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MR. SPECTATOR,

'WE are several of us, gentlemen and ladies, who board in the same house, and after dinner one of our company, (an agreeable man enough otherwise) stands up, and reads your paper to us all. We are the civilest people in the world to one another, and, therefore, I am forced to this way of desiring our reader, when he is doing this office, not to stand afore the fire. This will be a general good to our family, this cold weather. He will, I know, take it to be our common request when he comes to these words, pray, Sir, sit down ; which I desire you to insert, and you will particularly oblige

Your daily reader,

CHARTIY FROST?

SIR,

I AM a great lover of dancing, but cannot perform so well as some others; however, by my out-of-the-way capers, and some original grimaces, I do not fail to divert the company, particularly the ladies, who laugh immoderately all the time. Some, who pretend to be my friends, tell me they do it in derision, and would advise me to leave it off, withal that I make my self ridicu lous. I do not know what to do in this affair, but I am resolved not to give over upon any account, until I have the opinion of the SPECTATOR.

Your humble servant,

JOHN TROTT.

IF Mr. TROTT is not aukward out of time, he has a right to dance let who will laugh; but if he has no ear he will interrupt others: and I am of opinion he should sit still. Given under my hand this fifth of February, 1711-12.

THE SPECTATOR.

T.

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AFTER what I have said in my last Saturday's Paper, I shall enter on the subject of this without further preface, and remark the several defects which appear in the Fable, the Characters, the Sentiments, and the Language of MILTON's Faradise Lost; not doubting but the reader will pardon me, if I alledge at the same time whatever may be said for the extenuation of such defects. The first imperfection which I shall observe in the Fable is, that the event of it is unhappy.

The fable of every poem is, according to ARISTOTLE'S division, either simple or implex. It is called simple when there is no change of fortune in it; implex, when the fortune of the chief actor changes from bad to good, or from good to bad. The implex fable is thought the most perfect; I suppose, because it is more proper to stir up the passions of the reader, and to surprise him with a greater variety of accidents.

The implex fable is therefore of two kinds; in the first, the chief actor makes his way through a long series of dangers and difficulties, until he arrives at honour and prosperity, as we see in the stories of ÚLYSSES and ANEAS. In the second, the chief actor in the poem falls

from

their rear 5 from some eminent pitch of honour and prosperity, into paved?

action - from good to bad to good.

Adam ro hero. ?

misery and disgrace. Thus we see ADAM and EVE sinking from a state of innocence and happiness, into the most abject condition of sin and sorrow.

The most taking tragedies among the ancients were built on this last sort of implex fable, particularly the tragedy of OEdipus, which proceeds upon a story, if we may believe ARISTOTLE, the most proper for tragedy that could be invented by the wit of man. I have taken some pains in a former paper to shew, that this kind of implex fable, wherein the event is unhappy, is more apt to affect an audience than that of the first kind; notwithstanding many excellent pieces among the ancients, as well as most of those which have been written of late years in our own country, are raised upon contrary plans. I must however own, that I think this kind of fable, which is the most perfect in tragedy, is not so proper for an Heroic Poem.

MILTON Seems to have been sensible of this imperfection in his fable, and has therefore endeavoured to cure it by several expedients; particularly by the mortification which the great adversary of mankind meets with upon his return to the assembly of infernal spirits, as it is described in a beautiful passage of the third book; and likewise by the vision wherein ADAM, at the close of the poem, sees his offspring triumphing over his great enemy, and himself restored to a happier Paradise than that from which he fell.

There is another objection against MILTON's fable, which is indeed almost the same with the former, though placed in a different light, namely,-That the hero in the Paradise Lost is unsuccessful, and by no means a match for his enemies. This gave occasion to Mr. DRYDEN'S reflection, that the Devil was in reality MILTON'S Hero. I think I have obviated this objection in my first paper. The Paradise Lost is an Epic or a narrative Poem, and he that looks for an hero in it, searches for that which MILTON never intended; but if he will needs

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needs fix the name of an bero upon any person in it, it is certainly the MESSIAH who is the bero, both in the principal action, and in the chief episodes. Paganism could not furnish out a real action for a fable greater than that of the Iliad or Eneid, and therefore an Heathen could not form an higher notion of a poem than one of that kind, which they call an heroic. Whether MILTON'S is not of a sublimer nature I will not presume to determine: it is sufficient that I shew there is in the Paradise Lost all the greatness of plan, regularity of design, and masterly beauties which we discover in HOMER and VIRGIL.

I must in the next place observe, that MILTON has interwoven in the texture of his fable, some particulars which do not seem to have probability enough for an Epic Poem, particularly in the actions which he ascribes to Sin and Death, and the picture which he draws of the Limbo of Vanity, with other passages in the second book. Such allegories rather savour of the spirit of SPENSER and ARIOSTO, than of HOMER and VIRGIL.

In the structure of his poem he has likewise admitted this too many digressions. It is finely observed by ARISThe TOTLE, that the author of an Heroic Poem should seldom speak himself, but throw as much of his work as he can into the mouths of those who are his principal actors. ARISTOTLE has given no reason for this precept: but 1 presume it is because the mind of the reader is more awed, and elevated, when he hears NEAS or ACHILLES speak, than when VIRGIL or HOMER talk in their own persons. Besides, that assuming the character of an eminent man is apt to fire the imagination, and raise the ideas of the author. TULLY tells us, mentioning his dialogue of old age, in which CATO is the chief speaker, that upon a review of it he was agreeably imposed upon, and fancied that it was CATO, and not he himself, who uttered his thoughts on that subject.

If the reader would be at the pains to see how the story of the Iliad and the Eneid is delivered by those

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persons who act in it, he will be surprised to find how
little in either of these poems proceeds from the authors.
MILTON has, in the general disposition of his fable,
very finely observed this great rule; insomuch that
there is scarce a tenth part of it which comes from the
Poet; the rest is spoken either by ADAM or EVE, or
by some good or evil Spirit who is engaged, either in
their destruction, or defence.

From what has been here observed it appears, that
digressions are by no means to be allowed of, in an
Epic Poem. If the Poet, even in the ordinary course
of his narration, should speak as little as possible, he
should certainly never let his narration sleep for the
sake of any reflection of his own. I have often observed,
with a secret admiration, that the longest reflection in
the Eneid, is in that passage of the tenth book, where
TURNUS is represented as dressing himself in the spoils
of PALLAS, whom he had slain. VIRGIL here lets his
fable stand still, for the sake of the following remark.
"How is the mind of man ignorant of futurity, and
unable to bear prosperous fortune with moderation!
The time will come when TURNUS shall wish that he
had left the body of PALLAS untouched, and curse the
day on which he dressed himself in these spoils." As
the great event of the Eneid, and the death of TUR-
NUS, whom ENEAS slew, because he saw him adorned
with the spoils of PALLAS, turns upon this incident,
VIRGIL went out of his way to make this reflection
upon it, without which so small a circumstance might
possibly have slipt out of his reader's memory. LUCAN,
who was an injudicious poet, lets drop his story very
frequently for the sake of his unnecessary digressions,
or his Diverticula, as SCALIGER calls them. If he gives
is an account of the prodigies which preceded the civil
war, he declaims upon the occasion, and shews how much
happier it would be for man, if he did not feel his evil
fortune before it comes to pass; and suffer not only by
its real weight, but by the apprehension of it. MILTON'S
complaint

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