« PreviousContinue »
invention next to boundless. But the praise of judgment is, in my opinion, no less due to Homer than that of invention. His story is all along conducted with great art. He rises upon us gradually; his heroes are brought out, one after another, to be objects of our attention. The distress thickens as the poem advances; and every thing is so contrived, as to aggrandize Achilles, and to render him, as the poet intended he should be, the capital figure.
But that wherein Homer excels all writers, is the characteristical part. Here he is without a rival. His lively and spirited exhibition of characters is, in a great measure, owing to his being so dramatic a writer, abounding everywhere with dialogue and conversation. There is much more dialogue in Homer than in Virgil; or, indeed, than in any other poet.
27.-ON THE ODYSSEY OF HOMER.
My observations, hitherto, have been made upon the Iliad only. It is necessary to take some notice of the Odyssey also. Longinus's criticism upon it is not without foundation, that Homer may, in this poem, be compared to the setting sun, whose grandeur still remains, without the heat of his meridian beams. It wants the vigour and sublimity of the Iliad; yet, at the same time, possesses so many beauties, as to be justly entitled to high praise. It is a very amusing poem, and has much greater variety than the Iliad; it contains many interesting stories and beautiful descriptions. We see everywhere the same descriptive and dramatic genius, and the same fertility of invention, that appears in the other work. It descends indeed from the dignity of gods, and heroes, and warlike achievements; but, in recompense, we have more pleasing pictures of ancient manners. Instead of that ferocity which reigns in the Iliad, the Odyssey presents us with the most amiable images of hospitality and humanity; entertains us with many a wonderful adventure, and many a landscape of nature; and instructs us by a constant vein of morality and virtue, which runs through
28.-ON THE BEAUTIES OF VIRGIL. VIRGIL possesses beauties which have justly drawn the admiration of ages, and which, to this day, hold the balance in equilibrium between his fame and that of Homer. The principal and distinguishing excellency of Virgil, and which, in my opinion, he possesses beyond all poets, is tenderness. Nature had endowed him with exquisite sensibility; he felt every affecting circumstance in the scenes he describes; and, by a single stroke, he knows how to reach the heart. This, in an epic poem, is the merit next to sublimity; and puts it in an author's power to render his composition extremely interesting to all readers.
The chief beauty, of this kind, in the Iliad, is the interview of Hector with Andromache. But, in the Æneid, there are many such. The second book is one of the greatest masterpieces that ever was executed by any hand; and Virgil seems to have put forth there the whole strength of his genius, as the subject afforded a variety of scenes, both of the awful and tender kind. The images of horror, presented by a city burned and sacked in the night, are finely mixed with pathetic and affecting incidents. Nothing, in any poet, is more beautifully described than the death of old Priam; and the family-pieces of Æneas, Anchises, and Creusa, are as tender as can be conceived. In many passages of the Æneid the same pathetic spirit shines; and they have been always the favourite passages in that work. The fourth book, for instance, relating the unhappy passion and death of Dido, has been always most justly admired, and abounds with beauties of the highest kind. The interview of Æneas with Andromache and Helenus, in the third book; the episodes of Pallas and Evander, of Nisus and Euryalus, of Lausus and Mezentius, in the Italian wars, are all striking instances of the poet's power of raising the tender emotions. For we must observe, that though the Æneid be an unequal poem, and, in some places, languid, yet there are beauties scattered through it all; and not a few, even in the last six books. The best and most finished books, upon the whole, are the first, the second, the fourth, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth, and the twelfth.
29.-SIEGE AND CONQUEST OF JERUSALEM BY THE CRUSADERS.
JERUSALEM has derived some reputation from the number and importance of her memorable sieges. It was not till after a long and obstinate contest that Babylon and Rome could prevail against the obstinacy of the people, the craggy ground that might supersede the necessity of fortifications, and the walls and towers that would have fortified the most accessible plain. These obstacles were diminished in the age of the crusades. The bulwarks had been completely destroyed and imperfectly restored : the Jews, their nation, and worship, were for ever banished; but nature is less changeable than man, and the site of Jerusalem, though somewhat softened and somewhat removed, was still strong against the assaults of an enemy. By the experience of a recent siege and a three *years' possession, the Saracens of Egypt had been taught to discern, and in some degree to remedy, the defects of a place which religion as well as honour forbade them to resign. Aladin, or Iftikhar, the caliph's lieutenant, was intrusted with the defence; his policy strove to restrain the native Christians by the dread of their own ruin and that of the holy sepulchre; to animate the Moslems by the assurance of temporal and eternal rewards. His garrison is said to have consisted of forty thousand Turks and Arabians; and, if he could muster twenty thousand of the inhabitants, it must be confessed that the besieged were more numerous than the besieging army. Had the diminished strength and numbers of the Latins allowed them to grasp the whole circumference of four thousand yards (about two English miles and a half), to what useful purpose should they have descended into the valley of Ben Hinnom and torrent of Cedron, or approached the precipices of the south and east, from whence they had nothing either to hope or fear? Their siege was more reasonably directed against the northern and western sides of the city. Godfrey of Bouillon erected his standard on the first swell of Mount Calvary; to the left, as far as St Stephen's gate, the line of attack was continued by Tancred and the two Roberts; and Count Raymond established his quarters from the citadel to the foot of Mount Sion, which was no longer included within the precincts of the city. On the fifth day, the crusaders made a general assault, in the fanatic hope of battering down the walls without engines, and of scaling them without ladders. By the dint of brutal force, they burst the first barrier, but they were driven back with shame and slaughter to the camp; the influence of vision and prophecy was deadened by the too frequent abuse of those pious stratagems; and time and labour were found to be the only means of victory. The time of the siege was indeed fulfilled in forty days, but they were forty days of calamity and anguish. A repetition of the old complaint of famine may be imputed in some degree to the voracious or disorderly appetite of the Franks; but the stony soil of Jerusalem is almost destitute of water; the scanty springs and hasty torrents were dry in the summer season; nor was the thirst of the besiegers relieved, as in the city, by the artificial supply of cisterns and aqueducts. The circumjacent country is equally destitute of trees for the uses of shade or building; but some large beams were discovered in a cave by the crusaders : a wood near Sichem, the enchanted grove of Tasso, was cut down; the necessary timber was transported to the camp by the vigour and dexterity of Tancred; and the engines were framed by some Genoese artists, who had fortunately landed in the harbour of Jaffa. Two movable turrets were constructed at the expense, and in the stations, of the Duke of Lorraine and. the Count of Tholouse, and rolled forwards with devout labour, not to the most accessible, but to the most neglected parts of the fortification. Raymond's Tower was reduced to ashes by the fire of the besieged, but his colleague was more vigilant and successful; the enemies were driven by his archers from the rampart; the drawbridge was let down; and on a Friday, at three in the afternoon, the day and hour of the Passion, Godfrey of Bouillon stood victorious on the walls of Jerusalem. His example was followed on every side by the emulation of valour; and about four hundred and sixty years after the conquest of Omar, the holy city was rescued from the Mahometan yoke. In the pillage of public and private wealth, the adven
turers had agreed to respect the exclusive property of the first occupant, and the spoils of the great mosque, seventy lamps and massy vases of gold and silver, rewarded the diligence and displayed the generosity of Tancred. A bloody sacrifice was offered by his mistaken votaries to the God of the Christians; resistance might provoke, but neither age nor sex could mollify their implacable rage; they indulged themselves three days in a promiscuous massacre, and the infection of the dead bodies produced an epidemical disease. After seventy thousand Moslems had been put to the sword, and the harmless" Jews had been burnt in their synagogue, they could still reserve a multitude of captives, whom interest or lassitude persuaded them to spare. Of these savage heroes of the cross, Tancred alone betrayed some sentiments of compassion; yet we may praise the more selfish lenity of Raymond, who granted a capitulation and safe conduct to the garrison of the citadel. The holy sepulchre was now free, and the bloody victors prepared to accomplish their vow. Bareheaded and barefoot, with contrite hearts, and in an humble posture, they ascended the hill of Calvary, amidst the loud anthems of the clergy; kissed the stone which had covered the Saviour of the world, and bedewed with tears of joy and penitence the monument of their redemption. This union of the fiercest and most tender passions has been variously considered by two philosophers; by the one, as easy and natural; by the other, as absurd and incredible. Perhaps it is too rigorously applied to the same persons and the same hour: the example of the virtuous Godfrey awakened the piety of his companions; while they cleansed their bodies, they purified their minds; nor shall I believe that the most ardent in slaughter and rapine were the foremost in the procession to the holy sepulchre.
Eight days after this memorable event, the Latin chiefs proceeded to the election of a king, to guard and govern their conquests in Palestine. The jealousy and ambition of Raymond were condemned by his own followers, and the free, the just, the unanimous voice of the army proclaimed Godfrey of Bouillon the first and most worthy of the champions of Christendom. His magnanimity accepted a trust as full of danger