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to see what may be supposed to be the occasion of that opinion which Lucian relates concerning this river, viz. that this stream, at certain seasons of the year, especially about the feast of Adonis, is of a bloody-colour; which the heathens looked upon as proceeding from a kind of sympathy in the river for the death of Adonis, who was killed by a wild boar in the mountains, out of which this stream rises. Something like this we saw actually come to pass ; for the water was stained to a surprising redness; and, as we observed in travelling, had discoloured the sea a great way into a reddish hue, occasioned doubtless by a sort of minium, or red earth, washed into the river by the violence of the rain, and not by any stain from Adonis's blood."
The passage in the catalogue, explaining the manner how spirits transform themselves by contraction, or enlargement of their dimensions, is introduced with great judgment, to make way for several surprising accidents in the sequel of the poem. There follows one, at the very end of the first book, which is what the French critics call marvellous, but at the same time probable, by reason of the passage last mentioned. As soon as the infernal palace is finished, we are told the multitude and rabble of spirits immediately shrunk themselves into a small compass, that there might be room for such a numberless assembly in this capacious hall. But it is the poet's refinement upon this thought, which I most admire, and which is, indeed, very noble in itself. For he tells us, that, notwithstanding the vulgar, among the fallen spirits, contracted their forms, those of the first rank and dignity still preserved their natural dimensions.
Thús incorporeal spirits to smallest forms
The character of Mammon, and the description of the Pandæmonium, are full of beauties.
There are several other strokes in the first book wonderfully poetical, and instances of that sublime genius so peculiar to the author. Such is the description of Azazel's stature, and of the infernal standard which he unfurls , as also of that ghastly light, by which the fiends appear to one another in their place of torments.
The seat of desolation, void of light,
Casts pale and dreadful The shout of the whole host of fallen angels when drawn up in battle array :
The universal host up sent
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old night. The review which the leader makes of his infernal army :
He thro' the armed files
Their visages and stature as of gods;
The flash of light which appeared upon the drawing of their swords:
He spake: and to confirm his words out flew
The sudden production of the Pandæmonium :
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
The artificial illuminations made in it:
From th' arch'd roof,
There are also several noble similes and allusions in the first book of Paradise Lost. And here I must observe, that when Milton alludes either to things or persons, he never quits his simile till it rises to some very great idea, which is often foreign to the occasion that gave
birth to it. The resemblance does not, perhaps, last above a line or two, but the poet runs on with the hint, till he has raised out of it some glorious image or sentiment, proper to inflame the mind of the reader, and to give it that sublime kind of entertainment, which is suitable to the nature of an heroic poem. Those who are acquainted with Homer's and Virgil's way of writing, cannot but be pleased with this kind of structure in Milton's similitudes. I am the more particular on this head, because ignorant readers, who have formed their taste upon the quaint similes, and little turns of wit, which are so much in vogue among modern poets, cannot relish these beauties which are of a much higher nature, and are therefore apt to censure Milton's comparisons, in which they do not see any surprising points of likeness. Monsieur Perrault was a man of this vitiated relish, and for that very reason has endeavoured to turn into ridicule several of Homer's similitudes, which he calls Comparaisons à longue queue, • Long-tailed comparisons.' I shall conclude this paper on the first book of Milton with the answer which Monsieur Boileau makes to Perrault on this occasion : " Comparisons (says he) in odes, and epic poems, are not introduced only to illustrate and embellish the discourse, but to amuse and relax the mind of the reader, by frequently disengaging him from too painful an attention to the principal subject, and by leading him into other agreeable images. Homer (says he) excelled in this particular, whose comparisons abound with such images of nature as are proper to re
lieve and diversify his subjects. He continually instructs the reader, and makes him take notice, even in objects which are every day before our eyes, of such circumstances as we should not otherwise have obseryed." To this he adds, as a maxim universally acknowledged, “ that it is not necessary in poetry for the points of the comparison to correspond with one another exactly, but that a general resemblance is sufficient, and that too much nicety in this particular savours of the rhetorician and epigrammatist.'
In short, if we look into the conduct of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, as the great fable is the soul of each poem, so to give their works an agreeable variety, their episodes are so many short fables, and their similes so many short episodes; to which you may add, if you please, that their metaphors are so many short similes. If the reader considers the comparisons in the first book of Milton, of the sun in an eclipse, of the sleeping leviathan, of the bees swarming about the hive, of the fairy dance, in the view wherein I have placed them, he will easily discover the great beauties that are in each of
No. 309. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23,
Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbræque silentes,
Virg. I have before observed in general, that the persons whom Milton introduces into his poem, always discover such sentiments and behaviour, as are in a peculiar manner conformable to their respective characters. Every circumstance in their speeches and actions, is with great justness and delicacy adapted to the persons who speak and act. As the poet very much excels in this consistency of his characters, I shall beg leave to
consider several passages of the second book in this light. That superior greatness, and mock-majesty, which is ascribed to the prince of the fallen angels, is admirably preserved in the beginning of this book. His opening and closing the debate; his taking on himself that great enterprise at the thought of which the whole infernal assembly trembled; his encountering the hideous phantom who' guarded the gates of hell, and appeared to him in all his terrors ; are instances of that proud and daring mind which could not brook submisşion'even to omnipotence.
Satan was now at hand, and from his seat.
Admir'd, not fear'dThe same boldness and intrepidity of behaviour discovers itself in the several adventures which he meets with during his passage through the regions of unformed matter, and particularly in his address to those tremendous powers who are described as presiding over it.
The part of Moloch is likewise in all its circumstances full of that fire and fury which distinguish this spirit from the rest of the fallen angels. He is described in the first book 'as besmeared with the blood of human sa. crifices, and delighted with the tears of parents and the cries of children. In the second book he is marked out as the fiercest spirit that fought in heaven; and if we consider the figure which he makes in the sixth book, where the battle of the angels is described, we find it every way answerable to the same furious enraged character.
Where the might of Gabriel fought,