صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

tary kind for our conduct in it, so as best to regain that happiness which our first parents had lost, and that further secured to us everlastingly and unchangeably in a blessed eternity. When we thus consider the jour different regione, in which the scene of the poem is in fact laid, we can well account for what the critics have said respecting the eleventh and twelfth books falling short of the majesty, sublimity, and beauty of the rest. In censuring the poem in this respect, they in fact wish that whatever relates to this world, and the state of mankind in it since the fall, had been omitted, and that the scene and descriptions had been confined to the delights of the happy seat," the sublime horrors of the dark 80journ," and the divine glories of the empyreal region and the heaven of hearens."

But, Milton, even while “rapt above the pole” he meditated his vast design, was fully aware that he was “standing upon the earth,” and writing to the inhabitants of it for their instruction as well as their delight. A poem, however wonderfully pregnant with the delectare, will be wanting in its most essential part, if it does not close with the monere, or materially involve it. This, I much incline to believe, could not have been done in the present poem, in a more judicious, momentous, dignified, and truly poetical manner, than that of our author.---Dunster,

Johnson's criticism, inserted in his “Life of Milton," is so universally known, that I shall not repeat it here: it shows the critic to have been a master of language, and of perspicuity and method of ideas: it has not, however, the sensibility, the grace, and the nice perceptions of Addison : it is analytical and dry. As it does not illustrate any of the abstract positions by cited instances, it requires a philosophical mind to feel its full force: it has wrapped up the praises, which were popularly expressed by Addison, in language adapted to the learned. The truth is, that Johnson's head was more the parent of that panegyric than his heart: ho speaks by rule; and by rule he is forced to admire. Rules are vain, to which the heart does not assent. Many of the attractions of Milton's poem are not at all indicated by the general words of Johnson. From Addison's critique, we can learn distinctly its character and colours; we can be taught how to appreciate ; and can judge by the examples produced, how far our own sympathies go with the commentator: we cannot read therefore without being made converts, where the comment is right. It is not only in the grand outline that Milton's mighty excellence lies ; it is in filling up all the parts even to the least minutiæ : the images, the sentiments, the long argumentative passages, are all admirable, taken separately; they forin a double force as essential parts of one large and magnificent whole. The images are of two sorts; inventive and reflective; the first are, of course, of the bighest order.

If our conceptions were confined to wbat reality and experience havo impressed upon us, our minds would be parrow, and our faculties without light. The power of inventive imagination approaches to something above humanity: it makes us participant of other worlds and other states of being. Still mere invention is nothing, unless its quality be high and beautiful. Shakspeare's invention was in the most eminent degree rich; but still it was mere human invention. The invention of the character of Satan, and of the good and bad angels, and of the seats of bliss, and of Pandæmonium, and of Chaos and the gates of bell, and of Sin and Death, and other supernatural agencies, is unquestionably of a far loftier and more astonishing order.

Though the arts of composition, carried one step beyond the point which brings out the thought most clearly and forcibly, do harm rather than good; yet up to this point they are of course great aids; and all these Milton possessed in the utmost perfection : all the strength of language, all its turns, breaks, and varieties, all its flows and harmonies, and all its learned allusions, were his. In Pope there is a monotony and technical mellifluence: in Milton there is strength with harmony, and simplicity with elevation. He is never stilted, never gilded with tinsel: never more cramped than if he were writing in prose : and, while he has all the elevation, he has all the freedom of unshackled language. To render metre during a long poem uvfatiguing, there must be an infinite diversity of combinations of sound and position of words, which no Englich bard but Milton has reached. Johnson, assuming that the English heroic line ought to consist of iambics, has tried it by false tests: it ad. mits as many varied feet as Horace's Odes; and so scanned, all Milton's lines are accented right.

If we consider the “ Paradise Lost" with respect to instruction, it is the deepest and the wisest of all the uninspired poems which ever were written: and what poem can be good, which dues not satisfy the understanding?

Of almost all other poems it may be said, that they are intended more for delight than instruction; and instruction in poetry will not do with. out delight: yet when to the highest delight is added the most profound instruction, what fame can equal the value of the composition? Such unquestionably is the compound merit of the “ Paradise Lost." It is a duty imperious on hiin who has an intellect capable of receiving this instruction, not to neglect the cultivation of it: in him who understands the English language, the neglect to study this poem is the neglect of a positive duty: here is to be found in combination what can be learned no where else.

There is a mode of presenting objects to the imagination, which purifies, sharpens, and exalts the mind : there may be mere sports of the imagination, which may be innocent, but fruitless. Such is never Milton's produce; he never indulges in mere ornament or display; his light is fire, and nutriment, and guidance : like the dawn of returning day to the vegetation of the earth, which dispels the noxious vapours of night, and pierces the incumbent weight of the air; it withdraws the mantle of dim shadows from common minds, and irradiates them with a shining lamp. As to what are called the figures of poetry, in which Pope deals so much, they are never admitted by the solid and stern richness of Milton.

The generality even of the better classes of poetry is not the food of the mind, but its mere luxury; Milton's is its substance, its life, its essence: he introduces the gravest, the most abstruse, the most learned topics into his poetry; and by a spiritual process, which he only possesses, converts them into the very essence of poetical inspiration. I assert, in defiance of Dryden, that there are no tlats in Milton : inequalities there are; but they are not Hats in Dryden's sense of the word. Dryden was a man of vigorous talent, but he was an artist in poetry: if active and powerful talent is genius, then he had genius; otherwise not: a clear perception and vigorous expression is not genius. Dryden had not a creative mind; Milton was all creation: we want new ideas, not old ones better dressed. Dryden thougbt that what was not worked up into a pointed iambic couplet was tlat: he valued not the ore; he deemed that the whole merit lay in the use of the tool, and the skill of its application. Milton said, " I ain content to draw the pure golden ore from the mine, and I will not weaken it by over polish."

The merit of Milton was, that he used his gigantic imagination to bring into play his immense knowledge. Heaven, Heil, Chaos, and the Earth, are stupendous subjects of contemplation: three of them we can conceive only by the strength of imagination; the fourth is partly exposed to our senses, but can be only dimly and partially viewed except through the same power. Who then shall dare to say, that the genius inost fitted to delineate and illustrate these shadowy and evanescent wonders, and who has executed this work in a manner exceeding all human hope, has not performed the most instructive, as well as the most delightful of tasks? and who shall dare to deny that such a production ought to be made the universal study of the nation which brought it forth?

Before such a performance all technical beauties sink to nothing. The question is,--are the ideas mighty, and just, and authorized; and are they adequately expressed? If this is admitted, then ought not every one to read this poem next to the Bible? So thought Bishop Newton. But Johnson had the effrontery to assert, that though it may be read as a duty, it can give no pleasure : for this, Newton seems to have pronounced by anticipation the stigma due to him. Is any intellectual delight equal to that, which a high and sensitive mind derives from the perusal of innumerable passages in every book of this inimitable work of poetical fiction ?-The very story never relaxes: it is thick-wove with inci. dent, as well as sentiment and arguinentative grandeur: and how it closes, when the archangel waves the “ flaming brand" over the eastern gate of Paradise ; and, on looking back, Adam and Eve saw the "dreadful faces” and “fiery arms” that "throng'd” round it!-In what other poem is any passage so heart-rending and so terrible as this ?-Sır EGERTON BRYDGES.

In Dante, and even more universally in Tasso, the terror of the sublimity is of the physical kind, and the impression is produced upon the imagination of the reader by the dread fidelity with which the picture is copied from some known or fancied reality: their demons have colossal size indeed, but they are furnished with the horns, the hoofs, the tails, and the talons of the monkish demonology of the Middle Ages: Milton's sublimest pictures, on the contrary, have none of this material or earthly horror about them, but are terrible thoughts, grim abstractions, whose lineaments are veiled and undefined, and which are only the more irresistible in the solemn dread they inspire, as they address themselves, so to say, not to the eye, but to the imagination : they are fragments of the primeval dark, passionless, formless, terrible. Speaking of Death, he says,

The other Shape,
If shape it might be call'd, that shape had none

Distinguishable, in member, form, or limb: and again, in the same passage, which all the critics have agreed in call. ing one of the most wonderful embodiments of supernatural terror which ever was conceived by poet,

What seem'd his head

The likeness of a kingly crown had on. In these and many other passages the poet seems perpetually on the point of giring way to that tendency so natural in the human mind, to describe; but his genius puts a bridle upon the realizing power, and the dread image is left in the awful vagueness of its mystery, becoming, like the veiled Isis, a thousand times more august and terrible from the cloud that shuts it from our eyes. The greatest of all poets, Homer, Æschylus, Shakspeare, not to mention the Hebrew Scriptures, are full of this kind of retia cence, by which the grandeur of the object is rendered more terrible by the gloom and indefiniteness which surround it.

No language that we could use would be sufficiently strong to express the extent and exactness of this writer's learning; a word which we uso in its largest and most comprehensive sense: no species of literature, no language, no book, no art or science seems to have escaped his curiosity, or resisted the combined ardour and patience of his industry. His works may be considered as a vast arsenal of ideas drawn from every region of human speculation, and either themselves the condensed quintessence of knowledge and wisdom, or dressing and adorning the fairest and most majestic conceptions. If Shakspeare's immortal dramas are like the rich vegetation of a primeval paradise, in which all that is sweet, healing, and beautiful springs up uncultured from a virgin soil, the productions of Milton may justly be compared to one of those stately and magnificent gardens so much admired in a former age, in which the perceptible art and regularity rather sets off and adorns nature—a stately solitude perfumed by the breath of all home-born and exotịc flowers, with lofty and airy music ever and anon floating through its moonlit solitudes, decorated by the divine forms of antique sculpture—now a Grace, a Cupid, or a Nymph of Phidias; now a Propbet or a Sibyl of Michael Angelo.

In his delineation of what was perhaps the most difficult portion of his vast picture, the beauty, purity, and innocence of our first parents, he has shown not only a fertility of invention, but a severe and Scriptural purity of taste as surprising as it is rare. His Adam and Eve, without ceasing for a moment to be human, are beings worthy of the Paradise they inhabit.-SHAW.

Was there ever any thing so delightful as the music of the Paradise Lost? It is like that of a fine organ: it bas the deepest tones of majesty, with all the softness and elegance of the Dorian Aute; variety without end, and never equalled.--CowPER.

Among the victories gained by Milton, one of the most signal is that which he obtained over all the prejudices of Johnson, who was compelled to make a most vigorous, though evidently a reluctant effort, to do justice to the fame and genius of THE GREATEST OF English Poets.-SIR JAMES Mackintosh.

In Milton's mind there were purity and piety absolute : an imagination to which neither the past nor the present were interesting, except as far as they called forth and enlivened the great ideal in which and for which he lived; a koen love of truth, which, after many weary pursuits, found a harbour in a sublime listening to the still voice of his own spirit; and as keen a love of his country, which, after a disappointment still more depressive, expanded and soared into a love of man as a probationer of immortality. These were, these alone could be the conditions under which such a work as the Paradise Lost could be conceived and accomplished. By a life-long study, Milton had known

What was of use to know,
What best to say could say, to do had done;
His actions to his words agreed, his words
To his large heart gave utterance due; his heart

Contained of gooul, wise, fair, the perfect shape; and he left the imperishable total, as a bequest to the ages coming, in the Paradise Lost.-COLERIDGE.

I wish the Paradise Lost were more carefully read and studied than I can see any ground for believing it is, especially those parts which, from the babit of always looking for a story in poetry, are scarcely read at all, --as, for example, Adam's vision of future events, in the 11th and 12th books. No one can rise from a perusal of this immortal poem, without a deep sense of the grandeur and purity of Milton's soul.--COLERIDGE.

No Poet, either ancient or modern, ever charmed me as Milton does; and frequently-pay, almost daily as I read him, it is always with increased delight. But it would require a tongue like his own to speak his praises. He invigorates our understanding, he purifies our affections, he sists our hearts to God. His strains have never been equalled on Earth, and can only be excelled in Heaven.— William Peter.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Book Line
AARON and Moses, their mission
to Egypt

xii. 170
Abdiel (a seraph) opposes Satan

promoting the angels' re-
voit, &c...

V. 809
Reply of Satan to his speech. v. 853
His fidelity, &c. celebrated....

v. 896
Retrat from Satan's party...

vi. 1
Soliloquy on view of him at
their hend

vi. 114
Speech to Satan thereon.... vi. 130
Reply to his answer

vi. 171
Encounters him in the battel vi. 189
Vanqui-hes Ariel, Arioc, and

Ramiel, fallen Angels.)..... vi. 369
Abel and Cain, their story re-
lated....

xi. 429
Abraham's and the patriarchs'.. xii. 113

All pations his sons by faith.. xii. 446
Acheron, a river of hell... ii. 578
Adam and Eve described gene-
rally

iv. 288
particularly

iv. 295
iv. 312

iv. 492
Their state of innocence...

iv. 738
v. 211

V. 303
See Innocence.

viii. 510
Night orison

iv. 7:20
Morning orison.

v. 163
Preparations to entertain the
Angel Raphael ..

v. 313
The table and entertainment
described....

V. 391
Their nuptial bed..

iv. 708
Nuptials celebrated

viii. 510
Parting preceding the temp-

ix. 385
Behaviour after their fall...... ix, 100+
Find themselves naked..... ix. 1053
Make themselves breeches of
fix-leaves

ix. 1099
Recriminate on, and reproach
each other.

ix. 1187
Hide themselves from God.... X. 97
Appearance before him ........ X. 109
Repentance

X. 1098
Expulsion from Paradise...... xii. 6:25

See Similes.
Adam, his disconrse with Eve

on the prohibition of the
tree of knowledge............ iv. 411
To her at night......

iv. 610
Answer to her question about

the nightly luminaries...... iv. 660
Viewing her sleeping......

8

Book Lina
Answer to her, relating her

dream (the subject of Sa-
tan's first illusive tempta-
tion)....

94
To her weeping

v. 1:29
Invites the Angel Raphael to
his bower, &c.

v. 361
Discourse with him..

V. 461
Continued on various sub-
jects............. from v. 563 to viii. €51

See Raphael.
His creation, and dominion,

&c, over the creatures...... vii. 519
Prohibited the tree of know-, vii. 512
ledge

viii. 332
Account of himself and ob

jects about him, &c., on his
creation

viii. 253
Of his first view of the Divine

Presence, instationed in
Paradise, &c. ...

viii. 311
Speech to God thereon, and

on his solitude there. viii. 357
Reply to God's answer..... viii. 379
Sleep, on the formation of
Eve, described.....

viii. 451
His first view of her

viii. 481
Passion for her.....

viii. 5:21
Valediction to Raphael

......... viii. 644
Discourse with Eve preced-

ing the temptation (on Sa.
tan's subtilty, and the

means to resist it, &c.).... ix. 205-384
Care, and fears for her in ab-
sence

ix. 838
Meets her returning with the
forbidden fruit.

ix. 849
Soliloquy, lamenting her
transgression

ix. 896
Resolves to die with her....... ix. 907
Speech to her thereon

ix. 921
Eats the forbid len fruit ....... ix. 996
Incites her to carval fruition

(the first effect of it)... ix. 1011, 1016
The place, &c. described........ ix. 1037
After speech to her, on their

fall and nakedness... ix. 1067
Another, char ging her as the
ar ressor....

ix. 1132
Reply to her answer (recrimi-

nates her affected self-suf-
ficiency, &c.).......

ix. 1102
Answer to God, calling him

to judgment...
Reply to him (accuses Eve)... x. 124
The sentence pronounced on
him..

X. 197

tation .....

X. 116

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »