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no longer waved their joyous leaves to his soft strains: bnt we eaunot here be at a loss for a meaning; a meaning, whieh is as elearly pereeived as it is elegantly represented.—T. Warvon. •
The rhymes and numbers, whieh Dv. Johnson eondemus, appear to me as eminent proofs of the poet's judgment; exhibiting, in their varied and arbitrary disposition, an ease and graeefulness, whieh infinitely exeeed the formal eouplets or alternate rhymes of modern Elegy. Lamenting also the prejudiee whieh has pronouneed "Lyeidas" to be vulgar and disgusting, I shall never eease to eonsider this monody as the sweet effusion of a most poetie and tender mind; entitled, as well by its beantiful melody, as by the freqnent grandenr of its sentiments and langnage, to the utmost enthusiasm of admiration.—Todd.
Whatever stern grandenr Milton's two epies and his drama, written in his latter days, exhibit; by whatever divine invention they are ereated; "Lyeidas" and " Comus" have a flneney, a sweetuess, a melody, a yonthful freshness, a dewy brightuess of deseription, whieh those gigantie poems have not . It is trne that "Lyeidas" has no deep grief; its elouds of sorrow are everywhere piereed by the golden rays of a splendid and joyous imagination: the ingredients are all poetieal, even to single words; the epithets are all pieturesqne and fresh; and tho whole are eombined into a splendid tissno, as new in tbeir position as they are radiant in their union. The unexpeeted transitions from one to the other at onee surprise and delight: they are like the heavens of an autumual evening, when they are lighted up by eleetrie flames. The eontrasts of sorrow, and hope, and glory, keep us in a state of mingled exeitement to the end: the imagery never flags: thongh it blases with the most beantiful forms of inanimate nature, and all sorts of pastoral pietures; yet the whole are by some spell or other made intelleetnal and spiritnal: they do not play merely upon the mirror of the faney.
That prime eharm of poetry, the rapidity and the novelty, yet the natural assoeiation of beantiful ideas, is preeminently exhibited in "Lyeidas," where the sudden transitions to eontrasted images and sentiments keep the mind in a state of delightful ferment;
And o'er the eheek of sorrow tbrow
It strikes me, that there is no poem of Milton, in whieh the pastoral and rural imagery is so breathing, so brilliant, and so new, as in this: the tone whieh has most shniltude to it, is that of somo deseriptive passages of 8hakspeare, whose simple brightuess and modulation of words seem always to have dwelt on Miiton's memory and eav.
Rut though strength was Milton's eharaeteristie, there are many passages, many turns of thought and expression, in this poem, whieh are not wanting in tenderness, in pathetie reeolleetions, and tearful sighs; in that sort of grief whieh belongs to trne poetry: in grief neither faetitious nor gloomy, bnt genuine, though hopeful; and mingled with rays of light, though melaneholy. Rnt I must forbear to say more on this exquisite and inimitable Elegy, lest those remarks should run to an extent disproportioned to its length.—8ir Egerton Rrynges.
L'ALLEGRO AND 1L PENSEROSO.
Wnbx Milton's javenile poems were revived into notiee abont the middle of the last eentury, these two short lyries beeame, I think, tho most populav. They are very beantiful, bnt in my opinion far from the best of the poef s youthful produetions: they have far less invention than "Comus"or "Lyeidas," and surely invention is the primary essential; they have more of faney than invention, as those two words are in modern use distingnished from eaeh othev. Resides, it is elear that they were suggested by the poem prefixed to "Rurton's Anatomie of Melaneholy," and a song in the "Niee Valour" of Beaumont and Fletehev.
There is here no fable, whieh is absolntely neeessary for prime poetry. The rural deseriptions aro fresh, foreible, pieturesqne, and most hnppily seleeted; bnt stiil many of them seem to me mueh less original than those of "Lyeidas" and "Comus;" and though there is a eertain degree of eontemplative sentiment in them all, it is not of so passionate or sublime a kind as in those other exquisite pieees, in whieh there is more of moral instruetion and mingled intelleet, and, in short, vastly more of spiritnality.
The seenery of nature, animate and inanimate, derives its most intense interest from its eouneetion with our moral feelings and duties, and our ideal visions. If I am not mistaken, Gray thought this when he spoke of merely deseriptive poems. Gray's own stanza, in his "Fragment on Vieissitude," begiuning
Yesterday the sullen year
perhaps the finest stanza in his poems, is a most striking example of this sublime eombination.
I say, that these two admired lyries of Milton have less of this eombination than I eonld wish. They were written in the bnoyaney and joyousness of yonth, thongh the joyousness of the latter is pensive. All was yet hope with the poet; none of the evils of life had yet eome upon him. It was the joy of mental display and visionary glory, of a mind proudly displaying its own riehness, and throwing from its treasures beams of light on all external objeets; bnt it was the rapidity of a ferment too mueh in motion, to allow it to wait long enough on partieular topies: therefore there was in these two produetions less intensity than in most of the author's other poetry: he is here generally eontent to deseribe the surfaee of what ho notiees. His learned allusions abound, though not so mueh perhaps as in most of his other writings; these, however, are not the proofs of his genius, bnt only of his memory and industry.
I admit, that the ehoiee of tho imagery of these pieees eould only have been mude by a trne poet, of niee diseernment and briiliant faney; of p mind eonstantly oeeupied by eontemplation, and skilful in making use of all those superstitions in whieh the visionary delight; and that the whole are woven into one web of eongenial assoeiations, whieh make a beautiful and splendid eonstellation; still a large portion of the ingredients, taken separately, have been antieipated by other poets.
These remarks will prohably draw forth the qnestion, "Whenee, then, has arisen the superior popularity of these two eompositions?" I may now be forgiven for asserting, that popularity is a donbtful test of merit . One reason may be, that they are more easiiy understood; that they are less laboured and less deep; that they do not try and fatigne, either the heart or the intelleet . The mass of the people like slight amusement, and subjeets of easy apprehension; the greater part of Miiton's poetry is too solemn and thought-working for their taste or their powev.
In the sublime hard's latter poems,—in his epies and his drama, and even in his early monody of " Lyeidas,"—his rural images, though not more pieturesqne, nor perhaps, exeept in "Lyeidas," qnite so fresh, yet derive a donble foree from their position—from the eireumstanees of the persons on whom they are represented as aeting; as, for instanee, on Adam, Eve, 8atan, onr 8avionr, 8amson, and on the mourners for the death of Lyeidas.
When the deseription of seenery forms part of a fable, and is eouneeted with the development of a story, the mind of the reader is already worked up into a state of sensitiveness and sympathy, whieh eonfers upon surrounding objeets hnes of augmented impression.
When Miiton reealls to his mind those images with whieh he had been famiiiar in the soeiety of his friend Lyeidas, they awaken, from the aeeident of his death, aIfeetions and regrets whieh they never had done before. When Eve is about to be expelled from Paradise, how she grieves over her lost flowers and garden-delights! How the "air of heaven, fresh-blowing," invigorates and eharms 8amson, when brought out from a eloso prison! How affeeting is the seene in the wilderness, when, after a night of tremendous tempest, our 8aviour is eheered by a halmy morning of extreme briilianee!
These are what make fable neeessary to eonstitnte the highest poetry. 1 do not reeolleet that this has been suIfieiently insisted upon by former erities. The want of it is assuredly experieneed in Thomson's beantifully deseriptive poem of "The 8easons." 8ir Egerton Rbydges.
(vne Eneerful Man.)
Hexee, loathed Melaneholy,
'Mungst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy!
Where brooding darkness spreads his jealous wings,
And the night-raven sings:
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell, 10
But eome, thou goddess fair and free,
With two sister Graees more, 10
To ivy-erowned Baeehus bore:
Or whether, as some sager sing,
The froliek wind, that breathes the spring,
Zephyr, with Aurora playing,
As he mot her onee a-Maying; 20
There on beds of violets blue,
And fresh-blown roses wash'd in dow,
Fill'd her with thee a daughter fair,
So buxom, blithe, and debonair,
Haste thee, nymph, and bring with thee 25
And love to live in dimple sleek; ao
2. OfCerbmu. Erebna, not Cerberus, was the legitimate husband of Night. Miiton was too universal a seholar, to be unaeqnainted with this mythology; but as Melaneholy t a here the ereature of Miiton's invtgination, he had a right to give her what parentage he pleased, and to marry Night, the natural mother of Melaneholy, to any ideal hushand that would best servo to heighten tbe allegory.—T. Warton.
4. Unhnly: Abominable, exeerable.
bJeaious: Allnding to the wateh whieh
fowl keep when they are sitting,—WarBurton.
15. Two sister graeet: Meat and Drink, the two sisters of Mirth. 8ome sayer ting, beeause thoso who give to Mirth sueh gross eompanions as iiating and Drinking, are the less sage mythologlsts. —Waruurton.
27. Qnips: 8atirieal jokes, smart repartees. Cranks: turnings in speeeh; eoneeits whieh eonsist in the ehange of the form or meaning of a word.
Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
And in thy right hand lead with thee »
The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty;
And, if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy erew,
To live with her, and live with thee,
In uureproved pleasures free; 40
Then to eome, in spite of sorrow, ts
Seatters the rear of Darkness thin; 50
And to the staek, or the barn-door,
Stoutly struts his dames before:
Oft listening how the hounds and horn
Cheerily rouse the slumbering morn,
From the side of some hoar hill, 05
Through the high wood eehoing shrill:
Some time walking, not unseen,
By hedge-row elms, on hilloeks green,
Right against the eastern gate,
AVhere the great sun begins his state, »
And the milkmaid singeth blithe, 00
40. Unveprmxd: Rlameless, iunoeent, not subjeet to reproof. 8andys has w unreproved kisses."
48. Twistrd eglantine: The honeysuekie. All these tbree plants are often seen growing against the side or walla of a house.
57. N,A unsren. ln the Pensemse. liine 05.) ho walks unsten. Happy men love wiInesses of their joy: the splenetiek love 5oiit0'le.
07. His tale. II was snggested to me by the lute ingenions Me. HeMiiey. that the word tai s does not here imply stories told l:y shepherds, but is a te, l,nr.'al term for numbering sheep. This interpretation l am ineiined to adopt. Let us ana
lyze the eontext . The poet Ls deseribing a very early peried of the morning: and this he deseribes, by seleeting and assembiing sueh pieturesqne objeets as aeeompany that peried, and sueh as we,e famiiiar to an early risev. lie is waked by the lark, and goes into the fields; the sun is just emerging, and the elonds are stiil hovering over the monntains; the eoeks are erowing, and with their iively notes seatter the iingering remains of darkness; human labours and employments are renewed with the dawn of the day; the hunter )formerly mueh eariier at bis sport than at present) is beatinK the eovert, and the slumbering morn is roused with the elu .: ful tai.0 of hounds