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And oft, as if her head she bow'd,
But, 0, sad Virgin, that thy power
70. Over some wide-water'd shore. Ob- is created which strikes the imagination. serve that the toll of bells always comes –T. WARTON. This is one of those happy across a spreading water with extraordi- observations so characteristic of Thomas nary melancholy. Thus I have been Warton. When the midnight wanderer long acustomed to listen to it cross the sees through the dark a distant light in lake of Geneva with deep emotion. This a high tower, it much engages his eye, mention of the curfeu is much finer even and moves his imagination, if he has any than the noble line which opens Gray's mind and sensitiveness: and this appli“Elegy,” though that has always been cation of mind to the description of 80 justly admired.-BRYDGES.
scenery, is what alone gives it the force 78. Remored place: That is, some quiet, of a high order of poetry.-BRYDGES. remote, or unfrequented place will suit 93. Demons, &c. Undoubtedly, these my purpose.
notions are from Plato's “Timæus" and 81. To bless the doors. Anciently the “Phadon,” and the reveries of his old watchman, who cried the hours, used commentators; yet with some reference sundry benedictions.
to the Gothic system of demons, which 86. Be seen, &c. The extraneous cir- is a mixture of Platonism, school-divinity, 'umstance" be seen," gives poetry to a und Christian superstition.-T. WARTON. passage, the simple scene of which is 99. Thebes. Æschylus' “Seven before only, “Let me study at midnight by a Thebes." Pelops' line, the Electra of 80 lamp in a lofty tower.” Henre a picture phocles. Though rare, Shakspeare.
Diew iron tears down Pluto's cheek,
Thus, Night, oft see me in thy pale career
109. Or call up him, &c. Chaucer, who' morning comes, a morning gloomy with left half-told the story of Cambuscan, in rain and wind, he walks into the dark his Squier's tale.
trackless woods, falls asleep by some 116. Great bards, &c. From Chaucer, murmuring water. and, with melancholy the father of English poetry, and who is enthusiasm, expects some dream of proghere distinguished by a story remarkable nostication, or some music played by for the wildness of its invention, our serial performers." Never were fine author seems to make a very pertinent imagery and fine imagination so marr d. and natural transition to Spenser, whose mutilated, and impoverished by a cold, " Faerie Queene," although it externally unfeeling, and imperfect representation professes to treat of tournaments and To say nothing, that he confounds two the trophies of knightly valour, of ficti descriptions.-T. WARTOX. Thus it is, tious forests and terrific enchantments, that Johnson is commonly vague and is yet allegurical, and contains a remote full of pompous and empty sounds, when mraning concealed under the veil of a he attempts to descrite; yet on such fabulous action, and of a typical narra- loose descriptions have his fond eulovits tire wuich is not immediately perceived. given him credit for portical imagination. -T. WARTON.
Warton xaw this wiih disgust, and here 122. Ciril-zailed: Gravely, solemnly speaks out. Ilow often must the nice dre sed. 1:23. F ounc d. curled.
and exquisite classical sholarship of this 125. Kercheft: Wrapped up as with a ' a complished and genuine critic have handkerchief.
been revolted by the rude pedant's coarse 127. Or usher'd, &r. Dr. Johnson, from and unfreling pomposity ! -BRYDER. this to the 154th line inclusively, thus 130. Minute drops, such as drop at interabridges our author's ideas :-“When the vals, indicating that the shower is over.
There in close covert by some brook,
But let my due feet never fail
And may at last my weary age
These pleasures, Melancholy, give,
148. Ware is here, as Newton says, a 157. High-embowed: Highly vaulted or verb neuter. The Dream is to wave at arched. the wings of Sleep, in a display of lively 159. Storied: Painted with stories. portru ture.- BRYDGES.
100. Dim religious light. Many per ons 157. Cloysters pale. Some would read religion seems to consist chiefly in dark, cloyster's pale, that is, the enclosure or heavy Gothic architecture, and stained boundary of the cloyster. Others under window-glass, as things well suited to the stand pale as an adjective, menning melancholy mind. sombre.
OF “L'Allegro" and "I Penseroso," I believe opinion is uniform; every man that reads them, reads them with pleasure. The author's design is not, wbat Theobald has remarked, merely to show how objects derive their colours from the mind, by representing the operation of the same things upon the gay and the melancholy temper, or upon the same man as he is differently disposed; but rather how, among the successive variety of appearances, every disposition of mind takes hold on those by which it may be gratified.
The cheerful man hears the lark in the morning; the pensive man hears the nightingale in the evening. cheerful man sees the cock strut, and hears the horn and hounds echo in the wood; then walks, “not unseen,” to observe the glory of the rising sun, or listen to the singing milk-maid, and view the labours of the plow man and the mower; then casts his eyes about him over scenes of smiling plenty, and looks up to the distant tower, the residence of some fair inhabitant: thus he pursues rural gaiety through a day of labour or of play, and delights himself at night with the fanciful narratives of superstitious ignorance. The pensive man at one time walks, "unseen,” to muse at midnight, and, at another, hears the solemn curfew. If the weather drives him home, he sits in a room lighted only by "glowing embers ;” or by a lonely lamp outwatches the north star, to discover the habitation of separate souls; and varies the shades of meditation, by contemplating the magnificent or pathetic scenes of tragic and epic poetry. When the morning comes-a morning gloomy with rain and wind-he falls asleep by some murmuring water, and with melancholy enthusiasm expects some dream of prognostication, or some music played by aerial performers.
Both Mirth and Melancholy are solitary, silent inhabitants of the breast, that neither receive nor transmit communication; no mention is therefore made of a philosophical friend, or of a pleasant companion. The seriousness does not arise from any participation of calamity, nor the gaiety from the pleasures of the bottle. The man of cheerfulness, having exhausted the country, tries what “tower'd cities” will afford, and mingles with scenes of splendour, gay assemblies, and nuptial festivities; but he mingles a mere spectator, as, when the learned comedies of Jonson or the wild dramas of Shakspeare are exhibited, he attends the theatre. The pensive man never loses himself in crowds, but walks the cloister, or frequents the cathedral.
Both his characters delight in music; but he seems to think that cheerful notes would have obtained from Pluto a complete dismission of Eurydice, of whom solemn sounds procured only a conditional release. For the old age of Cheerfulness, he makes no provision; but Melancholy he conducts with great dignity to the close of life: his cheerfulness is without levity, and his pensiveness without asperity. Through these two poems the images are properly selected, and nicely distinguished; but the colours of the diction seem not sufficiently discriminated. I know not whether the characters are kept sufficiently apart: no mirth can, indeed, be found in his melancholy; but I am afraid that I always meet some melancholy in his mirth. They are two noble efforts of imagination.—Jounson.
Of these two exquisite little poems, I think it clear that the last is the most taking, which is owing to the subject. The mind delights most in these solemn images, and a genius delights most to paint them.--Hurd.
“L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" may be called the two first descriptive poems in the English language. It is perhaps true, that the characters are not sufficiently kept apart; but this circumstance has been productive of greater excellences. It has been remarked, “No mirth, indeed, can be found in his melancholy, but I am afraid I always meet some melancholy in his mirth.” Milton's is the dignity of mirth ; bis cheerfulness is the cheerfulness of gravity; the objects he selects in his “L'Allegro" are so far gay, as they do not naturally excite sadness; laughter and jollity are named only as personifications, and never exemplified: “Quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles," are enumerated only in general terms. There is specifically no mirth in contemplating a fine landscape; and even his landscape, although it has flowery meads and flocks, wears a shade of pensiveness, and contains "russet lawns," "fallows gray," and " barren mountains," overhung with “labouring clouds :" its old turreted mansion, peeping from the trees, awakens only a train of solemn and romantic, perhaps melancholy reflection. Many a pensive man listens with delight to the “milk-maid singing blithe,” to the “mower whetting bis scythe,” and to a distant peal of village-bells. He chose such illustrations as minister matter for new poetry and genuine description. Even his most brilliant imagery is mellowed with the sober hues of philosophic meditation. It was impossible for the author of “Il Penseroso" to be more cheerful, or to paint mirth with levity: that is, otherwise than in the colours of the higher poetry. Both poems are the result of the same feelings, and the same habits of thought.
Dr. Johnson has remarked, that in “L'Allegro" " no part of the gaiety is made to arise from the pleasures of the bottle.” The truth is, that Milton means to describe the cheerfulness of the philosopher or the student, the amusements of a contemplative mind; and on this principle he seems unwilling to allow that Mirth is the offspring of Bacchus and Venus, deities who preside over sensual grautications; but rather adopts the fiction of those more serious and sapient fablers, who suppose that her proper parents are Zephyr and Aurora; intimating, that his cheerful enjoyments are those of the temperate and innocent kind, of early hours and rural pleasures. That critic does not appear to have entered into the spirit, or to have comprehended the meaning, of our author's “ L'Allegro." -J. WARTON.