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The Danees ended, the 8pirit epiloguizes.
Spir. To the oeean now I fly,
There I suek the liquid air 080
All amidst the gardens fair
Of Hesperus, and his daughters three
That sing about the golden tree:
Along the erisped shades and bowers
Revels the spruee and joeund Spring; 085
About the eedar'n alleys fling 000
Nard and eassia's balmy smells.
Iris there with humid bow
Waters the odorous banks, that blow
Flowers of more mingled hew
Than her purfled searf ean shew; 005
Waxing well of his deep wound 1000
In slumber soft, and on the ground
Sadly sits the Assyrian queen:
But far above in spangled sheen
Celestial Cupid, her famed son, advaneed,
Holds his dear Psyche sweet entraneed, 1005
After her wandering labours long,
Till free eonsent the gods among
Make her his eternal bride,
And from her fair unspotted side
Two blissful twins are to be born, low
078. To the oeean, Ae. Pindar in his seeond Olympiek, and Homer in his fourth Odyssey, deseribe a happy island at the extrendty of the oeean, or rather earth, where the Buq has his at ede. the )ky is p-rpetually serene and bright, tho west wind always blows, and tho flowers aro of tiold. This luxuriant im,urery Miiton has dressed anew from the elassieal gardens o. ' antiqnity, and from Ariosto and 8penser: hot tile Gnrden of Eden is absolntely his own ereation.—T. Warton,
0s4. Vrirped shn,hs. By this metaphorieal epithet. l presume the )x:et had in his e)e the erisped or eurled vines and tendriis that form tho shaziex awl twwers.
003. Blow is used aetively, that is, that make the flowers blow.
005. Purflrd, is fringed or embroidered.
ltttt2. A,syritm qwrn. Venus is ealled Asty,ian qoeen beeause site was first worshipped by the Assyrians.
1010. Undoubtedly Miiton's allusion at large, is here to Spenser's alleg^ri-nl garden of Adonis. )Faee. t)n. iii. vi. 40:) bnt at the same tlme his mythology hss a referenec to 8penser's "Hymne of Love," where Love is feigned to dwell '' in a paradise of aii delightwith Hebe or Yonth, and the rest nf the deaiings of Venus, who sport with ins danghter Pleasure.—T. Wakton.
But now my task is smoothly done,
Where the bow'd welkin slow doth bend; low
Mortals, that would follow me,
She ean teaeh ye how to elimb 1020
1015. Bnufd wlkin. A eurve whieh 1021. 8phery ehime, that is, the musie bends, or deseends sbmly from its great of the spheres, eweep.
Tne moral of this poem is, indeed, very finely summed up in the six eoneluding lines; in whieh, to wind up one of the most elegant produetions of his genins, "the poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling," threw up its last glanee to Heaven, in rapt eontemplation of that stupendous mystery, whereby He, the lofty theme of "Paradise Regained," stooping from above all height, "bowed the heavens, and eame down" on earth, to atone as man for the sins of men, to strengthen feeble virtne by the inflnenee of his graee, and to teaeh her to aseend his throne.—Franeis Henry Egerton, afterwards Earl of Bridgewatev.
In the peeuliar disposition of the story, the sweetuess of the numbers, the justuess of the expression, and the moral it teaehes, there is nothing extant in any langnage like the "Mask of Comus."—Toland.
Milton's "Juvenile Poems" are so no otherwise, than as they were written in his yonnger years; for their dignity and exeellenee, they nre suIfieient to have set him among the moat eelebrated of the poets, even of the aneients themselves: hU "Mask" and "Lyeidas" are perhaps superior to all in their several kinds.—Rienardson.
Milton's "Comus" is, I think, one of the finest produetions of modern times; and I do not know whether to admire most the poetry of it, or the phiiosophy, whieh is of the noblest kind. The subjeet of it I like better than that of the "Paradise Lost," whieh, I think, is not human enough to toneh the eommon feelings of humanity, as poetry onght to do; the divine personages he has introdueed are of too high a kind to aet any part in poetry, and the seene of the aetion is, for the greater pnrt, qnite out of nature: bnt the subjeet of tho "Comus" is a fine mythologieal tale, marvellous enough, as all poetieal subjeets should be, but at the same time human. He begins his pieee in the mauner of Euripides; and (he deseending 8pirit that prolognizes, makes the finest and grandest opening of any theatrieal pieee that I know, aneient or modern. The eonduet of the pieee is answerable to the begiuning, and the versifieation of it is finely varied by short and long verses, blank and rhyming, and the sweetest songs that ever were eomposed. As to the style of " Comus/' it is more elevated, l think, than that of any of his writings, and se mueh above what is written at present, that I am inelined to make the same distinetion in the English langnage, that Homer made of the Greek in his time; and to say that Milton's langnage is the langnage of the gods; whereas we of this age speak and write the langnage of mere mortal men. If the "Comus" was to be properly represented, with all tha deeorations whieh it reqnires, of maehinery, seenery, dress, musie, and daneing, it wonld be the finost exhibition that ever was seen upon any modern stage: bnt I am afraid, with all these, the prineipal part would be still wanting; I mean, players that eould wield the langnage of Milton, and prononnee those fine periods of his, by whieh he has eontrived to give his poetry the beanty of the finest prose eomposition, and withont whieh there ean be nothing great or noble in eomposition of any kind. Or if we eonld find players who had breath and organs lfor these, as well as other things, begin to fail in this generation,l and sense and taste enough, properly to prononnee sueh periods, I doubt it would not be easy to find an audienee that eould relish them, or perhaps they would not have attention and eomprehension suffieient to eouneet the sense of them; being aeeustomed to that trim, spruee, short ent of a style, whieh Taeitus, and his modern imitators, Freneh and English, have made fashionable.— Lord Monbodoe.
In poetieal and pieturesqne eireumstanees, in wildness of faney and imagery, and in weight of sentiment and moral, how greatly does "Comus" exeel the "Aminta" of Tasse, and the "Pastor Fido" of Gnarini, whieh Milton, from his love of Italian poetry, must freqnently have read! "Comus," like these twe, is a pastoral drama; and I have often wondered it is not mentioned as sueh.—Jos. Warvon.
We must not read "Comus" with an eye to the stage, or with the expeetation of dramatie propriety. Under this restrietion, the absurdity of the 8pirit speaking to an audienee in a solitary forest at midnight, and the want of reeiproeation in the dialogne, are overlooked. "Comus" is a suite of speeehes, not interesting by diserimination of eharaeter; not eonveying a variety of ineidents, nor gradnally exeiting euriosity: bnt perpetnally attraeting attention by sublime sentiment, by faneiful imagery of the rtehest vein, by an exuberanee of pieturesqne deseription, poetieal allusion, and ornamental expression. Whiie it widely departs from the grotesqne anomalies of the Mask now in fashion, it does not nearly approaeh to the natural eonstitution of a regular play. There is a ehastity in the applieation and eonduet of the maehinery; and 8abrina is introdueed with mueh address, after the Rrothers had imprudently suffered the enehantment of Comus to take eIfeet. This is the first time the old English Mask was in some degree redueed to the prineiples and form of a rational eomposition: yet stiil it eould not bnt retain some of its arbitrary peeuliarities. The poet had here properly no more to do with the pathos of tragedy, than the eharaeter of eomedy; nor do I know that he was eonf,ned to the usnal modes of theatrieal interloeution. A great eritie observes, that the dispute between the Lady aud Comus is the most animated and affeeting seene of the pieee. Perhaps some other seenes, either eonsisting ouly of a soliloquy, or of three or four speeehes only, have afforded more trne pleasure. The s.une eritie thinks, that in all the moral dialogne, although the langnage is poetieal, and the sentiments generous, something is still wanting to "allure attention." Rut
eal, are suIfieient to rouse all our feeiings. For this reason I eaunot admit his position, thnt "Comus" is a drama "tediously instruetive;" and jf, as he says, to these ethieal diseussions " the auditor listens as to a leetare, withont passion, withont anxiety," yet he listens with elevation and delight . The aetion is said to be improhable; beeause the Rrothers, when their sister sinks with fatigue in a pathless wilderness, wander both away together in seareh of berries, too far to find their way haek; and leave a helpless lady to all the sadness and danger of solitude. Rnt here is no desertion or negleet of the Lady: the Rrothers leave their sister under a spreading pine in the forest, fainting for refreshment: they go to proeure berries or some other fruit for her immediate relief; and, with great prohabiiity, lose their way in going or returning; to say nothing of the poet's art, in making this very natural and simple aeeident to be produetive of the distress, whieh forms the future business and eomplieation of the fable. It is eertainly a fault that the Rrothers, although with some indieations of anxiety, shonld enter with so mueh tranquiility, when their sister is lost, and at leisure pronounee philosophieal panegyries on the mysteries of virginity: bnt we must not too serupulously attend to the exigeneies of sitnation, nor suffer onrselves to suppose that we are reading a play, whieh Miiton did not mean to write. These splendid insertions wiil please, independently of the story, from whieh however they result; and their eleganee and sublimity wiil overhalanee their want of plaee. In a Greek tragedy, sueh sentimental harangnes, arising from the subjeet, wonld have been given to a Chorus. On the whole, whether "Comus" be or be not defieient as a drama, whether it is eonsidered as an epie drama, a series of lines, a mask, or a poem; I am of opinion, that onr anthor is here only inferior to his own "Paradise Lost."—T. Warvon.
Milton's "Comus" is, in my judgment, the most beantiful and perfeet poem of that sublime genius.—Wakefield.
Perhaps the eondnot and eonversation of the Brothers, whieh Mv. Wartan blames in the preeeding note, may not be altogether indefensible. They have lost their way in a forest at night, and are in " the want of light and noise:" it wonld now be dangerous for them to run abont an unknown wilderness; and, if they shonld separate, in order to seek their sister, they might lose eaeh other: in the uneertainty of what was their best plan, they therefore naturally wait, expeeting to hear perhaps the ery of their lost sister, or some noise to whieh they would have direeted their steps. The Younger Rrother anxionsly expresses his apprehensions for his sister: the Elder, in reply, trusts that she is not in danger; and, instead of giving way to those fears, whieh the Younger repeats, expatiates on the strength of ehastity; by the illustration of whieh argument be eonfidently maintains the hope of their sister's safety, while he begniles the perplexity of their own sitnation. It has been observed, that "Comus" is not ealeulated to shine in theatrie exhibition for those very reasons whieh eonstitnte its essential and speeifie merit. The "Pastor .Fido" of Gnarini, whieh also ravishes the reader, and "The Faithful 8hepherdess" of Fleteher eonld not sueeeed upon the stage. However, it is suIfieient, that "Comus" displays the trne sourees of poetieal delight and moral instruetion, in its eharming imagery, in its original eoneeptions, in its sublime dietion, in its virtnous sentiments. Its few inaeeuraeies weigh bnt as dust in the halanee against its general merit: and, in short, if I may bo allowed respeetfully to differ from the high anthority of Dr, Johnson, I am of opinion, that this enehanting poem, or pastoral drama, is both graeefully splendid, and delightfully instruetive.— Todd.
Bv. Johnson is more inelined to be favourable to "Comus" than to any other poem of Milton: he begins fairly enongh, and gives it some of the praises whieh justly belong to it; bnt he gradnally returns to his eaptious ill-humonr, and ends with saying that it is "inelegantly splendid and tediously instruetive." After tbis elose, what is the valne of his praise? If it is truly poetieal, it eaunot be inelegantly splendid! Milton's deeorations are never ont of plaee in this'Mask: it eontains not a single image or epithet whieh does not fill the reader of taste with delight: it eontains no passion, bnt he did not intend it. Masks were always designed to play with the faney j and from begiuning to end, withont the ahatement of a single line, Miiton has effeeted this. 8ueh a series of rural and pastoral pieturesqneneas was never before brought togethev. It is worthy of remark with what admirable skill the poet gathered from all his predeeessors, 8penser, 8hakspeare, Reaumont and Fleteher, Drayton, and twenty more, every happy adjeetive of deseription and imaginative foree, and eombined them into the texture of his own fietion. As his power of ereation was great, so was his memory both exaet and abundant: whatever he borrowed, he made new by the fervent power of amalgamation.
Tho flowing strains of the whole poem are eloqnent and beautiful, enriehed with phiiosophie moral learning, and exalted by pure, generons, and lofty sentiment. Thus:—
Can any mortal mixture of earth's mould
Again, line 470:—
How eharming is divine philosophy l
Not harsh and erabKed, as dull fools suppose,
But musieal as is Apollo's lnte,
And a perpetnal feast of neetar'd sweets,
Where no ernde surfeit reigns.
This poem is stated to have been the eongenial prelude to " Paradiso Lost." In that opinion I do not eoneur: the fable is too gay; the images are too full of delight: all the topies lie too mueh upon the surfaee. There is a rieh invention, but it has not the depth, or strength, or sublimity of "Paradise Lost," This is playful: that is full of solemuity and awe. More than that, though the eombination gives originality to "Comus," yet it has nothing like the degree of originality of the great epie; of whieh a large portion of the invention has no prototype. Nor do I admit that even the langnage is of the same strueture: it is, for the most part, more flnent and soft: it is, in short, pastoral, while the other is heroie.
The sort of spiritnal beings, whieh is introdueed into "Comus," is of a mueh more humble degree than those of the latter poems. These invisible inhabitants of the earth gratify the gay freaks of onr imagination: they do not exeite the profounder movements of tho soul, and fill us with a sublime terror, like 8atan and his erews of fallen angels.
In the long interval between the eomposition of the Mask, and of "Paradise Lost," the wings of Milton's genins had expanded, and strengthened an hundred-fold: he was no longer a shepherd, of whose enehanting pipe the beantiful eehoes resounded through the woods; but a sage, an oraele, and a prophet, with the inspired tongne of a divinity.
I have observed, from the words of several of the erities here eited, that they have an opinion of poetry whieh I eaunot believe to be quite eorreet. They seem to assume that pieturesqne imagery, drawn from the surfaee of natural seenery, eombined with a sort of wiid fietion of story whieh goes beyond the bonnds of reality, eonstitntes the primary and most unmixed essenee of poetry.—I admit that it does eonstitnte very pure and beautiful poetry; bnt not the highest . The highest must go