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The lawless magic of Ariosto, and the singular theme, as well as the singular excellence of Milton, render it impossible to deduce any rules of epic poetry from these authors. So likewise with Spenser, the favorite of my childhood, from whose frequent perusal I have always found increased delight.
Against the machinery of Camoens, a heavier charge must be brought than that of profaneness or incongruity. His floating island is but a floating brothel, and no beauty can make atonement for licentiousness. From this accusation, none but a translator would attempt to justify him; but Camoens had the most able of translators. The Lusiad, though excellent in parts, is uninteresting as a whole: it is read with little emotion, and remembered with little pleasure. But it was composed in the anguish of disappointed hopes, in the fatigues of war, and in a country far from all he loved ; and we should
not forget, that as' the Poet of Portugal was among the most unfortunate of men, so he should be ranked among the most respectable. Neither his own country or Spain has yet produced his equal : his heart was broken by calamity, but the spirit of integrity and independence never forsook Camoens.
I have endeavoured to avoid what appears to me the common fault of Epic poems, and to render the Maid of Orleans interesting. With this intent I have given her, not the passion of love, but the remembrance of subdued affection, a lingering of human feelings not inconsistent with the enthusiasm and holiness of her character.
The multitude of obscure Epic writers copy with the most gross servility their ancient models. If a tempest occurs, some envious spirit procures it from the God of the winds or the God of the sea : is there a town besieged ? the eyes of the
hero are opened, and he beholds the Powers of Heaven assisting in the attack; an angel is at hand to heal his wounds, and the leader of the enemy in his last combat is seized with the
sudden cowardice of Hector. Even Tasso is
too often an imitator. But notwithstanding the censure of a satyrist, the name of Tasso will still be ranked among the best heroic poets. Perhaps Boileau only condemned him for the sake of an antithesis ; it is with such writers, as with those who affect point in their conversation, they will always sacrifice truth to the gratification of their vanity.
I have avoided what seems useless and wearying in other poems, and my readers will find no descriptions of armour, no muster-rolls, no geographical catalogues, lion, tyger, bull, bear and boar similies; Phæbuses and Auroras. Where in battle I have particularized the death of an individual, it is not I hope like the common lists
of killed and wounded ; my intention has been to impress upon the reader's mind a feeling of the private wretchedness occasioned by the warsystems of Europe.
It has been established as a necessary rule for the Epic, that the subject be national. To this rule I have acted in direct opposition, and chosen for the subject of my poem the defeat of the English. If among my readers there be one who can wish success to an unjust cause, because his country supported it, I desire not that man's approbation.
In Millin's National Antiquities of France, I find that M. Laverdy was in 1791 occupied in collecting whatever has been written concerning the Maid of Orleans. I have anxiously expected his work, but it is probable, considering the tumults of the intervening period, that it has not been accomplished. Of the various productions to the memory of Joan of Arc, I
have only collected a few titles, and if report may be trusted, need not fear a heavier condemnation than to be deemed equally bad. A regular Canon of St. Euverte has written un tres mauvaise poeme, entitled the Modern Amazon. There is a prose tragedy called La Pucelle d'Orleans, variously attributed to Benserade, to Boyer, and to Menardiere. The Abbe Daubignac published a prose tragedy with the same title in 1642., There is one under the name of Jean Baruel of 1581, and another printed anonymously at Rouen 1606. Among the manuscripts of the Queen of Sweden in the Vatican, is a dramatic piece in verse called Le Mystere du Siege d'Orleans. In these modern times, says Millin, all Paris has run to the theatre of Nicolet to see a pantomine entitled le fameux siege de la Pucelle d'Orleans.
But among the number of worthless poems upon this subject, there are two unfortunately notorious. I have never been guilty of reading