صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

his heart appears to be purified, in proportion to the pleasure he derives from the poet, and his mind to become angelic. Such a taste for Milton is rare, and the reason why it is so, is this :-to form it completely, a reader must possess, in some degree, what was superlatively possessed by the poet, a mixture of two different species of enthusiasm, the poetical and the religious. To relish Homer, it is sufficient to have a passion for excellent verse; but the reader of Milton, who is only a lover of the Muses, loses half, and certainly the best half, of that transcendent delight which the poems of this divine enthusiast are capable of imparting. A devotional taste is as requisite for the full enjoyment of Milton as a taste for poetry; and this remark will sufficiently explain the inconsistency so striking in the sentiments of many distinguished writers, who have repeatedly spoken on the great English poet -particularly that inconsistency, which I partly promised to explain in the judgments of Dryden and Voltaire. These very different men had both a passion for verse,

[ocr errors]

and both strongly felt the poetical powers of Milton ; but Dryden perhaps had not much, and Voltaire had certainly not a particle of Milton's religious enthusiasm; hence, instead of being impressed with the sanctity of his subject, they sometimes glanced upon it in a ludicrous point of view.

Hence they sometimes speak of him as the very prince of poets, and sometimes as a misguided genius, who has failed to obtain the rank he aspired to in the poetical world. But neither the caprices of conceit, nor the cold austerity of reason, can reduce the glory of this pre-eminent bard. It was in an hour propitious to his renown, that he relinquished Arthur and Merlin for Adam and the Angels ; and he might say on the occasion, in the words of his admired Petrarch:

Io benedico il luogo, il tempo, e l'hora
Che si alto miraro gli occhi miei.
I bless the spot, the season, and the hour,
When my presumptuous eyes were fix'd so high.

· To say that his poem wants human inVOL. I;

E e

man.

terest, is only to prove, that he who finds that defect wants the proper sensibility of

A work that displays at full length, and in the strongest light, the delicious tranquillity of innocence, the tormenting turbulence of guilt, and the consolatory satisfaction of repentance, has surely abun, dance of attraction to awaken sympathy, The images and sentiments, that belong to these varying situations, are so suited to our mortal existence, that they cannot cease to interest, while human nature endures. The human heart, indeed, may be too much depraved, and the human mind may be too gloomy, to have a perfect relish for Milton; but, in honor of his poetry, we may observe, that it has a peculiar tendency to delight and to meliorate those characters, in which the seeds of taste and piety have been happily sown by nature. In proportion as the admiration of mankind shall grow more and more valuable from the progressive increase of intelligence, of virtue, and of religion, this incomparable poet will be more affectionately studied, and more universally ad, mired.

[ocr errors]

Since the first publication of these conjectures, more than one or two eminent authors have treated the same subject; and, each indulging his favorite fancy, they ascribe to different sources Milton's deliberate choice of Adam and of Satan as the characters of his epic poem. Mr. Dunster imagines that choice to have arisen from the poet's early acquaintance with Sylvester's Dubartas, “ a book which contains (says that respectable critic,) more material prima stamina of the Paradise Lost than, as I be lieve, any other book whatever, and my hypothesis is, that it positively laid the first stone of that monumentum ære perennius !

Mr. Turner, in his excellent History of the Anglo Saxons, has awakened the attention of our country to the merits of Cædmon, a venerable Anglo Saxon poet, of whose composition, he justly observes, “it is a Paradise Lost in rude miniature.” The same observation may also be made on various poems, Latin and Italian, and particularly on the Adamo of Soranzo, an Italian poem so rarely seen, that when these conjectures

were first printed, I could not find even the name of it in the accurate Tiraboschi's History of Italian Literature; an obliging friend has since favored me with a copy of this rarity. It is a brief epic (to use a phrase of Milton) and the printer says, in recommending the poet to his patron “ Riconoscera al sicuro in questo commendatissimo autore la forza di un ingegno excellente, e l'efficacia d'un eloquenza piu che ordinaria,” We learn from that elaborate chronicler of all poets, Quadrio, that Soranzo was a noble Venetian. · He published according to the same Historian of Poetry, Rime in four parts, a tragedy, called Il Battista, a pastoral dramå Il Ballo del Fiore, a poetical romance,

L' Armidoro,in forty-twocantos, and L’Adamo, in two books. Quadrio notices only one edition of this rare poem, Genova, 1604, in duodecimo. The copy in

my possession was pripted in Bergamo, 1606, it is a thin quarto, , with designs, the first of which represents the angels expelling the demons from heaven, although this Italian precursor of the English poet has been almost sunk into oblivion,

« السابقةمتابعة »