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* vein never happily flowed but from the “ Autumnal Equinox to the Vernal; and " that whatever he attempted at other times " was never to his satisfaction, though he “ courted his fancy never so much ; so that, " in all the years he was about this poem, he
may be said to have spent half his time 66 therein.”
Upon this relation Toland remarks, that in his opinion Philips has mistaken the time of the year; for Milton, in his Elegies, declares that with the advance of the Spring he feels the increase of his poetical force, redeunt in carmina vires. To this it is answered, that Philips could hardly mistake time so well marked; and it may be added, that Milton might find different times of the year favourable to different parts of life. 'Mr. Richardson conceives it impossible that such a work should be suspended for six months, or for
may go on faster or power, but it musi go on. By what necessity it must continually go on, or why it might not be laid aside and resumed, it is not easy to discover.
This dependance of the foul upon the seas fons, those temporary and periodical ebbs and flows of intellect, may, I suppose, justly be derided as the fumes of vain imagination. Sapiens dominabitur airis. The author that thinks himself weather-bound will find, with a little help from hellebore, that he is only idis or exhausted. But while this notion has poffeflion of the head, it produces the inability which it fuppofcs. Our powers owe much of their energy to our hopes; posunt quia pelle rilentur. When success seems attainable, diligence is enforced; but when it is admitted that the faculties are suppressed by a cross wind, or a cloudy sky, the day is given up without resistance ; for who can contend with the course of Nature?
From such prepossessions Milton seems not to have been free. There prevailed in his time an opinion that the world was in its decay, and that we have had the misfortune to be produced in the decrepitude of Nature. It was suspected that the whole creation languished, that neither trees nor animals had the height or bulk of their predecessors, and that
every thing was daily sinking by gradual diminution * Milton appears to suspect that souls partake of the general degeneracy, and is not without some fear that his book is to be written in an age too late for heroick poesy.
Another opinion wanders about the world, and sometimes finds reception among
wise men; an opinion that restrains the operations of the mind to particular regions, and supposes that a luckless mortal may be born in a degree of latitude too high or too low for wisdom or for wit. From this fancy, wild as it is, he had not wholly cleared his head, when he feared left the climate of his country might be too cold for flights of imagination.
* This opinion is, with great learning and ingenuity, refuted in a book now very little known, “ An Apology or 56 Declaration of the Power and Providence of God in the " Government of the World,” by Dr. George Hakevill, London, folio, 1635. The first who ventured to propagate it in this country was Dr. Gabriel Goodman, bishop of Gloucester, a man of a versatile temper, and the author of a book entituled, “The Fall of Man, or the Corruption “ of Nature proved by natural Reason." Lond. 1616 and 1624, quarto. He was plundered in the Ufurpation, turned Roman Catholic, and died in obfcurity Vide Athen. Oxon, vol. I. 727. H.
Into a mind already occupied by such fancies, another not more reasonable might easily find its way. He that could fear left his genius had fallen upon too old a world, or too chill a climate, might consistently magnify to himself the influence of the seasons, and believe his faculties to be vigorous only
half the year.
His submission to the seasons was at least more reasonable than his dread of decaying nature, or a frigid zone; for general causes must operate uniforınly in a general abatement of mental power; if less could be performed by the writer, less likewise would content the judges of his work. Among this lagging race of frosty grovellers he might still have risen into eminence by producing something which they should not willingly. let die. However inferior to the heroes who were born in better ages, he might still be great among his contemporaries, with the hope of growing every day greater in the dwindle of pofterity. He might still be a giant among the pygmies, the one-eyed monarch of the blind.
Of his artifices of study, or particular hours of composition, we have litele accounts and there was perhaps little to be told. Richardson, who seems to have been very diligent in his enquiries, but discovers always a wish to find Milton discriminated from other men, relates, that “ he would fome. “ times lie awake whole nights, but not a verse " could he make; and on a sudden his poeti« cal faculty would rush upon him with an " iinpetus or æftrum, and his daughter was
immediately called to secure what came. " At other times he would dictate perhaps
forty lines in a breath, and then reduce " them to half the number.”
These bursts of light, and involutions of darkness, these transient and involuntary excursions and retroceflions of invention, hav. ing somë appearance of deviation from the common train of Nature, are eagerly caughe by the lovers of a wonder. Yet something of this inequality happers to every man ini every mode of exertion, manual or mental. The mechanick cannot handle his hammer and his file at all times with equal dexterity;