Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice/The Life of Zoilus

4512265Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice — The Life of ZoilusThomas ParnellHomer
Divider from 'Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice' by Thomas Parnell published in 1717
Divider from 'Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice' by Thomas Parnell published in 1717





Divider from 'Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice' by Thomas Parnell published in 1717
Divider from 'Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice' by Thomas Parnell published in 1717

Fleuron from 'Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice' by Thomas Parnell published in 1717
Fleuron from 'Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice' by Thomas Parnell published in 1717





Pendentem volo Zoilum videre.

They who have discours'd concerning the Nature and Extent of Criticism, take Notice, That Editions of Authors, the Interpretations of them, and the Judgment which is pass'd upon each, are the three Branches into which the Art divides itself, But the last of these, that directs in the Choice of Books, and takes Care to prepare us for reading them, is by the learned Bacon call'd the Chair of the Criticks. In this Chair (to carry on the Figure) have sate Aristotle, Demetrius Phalereus, Dionysius Halicarnassensis, Cicero, Horace, Quintillian, and Longinus; all great Names of Antiquity, the Censors of those Ages which went before, and the Directors of those that come after them, with Respect to the natural and perspicuous Manners of Thought and Expression, by which a correct and judicious Genius may be able to write for the Pleasure and Profit of Mankind.

But whatever has been advanc'd by Men really great in themselves, has been also attempted by others of Capacities either unequal to the Undertaking, or which have been corrupted by their Passions, and drawn away into partial Violences: So that we have sometimes seen the Province of Criticism usurp'd, by such who judge with an obscure Diligence, and a certain Dryness of Understanding, incapable of comprehending a figurative Stile, or being mov'd by the Beauties of Imagination; and at other Times by such, whose natural Moroseness in general, or particular Designs of Envy, has render'd them indefatigable against the Reputation of others.

In this last Manner is Zoilus represented to us by Antiquity, and with a Character so abandon'd, that his Name has been since made Use of to brand all succeeding Criticks of his Complexion. He has a Load of Infamy thrown upon him, great, in Proportion to the Fame of Homer, against whom he oppos'd himself: If the one was esteem'd as the very Residence of Wit, the other is describ'd as a Profligate, who wou'd destroy the Temple of Apollo and the Muses, in Order to have his Memory preserv'd by the envious Action. I imagine it may be no ungrateful Undertaking to write some Account of this celebrated Person, from whom so many derive their Character; and I think the Life of a Critick is not unseasonably put before the Works of his Poet, especially when his Censures accompany him. If what he advances be just, he stands here as a Censor; if otherwise, he appears as an Addition to the Poet's Fame, and is placed before him with the Justice of Antiquity in its Sacrifices, when, because such a Beast had offended such a Deity, he was brought annually to l is Altar to be slain upon it.

Zoilus was born at Amphipolis a City of Thrace, during the Time in which the Macedonian Empire flourish'd. Who his Parents were is not certainly known, but if the Appellation of Thracian Slave, which the World apply'd to him, be not meerly an Expression of Contempt, it proves him of mean Extraction. He was a Disciple of one Polycrates a Sophist, who had distinguish'd himself by writing against the great Names of the Ages before him; and who, when he is mention'd as his Master, is said to be particularly famous for a bitter Accusation or Invective against the Memory of Socrates. In this Manner is Zoilus set out to Posterity, like a Plant naturally baneful, and having its Poison render'd more acute and subtile by a Preparation.

In his Person he was tall and meagre, his Complexion was pale, and all the Motions of his Face were sharp. He is represented by Ælian, with a Beard nourish'd to a prodigious Length, and his Head kept close shav'd, to give him a Magisterial Appearance: His Coat hung over his Knees in a slovenly Fashion; his Manners were form'd upon an Aversion to the Customs of the World. He was fond of speaking ill, diligent to sow Dissention, and from the constant Bent of his Thought, had obtain'd that Sort of Readiness for Slander or Reproach, which is esteem'd Wit by the light Opinion of some, who take the Remarks of ill Nature for an Understanding of Mankind, and the abrupt Lashes of Rudeness for the Spirit of Expression. This, at last, grew to such a Heighth in him, that he became careless of concealing it; he threw off all Reserves and Managements in Respect of others, and the Passion so far took the Turn of a Frenzy, that being one Day ask'd, why he spoke ill of every one? "It is (says he) because I am not able to do them Ill, tho' I have so great a Mind to it." Such extravagant Declarations of his general Enmity made Men deal with him as with the Creature he affected to be; they no more spoke of him as belonging to the Species he hated; and from henceforth his learned Speeches or fine Remarks cou'd obtain no other Title for him, but that of The Rhetorical Dog.

While he was in Macedon he employ'd his Time in writing, and reciting what he had written in the Schools of Sophists. His Oratory (says Dionisius Halicarnassensis) was always of the demonstrative Kind, which concerns itself about Praise or Dispraise. His Subjects were the most approv'd Authors, whom he chose to abuse upon the Account of their Reputation; and to whom, without going round the Matter in faint Praises or artificial Insinuations, he us'd to deny their own Characteristicks. With this Gallantry of Opposition did he censure Zenophon for Affectation, Plato for vulgar Notions, and Isocrates for Incorrectness. Demosthenes, in his Opinion, wanted Fire, Aristotle Subtilty, and Aristophanes Humour. But, as to have Reputation was with him a sufficient Cause of Enmity, so to have that Reputation universal, was what wrought his Frenzy to its wildest Degree; for which Reason it was Homer with whom he was most implacably angry. And certainly, if Envy choose its Object for the Power to give Torment, it shou'd here (if ever) have the Glory of fully answering its Intentions; for the Poet was so worship'd by the whole Age, that his Critick had not the common Alleviation of the Opinion of one other Man, to concur in his Condemnation.

Zoilus however went on with indefatigable Industry in a voluminous Work which he entitled, The Ψόγος, or Censure of Homer: 'Till having at last finish'd it, he prepares to send it into the World with a pompous Title at the Head, invented for himself by Way of Excellency, and thus inserted after the Manner of the Ancients.

Zoilus, the Scourge of Homer, writ this against that Lover of Fables.

Thus did he value himself upon a Work, which the World has not thought worth transmitting to us, and but just left a Specimen in five or six Quotations, which happen to be preserv'd by the Commentators of that Poet against whom he writ it. If any One be fond to form a Judgment upon him from these Instances, they are as follows:

Il. 1. He says, Homer is very ridiculous (a Word he was noted to apply to him) when he makes such a God as Apollo employ himself in killing Dogs and Mules.

Il. 5. Homer is very ridiculous in describing Diomedes's Helmet and Armour, as sparkling, and in a Blaze of Fire about him, for then why was he not burn'd by it?

Il. 5. When Idæus quitted his fine Chariot, which was entangl'd in the Fight, and for which he might have been slain, the Poet was a Fool for making him leave his Chariot, he had better have run away in it.

Il. 24. When Achilles makes Priam lie out of his Tent, lest the Greeks shou'd hear of his being there, the Poet had no Breeding, to turn a King out in that Manner.

Od. 9. The Poet says, Ulysses lost an equal Number out of each Ship. The Critick says, that's impossible.

Od. 10. He derides the Men who were turn'd into Swine, and calls them Homer's poor little blubbering Pigs. The first five of these Remarks are found in Didymus, the last in Longinus.

Such as these are the cold Jests and trifling Quarrels, which have been registred from a Composition that (according to the Representation handed down to us) was born in Envy, liv'd a short Life in Contempt, and lies for ever bury'd with Infamy.

But, as his Design was judg'd by himself wonderfully well accomplish'd, Macedon began to be esteem'd a Stage too narrow for his Glory; and Ægypt, which had then taken Learning into its Patronage, the proper Place where it ought to diffuse its Beams, to the Surprize of all whom he wou'd perswade to reckon themselves hitherto in the Dark, and under the Prejudices of a false Admiration. However as he had prepar'd himself for the Journey, he was suddenly diverted for a while by the Rumour of the Olympick Games, which were at that Time to be celebrated. Thither he steer'd his Course full of the Memory of Herodotus, and others who had successfully recited in that large Assembly; and pleas'd to imagine he shou'd alter all Greece in their Notions of Wit before he left it.

Upon his Arrival, he found the Field in its Preparation for Diversion. The Chariots stood for the Race, carv'd and gilded, the Horses were led in costly Trappings, some practis'd to wrestle, some to dart the Spear, (or whatever they design'd to engage at) in a Kind of Flourish beforehand: Others were looking on to amuse themselves; and all gaily dress'd according to the Custom of those Places. Through these did Zoilus move forward, bald-headed, bearded to the Middle, in a long sad-colour'd Vestment, and inflexibly stretching forth his Hands fill'd with Volumns roll'd up to a vast Thickness: a Figure most venerably slovenly! able to demand Attention upon Account of its Oddness. And indeed, he had no sooner fix'd himself upon an Eminence, but a Crowd flock'd about him to know what he intended. Then the Critick casting his Eyes on the Ring, open'd his Volume slowly, as considering with what Part he might most properly entertain his Audience. It happen'd, that the Games at Patroclus's Obsequies came first into his Thought; whether it was that he judg'd it suitable to the Place, or knew that he had fall'n as well upon the Games themselves, as upon Homer for celebrating them, and cou'd not resist his natural Disposition to give Mankind Offence. Every One was now intently fasten'd upon him, while he undertook to prove, that those Games signify'd nothing to the Taking of Troy, and therefore only furnish'd an impertinent Episode: that the Fall of the Lesser Ajax in Cow-dung, the Squabble of the Chariot-Race, and other Accidents which attend such Sports, are mean or trifling: and a World of other Remarks, for which he still affirm'd Homer to be a Fool, and which they that heard him took for study'd Invectives against those Exercises they were then employ'd in. Men who frequent Sports, as they are of a chearful Disposition, so are they Lovers of Poetry: This, together with the Opinion they were affronted, wrought them up to Impatience and further Licenses: There was particularly a young Athenian Gentleman who was to run three Chariots in those Games, who being an Admirer of Homer, cou'd no longer contain himself, but cry'd out, "What in the Name of Castor have we here, Zoilus from Thrace?" and as he said it, struck him with a Chariot-Whip. Immediately then a Hundred Whips were seen curling round his Head; so that his Face, naturally deform'd, and heighten'd by Pain to its utmost Caricatura, appear'd in the Midst of them, as we may fancy the Visage of Envy, if at any Time her Snakes rise in Rebellion to lash their Mistress. Nor was this all the Punishment they decreed him, when once they imagin'd he was Zoilus: The Scyronian Rocks were near 'em, and thither they hurried him with a general Cry, to that speedy Justice which is practis'd at Places of Diversion.

It is here, that, according to Suidas, the Critick expir'd. But we following the more numerous Testimonies of other Authors, conclude he escap'd either by the Lowness of those Rocks whence he was thrust, or by Bushes which might break his Fall; and soon after following the Courses of his first Intention, he set Sail for Ægypt.

Ægypt was at this Time govern'd by Ptolomy Philadelphus, a Prince passionately fond of Learning, and learned Men; particularly an Admirer of Homer to Adoration. He had built the finest Library in the World, and made the choicest, as well as most numerous Collection of Books. No Encouragements were wanting from him to allure Men of the brightest Genius to his Court, and no Time thought too much which he spent in their Company. From hence it is that we hear of Eratosthenes and Aristophanes, those universal Scholars, and candid Judges of other Mens Performances: Callimachus, a Poet of the most easy, courteous Delicacy, famous for a Poem on the Cutting of Berenice's Hair; and whom Ovid so much admired as to say, "It was Reason enough for him to love a Woman, if she wou'd but tell him he exceeded Callimachus;" Theocritus, the most famous in the Pastoral Way of Writing; And among the young Men, Aristarchus and Apollonius Rhodius, the one of whom prov'd a most judicious Critick, the other a Poet of no mean Character.

These and many more fill'd the Court of that munificent Prince, whose liberal Dispensations of Wealth and Favour became Encouragements to every One to exert their Parts to the utmost; like Streams which flow through different Sorts of Soils, and improve each in that for which it was adapted by Nature.

Such was the Court when Zoilus arriv'd; but before he enter'd Alexandria, he spent a Night in the Temple of Isis, to enquire of the Success of his Undertaking; not that he doubted the Worth of his Works, but his late Misfortune had instructed him, that others might be ignorant of it. Having therefore perform'd the accustom'd Sacrifice, and compos'd himself to rest upon the Hide, he had a Vision which foretold of his future Fame.

He found himself sitting under the Shade of a dark Yew, which was cover'd with Hellebore and Hemlock, and near the Mouth of a Cave, where fate a Monster, pale, wasted, surrounded with Snakes, fost'ring a Cockatrice in her Bosom; and cursing the Sun, for making the Work of the Deities appear in its Beauty. The Sight of this bred Fear in him; when she suddenly turning her sunk Eyes, put on a hideous Kind of a loving Grin, in which he discover'd a Resemblance to some of his own Features. Then turning up her Snakes, and interlacing them in the Form of a Turbant to give him less Disgust, she thus address'd herself: "Go on, my Son, in whom I am renew'd, and prosper in thy brave Undertakings on Mankind: Assert their Wit to be Dulness; prove their Sense to be Folly; know Truth only when it is on thy own Side; and acknowledge Learning at no other Time to be useful. Spare not an Author of any Rank or Size; let not thy Tongue or Pen know Pity; make the living feel thy Accusations; make the Ghosts of the dead groan in their Tombs for their violated Fame. But why do I spend Time in needless Advice, which may be better us'd in Encouragement? Let thy Eyes delight themselves with the future Recompence which I have reserv'd for thy Merit." Thus spoke the Monster, and shriek'd the Name of Zoilus: The Shades who were to bear the same Name after him became obedient, and the Mouth of the Cave was fill'd with strange supercilious Countenances, which all crowded to make their Appearance. These began to march before him with an Imitation of his Mien and Manners: Some crown'd with wild Sorrel, others having Leaves of dead Bays mingl'd amongst it; while the Monster still describ'd them as he pass'd, and touch'd each with a livid Track of malignant Light that shot from her Eye, to point where she meant the Description. "They (says she) in the Chaplets of wild Sorrel, are my Writers of Prose, who erect Scandal into Criticism: They who wear the wither'd Bay with it, are such who write Poems, which are professedly to answer all Rules, and be left for Patterns to Men of Genius. These that follow shall attack others, because they are excell'd by them. The next Rank shall make an Author's being read a sufficient Ground of Opposition. Here march my Grammarians skill'd to torture Words; there my Sons of Sophistry, ever ready to wrest a Meaning. Observe how faint the foremost of the Procession appear; and how they are now lost in yonder Mists which roll about the Cave of Oblivion! This shews, it is not for themselves that they are to be known; the World will consider them only as managing a Part of thy Endowments, and so know them by thy Name while they live, that their own shall be lost for ever. But see how my Cave still swarms! how every Age produces Men, upon whom the Preservation of thy Memory devolves. My Darling, the Fates have decreed it! Thou art Zoilus, and Zoilus shall be eternal: Come, my Serpents, applaud him with your Hisses, that is all which now can be done; in modern Times my Sons shall invent louder Instruments, and artificial Imitations, Noises which drown the Voice of Merit, shall furnish a Consort to delight them." Here she arose to clasp him in her Arms, a strange Noise was heard, the Critick started at it, and his Vision forsook him.

It was with some Confusion, that he lay musing a while upon what he had seen; but reflecting, that the Goddess had giv'n him no Answer concerning his Success in Ægypt, he strengthen'd his Heart in his ancient Self-Love and Enmity to others, and took all for an idle Dream born of the Fumes of Indigestion, or produc'd by the dizzy Motion of his Voyage. In this Opinion, he told it at his Departure to the Priest, who admiring the extraordinary Relation, registred it in Hieroglyphicks at Canopus.

The Day when he came to Alexandria was one on which the King had appointed Games to Apollo and the Muses, and Honours and Rewards for such Writers as shou'd appear in them. This he took for a happy Omen at his Entrance, and, not to lose an Opportunity of shewing himself, repair'd immediately to the publick Theatre, where, as if every Thing was to favour him, the very first Accident gave his Spleen a Diversion, which we find at large in the Proem of the seventh Book of Vitruvius. It happen'd that when the Poets had recited, six of the Judges decreed the Prizes with a full Approbation of all the Audience. From this Aristophanes alone dissented, and demanded the first Prize for a Person whose bashful and interrupted Manner of speaking made him appear the most disgustful: For he (says the Judge) is alone a Poet, and all the rest Reciters; and they who are Judges shou'd not approve Thefts, but Writings. To maintain his Assertion, those Volumns were produc'd from whence they had been stoll'n: Upon which the King order'd them to be formally try'd for Theft, and dismiss'd with Infamy; but plac'd Aristophanes over his Library, as One, who had given a Proof of his Knowledge in Books. This Passage Zoilus often afterwards repeated with Pleasure, for the Number of Disgraces which happen'd in it to the Pretenders in Poetry; tho' his Envy made him still careful not to name Aristophanes, but a Judge in general.

However, Criticism had only a short Triumph over Poetry, when he made the next Turn his own, by stepping forward into the Place of reciting. Here he immediately rais'd the Curiosity, and drew the Attention of both King and People: But, as it happen'd, neither the one nor the other lasted; for the first Sentence where he had registred his own Name, satisfied their Curiosity; and the next, where he offer'd to prove to a Court so devoted to Homer, that he was ridiculous in every thing, went near to finish his Audience. He was nevertheless heard quietly for some Time, till the King seeing no End of his Abusing the Prince of Philological Learning, (as Vitruvius words it) departed in Disdain. The Judges follow'd, deriding his Attempt as an Extravagance which cou'd not demand their Gravity; and the People taking a License from the Precedent, hooted him away with Obloquy and Indignation. Thus Zoilus fail'd at his first Appearance, and was forc'd to retire, stung with a most impatient Sense of publick Contempt.

Yet notwithstanding all this, he did not omit his Attendance at Court on the Day following, with a Petition that he might be put upon the Establishment of Learning, and allow'd a Pension. This the King read, but return'd no Answer: So great was the Scorn he conceiv'd against him. But Zoilus still undauntedly renew'd his Petitions, 'till Ptolomy, being weary of his Persecution, gave him a flat Denial. Homer, (says the Prince) who has been dead these Thousand Years, has maintain'd Thousands of People; and Zoilus, who boasts he has more Wit than he, ought not only to maintain himself, but many others also.

His Petitions being thrown carelesly about, were fall'n into the Hands of Men of Wit, whom, according to his Custom, he had provok'd, and whom it is unsafe to provoke if you wou'd live unexpos'd. I can compare them to nothing more properly, than to the Bee, a Creature wing'd and lively, fond to rove through the choicest Flowers of Nature, and blest at home among the Sweets of its own Composition: Not ill-natur'd, yet quick to revenge an Injury; not wearing its Sting out of the Sheath, yet able to wound more sorely than its Appearance wou'd threaten. Now these being made personal Enemies by his malicious Expressions, the Court rung with Petitions of Zoilus transvers'd; new Petitions drawn up for him; Catalogues of his Merits, suppos'd to be collected by himself; his Complaints of Man's Injustice set to a Harp out of Tune, and a Hundred other Sports of Fancy, with which their Epigrams play'd upon him. These were the Ways of Writing which Zoilus hated, because they were not only read, but retain'd easily, by Reason of their Spirit, Humour, and Brevity; and because they not only make the Man a Jest upon whom they are written, but a further Jest, if he attempt to answer them gravely. However, he did what he cou'd in Revenge; he endeavour'd to set those whom he envy'd at Variance among themselves, and invented Lies to promote his Design. He told Eratosthenes, that Callimachus said, his Extent of Learning consisted but in a superficial Knowledge of the Sciences; and whisper'd Callimachus, that Eratosthenes only allow'd him to have an artful habitual Knack of Versifying. He would have made Aristophanes believe, that Theocritus rally'd his Knowledge in Editions as a curious Kind of Triffling; and Theocritus, that Aristophanes derided the rustical Simplicity of his Shepherds. Tho' of all his Stories, that which he most valu'd himself for, was his constant Report, that every one whom he hated was a Friend to Antiochus King of Syria, the Enemy of Ptolomy.

But Malice is unsuccessful when the Character of its Agent is known: They grew more Friends to one another, by imagining, that even what had been said, as well as what had not, was all of Zoilus's Invention; and as he grew more and more the common Jest, their Derision of him became a Kind of Life and Cement to their Conversation.

Contempt, Poverty, and other Misfortunes had now so assaulted him, that even they who abhorr'd his Temper, contributed something to his Support, in common Humanity. Yet still his Envy, like a vitiated Stomach, converted every Kindness to the Nourishment of his Disease; and 'twas the whole Business of his Life to revile Homer, and those by whom he himself subsisted. In this Humour he had Days, which were so given up to impatient Ill-nature, that he cou'd neither write any Thing, nor converse with any One. These he sometimes employ'd in throwing Stones at Children; which was once so unhappily return'd upon him, that he was taken up for dead: And this occasion'd the Report in some Authors, of his being ston'd to Death in Ægypt. Or, sometimes he convey'd himself into the Library, where he blotted the Name of Homer wherever he could meet it, and tore the best Editions of several Volumns; for which the Librarians debarr'd him the Privilege of that Place. These and other Mischiefs made him universally shunn'd; nay, to such an Extravagance was his Character of Envy carry'd, that the more superstitious Ægyptians imagin'd they were fascinated by him, if the Day were darker, or themselves a little heavier than ordinary; some wore Sprigs of Rue, by Way of Prevention; and others, Rings made of the Hoof of a wild Ass for Amulets, lest they shou'd suffer, by his fixing an Eye upon them.

It was now near the Time, when that splendid Temple which Ptolomy built in Honour of Homer, was to be open'd with a solemn Magnificence: For this the Men of Genius were employ'd in finding a proper Pageant. At last, they agreed by one Consent, to have Zoilus, the utter Enemy of Homer, hang'd in Effigie; and the Day being come, it was on this Manner they form'd the Procession. Twelve beautiful Boys, lightly habited in white, with purple Wings representing the Hours, went on the foremost: After these came a Chariot exceeding high and stately, where sate one representing Apollo, with another at his Feet, who in this Pomp sustain'd the Person of Homer: Apollo's Lawrel had little gilded Points, like the Appearance of Rays between its Leaves; Homer'S was bound with a blue Fillet, like that which is worn by the Priests of the Deity: Apollo was distinguish'd by the golden Harp he bore; Homer, by a Volumn, richly beautify'd with Horns of inlaid Ivory, and Tassels of Silver depending from them. Behind these came three Chariots, in which rode nine Damsels, each of them with that Instrument which is proper to each of the Muses; among whom, Calliope, to give her the Honour of the Day, sate in the Middle of the second Chariot, known by her richer Vestments. After these march'd a solemn Train aptly habited, like those Sciences which acknowledge their Rise or Improvement from this Poet. Then the Men of Learning who attended the Court, with Wreaths, and Rods or Scepters of Lawrel, as taking upon themselves the Representation of Rhapsodists, to do Honour, for the Time, to Homer. In the Rear of all was slowly drawn along an odd Carriage, rather than a Chariot, which had its Sides artfully turn'd, and carv'd so as to bear a Resemblance to the Heads of snarling Mastiffs. In this was born, as led in Triumph, a tall Image of Deformity, whose Head was bald, and wound about with Nettles for a Chaplet. The Tongue lay lolling out, to shew a Contempt of Mankind, and was fork'd at the End, to confess its Love to Detraction. The Hands were manacled behind, and the Fingers arm'd with long Nails, to cut deep through the Margins of Authors. Its Vesture was of the Paper of Nilus, bearing inscrib'd upon its Breast in Capital Letters, ZOILUS the HOMERO-MASTIX; and all the rest of it was scrawl'd with various Monsters of that River, as Emblems of those Productions with which that Critick us'd to fill his Papers. When they had reach'd the Temple, where the King and his Court were already plac'd to behold them from its Galleries, the Image of Zoilus was hung upon a Gibbet, there erected for it, with such loud Acclamations as witness'd the Peoples Satisfaction. This being finish'd, the Hours knock'd at the Gates, which flew open, and discover'd the Statue of Homer magnificently seated, with the Pictures of those Cities which contended for his Birth, rang'd in Order around him. Then they who represented the Deities in the Procession, laying aside their Ensigns of Divinity, usher'd in the Men of Learning with a Sound of Voices, and their various Instruments, to assist at a Sacrifice in Honour of Apollo and his Favourite Homer.

It may be easily believ'd, that Zoilus concluded his Affairs were at the utmost Point of Desperation in Ægypt; wherefore, fill'd with Pride, Scorn, Anger, Vexation, Envy, (and whatever cou'd torment him, except the Knowledge of his Unworthiness) he flung himself aboard the first Ship which left that Country. As it happen'd, the Vessel he sail'd in was bound for Asia Minor, and this landing him at a Port the nearest to Smyrna, he was a little pleas'd amidst his Misery to think of decrying Homer in another Place where he was ador'd, and which chiefly pretended to his Birth. So incorrigible was his Disposition, that no Experience taught him any Thing which might contribute to his Ease and Safety.

And as his Experience wrought nothing on him, so neither did the Accidents, which the Opinion of those Times took for ominous Warnings: For, he is reported to have seen the Night he came to Smyrna, a venerable Person, such as Homer is describ'd by Antiquity, threatning him in a Dream; and in the Morning he found a Part of his Works gnaw'd by Mice, which, says Ælian, are of all Beasts the most prophetick; insomuch that they know when to leave a House, even before its Fall is suspected. Envy, which has no Relaxation, still hurry'd him forward, for it is certainly true that a Man has not firmer Resolution from Reason, to stand by a good Principle, than Obstinacy from perverted Nature, to adhere to a bad one.

In the Morning as he walk'd the Street, he observ'd in some Places Inscriptions concerning Homer, which inform'd him where he liv'd, where he had taught School, and several other Particularities which the Smyrneans glory to have recorded of him; all which awaken'd and irritated the Passions of Zoilus. But his Temper was quite overthrown, by the venerable Appearance which he saw, upon entring the Homereum; which is a Building compos'd of a Library, Porch, and Temple erected to Homer. Here a Phrenzy seiz'd him which knew no Bounds; he rav'd violently against the Poet, and all his Admirers; he trampled on his Works, he spurn'd about his Commentators, he tore down his Busts from the Niches, threw the Medals that were cast of him out of the Windows, and passing from one Place to another, beat the aged Priests, and broke down the Altar. The Cries which were occasioned by this Means brought in many upon him; who observ'd with Horror how the most sacred Honours of their City were prophan'd by the frantick Impiety of a Stranger; and immediately dragg'd him to Punishment before their Magistrates, who were then sitting. He was no sooner there, but known for Zoilus by some in Court, a Name a long Time most hateful to Smyrna; which, as it valu'd itself upon the Birth of Homer, so bore more impatiently than other Places, the Abuses offer'd him. This made them eager to propitiate his Shade, and claim to themselves a second Merit by the Death of Zoilus; wherefore they sentenc'd him to suffer by Fire, as the due Reward of his Desecrations; and order'd, that their City shou'd be purify'd by a Lustration, for having entertain'd so impious a Guest. In Pursuance to this Sentence, he was led away, with his Compositions born before him by the publick Executioner: Then was he fasten'd to the Stake, prophesying all the while how many shou'd arise to revenge his Quarrel: particularly, that when Greek shou'd be no more a Language, there shall be a Nation which will both translate Homer into Prose, and contract him in Verse. At last, his Compositions were lighted to set the Pile on Fire, and he expir'd sighing for the Loss of them, more than for the Pain he suffer'd: And perhaps too, because he might foresee in his prophetick Rapture, that there shou'd arise a Poet in another Nation, able to do Homer Justice, and make him known amongst his People to future Ages.

Thus dy'd this noted Critick, of whom we may observe from the Course of the History, that as several Cities contended for the Honour of the Birth of Homer, so several have contended for the Honour of the Death of Zoilus. With him likewise perish'd his great Work on the Iliad, and the Odysses; concerning which we observe also, that as the known Worth of Homer's Poetry makes him survive himself with Glory; so the bare Memory of Zoilus's Criticism makes him survive himself with Infamy. These are deservedly the Consequences of that ill Nature which made him fond of Detraction, that Envy, which made him choose so excellent a Character for its Object, and those partial Methods of Injustice with which he treated the Object he had chosen.

Yet how many commence Criticks after him, upon the same unhappy Principles? How many labour to destroy the Monuments of the dead, and summon up the Great from their Graves to answer for Trifles before them? How many, by Misrepresentations, both hinder the World from favouring Men of Genius, and discourage them in themselves; like Boughs of a baneful and barren Nature, that shoot a-cross a Fruit-Tree; at once to screen the Sun from it, and hinder it by their Droppings from producing any Thing of Value? But if these who thus follow Zoilus, meet not the same Severities of Fate, because they come short of his Indefatigableness, or their Object is not so universally the Concern of Mankind; they shall nevertheless meet a Proportion of it in the inward Trouble they give themselves, and the outward Contempt others fling upon them: A Punishment which every one has hitherto felt, who has really deserv'd to be call'd a Zoilus; and which will always be the natural Reward of such Mens Actions, as long as Zoilus is the proper Name of Envy.

End block from 'Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice' by Thomas Parnell published in 1717
End block from 'Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice' by Thomas Parnell published in 1717