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tative musick. The original of this musick, and of the sceness which adorned his work, he had from the Italian operas ; but he heightened his characters (as I may probably imagine) from the example of Corneille and some French poets. In this condition did this part of poetry remain at his Majesty's return; when growing bolder, as being now owned by a publick authority, he reviewed his Siege of RHODES, and caused it to be acted as a just drama. But as few men have the happiness to begin and finish any new project, so neither did he live to make his design perfect: there wanted the fulness of a plot, and the variety of characters, to form it as it ought; and perhaps, something might have been added to the beauty of the style. All which he would have performed with more exactness, had he pleased to have given us another work of the same nature. For myself and others who come after hiin, we are bound, with all veneration to his memory, to acknowledge
4 The first edition of Sir William D'Avenant's Siege of RHODES was published in 4to. in 1656, with the following title: “ The SIEGE OF RHODES, made a representation by the art of prospective in scenes; and the story sung in recitative musick.–At the back part of Rutland House, in the upper end of Aldersgate-street, London.”
5 In the time of Shakspeare, and long afterwards, our English theatres were unfurnished with scenes. See the Plays and Poems of Shakspeare, vol. i. part ii. p. 67.
what advantage we received from that excellent groundwork which he laid; and since it is an easy thing to add to what already is invented, we ought all of us, without envy to him, or partiality to ourselves, to yield him the precedence in it.
Having done him this justice, as my guide, I may do myself so much, as to give an account of what I have performed after him. I observed then, as I said, what was wanting to the perfection of his Siege of Rhodes; which was design, and variety of characters. And in the midst of this consideration, by mere accident I opened the next book that lay by me, which was an Ariosto in Italian ; and the very first two lines of that poem gave me light to all I could desire :
Le donne, i cavalier, l'arme, gli amori,
Le cortesie, l'audaci imprese io canto, &c. For 'the very next reflection which I made, was : this,—that an heroick play ought to be an imita
tion, in little, of an heroick poem; and consequently, that love and valour ought to be the subject of it. Both these Sir William D'Avenant had begun to shadow; but it was so, as first discoverers draw their maps, with head-lands, and promontories, and some few outlines of somewhat taken at a distance, and which the designer saw not clearly. The common drama obliged him to a plot well-formed and pleasant, or as the Ancients called it, one entire and great action. But this he afforded not himself in a story, which he neither filled with persons, nor beautified with characters, nor varied with accidents. The laws of an heroick poem did not dispense with those of the other, but raised them to a greater height; and indulged · him a farther liberty of fancy, and of drawing all things as far above the ordinary proportion of the stage, as that is beyond the common words and actions of human life; and therefore, in the scanting of his images, and design, he complied not enough with the greatness and majesty of an heroick poem.
I am sorry I cannot discover my opinion of this kind of writing, without dissenting much from his, whose memory I love and honour. But I will do it with the same respect to him, as if he were now alive, and overlooking my paper while I write. His judgment of an heroick poem was this :That it ought to be dressed in a more familiar and easy shape; more fitted to the common actions and passions of human life ; and, in short, more like a glass of nature, shewing us ourselves in our ordinary habits, and figuring a more practicable virtue to us, than was done by the ancients or moderns.” Thus, he takes the image of an heroick poem from the drama, or stage-poetry; and accordingly, intended to divide it into five books, representing the same number of acts, and every book into several cantos, imitating the scenes which compose our acts.
But this, I think, is rather a play in narration, as I may call it, than an heroick poem. If at least you will not prefer the opinion of a single
man to the practice of the most excellent authors both of ancient and latter ages. I am no admirer of quotations; but you shall hear, if you please, one of the ancients delivering his judgment on this question ; it is Petronius Arbiter, the most elegant, and one of the most judicious authors of the Latin tongue ; who, after he had given many admirable rules for the structure and beauties of an epick poem, concludes all in these following words :“ Non enim res gesta versibus comprehendendæ sunt, quod longe melius historici faciunt : sed, per ámbages, deorumque ministeria, præcipitandus est liber spiritus, ut potius furentis, animi vaticinatio appareat, quam religiosa orationis, sub testibus, fides.” In which sentence, and his own Essay of a Poem which immediately he gives you, it is thought he taxes Lucan, who followed too much the truth of history; crowded sentences together ; was too full of points; and too often offered at somewhat which had more of the sting of an epigram, than of the dignity and state of an heroick poem. Lucan used not much the help of his Heathen Deities : there was neither the ministry of the gods, nor the precipitation of the soul, nor the fury of a prophet, (of which my author speaks,) in his PHARSALIA : he treats you more like a philosopher, than a poet; and instructs you in verse, with what he had been taught by his uncle Seneca in prose. 'In one word, he walks soberly a-foot, when he might fly. Yet Lucan is not always this religious historian. The oracle of Appius, and the witchcraft of Erictho will somewhat atone for him, who was, indeed, bound up by an ill-chosen and known argument, to follow truth with great exactness. For my part, I am of opinion, that neither Homer, Virgil, Statius, Ariosto, Tasso, nor our English Spencer, could have formed their poems half so beautiful, without those gods and spirits, and those enthusiastick parts of poetry which compose the most noble parts of all their writings. And I will ask any man who loves heroick poetry, (for I will not dispute their tastes who do not,) if the Ghost of Polydorus in Virgil, the enchanted Wood in T'asso, and the Bower of Bliss in Spencer, (which he borrows from that admirable Italian,) could have been omitted without taking from their works some of the greatest beauties in them? And if any man object the improbabilities of a spirit appearing, or of a palace raised by magick, I boldly answer him, that an heroick poet is not
tied to a bare representation of what is true, or • exceeding probable, but that he may let himself
loose to visionary objects, and to the representation of such things as depending not on sense, and therefore not to be comprehended by knowledge, may give him a freer scope for imagination. It is enough, that in all ages and religions the greatest part of mankind have believed the power of magick; and that there are spirits or spectres which have appeared. This, I say, is foundation enough for poetry : and I dare farther affirm, that the whole doctrine of separated beings, whether those