"There is [a Comparison] of great Beauty in Virgil, upon a Subject very like this, where he compares his Hero's Mind, agitated with a great Variety and quick Succession of Thoughts, to a dancing Light reflected from a Vessel of Water in Motion."
— Pope, Alexander (1688-1744)
(His valiant Offspring) hasten'd to the Field;
(That Day, the Son his Father's Buckler bore)
Then snatch'd a Lance, and issu'd from the Door.
Soon as the Prospect open'd to his View,
His wounded Eyes the Scene of Sorrow knew;
Dire Disarray! the Tumult of the Fight,
The Wall in Ruins, and the Greeks in Flight.
As when old Ocean's silent Surface sleeps,
The Waves just heaving on the purple Deeps;
While yet th'expected Tempest hangs on high,
Weighs down the Cloud, and blackens in the Sky,
The Mass of Waters will no Wind obey;
Jove sends one Gust, and bids them roll away.
While wav'ring Counsels thus his Mind engage,
Fluctuates, in doubtful Thought, the Pylian Sage;
To join the Host, or to the Gen'ral haste,
Debating long, he fixes on the last:
Yet, as he moves, the Fight his Bosom warms;
The Field rings dreadful with the Clang of Arms;
The gleaming Faulchions flash, the Javelins fly;
Blows echo Blows, and all, or kill, or die.
Verse 21. As when old Ocean's silent Surface sleeps. ]
There are no where more finish'd Pictures of Nature, than those which Homer draws in several of his Comparisons. The Beauty however of some of these will be lost to many, who cannot perceive the Resemblance, having never had Opportunity to observe the things themselves. The Life of this Description will be most sensible to those who have been at Sea in a Calm: In this Condition the Water is not entirely motionless, but swells gently in smooth Waves, which fluctuate backwards and forwards in a kind of balancing Motion: This State continues till a rising Wind gives a Determination to the Waves, and rolls 'em one certain way. There is scarce any thing in the whole Compass of Nature that can more exactly represent the State of an irresolute Mind, wavering between two different Designs, sometimes inclining to the one, sometimes to the other, and then moving to the Point to which its Resolution is at last determin'd. Every Circumstance of this Comparison is both beautiful and just; and it is the more to be admir'd, because it is very difficult to find sensible Images proper to represent the Motions of the Mind; wherefore we but rarely meet with such Comparisons even in the best Poets. There is one of great Beauty in Virgil, upon a Subject very like this, where he compares his Hero's Mind, agitated with a great Variety and quick Succession of Thoughts, to a dancing Light reflected from a Vessel of Water in Motion.
Cuncta videns, magno curarum fluctuat æstu ,
Atque animum, nunc huc, celerem, nunc dividit illuc ,
In partesq; rapit varias, perque omnia versat.
Sicut aquæ tremulum labris ubi lumen ahenis
Sole repercussum, aut radiantis imagine lunæ ,
Omnia pervolitat latè loca; jamque sub auras
Erigitur, summique ferit laquearia tecti.
Æn. l. 8. V. 19.
See The Iliad of Homer, Translated by Mr. Pope, 6 vols. (London: Printed by W. Bowyer, for Bernard Lintott, 1715-1720). <Link to ESTC><Link to Vol. I in ECCO-TCP><Vol. II><Vol. III><Vol. IV><Vol. V><Vol. VI>