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himself most in Narrations and incredible Fictions : as instances of this, we cannot forget the descriptions of tempests, the adventures of Ulysses with the Cyclops, and many others. But though all this be Age, it is the Age of Homer-And it may be said for the credit of these fictions, that they are beautiful Dreams, or if you will, the Dreams of Jupiter himself. I spoke of the Odyssey only to shew, that the greatest Poets, when their genius wants strength and warmth for the Pathetic, for the most part employ themselves in painting the Manners. This Homer has done in characterizing the Suitors, and describing their way of life; which is properly a branch of Comedy, whose peculiar business it is to represent the manners of men.
We must first observe, it is the Sublime of which Longinus is writing : that, and not the nature of Homer's Poem, is his subject. After having highly extolled the sublimity and fire of the Iliąd, he justly observes the Odyssey to have less of those qualities, and to turn more on the side of moral, and reflections on human life. Nor is it his business here to determine whether the elevated spirit of the one, or the just moral of the other, be the greater excellence in itself.
Secondly, that fire and fury of which he is speaking, cannot well be meant of the general spirit and inspiration which is to run through a whole Epic Poem, bụt of that particular warmth and impetuosity necessary in some parts, to imagine or represent actions or passions, of haste, tumult, and violence. It is on occasion of citing some such particular passages in Homer, that Longinus breaks into this reflection; which seems to determine his meaning chiefly to that sense.
Upon the whole, lie affirms the Odyssey to have less sublimity and fire than the Iliad, but he does not say it wants the sublime, or wants fire. He affirms it to be narrative, but not that the narration is defective. He affirms it to abound in fictions, not that those fictions are ill invented, or ill executed. He affirms it to be nice and particular in painting the manners, but not that those manners are ill painted. If Homer has fully in these points accomplished his own design, and done all that the nature of his Poem demanded or allowed, it still remains perfect in its kind, and as much a masterpiece as the Iliad.
The amount of the passage is this ; that in his own particular taste, and with respect to the Sublime, Longinus preferred the Iliad: and because the Odyssey was less active and lofty, he judged it the work of the old age of Homer.
If this opinion be true, it will only prove, that Homer's age might determine him in the choice of his subject, not that it affected him in the execution of it : and that which would be a very wrong instance to prove the decay of his imagination, is a very good one to evince the strength of his judgment. For had he (as Madam Dacier observes) composed the Odyssey in his youth, and the Iliad in his
both must in reason have been exactly the same as they now stand. To blame Homer for his choice of such a subject, as did not admit the same incidents and
the same pomp of style as his former; is to take offence at too much variety, and to imagine, that when a man has written one good thing, he must ever after only copy himself.
The Battle of Constantine, and the School of Athens, are both pieces of Raphael : shall we censure the School of Athens as faulty, because it has not the fury and fire of the other? or shall we say, that Raphael was grown grave and old, because he chose to represent the manners of old men and philosophers ? There is all the silence, tranquillity, and composure, in the one, and all the warmth, hurry, and tumult, in the other, which is the subject of either required : both of them had been imperfect, if they had not been as they are. And let the painter or poet be young or old, who designs and performs in this manner, it proves him to have made the piece at a time of life when he was master not only of his art, but of his discretion.
Aristotle makes no such distinction between the two Poems: he constantly cites them with equal praise, and draws the rules and examples' of Epic writing equally from both. But it is rather to the Odyssey that Horace gives the preference, in the Epistle to Lollius, and in the Art of Poetry. It is remarkable how opposite his opinion is to that of Longinus; and that the particulars he chooses to extol, are those very fictions and pictures of the manners which the other seems least to approve. Those fables and manners are of the very essence of the work : but even without that regard, the fables themselves have both more invention and more in
struction, and the manners more moral and example, than those of the Iliad.
In some points (and those the most essential to the Epic Poem) the Odyssey is confessed to excel the Iliad; and principally in the great end of it, the moral. The conduct, turn, and disposition, of the fable is also what the critics allow to be the better model for Epic writers to follow : accordingly we find much more of the cast of this poem than of the other in the Æneid, and (what next to that is perhaps the greatest example) in the Telemachus. In the manners, it is no way inferior: Longinus is so far from finding any defect in these, that he rather taxes Homer with painting them too minutely. As to the narrations, although they are more numerous as the occasions are more frequent, yet they carry no more the marks of old age, and are neither more prolix nor more circumstantial, than the conversations and dialogues of the Iliad. Not to mention the length of those of Phænir in the ninth book, and of Nestor in the eleventh (which may be brought in compliance to their characters), those of Glaucus in the sixth, of Æneas in the twentieth, and some others, must be allowed to exceed any in the whole Odyssey. And that the propriety of style, and the numbers, in the narrations of each are equal, will appear to any who compare them.
To form a right judgment, whether the genius of Homer had suffered any decay; we must consider, in both his Poems, such parts as are of a similar nature, and will bear comparison. And it is certain we shall find in each, the same vivacity and fecun
dity of invention, the same life and strength of imaging and colouring, the particular descriptions as highly painted, the figures as bold, the metaphors as animated, and the numbers as harmonious and as various.
The Odyssey is a perpetual source of Poetry : the stream is not the less full, for being gentle ; though it is true (when we speak only with regard to the sublime) that a river foaming and thundering in cataracts from rocks and precipices, is what more strikes, amazes, and fills, the mind, than the same body of water, flowing afterward through peaceful vales and agreeable scenes of pasturage.
The Odyssey (as I have before said) ought to be considered according to its own nature and design, not with an eye to the Iliad. To censure Homer because it is unlike what it was never meant to resemble, is, as if a gardener who had purposely cultivated two beautiful trees of contrary natures, as a specimen of his skill in the several kinds, should be blamed for not bringing them into pairs; when in root, stem, leaf, and flower, each was so entirely different, that one must have been spoiled in the endeavour to match the other.
Longinus, who saw this Poem was “partly of the nature of Comedy,” ought not for that very reason to have considered it with a view to the Iliad. How little any such resemblance was the intention of Homer, may appear from hence, that although the character of Ulysses there was already drawn, yet here he purposely turns to another side of it, and shews him not in that full light of glory but in the