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pored, the manners obscure or inconsistent, or the thoughts unnatural, then the finest colours are but daubing, and the piece is a beautiful monster at the best. Neither Virgil nor Homer were deficient in any of the former beauties; but in this last, which is expression, the Roman poet is at least equal to the Gre. cian, as I have said elsewhere ; supplying the poverty of his language by his musical ear, and by his diligence. But to return : our two great poets, being so different in their tempers, one choleric and fanguine, the other phlegmatic and melancholic; that which makes them excel in their several ways, is, that each of them has followed his own natural inclination, as well in forming the design, as in the execution of it. The very heroes thew their authors; Achilles is hot, impatient, revengeful, “ Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis,
acer, &c." Æneas patient, considerate, careful of his people, and mercifal to his enemies : ever submissive to the will of heaven, “ quo fata trahunt, retrahuntque, “ sequamur.” I could please myself with enlarging on this subject, but I am forced to defer it to a fitter time. From all I have said, I will only draw this inference, that the action of Homer being more full of vigour than that of Virgil, according to the temper of the writer, is of consequence more pleasing to the reader. One warms you by degrees; the other sets you on fire all at once, and never intermits his beat. It is the same difference which Longinus makes betwixt the effe&ts of eloquence in Demosthenes and Tully. One persuades ; the other commands. You never cool while you read
Homer, even not in the second book (a graceful Alattery to his countrymen); but he haftens frony the fhips, and concludes not that book till he has made you an amends by the violent playing of a new machine. From thence he hurries on his action with variety of events, and ends it in less compass than two months. This vehemence of his, I confess, is more suitable to my temper; and therefore I have translated his first book with greater pleasure than any part of Virgil : but it was not a pleasure without pains: the continual agitations of the spirits must needs be a weakening of any conftitution, elpecially in age; and many pauses are required for refreshment betwixt the heats; the Iliad of itself being a third part longer than all Virgil's works together.
"'This is what I thought needful in this place to say of Homer. I proceed to Ovid and Chaucer ; considera ing the former only in relation to the latter. With Ovid ended the golden age of the Ronan tongue : from Chaucer the purity of the English tongue began. The manners of the poets were not unlike : both of them were well-bred, well-natured, amorous, and libertine, at least in their writings, it
be also in their lives. Their studies were the same, philosophy and philology. Both of thein were known in astronomy, of which Ovid's books of the Roman feasts, and Chau. cer's treatise of the Astrolabe, are sufficient witnesses. But Chaucer was likewise an astrologer, as were Virgil, Horace, Persius, and Manilius. Both writ with wonderful facility and clearness : neither were great inven
R'E tors : for Ovid only copied the Grecian fables; and moit of Chaucer's stories were taken from his Italian contemporaries, or their predecessors. Boccace's Decameron was first published; and from thence our Englifhman has borrowed many of his Canterbury tales : yet that of Palamon and Arcite was written in all probability by fome Italian wit, in a former age; as I shall prove
hereafter : the tale of Grizild was the invention of Petrarch ; by him fent to Boccace; from whom it came to Chaucer: Troilus and Cressida was also written by a Lombard author; but much amplia fied by our English translator, as well as beautified ; the genius of our countrymen in general being rather to improve an invention, than to invent themselves; as is evident not only in our poetry, but in many of our manufactures. I find I have anticipated already, and taken up from Boccace before I come to hiin : but there is fo much less behind ; and I am of the temper of most kings, who love to be in debt; are all for present money, no matter how they pay it afterwards : besides, the nature of a preface is rambling; never wholly out of the way, nor in it. This I have learned from the practice of honest Montaigne, and return at my pleasure to Ovid and Chaucer, of whom I have little more to say. Both of them built on the inventions of other men ; yet lince Chaucer had something of his own, as The Wife of Bath's Tale, The Cock and the Fox, which I have translated, and some others, I may justly give our countryman the preceilence in that part;
since I can remember nothing of Ovid which was wholly his.
Both of them underítood the manners, under which name I comprehend the passions, and, in a larger sense, the descriptions of persons, and their very habits : for an example, I see Baucis and Philemon as perfectly before me, as if fome ancient painter had drawn them ; and all the pilgrims in the Canterbury tales, their humours, their features, and the very dress, as distinctly as if I had fupped with them at the Tabard in Southwark : yet even there too the figures in Chaucer are much more lively, and set in a better light: which though I have not time to prove; yet I appeal to the reader, and am sure he will clear me from partiality. The thoughts and words remain to be considered in the comparison of the two poets; and I have saved myself one half of that labour, by owning that Ovid lived when the Roman tongue was in its meridian ; Chaucer, in the dawning of our language : therefore that part of the comparison stands not on an equal foot, any more than the di&tion of Ennius and Ovid; or of Chaucer and our present English. The words are given up as a post not to be defended in our poet, because he wanted the modern art of fortifying. The thoughts remain to be considered : and they are to be measured only by their propriety; that is, as they flow more or less naturally from the persons described, on such and such occasions. The vulgar judges, which are nine parts in ten of all nations, who call conceits and jingles wit, who fee Ovid full of them, and Chaucer altogether without them, will think me little less than mad, for preferring the Englishman to the Roman : yet, with 7
their leave, I must presume to say, that the things they admire, are not only glittering trifles, and so far from being witty, that in a serious poem they are nauseous, because they are unnatural. Would any man, who is ready to die for love, describe his passion like Narcissus? Would he think of “inopem me copia fecit,” and a dozen more of such expressions, poured on the neck of one another, and signifying all the same thing? If this were wit, was this a time to be witty, when the poor wretch was in the agony of death! This is juft John Littlewit in Bartholemew Fair, who had a conceit (as he tells you) left him in his misery; a miserable conceit. On these occasions the poet should endeavour to raise pity : but, instead of this, Ovid is tickling you to laugh. Virgil never made use of such machines, when he was moving you to commiserate the death of Dido : he would not defroy what he was building. Chaucer makes Arcite violent in his love, and unjust in the
pursuit of it: yet when he came to die, he made him think more reasonably: he repents not of his love, for that had altered his character ; but acknowledges the injustice of his proceedings, and resigns Emilia to Pala
What would Ovid have done on this occasion ? He would certainly have made Arcite witty on his death-bed. He had complained he was farther off from possession, by being so near, and a thousand such boyisms, which Chaucer rejected as below the dignity of the subject. They, who think otherwise, would by the same reason prefer Lucan and Ovid to Homer and Virgil, and Martial to all four of them. As for the