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For the old age of Cheerfulness he makes no are so general, that they excite no distinct imaprovision ; but Melancholy he conducts with ges of corrupt enjoyment, and take no dangerous great dignity to the close of life. His cheerful- hold on the fancy. ness is without levity, and his pensiveness with The following soliloquies of Gomus and the out asperity.
Lady are elegant, but tedious. The song must Through these two poems the images are owe much to the voice if it ever can delight. properly selected and nicely distinguished; but At last the brothers enter with too much tranthe colours of the diction seem not sufficiently quillity; and when they have feared lest their discriminated. I know not whether characters sister should be in danger, and hoped that she is are kept sufficiently apart. No mirth can, in- not in danger, the elder makes a speech in praise deed, be found in his melancholy; but I am afraid of chastity, and the younger finds how fine it is that I always meet some melancholy in his to be a philosopher. mirth. They are two noble efforts of imagina Then descends the Spirit in form of a sheption. *
herd; and the brother, instead of being in haste The greatest of his juvenile performances is to ask his help, praises his singing, and inquires the mask of “Comus,” in which may very his business in that place. It is remarkable, that plainly be discovered the dawn or twilight of at this interview the brother is taken with a short * Paradise Lost.” Milton appears to have fit of rhyming. The Spirit relates that the Lady formed very early that system of diction, and is in the power of Comus; the brother moralizes mode of verse, which his maturer judgment ap- again ; and the Spirit makes a long narration, proved, and from which he never endeavoured of no use, because it is false, and therefore unnor desired to deviate.
suitable to a good being. Nor does “Comus” afford only a specimen In all these parts the language is poetical, and of his language; it exhibits likewise his power the sentiments are generous; but there is someof description and his vigour of sentiment, em- thing wanting to allure attention. ployed in the praise and defence of virtue. A The dispute between the Lady and Comus is work more truly poetical is rarely found; allu- the most animated and affecting scene of the sions, images, and descriptive epithets, embellish drama, and wants nothing but a brisker reciproalmost every period with lavish decoration. As cation of objections and replies to invite attena series of lines, therefore, it may be considered tion and detain it. as worthy of all the admiratio with which the The songs are vigorous and full of imagery; votaries have received it.
but they are harsh in their diction, and not very As a drama it is deficient. The action is not musical in their numbers. probable. A mask, in those parts where super Throughout the whole the figures are too bold; natural intervention is admitted, must indeed be and the language too luxuriant for dialogue. given up to all the freaks of imagination ; but, It is a drama in the epic style, inelegantly splenso far as the action is merely human, it ought to did, and tediously instructive. be reasonable, which can hardly be said of the The Sonnets were written in different parts conduct of the two brothers; who, when their of Milton's life, upon different occasions. They sister sinks with fatigue in a pathless wilderness, deserve not any particular criticism; for of the wander both away together in search of berries best it can only be said, that they are not bad; too far to find their way back, and leave a help- and perhaps only the eighth and the twentyless lady to all the sadness and danger of soli- first are truly entitled to this slender commendatude. This, however, is a defect overbalanced tion. The fabric of a sonnet, however adapted by its convenience.
to the Italian language, has never succeeded in What deserves more reprehension is, that the ours, which, having greater variety of terminaprologue spoken in the wild wood by the atten- tion, requires tủe rhymes to be often changed. dant Spirit is addressed to the audience; a mode Those little pieces may be despatched without of communication so contrary to the nature of much anxiety; a greater work calls for greater dramatic representation, that no precedents can care. I am now to examine “Paradise Lost;" support it.
a poem, which, considered with respect to deThe discourse of the Spirit is too long; an sign, may claim the first place, and with respect objection that may be made to almost all the fol- to performance, the second, among the produclowing speeches; they have not the sprightliness tions of the human mind. of a dialogue animated by reciprocal contention, By the general consent of critics, the first but wem rather declamations deliberately com- praise of genius is due to the writer of an epic pos.d, and formally repeated on a moral ques- poem, as it requires an assemblage of all the tion. The auditor therefore listens as to a lec- powers which are singly sufficient for other comture, without passion, without anxiety. positions. Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure
The song of Comus has airiness and jollity; with truth, by calling imagination to the help of but, what may recommend Milton's morals as reason. Epic poetry undertakes to teach the well as his poetry, the invitations to pleasure most important truths by the most pleasing pre
cepts, and therefore relates some great event in * Mr. Warton intimates (and there can be little doubt the most affecting manner. History must supof the truth of his conjecture) that Milton borrowed many ply the writer with the rudiments of narration, of the images in these two fine poeing from Burton's which he must improve and exalt by a nobler art, at sundry times since, abounding in learning, curious in- must animate by dramatic energy, and diversify formation, and pleasantry. Mr. Warton says, that by retrospection and anticipation; morality must Milton appears to have been an attentive reader thereof; teach him the exact bounds and different shades and to this assertion I add, of my own knowledge, that it of vice and virtue; from policy, and the practice many others have done, for amusement after the fatigue of life, he has to learn the discriminations of chaof study.---H.
racter, and the tendency of the passions, either
single or combined; and physiology must supply and of man; of angels good and evil; of man him with illustrations and images. To put these in his innocent and sinful state. materials to poetical use, is required an imagi Among the angels, the virtue of Raphael is nation capable of painting nature, and realizing mild and placid, of easy condescension and free fiction. Nor is he yet a poet till he has attained communication ; that of Michael is regal and the whole extension of his language, distin- lofty, and, as may seem, attentive to the dignity guished all the delicacies of phrase, and all the of his own nature. Abdiel and Gabriel appear colours of words, and learned to adjust their occasionally, and act as every incident requires ; different sounds to all the varieties of metrical the solitary fidelity of Abdiel is very amiably modulation.
painted. Bossu is of opinion, that the poet's first work Of the evil angels the characters are more diis to find a moral, which his fable is afterwards versified. To Satan, as Addison observes, such to illustrate and establish. This seems to have sentiments are given as suit “the most exalted been the process only of Milton ; the moral of and most depraved being.” Milton has been other poems is incidental and consequent; in censured by Clarke* for the impiety which Milton's only it is essential and intrinsic. His sometimes breaks from Satan's mouth; for there purpos was the most useful and the most ardu- / are thoughts, as he jus remarks, which obous; “to vindicate the ways of God to man;"servation of character can justify, because no to show the reasonableness of religion, and the good man would willingly permit them to pass, necessity of obedience to the Divine law. however transiently, through his own mind. To
To convey this moral there must be a fable, a make Satan speak as a rebel, without any such narration artfully constructed, so as to excite expressions as might taint the reader's imaginacuriosity, and surprise expectation. In this part tion, was indeed one of the great difficulties in of his work, Milton must be confessed to have Milton's undertaking; and I cannot but think equalled every other poet. He has involved in that he has extricated himself with great happihis account of the fall of man the events which ness. There is in Satan's speeches little that preceded, and those that were to follow it; he can give pain to a pious ear. The language of has interwoven the whole system of theology rebellion cannot be the same with that of obediwith such propriety, that every part appears to The malignity of Satan foams in haughbe necessary; and scarcely any recital is wished tiness and obstinacy: but his expressions are shorter for the sake of quickening the progress commonly general, and no otherwise offensive of the main action.
than as they are wicked. The subject of an epic poem is naturally an The other chiets of the celestial rebellion are event of great importance. That of Milton is very judiciously discriminated in the first and not the destruction of a city, the conduct of a second books; and the ferocious character of colony, or the foundation of an empire. His Moloch appears both in the battle and the counsubject is the fate of worlds, the revolutions of cil, with exact consistency. heaven and of earth; rebellion against the su To Adam and to Eve are given during their preme King, raised by the highest order of crea- innocence, such sentiments as innocence can ted beings; the overthrow of their host, and the generate and utter. Their love is pure benevopunishment of their crime; the creation of a lence and mutual veneration; their repasts are new race of reasonable creatures, their original without luxury, and their diligence without toil. happiness and innocence, their forfeiture of im. Their addresses to their Maker have little more mortality, and their restoration to hope and peace. than the voice of admiration and gratitude.
Great events can be hastened or retarded only Fruition left them nothing to ask; and innoby persons of elevated dignity. Before the cence left them nothing to fear. greatness displayed in Milton's poem, all other But with guilt enter distrust and discord, mugreatness shrinks away. The weakest of his tual accusation, and stubborn self-defence; they agents are the highest and noblest of human regard each other with alienated minds, and beings, the original parents of mankind; with dread their Creator as the avenger of their transwhose actions the elements consented; on whose gression. At last they seek shelter in his mercy, rectitude, or deviation of will, depended the soften to repentance, and melt in supplication. state of terrestrial nature, and the condition of Both before and after the fall, the superiority of all the future inhabitants of the globe.
Adam is diligently sustained. Of the other agents in the poem, the chief are Of the probable and the marvellous, two parts such as it is irreverence to name on slight occa- of a vulgar epic poem, which immerge the critic sions. The rest were lower powers;
in deep consideration, the “Paradise Lost” reof which the least could wield
quires little to be said. It contains the history Those elements, and arm him with the force of a miracle, of creation and redemption; it disof all their regions ;
plays the power and the mercy of the Supreme powers, which only the control of Omnipotence Being: the probable therefore is marvellous, and restrains from laying creation waste, and filling the marvellous is probable. The substance of the vast expanse of space with ruin and confu- the narrative is truth; and, as truth allows no sion. To display the motives and actions of choice, it is like necessity, superior to rule. To beings thus superior, so far as human reason can the accidental or adventitious parts, as to every examine them, or human imagination represent thing human, some slight exceptions may be them, is the task which this mighty Poet has un- made ; but the main fabric is immoveably supdertaken and performed.
ported. In the examination of epic poems, much specu It is justly remarked by Addison, that this lation is commonly employed upon the charac-poem has, by the nature of its subject, the adters. The characters in the “ Paradise Lost” which adınit of examination, are those of angels
Essay on Study.”-Dr. J.
Author of the "
vantage above all others, that it is universally I may be accommodated to all times ; and Ra. and perpetually interesting. All mankind will, phael's reproof of Adam's curiosity after the through all ages, bear the same relation to Adam planetary motions, with the answer returned by and Eve, and must partake of that good and evil Adam, may be confidently opposed to any rule which extend to themselves.
of life which any poet has delivered, Of the machinery, so called from Oeds and The thoughts which are occasionally called unxavñs, by which is meant the occasional inter- forth in the progress, are such as could only be position of supernatural power, another fertile to produced by an imagination in the highest depic of critical remarks, here is no room to speak, gree fervid and active, to which materials were because every thing is done under the immedi- supplied by incessant study and unlimited curiate and visible direction of Heaven; but the rule osity. The heat of Milton's mind may be said is so far observed, that no part of the action to sublimate his learning, to throw off into his could have been accomplished by any other work the spirit of science, unmingled with its
grosser parts. Of episodes, I think there are only two, con He had considered creation in its whole extained in Raphael's relation of the war in hea- tent, and his descriptions are therefore learned. ven, and Michael's prophetic account of the He had accustomed his imagination to unrechanges to happen in this world. Both are strained indulgence, and his conceptions thereclosely connected with the great action; one was fore were extensive. The characteristic quality necessary to Adam as a warning, the other as a of his poem is sublimity. He sometimes descend's consolation.
to the elegant, but his element is the great. He To the completeness or integrity of the de- can occasionally invest himself with grace; but sign, nothing can be objected ; it has distinctly his natural port is gigantic loftiness. *
He can and clearly what Aristotle requires-a begin- please when pleasure is required; but it is his ning, a middle, and an end. There is perhaps peculiar power to astonish. no poem, of the same length, from which so lit
He seems to have been well acquainted with tle can be taken without apparent mutilation. his own genius, and to know what it was that Here are no funeral games, nor is there any long Nature had bestowed upon him more bountifully description of a shield. The short digressions at than upon others; the power of displaying the the beginning of the third, seventh, and ninth vast, illuminating the splendid, enforcing the books, might doubtless be spared ; but superflui- awful, darkening the gloomy, and aggravating tieş so beautiful who would take away? or who the dreadful; he therefore chose a subject on does not wish that the author of the “Iliad” had which too much could not be said, on which he gratified succeeding ages with a little knowledge might tire his fancy without the censure of exof himself ? Perhaps no passages are more fre- travagance. quently or more attentively read than those ex
The appearances of nature, and the occurtrinsic paragraphs; and, since the end of poetry rences of life, did not satiate his appetite of greatis pleasure, that cannot be unpoetical with which ness. To paint things as they are, requires a all' are pleased.
minute attention, and employs the memory raThe questions, whether the action of the poem ther than the fancy. Milton's delight was to be strictly one, whether the poem can be pro- sport in the wide regions of possibility ; reality perly termed heroic, and who is the hero, are was a scene too narrow for his mind. He sent raised by such readers as draw their principles his faculties out upon discovery, into worlds of judgment rather from books than from rea- where only imagination can travel, and delighted
Milton, though he entitled “Paradise to form new modes of existence, and furnish Lost” only a poem, yet calls it himself heroic sentiment and action to superior beings; to trace song. Dryden petulantly and indecently denies the counsels of hell, or accompany the choirs of the heroism of Adam, because he was overcome: heaven. but there is no reason why the hero should not But he could not be always in other worlds ; be unfortunate, except established practice, since he must sometimes revisit earth, and tell of success and virtue do not go necessarily together. things visible and known. When he cannot Cato is the hero of Lucan; but Lucan's authori- raise wonder by the sublimity of his mind, he ty will not be suffered by Quintilian to decide. gives delight by its fertility. However, if success be necessary, Adam's de Whatever be his subject, he never fails to fill ceiver was at last crushed ; Adam was restored the imagination; but his images and descriptions to his Maker's favour, and therefore may se- of the scenes or operations of Nature do not curely resume his human rank.
seem to be always copied from original form, After the scheme and fabric of the poem, must nor to have the freshness, raciness, and energy be considered its component parts, the senti- of immediate observation. He saw Nature, as ments and the diction.
Dryden expresses it, “through the spectacles of The sentiments, as expressive of manners, or books; and on most occasions calls learning to appropriated to characters, are, for the greater his assistance. The garden of Eden brings to part, unexceptionably just.
his mind the vale of Enna, where Proserpine Splendid passages, containing lessons of mo
was gathering flowers. Satan makes his way rality, or precepts of prudence, occur seldom. through fighting elements, like Argo between Such is the original formation of this poem, that, the Cyanean rocks; or Ulysses, between the two as it admits no human manners till the fall, it Sicilian whirlpools, when he shunned Charybdis can give little assistance to human conduct. Its on the larboard. The mythological allusions end is to raise the thoughts above sublunary have been justly censured, as not being always cares or pleasures. Yet the praise of that fortitude, with which Abdiel maintained his singu
* Algarntti terms it gigantesca sublimita Miltoniana, larity of virtue against the scorn of multitudes, 1 - Dr. J.
used with notice of their vanity ; but they con- impressed. But the passions are moved only on tribute variety to the narration, and produce one occasion ; sublimity is the general and prean alternate exercise of the memory and the vailing quality of this poem; sublimity variously fancy.
modified, sometimes descriptive, sometimes arHis similes are less numerous, and more vari- gumentative. ous, than those of his predecessors. But he does The defects and faults of “Paradise Lost," not confine himself within the limits of rigorous for faults and defects every work of man must comparison : his great excellence is amplitude; have, it is the business of impartial criticism to and he expands the adventitious image beyond discover. As, in displaying the excellence of the dimensions which the occasion required. Milton, I have not made long quotations, beThus, comparing the shield of Satan to the orb cause of selecting beauties there had been no of the moon, he crowds the imagination with the end, I shall in the same general manner mention discovery of the telescope, and all the wonders that which seems to deserve censure; for what which the telescope discovers.
Englishman can take delight in transcribing Of his moral sentiments it is hardly praise to passages, which, if they lessen the reputation of affirm that they excel those of all other poets; Milton, diminish in some degree the honour of for this superiority he was indebted to his ac our country? quaintance with the sacred writings. The an The generality of my scheme does not admit cient epic poets, wanting the light of Revelation, the frequent notice of verbal inaccuracies: which were very unskilful teachers of virtue ; their Bentley, perhaps better skilled in grammar than principal characters may be great, but they are in poetry, has often found, though he sometimes not amiable. The reader may rise from their made them, and which he imputed to the obtruworks with a greater degree of active or passive sions of a reviser, whom the Author's blindness fortitude, and sometimes of prudence; but he obliged him to employ ; a supposition rash and will be able to carry away few precepts of justice, groundless, if he thought it true; and vile and and none of mercy.
pernicious, if, as is said, he in private allowed it From the Italian writers it appears, that the to be false. advantages of even christian knowledge may be The plan of “Paradise Lost” has this inconpossessed in vain. Ariosto's pravity is gene- venience, that it comprises neither human actions rally known; and, though the Deliverance of nor human manners.* The man and woman Jerusalem may be considered as a sacred sub- who act and suffer are in a state which no other ject, the poet has been very sparing of moral in- man or woman can ever know. The reader struction,
finds no transaction in which he can be engaged; In Milton every line breathes sanctity of beholds no condition in which he can by any thought and purity of manners, except when the effort of imagination place himself; he has, train of the narration requires the introduction of therefore, little natural curiosity or sympathy. the rebellious spirits; and even they are com We all, indeed, feel the effects of Adam's dispelled to acknowledge their subjection to God, obedience; we all sin like Adam, and like him in such a manner as excites reverence and con- must all bewail our offences; we have restless firms piety.
and insidious enemies in the fallen angels; and Of human beings there are but two; but those the blessed spirits we have guardians and two are the parents of mankind, venerable before friends ; in the redemption of mankind we hope their fall for dignity and innocence, and amiable to be included ; and in the description of heaven after it for their repentance and submission. In and hell we are surely interested, as we are all the first state their affection is tender without to reside hereafter either in the regions of horror weakness, and their piety sublime without pre- or of bliss. sumption. When they have sinned, they show But these truths are too important to be new; how discord begins in mutual frailty, and how it they have been taught to our infancy; they ought to cease in mutual forbearance; how con- have mingled with our solitary thoughts and fafidence of the Divine favour is forfeited by sin, miliar conversations, and are habitually interand how hope of pardon may be obtained by woven with the whole texture of life. Being penitence and prayer. A state of innocence we therefore not new, they raise no unaccustomed can only conceive, if indeed, in our present mis- emotion in the mind; what we knew before, we ery, it be possible to conceive it; but the senti- cannot learn; what is not unexpected, cannot ments and worship proper to a fallen and offend surprise. ing being, we have all to learn, as we have all Of the ideas suggested by these awful scenes, to practise.
from some we recede with reverence, except The Poet, whatever be done, is always great. when stated hours require their association; Our progenitors, in their first 'estate, conversed and from others we shrink with horror, or ad with angels; even when folly and sin had degra- mit them only as salutary inflictions, as counded them, they had not in their humiliation the terpoises to our interests and passions. Such port of mean suitors; and they rise again to reve- images rather obstruct the career of fancy than rential regard, when we find that their prayers
incite it. were heard,
Pleasure and terror are, indeed, the genuine As human passions did not enter the world sources of poetry; but poetical pleasure must be before the fall, there is in the “Paradise Lost” such as human imagination can at least conlittle opportunity for the pathetic ; but what
little ceive; and poetical terror such as human strength there is has not been lost. That passion which and fortitude may combat. The good and evil is peculiar to rational nature
, the anguish arising of eternity are too ponderous for the wings of from the consciousness of transgression, and the horrors attending the sense of the Divine dis * But, says Dr. Warton, it has throughout a reference pleasure, are very justly described and forcibly I to human life and actions.c.
wit; the mind sinks under them with passive , for contraction and remove are images of matter; helplessness, content with calm belief and hum- but if they could have escaped without their ble adoration.
armour, they might have escaped from it, and left Known truths, however, may take a different only the empty cover to be battered. Urich, appearance, and be conveyed to the mind by a when he rides on a sunbeam, is material; Satan new train of intermediate images. This Milton is material, when he is afraid of the prowess of has undertaken, and performed with pregnancy
Adam. and vigour of mind peculiar to himself. Who The confusion of spirit and matter which perever considers the few radical positions which vades the whole narration of the war of heaven, the Scriptures afforded him, will wonder by what fills it with incongruity; and the book in which energetic operation he expanded them to such it is related is, I believe, the favourite of children, extent, and ramified them to so much variety, and gradually neglected as knowledge is inrestrained as he was by religious reverence from creased. licentiousness of fiction.
After the operation of immaterial agents which Here is a full display of the united force of cannot be explained, may be considered that of study and genius; of a great accumulation of allegorical persons which have no real existence. materials, with judgment to digest, and fancy to To exalt causes into agents, to invest abstract combine them: Milton was able to select from ideas with form, and animate them with activity, nature, or from story, from ancient fable, or has always been the right of poetry. But such from modern science, whatever could illustrate airy beings are, for the most part
, suffered only to or adorn his thoughts. An accumulation of do their natural office, and retire. Thus Fame knowledge impregnated his mind, fermented by tells a tale, and Victory hovers over a general, or study, and exalted by imagination.
perches on a standard; but Fame and Victory It has been therefore said, without an indecent can do no more. To give them any real employhyperbole, by one of his encomiasts, that in ment, or ascribe to them any material agency, is reading “Paradise Lost,” we read a book of to make them allegorical no longer, but to shock universal knowledge.
the mind by ascribing effects to nonentity. In the But original deficience cannot be supplied.
“ Prometheus" of Æschylus, we see Violence The want of human interest is always felt
. and Strength, and in the “ Alcestis” of Euripides, " Paradise Lost” is one of the books which the we see Death, brought upon the stage, all as active reader admires and lays down, and forgets to persons of the drama ; but no precedents can take up again. None ever wished it longer justify absurdity. than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a Milton's allegory of Sin and Death, is unpleasure. We read Milton for instruction, re-doubtedly faulty, Sin is indeed the mother of tire harrassed and overburthened, and look else-Death, and may be allowed to be the portress of where for recreation; we desert our master, and hell; but when they stop the journey of Satan, a seek for companions.
journey described as real, and when Death offers Another inconvenience of Milton's design is, him battle, the allegory is broken. That Sin and that it requires the description of what cannot be Death should have shown the way to hell, might described, the agency of spirits. He saw that have been allowed; but they cannot facilitate the immateriality supplied no images, and that he passage by building a bridge, because the difficould not show angels acting but by instruments culty of Satan's passage is described as real and of action: he therefore invested them with form sensible, and the bridge ought to be only figuraand matter. This, being necessary, was there- tive. The hell assigned to the rebellious spirits is fore defensible; and he should have secured the described as not less local than the residence of consistency of his system, by keeping immate- man. It is placed in some distant part of space, riality out of sight, and enticing his reader to drop separated from the regions of harmony and order, it from his thoughts. But he has unhappily per- by a chaotic waste and an unoccupied vacuity plexed his poetry with his philosophy. His in- but Sin and Death worked up a mole of aggravated fernal and celestial powers are sometimes pure soil, cemented with asphaltus ; a work too bulky spirit, and sometimes animated body. When for ideal architects. Satan walks with his lance upon the burning
This unskilful allegory appears to me one of marl, he has a body; when, in his passage be- the greatest faults of the poem; and to this there tween hell and the new world, he is in danger of was no temptation but the Author's opinion of its sinking in the vacuity, and is supported by a gust | beauty, of rising vapours, he has a body; when he ani To the conduct of the narrative some objections mates the toad, he seems to be mere spirit, that may be made. Satan is with great expectation can penetrate matter at pleasure ; when he starts brought before Gabriel in paradise, and is sufup in his own shape, he has at least a determined fered to go away unmolested. The creation of form; and when he is brought before Gabriel, he man is represented as the consequence of the has a spear and a shield, which he had the power vacuity left in heaven by the expulsion of the of hiding in the toad, though the arms of the con- rebels; yet Satan mentions it as a report rife in tending angels are evidently material.
heaven before his departure. The vulgar inhabitants of Pandemonium, being To find sentiments for the state of innocence incorporeal spirits, are at large, though without was very difficult; and something of anticipation, number, in a limited space; yet in the battle, when perhaps, is now and then discovered. Adam's they were overwhelmed by mountains, their armour discourse of dreams seems not to be the speculahurt them, crushed in upon their substance, now tion of a new-created being. I know not whether grown gross by sinning. This likewise happened his answer to the angel's reproof for curiosity does to the uncorrupted angels, who were overthrown not want something of propriety ; it is the speech the sooner for their arms, for unarmed they might of a man acquainted with many other men. easily as spirits have evaded by contraction or re- Some philosophical notions, especially when the move. Even as spirits they are hardly spiritual; | philosophy is false, might have been better omitted.