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in the choice of words, and harmony of numbers : now, the words are the colouring of the work, which in the order of nature is last to be considered. The design, the disposition, the manners, and the thoughts, are all before it: where any of those are wanting or imperfect, so much wants or is imperfect in the imitation of human life; which is in the very definition of a poem. Words indeed, like glaring colours, are the first beauties that arise, and strike the fight : but if the draught be false or lame, the figures illdisposed, the manners obfcure or inconsistent, or the thoughts unnatural, then the finest colours are but daubing, and the piece is a beautiful monster at the belt. Neither Virgil nor Homer were deficient in any of the former beauties; but in this laft, which is expression, the Roman poet is at least equal to the Grecian, as I have faid 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 shew their authors; Achilles is hot, impatient, revengeful, Impiger, Iracundus, inexorabilis, acer, &c. Æneas patient, confiderate, careful of his people, and merciful to his enemies: ever fubmissive to the will of heaven, quò fata, trahunt, retrahuntquez Sequamur. I could please myself with enlarging on this subject, but 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 heat. 'Tis the same difference which Longinus makes betwixt the effects of eloquence in Demofthenes, and Tully. One persuades; the other commands. You never cool while you read Homer, even not in the second book, (a graceful Aattery to his countrymen ;) but he haltens from the ships, 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 weakning of any constitution, especially 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; confidering the former only in relation to the latter. With Ovid ended the golden age of the Roman 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 may be also in their lives. Their studies were the same, philosophy and philology. Both of them were known in astronomy, of which Ovid's books of the Roman feasts, and Chaucer's treatise of the Aftrolabe, 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 inventors; for Ovid only copied the Grecian fables; and most of Chaucer's stories were taken from his Italian contemporaries, or their predecessors. Boccace his Decameron was first published; and from thence our Englishman has borrowed many of his Canterbury tales: yet that of Palamon and Arcite was written in all probability by some Italian wit, in a former age; as I shall prove hereafter: the tale of Grizild was the invention of Petrarch; by him sent to Boccace; from whom it came to Chaucer: Troilus and Cressida was also written by a Lombard author; but much amplified 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 him: but there is so 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 Montaign, 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 fince 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 juftly give our countryman the precedence in that part; since I can remember nothing of Ovid which was wholly his. Both of them understood the manners, under which name I comprehend the passions, and, in a larger fense, the descriptions of persons, and their very habits: for an


example, I fee Baucis and Philemon as perfe&tly before me, as if somé antient painter had drawn them; and all the pilgrims in the Canterbury tales, their humours, their features, and the very dress, as diftinctly as if I had supped 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 confidered 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 ftands not on an equal foot, any more than the diction 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 see 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 their leave, I must presume to say, that the things they admire are 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 fignifying 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 BartholomewFair, 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 destroy 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 rea. sonably: he repents not of his love, for that had altered his character; but acknowledges the injustice of his proceedings, and resigns Emilia to Palamon. What would Ovid have done on this occafion? He would certainly have made Arcite witty on his deathbed. He had complained he was farther off from poffeffion, 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 turn of words, in which Ovid particularly excels all poets; they are sometimes a fault, and sometimes a beauty, as they are used properly or improperly; but in strong passions always to be shunned, because parfions are serious, and will admit no playing. The French have a high value for them; and I confess, they are often what they call delicate, when they are introduced with judgment; but Chaucer writ with more fimplicity, and followed nature more closely, than to use them. I have thus far, to the best of

my knowledge, been an upright judge betwixt the parties in competition, not meddling with the design nor


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