« AnteriorContinuar »
tion, in this ancient prophecy or report in heaven, concerning the creation of man. Nothing could shew more the dignity of the species, than this tradition which ran of them before their existence. They are represented to have been the talk of heaven before they were created. Virgil, in compliment to the Roman commonwealth, makes the heroes of it appear in their state of pre-existence; but Milton does a far greater honour to mankind in general, he gives us a glimpse of them even before they are in being.
The rising of this great assembly is described in a very sublime and poetical manner :
Their rising all at once was as the sound
The diversions of the fallen angels, with the particular account of their place of habitation, are described with great preguancy of thought, and copiousness of invention. The diversions are every way suitable to beings who had nothing left them but strength and knowledge misapplied. Such are their contentions at the race, and in feats of arms, with their entertainment in the following lines :
Others with vast Typhæan rage more fell
Their music is employed in celebrating their own criminal exploits, and their discourse in sounding the unfathomable depths of fate, free-will, and foreknowledge.
The several circumstances in the description of hell are finely imagined ; as the four rivers which disgorge themselves into the sea of fire, the extremes of cold and heat, and the river of oblivion. The monstrous animals produced in that infernal world are represented by a single line, which gives us a more horrid idea of them, than a much longer description would have done :
Gorgons and hydras, and chimeras dire. This episode of the fallen spirits, and their place of habitation, comes in very happily to unbend the mind of the reader from its attention to the debate. An ordinary poet would indeed have spun out so many circumstances to a great length, and by that means have weakened, instead of illustrated, the principal fable.
The flight of Satan to the gates of hell is finely imaged.
I have already declared my opinion of the allegory concerning Sin and Death, which is however a very finished piece in its kind, when it is not considered as a part of an epic poem. The genealogy of the several persons is contrived with great delicacy. Sin is the daughter of Satan, and Death the offspring of Sin. The incestuous mixture between Sin and Death produces those monsters and hellhounds which from time to time enter into their mother, and tear the bowels of her who
These are the terrors of an evil conscience, and the proper fruits of Sin, which naturally rise from the apprehensions of Death. This last beautiful moral is, I think, clearly intimated in the speech of Sin, where, complaining of this her dreadful issue, she adds,
Before mine eyes in opposition sits
I need not mention to the reader the beautiful circumstance in the last part of this quotation. He will likewise observe how naturally the three persons concerned in this allegory are tempted by one common interest to enter into a confederacy together, and how properly Sin is made the portress of hell, and the only being that can open the gates to that world of tortures:
The descriptive part of this allegory is flikewise very strong, and full of sublime ideas. The figure of Death, the regal crown upon his head, his menace of Satan, his advancing to the combat, the outcry at his birth, are circumstances too noble to be past over in silence, and extremely suitable to this king of terrors. I need not mention the justness of thought which is observed in the generation of these several symbolical persons; that Sin was produced upon the first revolt of Satan, that Death appeared soon after he was cast into hell, and that the terrors of conscience were conceived at the gate of this place of torments. The description of the gates is very poetical, as the opening of them is full of Milton's spirit:
On a sudden open fly
So wide they stood, and like a furnace mouth
Cast forth redounding smoke and ruddy flame. In Satan's voyage through the chaos there are several imaginary persons described, as residing in that immense waste of matter. This may perhaps be conformable to the taste of those critics who are pleased with nothing in a poet which has not life and manners ascribed to it; but for my own part, I am pleased most with those passages in this description which
carry in them a greater measure of probability, and are such as might
possibly have happened. Of this kind is his first mounting in the smoke that rises from the infernal pit, his falling into a cloud of nitre, and the like combustible materials, that by their explosion still hurried him forward in his voyage: his springing upward like a pyramid of fire, with his laborious passage through that confusion of elements which the poet calls
The womb of nature, and perhaps her grave. The glimmering light which shot into the chaos from the utmost verge of the creation, with the distant discovery of the earth that hung close by the moon, are wonderfully beautiful and poetical.
N° 310. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 1711-12.
Connubio jungam stabili
VIR. Æn. i. 77.
I'll tie the indissoluble marriage-koot.'
I am a certain young woman that love a certain
young man very heartily; and my father and mother were for it a great while, but now they say I can do better, but I think I cannot. They bid me not love him, and I cannot unlove him. What must I do? Speak quickly.
February 19, 1712. • I have loved a lady entirely for this year and half, though for a great part of the time (which has contributed not a little to my pain) I have been debarred the liberty of conversing with her. The grounds of our difference was this ; that when we had inquired into each other's circumstances, we found that at our first setting out into the world, we should owe five hundred pounds more than her fortune would pay off. My estate is seven hundred pounds a-year, besides the benefit of tin mines. Now, dear Spec, upon this state of the case, and the lady's positive declaration that there is still no other objection, I beg you will not fail to insert this, with your opinion, as soon as possible, whether this ought to be esteemed a just cause or impediment