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Both his characters delight in musio ; but he i What deserves more reprehension is, that the seems to think that cheerful notes would have prologue spoken in the wild wood by the attenobtained from Pluto a complete dismission of dant Spirit is addressed to the audience; a Eurydice, of whom solemn sounds only procured mode of communication so contrary to the naa conditional release.
ture of dramatic representation, that no preceFor the old age of Cheerfulness he makes no dents can support it. provision ; but Melancholy be conducts with The discourse of the Spirit is too long; "an obgreat dignity to the close of life. His cheerful-jection that may be made almost all the folness is without levity, and his pensiveness with lowing speeches; they have not the sprightliness out asperity.
of a dialogue animated by reciprocal contention, Through these two poems the images are pro- but seem rather declamations deliberately comperly selected and nicely distinguished ; but the posed, and formally repeated on a moral quescolours of the diction seem not sufficiently dis- tion. The auditor therefore listens as to a criminated. I know not whether characters are lecture, without passion, without anxiety. kept sufficiently apart. No mirth can, indeed, be The song of Comus has airiness and jollity; found in his melancholy ; but I am afraid that but what may recommend Milton's morals as I always meet some melancholy in his mirth. well as his poetry, the invitations to pleasure They are two noble efforts of imagination. * are so general, that they excite no distinct
The greatest of his juvenile performances is images of corrupt enjoyment, and take no danthe mask of “ Comus,” in which may very gerous hold on the fancy. plainly be discovered the dawn or twilight of The following soliloquies of Comus and the “ Paradise Lost." Milton appears to have Lady are elegant, but tedious. The song must formed very early that system of diction, and owe much to the voice if it ever can delight. mode of verse, which his maturer judgment ap- | At last the brothers enter with too much tranproved, and from which he never endeavoured quillity; and, when they have feared lest their nor desired to deviate.
sister should be in danger, and hoped that she is Nor does “ Comus” afford only a specimen not in danger, the elder makes a speech in of his language; it exhibits likewise his power praise of chastity, and the younger finds how of description and his vigour of sentiment, em- fine it is to be a philosopher. ployed in the praise and defence of virtue. A Then descends the Spirit in form of a shep. work more truly poetical is rarely found ; allu- herd; and the brother, instead of being in haste sions, images, and descriptive epithets, embellish to ask his help, praises his singing, and inquires almost every period with lavish decoration. As his business in that place. It is remarkable, a series of lines, therefore, it may be considered that at this interview the brother is taken with as worthy of all the admiration with which the a short fit of rhyming. The Spirit relates that votaries have received it.
the Lady is in the power of Comus; the brother As a drama it is deficient. The action is not moralizes again; and the Spirit makes a long probable. A mask, in those parts where super- narration, of no use because it is false, and natural intervention is admitted, must indeed therefore unsuitable to a good being. be given up to all the freaks of imagination ; In all these parts the language is poetical, and but, so far as the action is merely human, it the sentiments are generous; but there is someought to be reasonable, which can hardly be thing wanting to allure attention. Anid of the conduct of the two brothers; who, The dispute between the Lady and Comus is when their sister sinks with fatigue in a path the most animated and affecting scene of the less wilderness, wander both away together in drama, and wants nothing but a brisker reciprosearch of berries too far to find their way back, cation of objections and replies to invite attenand leave a helpless lady to all the sadness and tion and detain it. danger of solitude. This, however, is a defect The songs are vigorous and full of imagery ; overbalanced by its convenience.
but they are harsh in their diction, and not very musical in their numbers.
Throughout the whole the figures are too * Mr. Warton intimates (and there can be little bold, and the language too luxuriant for dia.. doubt of the truth of his conjecture) that Milton logue. It is a drama in the epic style, inelegantborrowed many of the images in these two fine ly splendid, and tediously instructive. poems from “ Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy,” a The Sonnets' were written in different parts book published in 1621, and at sundry times since, of Milton's life, upon different occasions. They abounding in learning, curious information, and
deserve not any particular criticism; for of the pleasantry. Mr. Warton says, that Milton appears to have been an attentive reader thereof; and to
best it can only be said, that they are not bad ; this assertion I add, of my own knowledge, that
and perhaps only the eighth and the twentyit was a book that Dr. Johnson frequently resorted first are truly entitled to this slender commento, as many others have done, for amusement after dation. The fabric of a sonnet, however adapted the fatigue of study.-H.
to the Italian language, has never succeeded in
ours, which, having greater variety of termina- colony, or the foundation of an empire. His tion, requires the rhymes to be often changed. subject is the fate of worlds, the revolutions of
Those little pieces may be despatched without heaven and of earth ; rebellion against the sumuch anxiety; a greater work calls for greater preme King, raised by the highest order of crecare. I am now to examine “ Paradise Lost;" ated beings; the overthrow of their host, and a poem, which, considered with respect to de- the punishment of their crime; the creation of sign, may claim the first place, and with re- a new race of reasonable creatures, their original spect to performance, the second, among the pro- happiness and innocence, their forfeiture of imductions of the human mind.
mortality, and their restoration to hope and By the general consent of critics, the first peace. praise of genius is due to the writer of an epic Great events can be hastened or retarded only poem, as it requires an assemblage of all the by persons of elevated dignity. Before the powers which are singly sufficient for other com
greatness displayed in Milton's poem, all other positions. Poetry is the art of uniting pleasare greatness shrinks away. The weakest of his with truth, by calling imagination to the help of agents are the highest and noblest of human bereason. Epic poetry undertakes to teach the ings, the original parents of mankind; with most important truths by the most pleasing pre- whose actions the elements consented : on whoso cepts, and therefore relates some great event in rectitude, or deviation of will, depended the the most affecting manner. History must sup- state of terrestrial nature, and the condition of ply the writer with the rudiments of narration, all the future inhabitants of the globe. which he must improve and exalt by a nobler
Of the other agents in the poem, the chief are art, must animate by dramatic energy, and di- such as it is irreverence to name on slight sesaversify by retrospection and anticipation ; mo- sions. The rest were lower powers; rality must teach him the exact bounds, and different shades of vice and virtue; from policy,
of which the least could wield and the practice of life, he has to learn the dis- Those elements, and arm him with the force criminations of character, and the tendency of
Of all their regions ; the passions, either single or combined ; and physiology must supply him with illustrations powers, which only the control of Omnipotence and images. To put these materials to poetical restrains from laying creation waste, and filling use, is required an imagination capable of paint- the vast expanse of space with ruin and confuing nature, and realizing fiction. Nor is he yet sion. To display the motives and actions of bea poet till he has attained the whole extension of ings thus superior, so far as human reason can his language, distinguished all the delicacies of examine them, or human imagination represent phrase, and all the colours of words, and learned them, is the task which this mighty Poet has to adjust their different sounds to all the varie- undertaken and performed. ties of metrical modulation.
In the examination of epic poems, much speBossu is of opinion, that the poet's first work culation is commonly employed upon the chais to find a moral, which his fable is afterwards racters. The characters in the “ Paradise Lost" to illustrate and establish. This seems to have which admit of examination are those of angels been the process only of Milton; the moral of and of man; of angels good and evil; of man other poems is incidental and consequent; in in his innocent and sinful state. Milton's only it is essential and intrinsic. His Among the angels, the virtue of Raphael is purpose was the most useful and the most ardu- mild and placid, of easy condescension and free ous; “ to vindicate the ways of God to man;" communication; that of Michael is regal and to show the reasonableness of religion, and the lofty, and, as may seem, attentive to the dignity necessity of obedience to the Divine law.
of his own nature. Abdiel and Gabriel appear To convey this moral there must be a fable, a occasionally, and act as every incident requires ; narration artfully constructed, so as to excite the solitary fidelity of Abdiel is very amiably curiosity, and surprise expectation. In this part painted. of his work, Milton must be confessed to have Of the evil angels the characters are more diequalled every other poet. He has involved in versified. To Satan, as Addison observes, such his account of the fall of man the events which sentiments are given as suit “ the most exalted preoeded, and those that were to follow it: he and most depraved being.” Milton has been has interwoven the whole system of theology censured by Clarke* for the impiety which with such propriety, that every part appears to sometimes breaks from Satan's mouth ; for there be necessary; and scarcely any recital is wished are thoughts, as he justly remarks, which no obshorter for the sake of quickening the progress servation of character can justify, because no of the main action.
good man would willingly permit them to pass, The subject of an epic poem is naturally an however transiently, through his own mind. event of great importance. That of Milton is not the destruction of a city, the conduct of a * Author of the “ Essay on Study.”-Dr. J.
To make Sutan speak as a rebel, without any could have been accomplished by any other such expressions as might taint the reader's imagination, was indeed one of the great diffi- Of episodes, I think there are only two conculties in Milton's undertaking; and I cannot tained in Raphael's relation of the war in but think that he has extricated himself with heaven, and Michael's prophetic account of the great happiness. There is in Satan's speeches changes to happen in this world. Both are little that can give pain to a pious ear. The lan- closely connected with the great action; one was guage of rebellion cannot be the same with that necessary to Adam as a warning, the other as a of obedience. The malignity of Satan foams in consolatiou. haughtiness and obstinacy: but his expressions To the completeness or integrity of the design, are commonly general, and no otherwise offen- nothing can be objected; it has distinctly and sive than as they are wicked.
clearly what Aristotle requires—a beginning, a The other chiefs of the celestial rebellion are middle, and an end. There is perbaps no poem, very judiciously discriminated in the first and of the same length, from which so little can be second books; and the ferocious character of taken without apparent mutilation. Here are Moloch appears, both in the battle and the coun- no funeral games, nor is there any long descripcil, with exact consistency.
tion of a shield. The short digressions at the To Adam and to Eve are given, during their beginning of the third, seventh, and ninth books, innocence, such sentiments as innocence can gene- might doubtless be spared ; but superfluities so rate and utter. Their love is pure benevolence beautiful who would take away? or who does and mutual veneration; their repasts are with not wish that the author of the “ Iliad” had out luxury, and their diligence without toil. gratified succeeding ages with a little knowledge Their addresses to their Maker have little more of himself? . Perhaps no passages are more frethan the voice of admiration and gratitude. quently or more attentively read than those exFruition left them nothing to ask; and inno-trinsic paragraphs; and, since the end of poetry cence left them nothing to fear.
is pleasure, that cannot be unpoetical with which But with guilt enter distrust and discord, all are pleased. mutual accusation, and stubborn self-defence; The questions, whether the action of the poem they regard each other with alienated minds, be strictly one, whether the poem can be pro and dread their Creator as the avenger of their perly termed heroic, and who is the hero, are transgression. At last they seek shelter in his raised by such readers as draw their principles mercy, soften to repentance, and melt in suppli- of judgment rather from books than from reacation. Both before and after the fall, the su- Milton, though he entitled “ Paradise periority of Adam is diligently sustained. Lost” only a poem, yet calls it himself heroic
Of the probable and the marvellous, two parts song. Dryden petulantly and indecently denies of a vulgar epic poem, which immerge the critic the heroism of Adam, because he was overcome: in deep consideration, the “ Paradise Lost” re- but there is no reason why the hero should not quires little to be said. It contains the history be unfortunate, except established practice, since of a miracle, of creation and redemption; it dis
success and virtue do not go necessarily together. plays the power and the mercy of the Supreme Cato is the hero of Lucan; but Lucan's authoBeing: the probable therefore is marvellous, rity will not be suffered by Quintilian to decide. and the marvellous is probable. The substance However, if success be necessary, Adam's de of the narrative is truth; and, as truth allows ceiver was at last crushed ; Adam was restored no choice, it is like necessity, superior to rule. to his Maker's favour, and therefore may seTo the accidental or adventitious parts, as to curely resume his human rank. every thing human, some slight exceptions may
After the scheme and fabric of the poem, be made; but the main fabric is immoveably must be considered its component parts, the sensupported.
timents and the diction. It is justly remarked by Addison, that this The sentiments, as expressive of manners, or poem has, by the nature of its subject, the ad appropriated to characters, are, for the greater vantage above all others, that it is universally part, unexceptionably just. and perpetually interesting. All mankind will, Splendid passages, containing lessons of mothrough all ages, bear the same relation to Adam rality, or precepts of prudence, occur seldom. and Eve, and must partake of that good and evil Such is the original formation of this poem, that, which extend to themselves.
as it admits no buman manners till the fall, it can Of the machinery, so called from Osòs erò un cevñis, give little assistance to human conduct. Its end by which is meant the occasional interposition is to raise the thoughts above sublunary cares or of supernatural power, another fertile topic of pleasures. Yet the praise of that fortitude, with critical remarks, here is no room to speak, be- which Abdiel maintained his singularity of vircause every thing is done under the immediate tue against the scorn of multitudes, may be acand visible direction of Heaven ; but the rule is commodated to all times ; and Raphael's rema far observed, that no part of the action proof of Adam's curiosity after the planetary
motions, with the answer returned by Adam, 1 his assistance. The garden of Eden brings to may be confidently opposed to any rule of life his mind the vale of Enna, where Proserpine which any poet has delivered.
was gathering flowers. Satan makes his way The thoughts wbich are occasionally called through fighting elements, like Argo between forth in the progress, are such as could only be the Cyanean rocks; or Ulysses, between the produced by an imagination in the highest de- two Sicilian whirlpools, when he shunned Chagree fervid and active, to which materials were rybdis on the larboard. The mythological allusupplied by incessant study and unlimited curi- sions have been justly censured, as not being alosity. The heat of Milton's mind may be said ways used with notice of their vanity; but they to sublimate his learning, to throw off into his contribute variety to the narration, and produce work the spirit of science, unmingled with its an alternate exercise of the memory and the grosser parts.
fancy. He had considered creation in its whole ex- His similes are less numerous, and more vatent, and his descriptions are therefore learned. rious, than those of his predecessors. But he He had accustomed his imagination to unre
does not confine himself within the limits of ri. strained indulgence, and his conceptions there- gorous comparison : his great excellence is amfore were extensive. The characteristic quality plitude; and he expands the adventitious image of his poem is sublimity. He sometimes des beyond the dimensions which the occasion recends to the elegant, but his element is the great. quired. Thus, comparing the shield of Satan to He can occasionally invest himself with grace; the orb of the moon, he crowds the imagination but his natural port is gigantic loftiness. * He with the discovery of the telescope, and all the can please when pleasure is required; but it is wonders which the telescope discovers. his peculiar power to astonish.
Of his moral sentiments it is hardly praise to He seems to have been well acquainted with affirm that they excel those of all other poets ; his own genius, and to know what it was that for this superiority he was indebted to his acNature had bestowed upon him more bounti. quaintance with the sacred writings. The anfully than upon others; the power of displaying cient epic poets, wanting the light of Revelathe vast, illuminating the splendid, enforcing the tion, were very unskilful teachers of virtue ; awful, darkening the gloomy, and aggravating their principal characters may be great, but they the dreadful; he therefore chose a subject on are not amiable. The reader may rise from which too much could not be said, on which he their works with a greater degree of active or might tire his fancy without the censure of ex- passive fortitude, and sometimes of prudence; travagance.
but he will be able to carry away few precepts The appearances of nature, and the occur- of justice, and none of mercy. rences of life, did not satiate his appetite of
From the Italian writers it appears, that the greatness. To paint things as they are, requires advantages of even Christian knowledge may be a minute attention, and employs the memory possessed in vain. Ariosto's pravity is generather than the fancy. Milton's delight was to rally known; and, though the Deliverance of Jesport in the wide regions of possibility; reality rusalem may be considered as a sacred subject, was a scene too narrow for his mind. He sent his the poet has been very sparing of moral instrucfaculties out upon discovery, into worlds where tion. only imagination can travel, and delighted to
In Milton every line breathes sanctity of form new modes of existence, and furnish senti-thought and purity of manners, except when the ment and action to superior beings, to trace the train of the narration requires the introduction counsels of hell, or accompany the choirs of of the rebellious spirits ; and even they are comheaven.
pelled to acknowledge their subjection to God, But he could not be always in other worlds ; in such a manner as excites reverence and conhe must sometimes revisit earth, and tell of firms piety. things visible and known. When he cannot Of human beings there are but two; but raise wonder by the sublimity of his mind, he those two are the parents of mankind, venerable gives delight by its fertility.
before their fall for dignity and innocence, and Whatever be his subject, he never fails to fill amiable after it for repentance and submission. the imagination : but his images and descrip- In the first state their affection is tender withtions of the scenes or operations of Nature do out weakness, and their piety sublime without not seem to be always copied from original form, presumption. When they have sinned, they nor to have the freshness, raciness, and energy show how discord begins in mutual frailty, and of immediate observation. He saw Nature, as how it ought to cease in mutual forbearance; Dryden expresses it, “ through the spectacles of how confidence of the Divine favour is forefeitbooks ;" and on most occasions calls learning to ed by sin, and how hope of pardon may be ob
tained by penitence and prayer. A state of in• Algarotti terms it gigantesca sublimita Miltoni.
nocence we can only conceive, if indeed, in our ing.Dr. J.
present misery, it be possible to conceive it; but: the sentiments and worship proper to a fallen friends : in the redemption of mankind we hope and offending being, we have all to learn, as we to be included; and in the description of heaven have all to practise.
and hell we are surely interested, as we are all The Poet, whatever be done, is always great. to reside hereafter either in the regions of hors Our progenitors, in their first state, conversed ror or of bliss. with angels; even when folly and sin had de- But these truths are too important to be new; graded them, they had not in their humiliation they have been taught to our infancy; they the port of mean suitors; and they rise again to have mingled with our solitary thoughts and reverential regard, when we find that their familiar conversations, and are habitually interprayers were heard.
woven with the whole texture of life. Being As human passions did not enter the world therefore not new, they raise no unaccustomed before the fall, there is in the “ Paradise Lost” emotion in the mind; what we knew before, little opportunity for the pathetic; but what we cannot learn; what is not unexpected, cana little there is has not been lost. That passion not surprise. which is peculiar to rational nature, the anguish Of the ideas suggested by these awful scenes, arising from the consciousness of transgression, from some we recede with reverence, except and the horrors attending the sense of the when stated hours require their association Divine displeasure, are very justly described and from others we shrink with horror, or adand forcibly impressed. But the passions are mit them only as salutary inflictions, as counmoved only on one occasion; sublimity is the terpoises to our interests and passions. Such general and prevailing quality of this poem; images rather obstruct the career of fancy than sublimity variously modified, sometimes de- lincite it. scriptive, sometimes argumentative.
Pleasure and terror are, indeed, the genuine The defects and faults of “ Paradise Lost,” sources of poetry; but poetical pleasure must be for faults and defects every work of man must such as human imagination can at least conhave, it is the business of impartial criticism to ceive; and poetical terror such as human discover. As, in displaying the excellence of strength and fortitude may combat. The good Milton, I have not made long quotations, be- and evil of eternity are too ponderous for the cause of selecting beauties there had been no wings of wit; the mind sinks under them with end, I shall in the same general manner men- passive helplessness, content with calm belief tion that which seems to deserve censure ; for and humble adoration. what Englishman can take delight in transcrib- Known truths, however, may take a different ing passages, which, if they lessen the reputa- appearance, and be conveyed to the mind by a tion of Milton, diminish in some degree the new train of intermediate images. This Milton honour of our country?
has undertaken, and performed with pregnancy The generality of my scheme does not admit and vigour of mind peculiar to himself. Whothe frequent notice of verbal inaccuracies : ever considers the few radical positions which which Bentley, perhaps better skilled in gram- the Scriptures afforded him, will wonder by mar than in poetry, has often found, though he what. energetic operation he expanded them to sometimes made them, and which he imputed such extent, and ramified them to so much to the obtrusions of a reviser, whom the variety, restrained as he was by religious reverAuthor's blindness obliged him to employ; a ence from licentiousness of fiction. supposition rash and groundless, if he thought Here is a full display of the united force of it true; and vile and pernicious, if, as is said, study and genius ; of a great accumulation of he in private allowed it to be false.
materials, with judgment to digest, and fancy The plan of “ Paradise Lost” has this incon- to combine them: Milton was able to select venience, that it comprises neither human ac- from nature, or from story, from ancient fable, tions nor human manners. The man and or from modern science, whatever could illuswoman who act and suffer are in a state which trate or adorn his thoughts. An accumulation no other man or woman can ever know. The of knowledge impregnated his inind, fermented reader finds no transaction in which he can be by study, and exalted by imagination.' engaged; beholds no condition in which he can by It has been therefore said, without an indeany effort of imagination place himself; he has, cent hyperbole, by one of his encomiasts, that in therefore, little natural curiosity or sympathy. reading “ Paradise Lost,” we read a book
We all, indeed, feel the effects of Adam's dis- universal knowledge. obedience; we all sin like Adam, and like him But original deficience cannot be supplied. must all bewail our offences; we have restless The want of human interest is always felt. and insidious enemies in the fallen angels ; and “ Paradise Lost” is one of the books which the in the blessed spirits we have guardians and reader admires and lays down, and forgets to
take up again. None ever wished it longer * But, says Dr. Warton, it bas throughout a refer. than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a ence to human life and actions.--C.
pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, re