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But Jove (who in high heav'n does mortals prive,
And down defcends, enwrapt in peerless blaze,
Where Eurymantbus, crown'd with many a wood,
With lofty eyne, half loth to look fo low,
Him Lycon view'd, and with fwol'n furquedry 'Gan rudely treat his facred eld: When now Forth ftood the god confeft that rules the sky, In fudden fheen of drad divinity: [Said, "And know, falfe man," the lord of thunders "Not unobferv'd by heav'n's all-persent eye "Thy cruel deeds: nor shall be unappay'd:
"Go! be in form that beft befeems thy thews, array'd."
Whiles yet be fpake, th' affrayed trembling wight Tranfmew'd to blatant beaft, with hideous bowl Rufh'd headlong forth, in well-deferved plight, Mid'ft dragons, minotaurs, and fiends to prowl, A wolf in form as erft a wolf in foul!
To Pholoë, foreft wild, be by'd away, The horrid haunt of savage monsters foul. There helpless innocence is ftill his prey, Thief of the bleating fold, and shepherds dire difmay. XIX.
Tho fove to good Euphemes' cot did wend, Where peaceful dwelt the man of virtue high, Each fhepherd's praise and eke each fhepherd's In ev'ry act of fweet humanity.
Him Jove approaching in mild majesty,
Greeted all bail! then bade him join the throng Of glit'rand lights that gild the glowing sky.
There shepherds nightly view his orb yhong, Where bright he fhines eterne, the brightest stars
February 8, 1739...
F there was any thing in my former letter inconfiftent with that esteem which is justly due to the Antients, I defire to re
tract it in this; and disavow every expreffion which might seem to give precedency to the moderns in works of genius. I am fo far indeed from entertaining the sentiments you impute to me, that I have often endeavored to account for that superiority which is fo vifible in the compofitions of their poets: and have frequently affigned their religion as in the number of those causes, which probably concurred to give them this remarkable preheminence. That enthufiafm which is fo effential to every true artist in the poetical way, was confiderably heightened and enflamed by the whole turn of their facred doctrines ; and the fancied prefence of their Muses had almost as wonderful an effect upon their thoughts and language, as if they had been really and divinely inspired. Whilft all nature was fuppofed to fwarm with divinities, and every oak and fountain was believed to be the refidence of fome fiding deity; what wonder if the poet was animated by the imagined influence of fuch exalted fociety, and found himself tranf ported beyond the ordinary limits of fober humanity? The mind, when attended only
by mere mortals of fuperior powers, is obferved to rife in her ftrength; and her faculties open and enlarge themselves when fhe acts in the view of thofe, for whom fhe has conceived a more than common reverence. But when the force of fuperftition moves in concert with the powers. of imagination, and genius is enflamed by devotion, poetry must shine out in all her brightest perfection and fplendor.
WHATEVER therefore the philofopher might think of the religion of his country; it was the intereft of the poet to be thoroughly orthodox. If he gave up his creed, he must renounce his numbers; and there could be no infpiration where there were no Mufes. This is fo true, that it is in compofitions of the poetical kind alone, that the antients feem to have the principal advantage over the moderns: in every other fpecies of writing one might venture perhaps to affert that these latter ages have, at leaft, equalled them. When I fay fo, I do not confine myself to the productions of our own nation, but comprehend likewife those of our neighbors; and with that extent the observation will poffibly hold true,
true, even without an exception in favor of history and oratory.
BUT whatever may with juftice be determined concerning that queftion; it is certain, at least, that the practice of all fucceeding poets confirms the notion for which I am principally contending. Tho the altars of paganism have many ages fince been thrown down, and groves are no longer facred; yet the language of the poets has not changed with the religion of the times, but the gods of Greece and Rome are still adored in modern verfe. Is not this a confeffion, that fancy is enlivened by fuperftition, and that the antient bards catched their rapture from the old mythology? I will own, however, that I think there is fomething ridiculous in this unnatural adoption, and that a modern poet makes but an aukward figure with his antiquated gods, When the pagan fyftem was fanctified by popular belief, a piece of machinery of that kind as it had the air of probability, afforded a very striking manner of celebrating any remarkable circumftance, or raifing any common one. But now that this fupertition is no longer fupported by vulgar