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The Invasion of Loëgria. Locrine assembles his Army.
His Interview with Estrildis. His March. Estrildis is comforted by Boarex. Description of the residence of Estrildis.
*** BRUTUS, descended from Æneas, is said to have planted a colony in Britain. He found the country inhabited by giants, whom he subdued and exter. minated, after many conflicts; in which Corineus, one of his followers, distinguished himself so much, that he was rewarded with the sovereignty of Cornwall, which was called after his name. Brutus, at his death, divided the rest of the island among his sons: Albanact had the northern part, called from him Albania ; Camber had the country between the Severn and the Irish sea, called Cambria ; the third and largest share, called Loëgria, fell to Locrine. He married GUENDOLEN, the daughter of Corineus, and had a son by her, called Madan.
HUMBER, King of the Huns, having invaded the dominions of Albanact, who was defeated and killed, in a great battle, advanced to the frontiers of Loëgria, where he was encountered by Locrine, and lost the battle and his life. Among the captives was a beautiful lady, called Estriedis, of whom Locrine became ena: moured; but fearing the resentment of Corineus, concealed his commerce with her till the death of that prince, when he divorced Guendolen, and acknowledged Estrildis for his queen. Guendolen took refuge in Cornwall, and raising an army, invaded the dominions of Locrine. Here the action of the poem begins.
The great celebrity of the Romans accounts for the propensity of other nations to draw their original from the same source; and the fables of Geoffry of Mon
mouth found an easy reception in this island, as they gratified the vanity, and agreed with the reigning prejudices of the nation. Milton, whose extensive learning, and penetrating criticism, could have detected the imposture, has given new importance to the legends of Brutus, and his successors, by repeating them in the first Book of his History of England, for the sake, as he says, of our poets and rhetoricians. The apotheosis of Sabra, the daughter of Locrine and Estildis, is entirely of his invention, and makes a principal ornament of the Mask of Comus. · The author was led, by the notes to the last Canto of Mr. Hayley's Essay on Epic Poetry, to try the effect of the northern mythology in a composition of the narrative kind. The genius of Gray, whose imagination appears to have been strongly engaged by the wild sublimity of that system, would, no doubt, have produced a poem, which would have lived through ages, if he had pursued the idea suggested by Mr. Gibbon: and a noble work inay hereafter be raised upon the splendid Fables, and allegories of Hindostan. In making an excursion into a new field of poetical ornament, the Author was not actuated by any presumptuous ambition, but merely endeavoured to assist himself in forming his own opinion upon the question touched by Mr. Hayley. Even this slight attempt may contribute to incite some powerful Muse, Virgil and Milton drew materials and hints, for their immortal poems, from obscure and feeble authors. They were able to develop,
and display in all their lustre, those beauties which meaner intellects could hardly conceive.
With respect to the general question as to the value of machinery in the higher kinds of poetry, it seems most reasonable to consider it as neither absolutely necessary, nor wholly to be rejected. The utmost sublimity and pathos may often be attained without it; but it is supported by the authority, and example of whom? Homer, Virgil, Euripides, Eschylus, and Sophocles, Tasso, Milton, Shakspeare. In opposition to this most weighty testimony, we have the opinion of Boileau, and the example of Lucan. The former probably did not mean to give a general opinion. His object was only to expose the folly and bad taste of some pretenders to poetical fame of his own age and nation. The latter was, indeed, the author of a noble work, deserving high reputation, and of great excellence in its kind : but how inferior, in every point of view, to the great authors we have just enumerated ! Quintilian thinks that Lucan, by his Pharsalia, had entitled himself to the praise, rather of an orator than a poet.
The liberty of coining new words has been assumed by most writers in verse. But no licence ought to be used with more caution and reserve. In every case, the analogies of the language should be scrupulously observed, for the sake of precision, and clearness, as well as the general harmony of the style. There is not, it is believed, any authority for the word Resorb, which will be found in page 11; but absorb is in daily and familiar use, and the power of the particle re is obvious to every English reader. The Author knew no established term which would exactly answer his purpose, and he trusts he sball stand excused for having introduced this word, the sense of which can scarcely be mistaken. It was pointed out to him by Gray's ode in the Album of the Chartreuse.