took assistants in another, it was complain’d of and represented as a great injury to the publick. k.The London and Mist’s Journals, on his Undertaking of the Odyssey. The loftiest Heroicks, the lowest ballads, treatises against the state or church, satyr on lords and ladies, raillery on wits and authors, squabbles with booksellers, or even full and true accounts of monsters, poysons, and murders: of any hereof was there nothing so good, nothing so bad, which hath not at one or other season been to him ascribed. If it bore no author’s name, then lay he concealed; if it did, he father’d it on that author to be yet better concealed. If it resembled any of his styles, then was it evident; if it did not, then disguis’d he it on set purpose. Yea, even direct oppositions in religion, principles, and politicks, have equally been supposed in him inherent. Surely a most rare and singular character! of which let the reader make what he can.
Doubtless most Commentators would hence take occasion to turn all to their author’s advantage; and from the testimony of his very enemies wou’d affirm, That his Capacity was boundless, as well as his Imagination; that he was a perfect master of all Styles, and all Arguments; And that there was in those times no other Writer, in any kind, of any degree of excellence save he himself. But as this is not our own sentiment, we shall determine on nothing; but leave thee, gentle reader! to steer thy judgment equally between various opinions, and to chuse whether thou wilt incline to the Testimonies of Authors known, or of Authors unknown? of those who knew him, or of those who knew him not?
of the Poem.
THIS Poem, as it celebrateth the most grave and antient of things, Chaos, Night and Dulness, so is it of the most grave and antient kind. Homer (saith Aristotle) was the first who gave the Form, and (saith Horace) who adapted the Measure, to heroic poesy. But even before this, may be rationally presumed from what the antients have left written, was a piece by Homer composed, of like nature and matter with this of our Poet. For of Epic sort it appeareth to have been, yet of matter surely not unpleasant, witness what is reported of it by the learned Archbishop Eustathius, in Odyss. k. And accordingly Aristotle in his poetic, chap. 4. doth further set forth, that as the Iliad and Odyssey gave example to Tragedy, so did this poem to Comedy its first Idaea.
From these authors also it shou’d seem, that the Hero or chief personage of it was no less obscure, and his understanding and sentiments no less quaint and strange (if indeed not more so) than any of the actors in our poem. Margites was the name of this personage,