صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the knowledge of a poet should rather seem born with him, or inspired, than drawn from books and systems. I have often wondered, how Mr. Dryden could translate a passage out of Virgil, after the following manner,

Tack to the larboard, and stand off to sea,

Veer starboard sea and land. Milton makes use of larboard in the same manner. When he is upon building, he mentions Doric Pillars, Pilasters, Cornice, Freeze, Architrave. When he talks of heavenly bodies, you meet with Ecliptic, and Eccentric, the Trepidation, Stars dropping from the Zenith, Rays culminating from the Equator. To which might be added many instances of the like kind in several other arts and sciences.

I shall in my next papers give an account of the many particular beauties in Milton, which would have been too long to insert under those general heads I have already treated of, and with which I intend to conclude this piece of critieism.


volet hæc sub luce videri,
argutum quæ non formidat acumen.


I HAVE seen in the works of a modern philosopher, a map of the spots in the sun. My last paper of the faults and blemishes in Milton's Paradise Lost, may be considered as a piece of the same nature. To pursue the allusion: as it is observed, that among the bright parts of the luminous body above-mentioned, there are some which glow more intensely, and dart a stronger

such easy-it has only the sense and force of “ so," the correlative of which is " that.He might have saidsuch language as mæy be understood, -or-such easy language that it may be understood. But not, such easy language as may be understood.

light than others; so, notwithstanding I have already shewn Milton's poem to be very beautiful in general, I shall now proceed to take notice of such beauties as appear to be more exquisite than the rest. Milton has proposed the subject of his poem in the following verses.

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, 'till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, heav'nly muse

These lines are perhaps as plain, simple, and unadorned, as any of the whole poem, in which particular the author has conformed himself to the example of Homer, and the precept of Horace.

His invocation to a work which turns in a great measure upon the creation of the world, is very properly made to the muse who inspired Moses in those books from whence our author drew his subject, and to the holy spirit who is therein represented as operating after a particular manner in the first production of nature. This whole exordium rises very happily into noble language and sentiment, as I think the transition to the fable is exquisitely beautiful and natural.

The nine-days astonishment, in which the angels lay entranced after their dreadful overthrow," and fall from heaven, before they could recover either the use of thought or speech, is a noble circumstance, and very finely imagined. The division of hell into seas of fire, and into firm ground impregnated with the same furious element, with that particular circumstance of the ex

* From whence] From, is included in whence, and is, therefore, redundant; but is, sometimes, as here, inserted on account of the rhythm, tkose-books-whence, that is, three long syllables coming togetber would have dragged heavily, if the short syllable from bad not intervened. It may seem that he might, in this place, with equal convenience, have said, “ from which ;' but he had just before said work, whichand therefore said, from whence to avoid the monotony.

bo Vid. Hesiod.

clusion of Hope from those infernal regions, 'are instances of the same great and fruitful invention.

The thoughts in the first speech and description of Satan, who is one of the principal actors in this poem, are wonderfully proper to give us a full idea of him, His pride, envy, and revenge, obstinacy, despair, and impenitence, are all of them very artfully interwoven. In short, his first speech is a complication of all those passions which discover themselves separately in several other of his speeches in the poem. The whole part of this great enemy of mankind is filled with such incidents as are very apt to raise and terrify the reader's imagination. Of this nature, in the book now before us, is his being the first that awakens out of the general trance, with his posture on the burning lake, his rising from it, and the description of his shield and spear.

Thus Satan talking to his nearest mate,
With head up-lift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blaz'd, his other parts beside
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the fiames
Driv'n backward slope their pointing spires, and rollid
In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight -

His pond'rous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large and round,
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Thro optic glass the Tuscan artists view
At ev'ning from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine,
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great admiral, were but a wand,
He walk'd with to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marl

To which we may add his call to the fallen angels, that lay plunged and stupified in the sea of fire.

He callid so loud, that all the hollow deep

Of hell resounded But there is no single passage in the whole poem worked up to a greater sublimity, than that wherein his person is described in those celebrated lines:

He, above the rest,
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,

Stood like a tow'r, &c. His sentiments are every way answerable to his character, and suitable to a created being of the most exalted and depraved nature. Such is that in which he takes possession of his place of torments.

Hail horrors, hạil
Infernal world! and thou profoundest hell
Receive thy new possessor : one who brings

A mind not to be chang'd by place or time,
And afterwards,

Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy; will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition, tho' in hell:

Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven. Amidst those impieties which this enraged spirit utters in other places of the poem, the author has taken care to introduce none that is not big with absurdity, and incapable of shocking a religious reader ; his words, as the poet describes them, bearing only a “ semblance of worth, not substance.' He is likewise with great art described as owning his adversary to be almighty. Whatever perverse interpretation he puts on the justice, mercy, and other attributes of the Supreme Being, he frequently confesses his omnipotence, that being the perfection he was forced to allow him, and the only consideration which could support his pride under the shame of his defeat.

Nor must I here omit that beautiful circumstance of his bursting out in tears, upon his survey of those innu,

merable spirits whom he had involved in the same guilt and ruin with himself.

He now prepar'd
To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half enclose him round
With all his peers: attention held them mute.
Thrice he assay'd, and thrice in spite of scorn

Tears, such as angels weep, burst forth The catalogue of evil spirits has abundance of learn. ing in it, and a very agreeable turn of poetry, which rises in a great measure from its describing the places where they were worshipped, by those beautiful marks of rivers, so frequent among the ancient poets. The author had doubtless in this place Homer's catalogue of ships, and Virgil's list of warriors in his view. The characters of Moloch and Belial prepare the reader's mind for their respective speeches and behaviour in the second and sixth book. The account of Thammuz is finely romantic, and suitable to what we read among the ancients of the worship which was paid to that idol.

Thammuz came next behind,
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allur'd
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In am'rous ditties all a summer's day,
While smooth Adonis from his native rock
Ran purple to the sea, suppos'd with blood
Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale
Infected Sion's daughters with like heat,
Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch
Ezekiel saw, when by the vision led
His eyes survey'd the dark idolatries
Of alienated Judah

The reader will pardon me if I insert as a note on this beautiful passage, the account given us by the late in, genious Mr. Maundrell of this ancient piece of worship, and probably the first occasion of such a superstition. • We came to a fair large river-doubtless the ancient river Adonis, so famous for the idolatrous rites performed here in lamentation of Adonis. We had the fortune

« السابقةمتابعة »