The Spectator, Volume 2. eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,123 pages of information about The Spectator, Volume 2..
in Battel, he tells us, that the Brims of it were encompassed by Terror, Rout, Discord, Fury, Pursuit, Massacre, and Death.  In the same Figure of speaking, he represents Victory as following Diomedes; Discord as the Mother of Funerals and Mourning; Venus as dressed by the Graces; Bellona as wearing Terror and Consternation like a Garment.  I might give several other Instances out of Homer, as well as a great many out of Virgil.  Milton has likewise very often made use of the same way of Speaking, as where he tells us, that Victory sat on the right Hand of the Messiah when he marched forth against the Rebel Angels; that at the rising of the Sun the Hours unbarrd the Gates of Light; that Discord was the Daughter of Sin.  Of the same nature are those Expressions, where describing the singing of the Nightingale, he adds, Silence was pleased; and upon the Messiahs bidding Peace to the Chaos, Confusion heard his Voice.  I might add innumerable Instances of our Poets writing in this beautiful Figure.  It is plain that these I have mentioned, in which Persons of an imaginary Nature are introduced, are such short Allegories as are not designed to be taken in the literal Sense, but only to convey particular Circumstances to the Reader after an unusual and entertaining Manner.  But when such Persons are introduced as principal Actors, and engaged in a Series of Adventures, they take too much upon them, and are by no means proper for an Heroick Poem, which ought to appear credible in its principal Parts.  I cannot forbear therefore thinking that Sin and Death are as improper Agents in a Work of this nature, as Strength and Necessity in one of the Tragedies of Eschylus, who represented those two Persons nailing down Prometheus to a Rock, [5] for which he has been justly censured by the greatest Criticks.  I do not know any imaginary Person made use of in a more sublime manner of thinking than that in one of the Prophets, who describing God as descending from Heaven, and visiting the Sins of Mankind, adds that dreadful Circumstance, Before him went the Pestilence. [6] It is certain this imaginary Person might have been described in all her purple Spots.  The Fever might have marched before her, Pain might have stood at her right Hand, Phrenzy on her Left, and Death in her Rear.  She might have been introduced as gliding down from the Tail of a Comet, or darted upon the Earth in a Flash of Lightning:  She might have tainted the Atmosphere with her Breath; the very glaring of her Eyes might have scattered Infection.  But I believe every Reader will think, that in such sublime Writings the mentioning of her as it is done in Scripture, has something in it more just, as well as great, than all that the most fanciful Poet could have bestowed upon her in the Richness of his Imagination.


[Footnote 1: 

  Reddere personae scit convenientia cuique.


[Footnote 2:  Revelation vi. 8.]

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The Spectator, Volume 2. from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.