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The oracles are dumb, *

No voice or hideous hum,

Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving;
No nightly trance, or breathed fpell,

Inspires the pale-ey'd priest from the prophetic cell.

Such is the power of true poetry, that one is almost inclined to believe the fuperftitions here alluded to, to be real; and the fucceeding circumstances make one start and look around;

In confecrated earth,

And on the holy hearth,

The lars and lemurs moan with midnight plaint;

In urns and altars round

A drear and dying found

Affrights the flamens at their fervice quaint!

Methinks we behold the priests interrupted in the middle of the fecret ceremonies they were performing, " in their temples dim," gazing with ghaftly eyes on each other, and terrified and wondering from whence these aërial voices should proceed! I have dwelt

Pag. 28.


chiefly on this ode as much less celebrated than L'Allegro and Il Penforofo, which are now univerfally known, but which by a ftrange fatality lay in a fort of obscurity, the private enjoyment of a few curious readers, till they were set to admirable music by Mr. Handel. And indeed this Volume of Milton's

miscellaneous poems has not till very lately met with suitable regard. Shall I offend any rational admirer of POPE by remarking, that thefe juvenile descriptive poems of Milton, as well as his latin elegies, are of a strain far more exalted than any the former author can boaft? Let me add at the fame time, what justice obliges me to add, that they are far more incorrect. For in the very ode before us, occur one or two paffages, that are puerile and affected, to a degree not to be parallelled in the purer, but lefs elevated, compofitions of POPE. The feafon being winter, Milton has faid, that in honour to Jefus,

Nature in awe to him
Had dofft her gawdy trim.


And afterwards obferves, in a very epigrammatic and very forced thought, unsuitable to the dignity of the subject and of the rest of the ode, that, " she wooed the air, to hide her guilty front with innocent show,”.

And on her naked fhame, *

Pollute with finful blame,

The faintly veil of maiden white to throw,

Confounded that her maker's eyes

Should look fo near upon her foul deformities.

"C'est affez, to apply the words of the sensible Voltaire, d'avoir cru appercevoir quelques erreurs d'invention dans ce grand genie; c'est une confolation pour un efprit auffi bornè que le mien, d'etre bien perfuadé que les plus grands hommes fe trompent comme le vulgaire."

It would be unpardonable to conclude these remarks on defcriptive poefy, without taking notice of the SEASONS of Thomson, who had peculiar and powerful talents for

Milton's Mifcellaneous Poems, vol. 2. pag. 19.

this fpecies of compofition. Let the reader therefore pardon a digreffion, if fuch it be, on his merits and character. Thomson was blessed with a strong and copious fancy; he hath enriched poetry with a variety of new and original images, which he painted from nature itself, and from his own actual obfervations: his descriptions have therefore a diftinctness and truth, which are utterly wanting to thofe, of poets who have only copied from each other, and have never looked abroad on the objects themselves. Thomson was accuftomed to wander away into the country for days and for weeks, attentive to, " each rural

fight, each rural found;" while many a poet who has dwelt for years in the Strand, has attempted to defcribe fields and rivers, and generally fucceeded accordingly. Hence that nauseous repetition of the fame circumstances; hence that difgufting impropriety of introducing what may be called a fet of hereditary images, without proper regard to the age, or climate, or occafion, in which they were formerly used. Though the diction of


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the SEASONS is fometimes harsh and inharmonious, and sometimes turgid and obfcure, and though in many inftances, the numbers are not fufficiently diverfified by different pauses, yet is this poem on the whole, from the numberless strokes of nature in which it abounds, one of the moft captivating and amusing in our language, and which, as its beauties are not of a fugacious kind, as depending on particular customs and manners, will ever be perused with delight. The scenes of Thomfon are frequently as wild and romantic as those of Salvator Rofa, pleasingly varied with precipices and torrents, and "castled cliffs," and deep vallies, with piny mountains, and the gloomieft caverns, Innumerable are the little circumstances in his descriptions, totally unobserved by all his predeceffors. What poet hath ever taken notice of the leaf, that towards the end of autumn,

Inceffant ruftles from the mournful grove,

Ver. 1000.

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