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into an Allegory: it was, doubtlefs, by fome fuch means that the principles of all arts and fciences whatever were discovered in that fingle author; for nothing can efcape an expofitor who proceeds in his operations like a Rofycrucian, and brings with him the gold he pretends to find.
It is furprising that Taffo, whofe Jerufalem was, at the time when he wrote, the best plan of an epick poem after Virgil, fhould be poffeffed with this affectation, and thould not believe his work perfect till he had turned it into a mystery. I cannot help thinking that the Allegory, as it is called, which he has printed with it, looks as if it were invented after the poem was finished. He tells us that the Christian army reprefents man; the city of Jerufalem, civil happinefs; Godfrey, the understanding; Rinaldo and Tancred, the other powers of the foul; and that the body is typified by the common foldiers; with a great deal more that carries in it a ftrong caft of enthufiafm. He is indeed much more intelligible when he explains the flowers, the fountains, the nymphs, and the mufical inftruments, to figure to us fenfual pleasures under the falfe appearance of good; but, for the reft, I appeal to any one who is acquainted with that poem, whether he would ever have difcovered these myfteries if the poet had not let him into them? or whether even, after this, he can keep them long in his mind while he is reading it?
Spenfer's conduct is much more reasonable. As he defigned his Poem upon the plan of the Virtues by which he has entitled his feveral Books, he fcarce ever lofes fight of this defign, but has almoft every where taken care to let it appear. Sir Wil liam Temple, indeed, cenfures this as a fault, and fays, that though his flights of fancy were very noble and high, yet his moral lay fo bare that it loft the
effect: but I confefs I do not understand this: a moral which is not clear is, in my apprehenfion, next to no moral at all.
It would be easy to enumerate other properties, which are various, according to the different kinds of Allegory, or its different degrees of perfection. Sometimes we are furprifed with an uncommon moral, which ennobles the fable that conveys it; and at other times we meet with a known and obvious truth, placed in fome new and beautiful point of light, and made furprifing by the fiction under which it is exhibited. I have thought it fufficient to touch upon fuch properties only as feem to be the most effential, and perhaps many more might be reduced under one or other of these general heads.
I might here give examples of this noble and ancient kind of writing out of the Books of Holy Writ, and especially the Jewish Prophets, in which we find a fpirit of poetry furprisingly fublime and majestick; but thefe are obvious to every one's reading. The Eaft feems indeed to have been principally the region of these figurative and emblematical writings. Sir John Chardin, in his Travels, has given us a tranflation of several pieces of modern Perfian poetry, which show that there are traces of the fame genius remaining among the prefent inhabitants of those countries. But, not to prolong this Difcourfe, I fhall only add one inftance of a very ancient Allegory, which has all the properties in it I have mentioned; I mean that in Xenophon, of the Choice of Hercules, when he is courted by Virtue and Pleafure, which is faid to have been the invention of Prodicus. This fable is full of fpirit and elegance; the characters are finely drawn, and confiftent, and the moral is clear, I fhall not need to fay any thing more of it, but
refer the reader to the fecond volume of the Tatler, where he will find it very beautifully tranflated".
After what has been faid, it must be confeffed that, excepting Spenter, there are few extraordinary inftances of this kind of writing among the Moderns. The great mines of invention have been, opened long ago, and little new ore feems to have been difcovered or brought to light by latter ages. With us the art of framing fables, apologues, and allegories, which was fo frequent among the writers of antiquity, feems to be, like the art of painting upon glafs, but little practifed, and in a great meafure loft. Our colours are not fo rich and transparent, and are either fo ill prepared, or fo unfkilfully laid on, that they often fully the light which is to pass through them, rather than agreeably tincture and beautify it. Boccalini muft be reckoned. one of the chief modern mafters of Allegory; yet bis Fables are often flat and ill chofen, and his invention feems to have been rather fruitful than elegant. I cannot, however, conclude this Effay on Allegory without obferving, that we have had the fatisfaction to fee this kind of writing very lately revived by an excellent genius among ourfelves, in the true fpirit of the Ancients. I need only mention the Visions in the Tatler and Spectator, by Mr. Addifon, to convince every one of this. The Table of Fame, the Vifion of Juftice, that of the different Purfuits of Love, Ambition, and Avarice; the Vifion of Mirza, and feveral others; and especially that admirable Fable of the two Families of Pain and Pleasure, which are all imagined and
g very beautifully tranflated.] The reader will find it tranflated, with new graces, fince that period, by a scholar of the first rank, the late 'accomplished bishop Lowth. It appeared firft in Spence's Polymetis; it will be moft eafy of accefs to readers, in Dodley's Collection of Poems, vol. iii. p. 7. TODD.
writ with the greateft ftrength and delicacy, may give the reader an idea, more than any thing I can fay, of the perfection to which this kind of writing is capable of being raifed. We have likewife, in the fecond volume of the Guardian, a very good example, given us by the fame hand, of an Allegory in the particular manner of Spenfer. HUGHES.
ON THE FAERIE QUEENE.
BY what has been offered in the foregoing Difcourfe on Allegorical Poetry, we may be able not only to difcover many beauties in the Faerie Queene, but likewife to excufe fome of its irregularities. The chief merit of this Poem confifts in that furprifing vein of fabulous invention which runs through it, and enriches it every where with imagery and defcriptions more than we meet with in any other modern poem. The Author feems to be poffeffed of a kind of poetical magick; and the figures he calls up to our view rife so thick upon us, that we are at once pleafed and diftracted by the exhauftlefs variety of them, fo that his faults may, in a manner, be imputed to his excellencies: his abundance betrays him into excefs, and his judgement is overborne by the torrent of his imagination.
That which feems the moft liable to exception in this Work is the model of it, and the choice the Author has made of fo romantick a ftory. The feveral Books appear rather like fo many feveral poems than one entire fable: each of them has its peculiar Knight, and is independent of the reft;
and though fome of the perfons make their appearance in different Books, yet this has very little effect in connecting them. Prince Arthur is, indeed, the principal perfon, and has therefore a fhare given him in every Legend; but his part is not confiderable enough in any one of them: he appears and vanishes again like a fpirit; and we lofe fight of him too foon to confider him as the hero of the Poem.
These are the moft obvious defects in the Fable of the Faerie Queene. The want of unity in the story makes it difficult for the reader to carry it in his mind, and diftracts too much his attention to the feveral parts of it; and indeed the whole frame of it would appear monftrous, if it were to be examined by the rules of epick poetry, as they have been drawn from the practice of Homer and Virgil: but as it is plain the Author never defigned it by thofe rules, I think it ought rather to be confidered
as a poem of a particular kind, defcribing, in a feries of Allegorical adventures or epifodes, the moft noted virtues and vices. To compare it, therefore, with the models of Antiquity, would be like drawing a parallel between the Roman and the Gothick architecture. In the firft there is, doubtlefs, a more natural grandeur and fimplicity; in the latter we find great mixtures of beauty and barbarifm, yet affifted by the invention of a variety of inferiour ornaments; and, though the former is more majestick in the whole, the latter may be very surprifing and agreeable in its parts.
It may feem ftrange, indeed, fince Spenfer appears to have been well acquainted with the beft writers of Antiquity, that he has not imitated them in the
h as a poem of a particular kind, &c.] Dr. Hurd has judiciously criticised it under the idea of a Gothick, not a claflical, poem. See his REMARKS in the prefent volume. TopD.