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his father, and several others. The poet was sensible he should have ended ill, had he gone no further than the death of these princes, who were the rivals and enemies of Ulysses, because the reader might have looked for some revenge wbich the subjects of these princes might have taken on him who had killed their sovereigns; but this danger over, and the people vanquished and quieted, there was nothing more to be expected. The poem and the action have all their parts, and no more.
But the order of the Odyssey differs from that of the Iliad, in that the poem does not begin with the beginning of the action.
OF THE CAUSES AND BEGINNING OF THE ACTION.
The causes of the action are also what the poet is obliged to give an account of. There are three sorts of causes, the humours, the interests, and the designs of men; and these different causes of an action are likewise often the causes of one another, every man taking up those interests in which his humour engages him, and forming those designs to which his humour and interest incline him. Of all these the poet ought to inform his readers, and render them conspicuous in his principal personages.
Homer has ingeniously begun his Odyssey with the transactions at Ithaca, during the absence of Ulysses. If he had begun with the travels of his hero, he would scarce have spoken of any one else; and a man might have read a great deal of the poem, without conceiving the least idea of Telemachus, Penelope, or her suitors, who had so great a share in the action; but in the beginning he has pitched upon, besides these personages whom he discovers, he represents Ulysses in his full length; and from the very first opening one sees the interest which the gods take in the action.
The skill and care of the same poet may be seen likewise in introducing his personages in the first book of his Iliad, where he discovers the humours, the interests, and the designs of Agamemnon, Achilles, Hector, Ulysses, and several others, and even of the deities. And in his second, he makes a review of the Grecian and Trojan armies; which is full evidence, that all we have here said is very necessary.
OF THE MIDDLE OR INTRIGUE OF THE ACTION.
As these causes are the beginning of the action, the opposite designs against that of the hero are the middle of it, and form that difficulty, or intrigue, which makes up the greatest part of the poem; the solution or unraveling commences when the reader begins to see that difficulty removed, and the doubts cleared up. Homer has divided each of his poems into two parts, and bas put a particular intrigue, and the solution of it, into each part.
The first part of the Iliad is the anger of Achilles, who is for revenging himself upon Agamemnon by the means of Hector and the Trojans. The intrigue comprehends the three days' fight which happened in the absence of Achilles: and it consists on one side in the resistance of Agamemnon and the Grecians, and on the other in the revengeful and inexorable humour of Achilles, which would not suffer him to be reconciled. The loss of the Grecians, and the despair of Agamemnon, prepare for a solution by the satisfaction which the incensed hero received from it. The death of Patroclus, joined to the offers of Agamemnon, which of themselves had proved ineffectual, remove this difficulty, and make the unraveling of the first part.
This death is likewise the beginning of the second part; since it puts Achilles upon the design of re
venging himself on Hector. But the design of Hector is opposite to that of Achilles: this Trojan is valiant, and resolved to stand on his own defence. This valour and resolution of Hector are on his part the cause of the intrigue, All the endeavours Achilles used to meet with Hector, and be the death of him; and the contrary endeavours of the Trojan to keep out of his reach, and defend himself, are the intrigue; which comprehends the battle of the last day. The unraveling begins at the death of Hector; and besides that, it contains the insulting of Achilles over his body, the honours he paid to Patroclus, and the entreaties of king Priam. The regrets of this king, and the other Trojans, in the sorrowful obsequies they paid to Hector's body, end the unraveling; they justify the satisfaction of Achilles, and demonstrate his tranquillity.
The first part of the Odyssey is the return of Ulysses into Ithaca. Neptune opposed it by raising tempests, and this makes the intrigue. The unraveling is the arrival of Ulysses upon his own island, where Neptune could offer him no further injury. The second part is the reinstating this hero in his own government. The princes, that are his rivals, oppose him, and this is a fresh intrigue: the solution of it begins at their deaths and is completed as soon as the Ithacans were appeased.
These two parts in the Odyssey have not one common intrigue. The anger of Achilles forms both the intrigues in the Iliad; and it is so far the matter of this epopea, that the very beginning and end of this poem depend on the beginning and end of this anger. But let the desire Achilles had to revenge himself, and the desire Ulysses had to return to his own country, be never so near allied, yet we cannot place them under one and the same notion: for that desire of Ulysses is not a passion that begins and ends in the poem with the action; it is a natural habit: nor does the poet propose it for his subject, as he does the anger of Achilles.
We have already observed what is meant by the intrigue, and the unraveling thereof; let us now say something of the manner of forming both. These two should arise naturally out of the very essence and subject of the poem, and are to be deduced from thence. Their conduct is so exact and natural, that it seems as if their action had presented them with whatever they inserted, without putting themselves to the trouble of a further inquiry.
What is more usual and natural to warriors, than anger, heat, passion, and impatience of bearing the least affront or disrespect? This is what forms the intrigue of the Iliad; and every thing we read there is nothing else but the effect of this humour and these passions.
What more natural and usual obstacle to those who take voyages, than the sea, the winds, and the storms? Homer makes this the intrigue of the first part of the Odyssey: and for the second, he makes use of almost the infallible effect of the long absence of a master, whose return is quite despaired of, viz. the insolence of his servants and neighbours, the danger of his son and wife, and the sequestration of his estate. Besides, an absence of almost twenty years, and the insupportable fatigues joined to the age of which Ulysses then was, might induce him to believe that he should not be owned by those who thought him dead, and whose interest it was to have him really so. Therefore, if he had presently declared who he was, and had called himself Ulysses, they would easily have destroyed him as an impostor, before he had an opportunity to make himself known.
There could be nothing more patural nor more necessary than this ingenious disguise, to which the advantages his enemies had taken of bis absence had reduced bim, and to which his long misfortunes had inured him. This allowed bim an opportunity, without hazarding any thing, of taking the best measures he could, against those persons who could not so much as mistrust any harm from him, This way was afforded him, by the very nature of his action, to execute his designs, and overcome the obstacles it cast before him. And it is this contest between the prudenee and the dissimulation of a single man on one hand, and the ungovernable insolence of so many rivals on the other, which constitutes the intrigue of the second part of the Odyssey.
OF THE END OR UNRAVELING OF THE ACTION. If the plot or intrigue must be natural, and such as springs from the subject, as has been already urged, then the winding-up of the plot, by a more sure claim, must have this qualification, and be a probable consequence of all that went before. As this is what the readers regard more than the rest, so should the poet be more exact in it. This is the end of the poem, and the last impression that is to be stamped upon them.
We shall find this in the Odyssey. Ulysses by a tempest is cast upon the island of the Phæacians, to whom he discovers himself, and desires they would favour his return to his own country, which was not very far distant. One cannot see any reason why the king of this island should refuse such a reasonable request to a hero whom he seemed to bave in great esteem. The Phæacians indeed bad heard him tell the story of his adventures; and in this fabulous recital consisted all the advantage that he could derive from his presence; for the art of war which they admired in him, his undauntedness under dangers,