They are never traced
If we take a joint retrospect of the ruling passions, and the prevailing manners, in the heroic ages; we shall be satisfied, that even were there leisure, there could be scarcely any occasion, for the study of human nature, or profound researches into the human heart, considered in the abstract. The passions and propensities, (for the lighter and softer emotions, which we generally call feelings, are not much seen,) which predominate in the heroic ages, are violent, and strongly marked. They are few in number, and the expression of them is bold, open, and little restrained, by manners, institutions, and decorums. Besides, they are passions of an active operative kind, which do not spend their force in secret, but come forward, into public view, and notoriety, in their eventful consequences. Thus, the delineation of passions is not an abstruse disquisition and analysis; a philosophical detail; but an historical recital of signal events.---When knowledge is increased, and commerce diffused, when new relations of society arise, when the latent powers of the human mind are expanded, and the latent wishes of the human heart are furnished with objects, and called into action:-then,
new and unknown passions and feelings begin to display themselves, and the expressions and features, of passions already known, begin to be varied, by the operation of different causes. In the kinds of poetry, to which the passions, the feelings, and the manners of men, in a more advanced state of society, give occasion, the authors write more from study, and study more, to write. They proceed to consider passions, feelings, and manners, in the abstract. They trace the workings and feelings of the mind, instead of consider. ing the emotions and propensities of a known individual, as they are manifested in his conduct. They collect the general operation of a passion, as it appears in the human species, at large. They observe the common attributes of our nature, disposing men to a certain conduct, . in certain situations. They study the manners of particular classes in society; and, having thus accumulated materials, they endeavour to exhibit the result of their enquiries and experience, in some imaginary personage, and fictitious action, expressly contrived for the pur-pose.
As, in every point of view, the poems of Homer are admirable; in one respect, they are invaluable; namely, in that of having been really produced, in the heroic age, or, at least, in a period so very near, as to have admitted no material deviations from the manners and habits of the time, which he celebrates. His descrip, tions, therefore, give an exact picture of the state of society and manners, of the progress of the arts, and the degree of refinement, which had actually taken place. These representations, though, perhaps, less perfect and pleasing, as paintings, and, considered in a general point of view, than those of Apollonius Rhodius and Virgil, are more valuable, as faithful portraits, which afford us real historical views, of the growth of
society, and the progress of the human mind. The different actors, who are introduced in his poems, are all real personages, who existed before him, who were handed down, to his knowledge, by legendary tradition, and whose several characters were ready framed and ascertained to his hand.
Apollonius and Virgil wrote, at a great distance from the heroic ages; when softness of manners, luxury, refinement, and science, were at their height. The ages, in which they flourished, were wholly unlike to the heroic, in their characteristics, in all the intercourse of society, in all the occupations and pursuits of men; in their modes of thinking, and the degrees of knowledge and refinement, which they generally possest. Yet, these writers, with only polished courtiers, and men of letters, before them, for their archetypes, were led, by their choice of subjects, to depict the manners and cus. toms, and exhibit the personages, of the early heroic ages. They saw nothing existing before their eyes, in real life, from which they could derive the ideas necessary for their representations, they were obliged to resort to their own imaginations, and to the stores of knowledge of past times hoarded in their minds; assisted by the records of historical truth, joined with the helps derived from imitation. They were reduced, to copy from the materials, which they found provided for them in the writings of Homer. Or, if they ventured to depart from the footsteps of that venerable and faithful guide; they were obliged to resort to fiction, and found themselves insensibly impressed and biassed, by what they had seen and heard around them. They mixed too much of their own feelings and sentiments, of the politeness, refinement, and knowledge, of their own times, with the details of the transactions of early ages, and attributed them to personages, who were supposed
to be living, speaking, and acting, in a rude and remote antiquity. The conséquence of this is a palpable departure from the costumé (to use the painter's term) of the times, which they profess to describe and exhibit. They introduce arts and sciences, a degree of luxury, pomp, and splendour, which were then unknown. They represent the bonds of society, and comforts of life, in a more forward state than they really were; and above all, they ascribe to the actors in their fables, a certain refinement of sentiment, an artificial conduct, a finesse of manner, and studied decorum, which are the consequence, and the characters, of a much greater degree of polish, and a far more advanced state of society; in fact, they fall into a moral anachronism..
There is one circumstance, in which, particularly, Apollonius and Virgil show themselves the progeny of a more refined age; and depart from the manners of the heroic times; I mean, their allowing to love such a mighty share in the fables, and predominant influence in the catastrophe of their poems; and still more, their giving such minute delineations of the passion abstractedly considered, and traced out to its secret operations in the human breast. The rank and preeminence, which are thus given to love, are not in the spirit of the heroic ages, but bespeak an age more refined, and advanced in civilization, and elegance. In Apollonius, for instance, there are much arrangement and dialogue, which would not disgrace the high polish and decorum of the French stage. In Homer, though the rape of Helen is the avowed cause of the Trojan war, yet love. has small share in the action; and Paris and Helen are very subordinate figures in the picture. -Indeed, avarice seems to have, at least, as much share as amorous gallantry, on the part of Paris, or wounded honour, and conjugal attachment, on the part of Menelaus.--10