« PreviousContinue »
change from the great assembly in Pandemonium. In Eliza, for
No bolder Chief assail'd th' Almighty's Throne;
For bold Attempts in Arms, and glorious War. . .
But these Stygian councils are only one of Blackmore's many borrowings from Milton. In King Arthur there is an account of Satan's flight through chaos to the earth; 2 in Eliza the entire history of his revolt and of the battles in heaven is given, and there are allusions, in other connections, to the use of cannon in the celestial warfare and to the wounds inflicted by "Victorious Michael's Steel"; while in Prince Arthur Christ appears in a triumphal chariot to end the war of the angels, Satan's "faded Splendor and illustrious Scars" and the storm of fire that pursued him to hell are mentioned, there is another description of the Miltonic chaos with an account of the strife between the atoms, a reference to angels' crowns wreathed with gold and amarant, and one to Sin and Death, as well as other borrowings. Furthermore, when Blackmore deals with supernatural characters his diction is decidedly Miltonic. Empyreal, adamant, adamantine, massy, refulgent, cerulean, tartarean, are words that occur frequently, and the use of adjectives in -ean or -ian derived
1 Pages 12-16 passim.
2 Page 150.
3 Pages 205-8, 11, 2.
Pages 5, 8 (cf. King Arthur, 152), 36–7, 43, 47. Note also page 22, where a huge fury suddenly contracts her size, as do the demons in Pandemonium; and page 243, where Satan assumes the appearance of a beautiful young angel. The names of Blackmore's angels are taken from Paradise Lost.
from proper nouns becomes almost a mannerism with him. In one place he has six in seven lines, and he is never long without one. Not only do we have Cyclopian, Herculean, Bolerian, Dobunian, Catuclanian, Ottadenian, Durotrigian, and hundreds more of the same kind, but we meet such unexpected manufactures as Vulcanian, Ætnean, Ithacian, Arragonian, Nassovian (from Nassau), Pightlandian, and Laplandian. Although Blackmore wrote too rapidly and knew too little of Paradise Lost to follow it closely,2 a careful reading of his works would probably reveal a number of verbal borrowings. The few I have noticed are dubious. On the whole, however, when it is remembered that the epics are in rime, that they began to appear only twenty-eight years after the publication of Paradise Lost, and that they are anything but dignified or sublime in style, it will be seen that their debt to Milton is considerable.
The first great protagonist of Paradise Lost was not Addison but the forgotten John Dennis. As the enthusiasm which the poem roused in this sturdy inventor of stage thunder cropped out in all his critical writing, one is not surprised to find it affecting his verse. That it did so he was himself the first to point out; for he explained in the preface to his Court of Death (1695, an irregular ode on the death of Queen Mary), "In the writing these Pindarick Verses, I had still Milton in my Eye, and was resolv'd to imitate him as far as it could be done without receeding from Pindar's manner." The attempt to combine Milton and Pindar as models probably arose from Dennis's desire for sublimity, the quality in poetry that he admired above all others and the one for which he persistently but vainly strove in his own productions. As the style and prosody of Paradise Lost are hardly transferable to a rimed ode, he could borrow only words, phrases, and ideas, but all of these he took. The Court of Death describes a visit to the lower world and to a Stygian assembly much like that held in Pandemonium, over which Death, who shakes "a dreadful Dart," presides. Such expressions as "Empyrean Lyre," "Adamantine Chains," "Silence was ravish'd as she sung," "their formidable King the great Consult began," "the
1 King Arthur, pp. 56-7.
* The invention of cannon, for example, he attributes (Eliza, p. 11) to the celestial angels instead of to Satan's forces.
"The Eternal's Co-eternal Son" (Eliza, p. 4, cf. P. L., iii. 2); the picture of God's throne shining "with excessive Brightness" (Prince Arthur, p. 43, cf. P. L., iii. 380); and the account of filling the sun, originally a "spungy globe," with light,—"The thirsty Orb drinks in the liquid Beams" (ib. 38, cf. P. L., vii. 361–2).
• Section vii.
griesly Terror spoke," "Discord . . . Thro all her thousand Mouths," show the debt to Milton's phrasing.1
"Through the reigns of William and Anne," observes Johnson, "no prosperous event passed undignified by poetry." 2 Dennis had already broken into song on three public occasions, and four others were to arise to call forth his efforts. Between his earlier and his later productions, however, there is one significant difference, - the earlier are pindaric odes, the later are without rime. It is convenient to speak of these last pieces as written in blank verse, although the meter of none of Dennis's work really deserves that name. Like Roscommon, he either disregarded or did not understand the fundamental principles of Milton's prosody, and in consequence most of his lines are nothing but heroic couplets without the rime. It is not improbable, indeed, that one reason for his discarding rime was to save himself trouble. There seems to be nothing Miltonic about his earliest attempt at blank verse, The Monument (1702), in which the death of King William is lamented through sixty pages, or about his last unrimed eulogy, On the Accession of King George (1714). Between these panegyrics came his poems on Blenheim and Ramellies (1704, 1706), which together fill nearly one hundred and seventy pages with bombastic platitude, and recall Dryden's regret over another English victory because of the amount of bad verse it would call forth. In style, language, syntax, and prosody neither of these efforts shows much Miltonic influence, though inversions are frequent, adjectives are occasionally used for adverbs, and some unusual words and borrowed phrases are to be found. Few passages are even so much like Paradise Lost as this:
The French were all of Gallick Troops the Flow'r,
1 Sections ii, vi, ii (cf. P. L., iv. 504, and Comus, 557–60), v (cf. P. L., i. 798), vii (cf. P. L., ii. 704), x (cf. P. L., ii. 967).
2 "Prior," in Lives (ed. Hill), ii. 186.
3 A few of his obvious borrowings from Milton are: "swinging slow with hoarse and sullen Roar" (Blenheim, in Works, 1718, i. 160, cf. Penseroso, 76); "Italia! Ah how fall'n, how chang'd from her, Who" (ib. 176, cf. P. L., i. 84-5); "raise my advent❜rous Song" (ib. 196; cf. P. L., i. 13); "Instruct me, Goddess, for Thou only know'st" (ib. 196, cf. P. L., i. 17-19); "Collected in himself, a while he stood" (Ramellies, ib. 235, cf. P. L., ix. 673); "; 'as a Flock of tim'rous Fowl" (ib. 245, cf. P. L., vi. 856-7); "the midmost Regions of the Air" (ib. 245, 256, cf. P. R., ii. 117); "the stedfast Empyrean" (ib. 255, cf. also 299, and P. L., vi. 833, iii. 57); "Down tow'rds the Earth she wheel'd her airy Flight" (ib. 256, cf. P. L., iii. 739–41). Four lines of Blenheim (ib. 213) are devoted to the praise of Milton.
From long Possession; with their dearest Blood
By long Success presumptuous grown and vain.1
The Battle of Ramillia not only is in blank verse but makes use of the Miltonic machinery. It opens with a council of infernal spirits summoned by Satan to his palace (hung between the moon and the earth) to devise means of thwarting the progress of Goodness and Queen Anne. The long and insulting speech of "Hell's black Tyrant" is roundly answered by Discord, who offers to go to the aid of King Louis; her plan is accepted and the assembly dismissed. This gathering recalls the council in Pandemonium, but is closer to the one described in the second book of Paradise Regained, where the meeting-place is similar. Still more like Milton is the scene in heaven with which Dennis's fourth book opens, for here the Eternal Father calls the attention of the Son to the machinations of the evil one and sends an angel to thwart them.2
It is doubtful whether these poems were ever much read; certainly they are quite unreadable to-day,—dull, tumid, false, lacking in grace and fluency as well as in the Augustan virtues of wit and finish. Yet Dennis was the most extensive writer of blank verse between Milton and Thomson, and, with the exception of Addison, probably did more than any other one man to establish the reputation of Paradise Lost.
The councils of fallen spirits that found favor with Blackmore and Dennis also play an important part in two pieces which were published the same year, 1702, under the same name, The Vision. One of these is in rime till the appearance of Urania, who, casting aside “that false jingling Chime," describes an assembly in Pandemonium of the fallen angels mentioned in Paradise Lost, at which Belial proposes, as he does in Paradise Regained, to ruin man through lust.3 This Vision is anonymous, as the second might about as well be, for the poet's name is given as "M. Smith." The author imagines that he is carried through the Miltonic chaos (where he observes the
1 Blenheim, ib. 190–91.
2 Cf. P. L., iii. 56–415, v. 219–90. The fourth and ninth books of the Gierusalemme Liberata, which Dennis admired, describe scenes in heaven and hell, but his work is not so close to them as to the similar passages in Paradise Lost. Furthermore, his diction when he deals with the supernatural is decidedly Miltonic. Translations from the Gierusalemme into Miltonic blank verse, with inversions not in the original, are introduced into his Grounds of Criticism in Poetry, 1704 (Works, ii. 436, 448-50; and compare the translation from Homer on 453 with P. L., vii. 410–12).
3 Charles Gildon, Examen Miscellaneum (1702), 51 ff., first pagination; cf. P. R., ii. 150 ff. See above, p. 51, n. 1, where an attack on rime is quoted from the same volume.
war of the atoms), past the gates of hell "of nine-fold Adamant" (guarded by Sin, the 'offspring of Satan's brain'), to a great palace where the evil spirits are assembled. After "Silence was bid,"
The awful Monarch from his Seat did rise,
And having roul'd about his Baleful Eyes,
Great Princes, Virtues, Dominations, Pow'rs;
Of Heav'n. Tho great, yet Glorious was our Fall
But more, Ambitious Minds like mine 'twill please
Is it any wonder that Mr. Smith feared he should be called "a
The first Milton enthusiast seems to have been John Philips, who when still a schoolboy liked to sit and read Paradise Lost while his long hair was being combed.3 At Oxford he "studied" his favorite poet "with Application, and trac'd him in all his successful Translations from the Ancients. There was not an Allusion in his Poem, drawn from the Thoughts, or Expressions of HOMER or VIRGIL, which he could not immediately refer to." The fruits of this devotion are to be seen in a parody which was published anonymously in 1701 with the title Imitation of Milton, but which four years later appeared over the author's name as the Splendid Shilling. This short piece quickly became popular and long remained so. By 1720 it had been printed, either by itself or in miscellanies, as many as nine times, and had been lauded in the Tatler by Addison as "the finest burlesque poem in the British language." Later in the century Goldsmith wrote of it, "This is reckoned the best parody of Milton in our language: it has been an hundred times imitated, without success." It was also praised by Cowper and Crabbe, and was twice translated into Latin. This is the beginning:
1 Pages 23-49. The author-who proves to be the Rev. Matthew Smith, a nonconformist minister of Mixenden, Yorkshire - uses such words as "appetency," "adamantine," "lucid," "orient," "refulgent."
2 "To the Reader." A council of devils in William Shippen's rimed Moderation Display'd (1704) may also owe something to Milton.
3 Dict. Nat. Biog.
4 Life [by George Sewell), 1712, p. 3.
' Charles Gildon, New Miscellany of Original Poems (1701), 212–21. The Imitation is also somewhat like Horace's second epode.
6 No. 249, Nov. 11, 1710.
7 Beauties of English Poesy (1767), i. 255.
8 The Task, iii. 455-6; The Borough, xi. 9. The Latin versions are Thomas Tyrwhitt's Splendens Solidus (in his Translations in Verse, Oxford, 1747, the text being