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No. 315.] Saturday, March 1, 1711-12. Nec deus intersit nisi dignus vindice nodus Inciderit Hor. Mrs Poet. v. 191.
Never presume to make a god appear
HoRAcE advises a t to consider thoroughly the nature and force of his genius. Milton seems to have known perfectly well wherein his strength lay, and has therefore chosen a subject entirely conformable to those talents of which he was master. As his genius was wonderfully turned to the sublime, his subject is the noblest that could have entered into the thoughts of Inan. . thing that is truly great and astonishing has a place in it. e whole system of the intellectual world; the chaos, and the creation: heaven, earth, and hell; enter into the constitution of his poem. Having in the first and second books reresented the infernal world with all its orrors, the thread of his fable naturally leads him into the opposite regions of bliss and glory. If Milton's majesty forsakes him any where, it is in those parts of his poem where the divine persons are introduced as speakers. One may, I think, observe, that the author proceeds with a kind of fear and trembling, whilst he describes the sentiments of the Almighty. He dares not give his imagination its full play, but chooses to confine himself to such thoughts as are drawn from the books of the most orthodox divines, and to such expressions as may be met with in scripture. The beauties, therefore, which we are apt to look for in these speeches, are not of a poetical nature, nor so proper to fill the mind with sentiments of deur, as with thoughts of devotion. The passions which they are designed to raise, are a divine love and religious fear. The particular beauty of the speeches in the third book, consists in that shortness and perspicuity of style, in which the poet has couched the greatest mysteries of Christianity, and drawn together, in a regular scheme, the whole dispensation of Providence with respect to man. He has represented all the abstruse doctrines of predestination, free-will and grace, as also the great points of incarnation and redemption, (which naturally grow up in a poem that treats of the fall of man) with great
energy of expression, and in a clearer and stronger light than I ever met with in any other writer. As these points are dry in themselves to the generality of readers, the concise and clear manner in which he has treated them is very much to be admired, as is likewise that particular art which he has made use of in the interspersing of all those graces of poetry which the subject was capable of receiving. The survey of the whole creation, and of every thing that is transacted in it, is a prospect worthy of Omniscience, and as much above that in which Virgil has drawn his Jupiter, as the Christian idea of the Supreme Being is more rational and sublime than that of the Heathens. The particular objects on which he is described to have cast his eye, are represented in the most beautiful and lively manner:
Now had th' Almighty Father from above
Satan's approach to the confines of the creation is }. imaged in the o: of the speech, which immediately follows. The effects of this speech in the blessed spirits, and in the divine, person to whom it was addressed, cannot but fill the mind of the reader with a secret pleasure and complacency:
Thus while God spake, ambrosial fragrance fill'd