Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

judgement, as well as the finest invention, by find ing out a method to supply this natural defect in his subject. Accordingly he leaves the Adversary of mankind, in the laft view which he gives of him, under the lowest state of mortification and difappointment. We see him chewing ashes, groveling in the duft, and loaden with supernumerary pains and torments. On the contrary, our two first parents are comforted by dreams and visions, cheered with promises of salvation, and, in a manner, raised to a greater happiness, than that which they had forfeited: In short, Satan is represented miserable in the height of his triumphs, and Adam triumphant in the height of misery.

Milton's Poem ends very nobly. The lafi fpeeches of Adam and the Archangel are full of moral and inftruétive sentiments. The fleep that fell upon Eve, and the effects it had in quieting the disorders of her mind, produce the same kind of confolation in the reader ; who cannot perule the last beautiful speech, which is afcribed to the mother of mankind; without a secret pleasure and satisfaction.

The following lines, which conclude the Poems rise in a inost glorious blaze of poetical images and expressions.

Heliodorus in his Ethiopicks acquaints us, that the motion of the gods differs from that of mortals; as the former do not stir their feet, or proceed ftep by step, but side over the surface of the earth by an uniform fwiinming of the whole body. The reader may observe with how poetical a description

Milton has attributed the same kind of motion to the Angels who were to take possession of Paradise:

“ So spake our mother Eve; and Adam heard “ Well pleas’d, but answer'd not; for now too nigh ~ The Archangel stood; and, from the other hill ~ To their fix'd station, all in bright array “ The Cherubim descended; on the ground « Gliding meteorous, as evening-nift “ Risen from a river o'er the marish glides, “ And gathers ground fast at the labourer's heel Homeward returning. High in front advanc'd, “ The brandith'd sword of God before them blaz’d, « Fierce as a comet

The author helped his invention in the following passage, by reflecting on the behaviour of the Angel, who, in Holy Writ, has the conduct of Lot and his family. The circumstances drawn from that relation are very gracefully made use of on this occasion:

“ Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
“ Led them direct; and down the cliff as faft
To the subjected plain ; then disappear’d:
“ They, looking back, &c.”

The scene which our first parents are surprised with, upon their looking back on Paradise, wonderfully strikes the reader's imagination; as nothing can be more natural than the tears they shed on that occasion :

They, looking back, all the eastern fide beheld " Of Paradise, so late their happy seat, « Wav'd over by that flaming brand; the gate “ With dreadful faces throng'd, and fiery arms ;

“ Some natural tears they dropt, but wip'd them foon;
“ The world was all before them, where to choose
“ Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.”

If I might presume to offer at the smalleft altcration in this divine work, i should think the Poem would end better with the paffage here quoted, than with the two verses which follow :

“ They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and flow, “ Through Eden took their folitary way.”

These two verses, though they have their beauty, fall very much below the foregoing paffage, and renew in the mind of the reader that anguish which was pretty well laid by that consideration;

“ The world was all before them where to choose
“ Their place of rett, arrd Providence their guide."

The number of books in Paradise Lost is equal to those of the Eneid. Our author in his first edition had divided his Poem into ten books, but afterwards broke the fovènth, and the eleventh, each of them into two different books, by the help of tome small additions. This fecond division was made with great judgement, as any one may see trho will be at the pains of examining it. It was not done for the fake of such a chimerical beauty as that of resembling Virgil in this particular, but for the more just and regular disposition of this great work.

i I should think the l'oem would end better &c.] The criticks are divided on this point. See the Votes on B. xii. 648. .

TODD.

Those who have read Bossu, and many of the criticks who have written fince his time, will not pardon me if I do not find out the particular moral which is inculcated in Paradise Lost. Though I can by no means think with the latt mentioned French author, that an epick writer first of all pitches upon a certain moral, as the ground-work and foundation of bis poem, and afterwards finds out a story to it: I am, however, of opinion, that no just heroick poem ever was or can be made, from whence one great moral may not be deduced. That, which reigns in Milton, is the most universal : and most useful that can be imagined: It is in

men happy, and that disobedience makes them miserable. This is visibly the moral of the principal fable, which turns upon Adam and Eve, who continued in Paradise, while they kept the command that was given them, and were driven out of it as soon as they had transgressed. This is likewife the moral of the principal episode, which Nows us how an innumerable multitude of Angels fell from their state of bliss, and were cast into Hell upon their disobedience. Besides this great moral, which may be looked upon as the foul of the fable, there are an infinity of under morals which are to be drawn from the several parts of the Poem; and which makes this work more useful, and instructive, than any other poem in any language.

Those who have criticised on the Odysey, the Iliad, and Æneid, have taken a great deal of pains to fix the number of months and days contained

in the action of each of those poems. If any one thinks it worth his while to examine this particular in Milton, m he will find that from Adam's first appearance in the fourth book, to his expulfion

from Paradife in the twelfth, the author reckons · ten days. As for that part of the action which is described in the three first books, as it does not pass within the regions of nature, I have before observed that it is not subject to any calculations of time.

I have now finished my observations on a work, which does an honour to the English nation. I have taken a general view of it under these four heads, " the FABLE, the CHARACTERS, the sen

m he will find &c.] See the minute account of the action, in a preceding Note, pp. 9, 10, 11. Todd.

the fable, the characters, the sentiments, and the LANGUAGE.] There is yet a beauty in Milton's LANGUAGE, of which little notice has been taken by Mr. Addison; and of which (although these ornaments are more frequent in his earlier poems) there are many examples in the Paradise Lost: I mean his compound epithets; such as "sky-tinctur'd grain,”—“ fable-vested Night," -heaven-warning champions," -- " night-warbling bird,”— love-labour'd fong, &c.” See many more in Peck's Memoirs of Milton, 1740, pp. 117, &c. Mr. Addison cites only “ helle duomd."

It may not be improper to add a few remarks respecting these combinations of words. They abound in our elder poetry, and are often remarkably significant and happy. Spenfer and Shakfpeare afford many beautiful instances. lu Sylvester's Du Bartas, there is scarcely a page in which a compound epithet may not be found. Dr. Warton has censured this immoderate use of them in Sylvester. Yet there are many epithets of great merit in this voluminous author; and with which Milton appears to have been pleased; such as “ love-darting eyn,”_" flowery

« AnteriorContinuar »