No. 523. Thursday, October 30, 1712. Addison.

--Nunc augur Apollo, Nunc Lyciæ sortes, nunc et Jove missus ab ipso Interpres Divûm fert horrida jussa per auras. Scilicet is superis labor--'

I am always highly delighted with the discovery of any rising Genius among my Countrymen. For this reason I have read over, with great pleasure, the late Miscellany published by Mr. Pope, [1] in which there are many excellent Compositions of that ingenious Gentleman. I have had a pleasure of the same kind, in perusing a Poem that is just publish'd on the Prospect of Peace, and which, I hope, will meet with such a Reward from its Patrons, as so noble a Performance deserves. I was particularly well pleased to find that the Author had not amused himself with Fables out of the Pagan Theology, and that when he hints at any thing of [this [2]] nature, he alludes to it only as to a Fable.

Many of our Modern Authors, whose Learning very often extends no farther than Ovid's Metamorphosis, do not know how to celebrate a Great Man, without mixing a parcel of School-Boy Tales with the Recital of his Actions. If you read a Poem on a fine Woman, among the Authors of this Class, you shall see that it turns more upon Venus or Helen, that on the Party concerned. I have known a Copy of Verses on a great Hero highly commended; but upon asking to hear some of the beautiful Passages, the Admirer of it has repeated to me a Speech of Apollo, or a Description of Polypheme. At other times when I have search'd for the Actions of a great Man, who gave a Subject to the Writer, I have been entertained with the Exploits of a River-God, or have been forced to attend a Fury in her mischievous Progress, from one end of the Poem to the other. When we are at School it is necessary for us to be acquainted with the System of Pagan Theology, and may be allowed to enliven a Theme, or point an Epigram with an Heathen God; but when we would write a manly Panegyrick, that should carry in it all the Colours of Truth, nothing can be more ridiculous than to have recourse to our Jupiters and Junos.

No Thought is beautiful which is not just, and no Thought can be just which is not founded in Truth, or at least in that which passes for such.

In Mock-Heroick Poems, the Use of the Heathen Mythology is not only excusable but graceful, because it is the Design of such Compositions to divert, by adapting the fabulous Machines of the Ancients to low Subjects, and at the same time by ridiculing such kinds of Machinery in modern Writers. If any are of opinion, that there is a Necessity of admitting these Classical Legends into our serious Compositions, in order to give them a more Poetical Turn; I would recommend to their Consideration the Pastorals of Mr. Philips. One would have thought it impossible for this Kind of Poetry to have subsisted without Fawns and Satyrs, Wood Nymphs, and Water Nymphs, with all the Tribe of rural Deities. But we see he has given a new Life, and a more natural Beauty to this way of Writing by substituting in the place of these Antiquated Fables, the superstitious Mythology which prevails among the Shepherds of our own Country.

Virgil and Homer might compliment their Heroes, by interweaving the Actions of Deities with their Atchievements; but for a Christian Author to write in the Pagan Creed, to make Prince Eugene a Favourite of Mars, or to carry on a Correspondence between Bellona and the Marshal de Villars, would be downright Puerility, and unpardonable in a Poet that is past Sixteen. It is want of sufficient Elevation in a Genius to describe Realities, and place them in a shining Light, that makes him have recourse to such trifling antiquated Fables; as a Man may write a fine Description of Bacchus or Apollo, that does not know how to draw the Character of any of his Contemporaries.

In order therefore to put a stop to this absurd Practice, I shall publish the following Edict, by virtue of that Spectatorial Authority with which I stand invested.

'Whereas the Time of a General Peace is, in all appearance, drawing near, being inform'd that there are several ingenious Persons who intend to shew their Talents on so happy an Occasion, and being willing, as much as in me lies, to prevent that Effusion of Nonsense, which we have good Cause to apprehend; I do hereby strictly require every Person, who shall write on this Subject, to remember that he is a Christian, and not to Sacrifice his Catechism to his Poetry. In order to it, I do expect of him in the first place, to make his own Poem, without depending upon Phoebus for any part of it, or calling out for Aid upon any one of the Muses by Name. I do likewise positively forbid the sending of Mercury with any particular Message or Dispatch relating to the Peace, and shall by no means suffer Minerva to take upon her the Shape of any Plenipotentiary concerned in this Great Work. I do further declare, that I shall not allow the Destinies to have had an hand in the Deaths of the several thousands who have been slain in the late War, being of opinion that all such Deaths may be very well accounted for by the Christian System of Powder and Ball. I do therefore strictly forbid the Fates to cut the Thread of Man's Life upon any pretence whatsoever, unless it be for the sake of the Rhyme. And whereas I have good Reason to fear, that Neptune will have a great deal of Business on his Hands, in several Poems which we may now suppose are upon the Anvil, I do also prohibit his Appearance, unless it be done in Metaphor, Simile, or any very short Allusion, and that even here he be not permitted to enter, but with great Caution and Circumspection. I desire that the same Rule may be extended to his whole Fraternity of Heathen Gods, it being my design to condemn every Poem to the Flames in which Jupiter Thunders, or exercises any other Act of Authority which does not belong to him: In short, I expect that no Pagan Agent shall be introduc'd, or any Fact related which a Man cannot give Credit to with a good Conscience. Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to several of the Female Poets in this Nation, who shall be still left in full Possession of their Gods and Goddesses, in the same manner as if this Paper had never been written.


[Footnote 1: In this year, 1712, Bernard Lintot, having observed the success of Tonson's volumes of Miscellanies, produced a Miscellany edited by Pope (now 24 years old), and containing the first sketch of his 'Rape of the Lock,' translations from Statius and Ovid, and other pieces. Addison's delight with the discovery of rising genius leads him to dispose in a sentence of 'that ingenious gentleman' who had just published a 'Rape of the Lock,' and proceed to warm praise of his personal friends, Thomas Tickell and Ambrose Philips. In his Poem to his Excellency the Lord Privy Seal on the Prospect of Peace, Tickell invites Strafford to 'One hour, oh! listen while the Muses sing.']

[Footnote 2: [that]]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. iv. 376.
'Now Lycian lots, and now the Delian god,
Now Hermes is employ'd from Jove's abode,
To warn him hence, as if the peaceful state
Of heavenly powers were touch'd with human fate!'