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despise equipage, diamonds, and a coxcomb, yet since such opposite notions from mine prevail in the world, even amongst the best, and such as are esteemed the most prudent people, I cannot find in my heart to resolve upon incurring the censure of those wise folks, which I am conscious I shall do, if, when I enter into a married state, I discover a thought beyond that of equalling, if not advancing my fortunes. Under this difficulty I now labour, not being in the least determined whether I shall be governed by the vain world, and the frequent examples I meet with, or hearken to the voice of my lover, and the motions I find in my heartin favour of him. Sir, your opinion and advice in this affair is the only thing I know can turn the balance, and which I earnestly intreat I may
receive soon; for until I have your thoughts upon it, I am engaged not to give my swain a final discharge.
• Besides the particular obligation you will lay on me, by giving this subject room in one of your papers, it is possible it may be of use to some others of my sex, who will be as grateful for the
• Your humble servant,
• P. S. To tell you the truth, I am married to him already, but pray say something to justify me.'
You will forgive us professors of music if we make a second application to you, in order to promote our design of exhibiting entertainments of music in York-buildings. It is industriously insinuated that our intention is to destroy operas in general, but we beg of you to insert this plain ex
planation of ourselves in your paper. Our purpose is only to improve our circumstances, by improving the art which we profess. We see it utterly destroyed at present, and as we were the persons who introduced operas, we think it a groundless imputation that we should set up against the opera itself. What we pretend to assert is, that the songs
of different authors injudiciously put together, and a foreign tone and manner which are expected in every thing now performed amongst us, has put music itself to a stand; insomuch that the ears of the people cannot now be entertained with any thing but what has an impertinent gaiety, without any just spirit, or a languishment of notes, without any passion, or common sense. We hope those persons of sense and quality who have done us the honour to subscribe, will not be ashamed of their patronage towards us, and not receive impressions that patronising us is being for or against the opera, but truly promoting their own diversions in a more just and elegant manner than has been hitherto performed.
• We are, sir,
• There will be no performances in York-buildings until after that of the subscription.'
No 279. SATURDAY, JANUARY 19, 1711-12.
Reddere persone scit convenientia cuique.
Hor. Ars. Poet. v. 316.
He knows what best befits each character.
We have already taken a general survey of the fable and characters in Milton's Paradice Lost. The parts which remain to be considered, according to Aristotle's method, are the sentiments and the language. Before I enter upon the first of these, I must advertise my reader, that it is my design, as soon as I have finished my general reflections on these four several heads, to give particular instances out of the poem which is now before us of beauties and imperfections which may be observed under each of them, as also of such other particulars as may not properly fall under any of them. This I thought fit to premise, that the reader may not judge too hastily of this piece of criticism, or look upon it as imperfect, before he has seen the whole extent of it.
The sentiments in an epic poem are the thoughts and behaviour which the author ascribes to the persons whom he introduces, and are just when they are conforunable to the characters of the several personş. The sentiments have likewise a relation to things as well as persons, and are then perfect when they are such as are adapted to the subject. If in either of these cases the poet endeavours to argue or explain, to magnify or diminish, to raise love or hatred, pity or terror, or any other passion, we ought to consider
whether the sentiments he makes use of are proper for those ends. Homer is censured by the critics for his defect as to this particular in several parts of the Iliad and Odyssey, though at the same time those, who have treated this great poet with candour, have attributed this defect to the times in which he lived. It was the fault of the age, and not of Homer, if there wants that delicacy in some of his sentiments, which now appears in the works of men of a much inferior genius. Besides, if there are blemishes in any particular thoughts, there is an infinite beauty in the greatest part of them. In short, if there are many poets who would not have fallen into the meanness of some of his sentiments, there are none who could have risen up to the greatness of others. Virgil has excelled all others in the propriety of his sentiments. Milton shines likewise very much in this particular: nor must we mit one consideration which adds to his honour and reputation. Homer and Virgil introduced personswhose characters are commonlyknown among men, and such as are to be met with either in history, or in ordinary conversation. Milton's characters, most of them, lie out of nature, and were to be formed purely out of his own invention. It shews a greater genius in Shakspeare to have drawn his Caliban, than his Hotspur, or Julius Cæsar: the one was to be supplied out of his own imagination, whereas the other might have been formed upon tradition, history, and observation. It was much easier therefore for Homer to find proper sentiments for an assembly of Grecian generals, than for Milton to diversify his infernal counsel with proper characters, and inspire them with a variety of sentiments. The loves of Dido and Æneas are only copies of what has passed between other persons. Adam and Eve, before the fall, are a different species from that of man
kind, who are descended from them; and none but a poet of the most unbounded invention, and the most exquisite judgment, could have filled their conversation and behaviour with so many apt circumstances during their state of innocence.
Nor is it sufficient for an epic poem to be filled with such thoughts as are natural, unless it abound also with such as are sublime. Virgil in this particular falls short of Homer. He has not indeed so many thoughts that are low and vulgar; but at the same time has not so many thoughts that are sublime and noble. The truth of it is, Virgil seldom rises into very astonishing sentiments, where he is not fired by the Iliad. He every where charms and pleases us by the force of his own genius; but seldom elevates and transports us where he does not fetch his hints from Homer.
Milton's chief talent, and indeed his distinguishing excellence, lies in the sublimity of his thoughts. There are others of the moderns who rival him in every other part of poetry; but in the greatness of his sentiments he triumphs over all the poets both modern and ancient, Homer only excepted. It is impossible for the imagination of man to distend itself with greater ideas, than those which he has laid together in his first, second, and sixth books. The seventh, which describes the creation of the world, is likewise wonderfully sublime, though not so apt to stir up
emotion in the mind of the reader, nor consequently so perfect in the epic way of writing, because it is filled with less action. Let the judicious reader
compare what Longinus has observed on several passages in Homer, and he will find parallels for most of them in the Paradise Lost.
From what has been said we may infer, that as there are two kinds of sentiments, the natural and