« AnteriorContinuar »
Æneas is represented as tearing up the Myrtle that dropped Blood." To qualify this wonderful Circumstance, Polydorus tells a Story from the Root of the Myrtle, that the barbarous Inhabitants of the Country having pierced him with Spears and Arrows, the Wood which was left in his Body took Root in his Wounds, and gave Birth to that bleeding Tree. This Circumstance feems to have the Marvellous without the Probable, because it is represented as proceeding from natural Causes, without the Interposition of any God, or other Supernatural Power capable of producing it. The Spears and Arrows grow of themselves, without so much as the Modern Help of an Enchantment. If we look into the Fiction of Milton's Fable, though we find it full of surprising Incidents, they are generally suited to our Notions of the Things and Persons described, and tempered with a due Measure of Probability. I must only make an Exception to the Limbo of Vanity, with his Episode of Şin and Death, and some of the imaginary Persons in his Chaos. These Passages are astonishing, but not credible; the Reader cannot so far impofe upon himself as to see a Possibility in them; they are the Description of Dreams and Shadows, not of Things or Persons. I know that many Criticks look upon the Stories of Circe, Polypheme, the Sirens, nay the whole Ody ley and Iliad, to be Allegories ; but allowing this to be true, they are Fables, which considering the Opnions of Mankind that prevailed in the Age of the Poet, might possibly have been according to the Letter. The Persons are such as might have acted what is ascribed to them, as the Circumstances in which they are represented, might polübly have been Truths and Realities. This Appea. rance of Probability is so absolutely requisite in the greater kinds of Poetry, that Aristotle observes the Ancient Tragick Writers made use of the Names of such great Men as had actually lived in the World, tho' the Tragedy pro. ceeded upon Adventures they were never engaged in, on purpose to make the Subject more Credible. In a Word, besides the hidden Meaning of an Epic Allegory, the Plain literal Sense ought to appear Probable. The Story should be such as an ordinary Reader may acquiesce in, whatever Natural, Moral or Political Truth may be discoverd in it by Men of greater Penetration,
SATAN, . SATAN, after having long wander'd upon the Surface, or outmost Wall of the Universe, discovers at last a wide Gap in it, which led into the Creation, and is described as the opening through which the Angels pass to and fro into the lower World, upon their Errands to Mankind. His Sitting upon the Brink of this Passage, and taking a Survey of the whole Face of Nature that appeared to him new and fresh in all its Beauties, with the Simile illustrating this Circumstance, fills the Mind of the Reader with as surprizing and glorious an Idea as any that arises irf the whole Poem. He looks down into that vast Hollow of the Universe with the Eye, or (as Milton calls it in his first Book) with the Kenn of an Angel. He furveys all the Wonders in this immense Amphitheatre that lie between both the Poles of Heaven, and takes in at one View the whole round of the Creation. · HIS Flight between the several Worlds that shined on every side of him, with the particular Description of the Sun, are set forth in all the Wantonness of a luxuriant Imagination. His Shape, Speech and Behaviour upon his transforming himself into an Angel of Light, are touched with exquisite Beauty. The Poet's Thought of directing Satan to the Sun, which in the vulgar Opinion of Mankind is the most conspicuous Part of the Creation, and the placing in it an Angel, is a Circumstance very finely contrived, and the more adjusted to a Poetical Probability, as it was a received Doctrine among the most famous Philosophers, that every Orb had its Intelligence; and as an Apoitle in Sacred Writ is said to have seen such an Angel in the Sun. In the Answer which this Angel returns to the disguisedevil Spirit, there is such a becoming Majesty as is altogether suitable to a superior Being. The Part of it in which he represents himself as present at the Creation, is very noble in it self, and not only proper where it is introduced, but requisite to prepare the Reader for what follows in the Seventh Book.
I saw when at his Word the formless Mass,
Till at his second Didding Darkness fled, · Lighthon, &c.
IN . ; IN the following Part of the Speech he points out the Earth with such circumstances, that the Reader can scarce forbear fancying himself employed on the same distant View of it.
Look downward on the Globe whose hither Side 1
I must not conclude my Reflexions upon this Third Book of Paradise Loft, without taking Notice of that celebrated Complaint of Milton with which it opens, and which certainly deserves all the Praises that have been given it; tho' as I have before hinted, it may rather be looked upon as an Excrescence, than as an essential Part of the Poem. The fame Observation might be applied to that beautiful Digression upon Hypocrisy, in the lame Book.
Monday, March 3.
Libertas; que fera tamen refpexit Inertem. Virg. Ecl. 1,
Mr. SPECTATOR, • IF you ever read a Letter which is sent with the 'l more Pleasure for the Reality of its Complaints, " this may have Reason to hope for a favourable Ac'ceptance; and if Time be the most irretrievable Loss, ? the Regrets which follow will be thought, I hope, the « molt justifiable. The regaining of my Liberty from a
long State of Indolence and Inactivity, and the Desire • of resisting the farther Encroachments of Idlena's, make • me apply to you; and the Uneasiness with which I • recollect the past Years, and the Apprehensions with F, which I expect the Future, foon determined me to it."
IDLENESS is so general a Diftemper, that I can© not but imagine a Speculation on this Subject will be of
universal Use. There is hardly any one Person with
• out fome Allay of it; and thousands besides my self ' spend more Time in an idle Uncertainty which to be• gin first of two Affairs, than would have been sufficient • to have ended them both. The Occasion of this seems ' to be the Want of some necessary Employment, to put • the Spirits in Motion, and awaken them out of their • Lethargy. If I had lefs Leisure, I fhould have more ; • for I should then find my Time diftinguished into Por' tions, some for Business, and others for the indulging of « Pleasures : But now one Face of Indolence overspreads • the whole, and I have no Land-mark to direct my self • by. Were one's Time a little straitned by Business, like • Water inclos'd in its Banks, it would have fome deter
• mined Course ; but unless it be put into some Channel .• it has no Current, but becomes a Deluge without • either Use or Motion.
• WHEN Scanderbeg Prince of Epirus was dead, the • Turks, who had but too often felt the Force of his Arm • in the Battles he had won from them, imagined that • by wearing a piece of his Bones near their Heart, they • should be animated with a Vigour and Force like to that • which inspired him when living. As I am like to be • but of little use whilft I live, I am resolved to do what Good I can after my Decease; and have accordingly
ordered my Bones to be disposed of in this Manner for « the Good of my Countrymen, who are troubled with • too exorbitant a Degree of Fire. All Fox-hunters upon I wearing me, would in a short Time be brought to en• dure their Beds in a Morning, and perhaps even quit
them with Regret at Ten: Instead of hurrying away to teize a poor Animal, and run away from their own
Thoughts, a Chair or a Chariot would be thought the • most desirable Means of performing à Remove from • one place to another. I sould be a Cure for the un
natural Desire of John Trott for Dancing, and a Spe<cifick to lessen the Inclination Mrs. Fidget has to Mo• tion, and cause her always to give her Approbation to • the present Place she is in. In fine, no Egyptian Mum• my was ever half fo useful in Phyfick, as I should be • to these feverish Constitutions, to repress the violent • Sallies of Youth, and give each Aētion its proper • Weight and Repose.
. I can stifle any violent Inclination, and oppose a Tor
rent of Anger, or the Solicitations of Revenge, with « Success. But Indolence is a Stream which flows slowly 'on, but yet undermines the Foundation of every Vir• tue. A Vice of a more lively Nature were a more • desirable Tyrant than this Ruit of the Mind, which • gives a Tincture of its Nature to every Action of ones • Life. It were as little Hazard to be loft in a Storm, as 6 to lie thus perpetually becalmed: And it is to no Pur• pose to have within one the Seeds of a thousand good • Qualities, if we want the Vigour and Resolution ne• cessary for the exerting them. Death brings all Persons • back to an Equality; and this Image of it, this Slumber • of the Mind, leaves no Difference between the greatest • Genius and the Meanest Understanding : A Faculty of • doing things remarkably praise-worthy thus concealed, ' is of no more use to the Owner, than a Heap of Gold • to the Man who dares not use it.
. "TO-MORROW is still the fatal Time when all is 6 to be rectified: To-morrow comes, it goes, and still I • please my self with the Shadow, whilst I lose the Re• ality ; unmindful that the present Time alone is ours, • the future is yet unborn, and the past is dead, and can • only live (as Parents in their Children) in the Actions • it has produced.
“THE Time we live ought not to be computed by • the Number of Years, but by the Use has been made of • it; thus 'tis not the Extent of Ground, but the yearly • Rent which gives the Value to the Estate, Wretched ' and thoughtless Creatures, in the only Place where com • vetousness were a Virtue we turn Prodigals! No" thing lies upon our hands with such Uneasiness, nor • has there been so many Devices for any one Thing, as • to make it slide away imperceptibly and to no Purpose. • A Shilling shall be hoarded up with Care, whilst that • which is above the Price of an Estate, is flung away « with Disregard and Contempt. There is nothing nowe
a-days so much avoided, as a solicitous Improvement
of every Part of Time; 'tis a Report must be shunned • as one tenders the Name of a Wit and a fine Genius, • and as one fears the Dreadful Character of a laborious ! Plodder : But notwithstanding this, the greatest Wits VOL. IV.