صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

mer.

time those who have treated this tween other persons. Adam and great poet with candor, have attri- Eve before the fall, are a different buted this defect to the times in species from that of mankind, who which he lived. It was the fault are descended from them; and of the age, and not of Homer, if none but a poet of the most unthere wants that delicacy in some bounded invention, and the most of his sentiments, which now ap- exquisite judgment, could have filpears in the works of men of a led their conversation and behamuch inferior genius. Besides, if viour with so many apt circumthere are blemishes in any particu- ftances during their state of innolar thoughts, there is an infinite çence. beauty in the greatest part of them, Norisit fufficient for an epic poem In short, if there are many poets to be filled with such thoughts as who would not have fallen into the are natural, unless it abound also meanness of some of his sentiments, with such as are sublime. Virgil there are none who could have in this particular falls short of Horisen up to the greatness of others. He has not indeed so many Virgil has excelled all others in thoughts that are low and vulgar; the propriety of his sentiments. but at the same time has not so Milton shines likewise very much many thoughts that are sublime in this particular: Nor must we and noble. The truth of it is, omit one consideration which adds Virgil feldom rises into very aftoto his honor and reputation. Ho- nishing sentiments, where he is not mer and Virgil introduced persons fired by the Iliad, He every where whose characters are commonly charms and pleases us by the force known among men, and such as of his own genius; but feldom eleare to be met with either in history, vates and transports us where he or in ordinary conversation. Mil- does not fetch his hints from Ho: ton's characters, most of them, lie out of nature, and were to be Milton's chief talent, and indeed formed purely by his own inven- his distinguishing excellence lies in tion. It shows a greater genius in the subiimity of his thoughts. Shakespear to have drawn his Ca. There are others of the Moderns lyban, than his Hotspur or Julius who rival him in every other part Cæfar: The one was to be fup- of poetry ; but in the greatness of plied out of his own imagination, his sentiments he triumphs over all whereas the other might have been the poets both modern and ancient, formed upon tradition, history and Homer only excepted. It is imobservation. It was niuch easier possible for the imagination of man therefore for Homer to find pro to diftend itself with greater ideas, per sentiments for an assembly of than those which he has laid togeGrecian generals, than for Milton ther in his first, fecond, and sixth to diversify his infernal council books. The seventh, which dewith proper characters, and inspirescribes the creation of the world, them with a variety of sentiments. is likewise wonderfully sublime, The loves of Dido and Æneas are tho' not so apt to stir up emotion in only copies of what has passed be- the mind of the reader, nor con

fequently

mer.

fequently so perfect in the epic wayfidering all the poets of the age in of writing, because it is filled with which he writ, were infected with less action. Let the judicious rea this wrong way of thinking, he is der compare what Longinus has ob rather to be admired that he did served on several passages in Ho not give more into it, than that he mer, and he will find parallels did sometimes comply with the vifor inost of them in the Paradise cious taste which still prevails so Loft.

much among modern writers. From what has been said we But since several thoughts may may infer, that as there are two be natural which are low and kinds of sentiments, the natural groveling, an epic poet fould not and the sublime, which are always only avoid such sentiments as are to be pursued in an heroic poem, unnatural or affected, but also such there are also two kinds of thoughts as are mean and vulgar. Homer which are carefully to be avoided. has opened a great field of rallery The first are such as are affected to men of more delicacy than greatand unnatural ; the second such as ness of genius, by the homeliness are mean and vulgar. As for the of some of his sentiments. But, firit kind of thoughts we meet with as I have before faid, these are ralittle or nothing that is like them ther to be imputed to the fimpliin Virgil : He has none of those city of the age in which he lived, trifling points and puerilities that to which I may also add, of that are so often to be met with in which he described, than to any Ovid, none of the epigrammatic imperfcction in that divine poet. turns of Lucan, none of those Zoilus, among the Ancients, and fwelling sentiments which are so Monsieur Perrault, among the Mofrequently in Statius and Claudian, derns, pushed their ridicule very none of those mixed embellish far upon him, on account of fome ments of Tasso. Every thing is such sentiments. There is no blejust and natural. His sentiments mith to be observed in Virgil, Ahow that he had a perfect infight under this head, and but a very into human nature, and that he few in Milton. knew every thing which was the I shall give but one instance of most proper to affect it.

this impropriety of thought in HoMr. Dryden has in some places, mer, and at the same time comwhich I may hereafter take notice pare it with an instance of the fame of, misrepresented Virgil's way of nature, both in Virgil and Milton. thinking as to this particular, in Sentiments which raise laughter, the translation he has given us of can very feldom be admitted with the Æneid. I do not remember any decency into an heroic poem, that Homer any where falls into whose business is to excite passions the faults abovementioned, which of a much nobler nature. Homer, were indeed the false refinements however, in his characters of Vula of later ages. Milton, it must be can and Therfites, in his hiftory of confett, has sometimes erred in this Mars and Venus, in his behaviour respect, as I fall mew more at of Irus, and in other passages, has large in another paper; tho'con- been observed to have lapsed into

the

them all,

[ocr errors]

the burlesque character, and to If our proposals once again weré have departed from that serious air

heard, which seems essential to the magni We should compel them to a quick ficence of an epic poem. I remem result. ber but one laugh in the whole To whom thus Belial in like Æneid, which rises in the fifth gamesome mood. book upon Moncetes, where he is Leader, the terms we sent, were represented as thrown overboard, terms of weight, and drying himself upon a rock. Of hard contents, and full of force But this piece of mirth is so well urg'd home, timed, that the feverest critic can Such as we might perceive amus'd having nothing to say against it, for it is in the book of games and di And fumbled many; who receives versions, where the reader's mind

them right, may be supposed to be sufficiently Had need, from head to foot, well relaxed for such an entertainment. understand ; The only piece of pleasantry in Pa Not understood, this gift they have radise Loft, is where the evil spirits besides, are described as rallying the Angels They show us when our foes walk upon the success of their new in

not upright. vented artillery. This paffage I Thus they among themselves in Jook upon to be the most excep pleasant vein tionable in the whole poem, as be Stood scoffinging nothing else buta string of puns, and those too very indifferent. HAVING already treated of

the fable, the characters and senti-Satan beheld their plight, ments in the Paradise Lost, we are And to his mates thus in derision in the last place to consider the call’d.

language; and as the learned world O Friends, why come not on is very much divided upon Milton these victors proud!

as to this point, I hope they will Ere while they fierce were coming, excuse me if I appear particular in and when we,

any of my opinions, and incline to To entertain them fair with open those who judge the moft advanfront,

tageously of the author. And breast, (what could we more) It is requisite that the language propounded terms

of an heroic poem thould be both Of composition ; strait they chang'd perspicuous ar i sublime. In protheir minds,

portion as either of these two quaFlew off, and into strange vaga- lities are wanting, the language is garies fell,

imperfe&t. Perspicuity is the first As they would dance, yet for a and most necessary qualification; indance they seem'd

somuch that a good-natur'd reader Somewhat extravagant and wild, sometimes overlooks a little flip perhaps

even in the grammar or syntax, For joy of offer'd peace; but I where it is impossible for him to suppose

mistake the poet's sense. Of this

their trumpery,

kind is that passage in Milton, become too familiar to the ear, and wherein he speaks of Satan, contract a kind of meanness by

passing through the mouths of the -God and his Son except, vulgar, a poet should take particuCreated thing nought valu'd he lar care to guard himself against nor shann'd.

idiomatic ways of speaking. Ovid

and Lucan have many poornesses And that in which he describes of expresfion upon this account, as Adam and Eve.

taking up with the first phrases that

offered, without putting themselves Adam the goodliest man of men to the trouble of looking after such fince born

as would noi only be natural, but His sons, the fairest of her daugh- also elevated and sublime. Milton ters Eve.

has but a few failings in this kind,

of which, however, you may meet It is plain that in the former of with some instances, as in the folthese paffages, according to the lowing passages, natural fyntax, the divine Persons mentioned in the first line are re Embrio's and idiots, eremites and presented as created beings; and friers ihat in the other, Adam and Eve White, black and grey, with all are confounded with their sons and daughters. Such little blemishes Here pilgrims roam as these, when the thought is great A while discourse they hold, and natural, we fhould, with Ho No fear left dinner cool; when thus race, impute to a pardonable inad began vertency, or to the weakness of

Our author human nature, which cannot at Who of all ages to succeed, but tend to each minute particular, and feeling give the last finishing to every cir The evil on him brought by me, cumstance in so long a work. The will curse ancient critics therefore, who were My head, ill fare our ancestor acted by a spirit of candor, rather than that of cavilling, invented

tbank Adam certain figures of speech, on purpose to palliate little errors of this The great masters in compofition nature in the writings of thofe au know very well that many an elethors who had so many greater gant phrase becomes improper for beauties to atone for them.

a poet or an oralor, when it has If clearness and perspicuity were been debased by common ufe. For only to be consulted, the poet this reason the works of ancient would have nothing else to do but authors, which are written in dead to clothe his thoughts in the most languages, have a great advantage plain and natural expressions. But over those which are written in Ince it often happens that the moft languages that are now spoken. obvious phrases, and those which were there any mean phrases or we used in ordinary conversation, idioms in Virgil and Homer, they

would

impure,
For this we may

would not shock the ear of the thick sown in Milton, which almost delicatë modern reader, fo ways favors too much of wit ; that much as they would have done that they never clash with one another, of an old Greek or Roman, be- which, as Aristotle observes, turns cause we never heard them pro a sentence into a kind of an enigma nounced in our streets, or in ordi- or riddle; and that he seldom has nary conversation.

recourse to them where the proper It is not therefore fufficient, that and natural words will do as well. the language of an epic poem be Another way of raising the lanperspicuous, unless it be also sub- guage, and giving it a poetical lime. To this end it ought to de. turn, is to make use of the idioms viate from the common forms and of other tongues. Virgil is full of ordinary phrases of speech. The the Greek forms of speech, which judgment of a poet very much dif- the critics call Hellenisms, as Hocovers itself in Tunning the com race in his odes abounds with them mon roads of expression, without much more than Virgil. I need not falling into fuch ways of speech as mention the several dialects which may seem stiff and unnatural ; he Homer has made use of for this must not swell into a false sublime, end. Milton in conformity with by endevoring to avoid the other the practice of the ancient poets, extreme. Among the Greeks, and with Aristotle's rule, has inÆschylus, and sometimes Sopho- fused a great many Latinisms as cles were guilty of this fault'; a well as Græcisms, and sometimes mong the Latins, Claudian and Hebraisms, into the language of Statius; and among our own coun his poem; as towards the begintrymen, Shakespear and Lee. In ning of it. these authors the affectation of greatness often hurts the perfpi Nor did they not perceive the evil cuity of the stile, as in many others plight the endevor after perspicuity pre In which they were, or the fierce judices its greatness.

pains not feel. Aristotle has observed, that the Yet 10 their general's voice they idiomatic stile may be avoided, and foon obey'd the sublime formed by the following

-Who shall tempt with wand'ring methods. First, by the use of meta

feet phors : such are those in Milton. The dark unbottom'd infinite a

byfs, Imparadis'd in one another's arms. And through the palpable obfcure And in his hand a reed

find out Stood waving tipt with fire. His uncouth way, or spread his The grassy ciods now calv’d.

airy flight Spangled with eyes

Upborne with indefatigable wings

Overy the vast abrupt! In these and innumerable other instances, the metaphors are very

So both ascend bold but just; I must however ob

In the visions of God B. xi. ferve, that the metaphors are not

Under

« السابقةمتابعة »