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no common kind, was necessary, to enable a young Maiden at once to assume the profession of arms, to lead her troops to battle, to fight among the foremost, and to subdue with an inferiour force an enemy then believed invincible. It is not possible that one who felt herself the puppet of a party, could have performed these things. The artifices of a court could not have persuaded her that she discovered Charles in disguise ; nor could they have prompted her to demand the sword which they might have hidden, without discovering the deceit. The Maid then was not knowingly an impostor ; nor could she have been the instrument of the court; and to say that she believed herself inspired, will neither account for her singling out the King, or prophetically claiming the sword. After crowning Charles, she declared that her mission was accomplished, and demanded leave to retire. Enthusiasm would not have ceased
here; and if they who imposed on her, could persuade her still to go with their armies, they could still have continued her delusion.
This mysteriousness renders the story of Joan of Arc peculiarly fit for poetry. The aid of Angels and Devils is not necessary to raise her above mankind; she has no Gods to lackey her, and inspire her with courage, and heal her wounds: the Maid of Orleans acts wholly from the workings of her own mind, from the deep feeling of inspiration. The palpable agency of superior powers would destroy the obscurity of her character, and sink her to the mere heroine of a Fairy Tale.
The alterations which I have made in the history, are few and trifling. The death of Salisbury is placed later, and of the Talbots earlier than they occurred. As the battle of Patay is the concluding action of the Poem, I have given it all the previous solemnity of a
settled engagement. Whatever appears miraculous, is historically true: and my authorities will be found in the notes.
It is the common fault of Epic Poems, that we feel little interest for the heroes they celebrate. The national vanity of a Greek or a Roman might have been gratified by the renown of Achilles or Æneas ; but to engage the unprejudiced, there must be more of human feelings than is generally to be found in the character of a warrior. From this objection, the Odyssey alone may be excepted. Ulysses appears as the father and the husband, and the affections are enlisted on his side. The judgment must applaud the well-digested plan and splendid execution of the Iliad, but the heart always bears testimony to the merit of the Odyssey : it is the poem of nature, and its personages inspire love rather than command admiration. The good herdsman Eumæus is worth a thousand heroes !
Homer is, indeed, the best of Poets, for he is at once dignified and simple ; but Pope has disguised him in fop-finery, and Cowper has stripped him naked.
There are few readers who do not prefer Turnus to Æneas; a fugitive, suspected of treason, who negligently left his wife, seduced Dido, deserted her, and then forcibly took Lavinia from her betrothed husband. What avails a man's piety to the Gods, if in all his dealings with men he prove himself a villain ? If we represent Deity as commanding a bad action, this is not exculpating the man, but criminating the God.
The ill chosen subjects of Lucan and Statius have prevented them from acquiring the popularity they would otherwise have merited; yet in detached parts, the former of these is perhaps unequalled, certainly unexcelled. The French Court honoured the Poet of Liberty, by excluding
him from the edition in Usum Delphini ; perhaps, for the same reason, he may hereafter be published in Usum Reipublicæ. I do not scruple to prefer Statius to Virgil; with inferiour taste, he
appears to me to possess a richer and more powerful imagination ; his images are strongly conceived, and clearly painted, and the force of his language, while it makes the reader feel, proves that the author felt himself.
The power of Story is strikingly exemplified in the Italian Heroic Poets, They please universally, even in translations, when little but the story remains. In the proportioning his characters, Tasso has erred: Godfrey is the hero of the poem, Rinaldo of the poet, and Tancred of the reader. Secondary characters should not be introduced, like Gyas and Cloanthus, merely to fill a procession ; neither should they be so prominent as to throw the principal into shade.