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Who shall tempt with wandering feet
So both ascend
Under this head may be reckoned the placing the adjective after the substantive, the transposition of words, the turning the adjective into a substantive, with several other foreign modes of specch which this poet has naturalized, to give his verse the greater sound, and throw it out of prose.
The third method mentioned by Aristotle, is what agrees with the genius of the Greek language more than with that of any other tongue, and is therefore more used by Homer than by any other poet. I mean the lengthening of a phrase by the addition of words, which
either be inserted or omitted, as also by the extending or contracting of particular words by the insertion or omission of certain syllables. Milton has put in practice this method of raising his language, as far as the nature of our tongue will permit, as in the passage above mentioned, eremite, for what is hermit in common dis
observe the measure of his verse, he has with great judgment suppressed a syllable in several words, and shortened those of two syllables into one; by which method, besides the above-mentioned advantage, he has given a greater variety to his numbers. But this practice is more particularly. remarkable in the names of persons and of countries, as Beelzebub, Hessebon, and in many other particulars, wherein he has either changed the name, or made use of that which is not the most com
known, that he might the better deviate from the language of the vulgar.
The same reason recommended to him several old words, which also make his poem appear the more venerable, and gives it a greater air of antiquity.
I must likewise take notice, that there are in Milton several words of his own coining, as cerberean, miscreated, hell-doomed, embryon atoms, and many others. If the reader is offended at this liberty in our English poet, I would recommend to him a discourse in Plutarch, which shews us how frequently Homer has made use of the same liberty.
Milton, by the above-mentioned helps, and by the choice of the noblest words and phrases which our tongue would afford him, has carried our language to a greater height than any of the English poets have ever done before or after him, and made the sublimity of his style equal to that of his sentiments.
I have been the more particular in these observations on Milton's style, because it is in that part of him in which he appears the most singular. The remarks I have here made upon the practice of other poets, with my observations out of Aristotle, will perhaps alleviate the prejudice which some have taken to his poem upon this account; though, after all, I must confess that I think his style, though admirable in general, is in some places too much stiffened and obscured by the frequent use of those methods which Aristotle has prescribed for the raising of it.
This redundancy of those several ways of speech which Aristotle calls foreign language,' and with which Milton has so very much enriched, and in some places darkened the language of his poem, was the more proper for his use, because his poem is written in blank verse. Rhyme, without any other
assistance, throws the language off from prose, and very often makes an indifferent phrase pass unregarded; but where the verse is not built upon ryhmes, there pomp of sound and energy of expression are indispensably necessary to support the style, and keep it from falling into the flatness of prose.
Those who have not a taste for this elevation of style, and are apt to ridicule a poet when he departs from the common forms of expression, would do well to see how Aristotle has treated an ancient author called Euclid, for his insipid mirth upon
this occasion. Mr. Dryden used to call these sort of men his prose-critics.
I should, under this head of the language, consider Milton's numbers, in which he has made use of several elisions, which are not customary among other English poets, as may be particularly observed in his cutting off the letter Y, when it precedes a a vowel. This, and some other innovations in the measure of his verse, has varied his numbers in such a manner, as makes them incapable of satiating the ear, and cloying the reader, which the same uniform measure would certainly have done, and which the perpetual returns of rhyme never fail to do in long narrative poems. I shall close these reflections
upon the Language of Paradise Lost with observing, that Milton has copied after Homer rather than Virgil in the length of his periods, the copiousness of his phrases, and the running of his verses into one another.
No 286. MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 1711-12.
Nomina honesta prætenduntur vitiis.
TACIT Ann. 1. xiv, c. 21.
Specious names are lent to cover vices.
"York, Jan. 18, 1711-12. 'I PRETEND not to inform a gentleman of so much taste, whenever he pleases to use it; but it may not be amiss to inform your readers, that there is a false delicacy, as well as a true one. True delicacy, as I take it, consists in exactness of judgment and dignity of sentiment, or, if you will, purity of affection, as this is opposed to corruption and grossness. There are pedants in breeding, as well as in learning. The
eye that cannot bear the light is not delicate, but sore. A good constitution appears in the soundness and vigour of the parts, not in the squeamishness of the stomach; and a false delicacy is affectation, not politeness. What then can be the standard of delicacy, but truth and virtue? Virtue, which as the satirist long since observed, is real honour; whereas the other distinctions
mankind are merely titular. Judging by that rule, in my opinion, and in that of many of your virtuous female readers, you are so far from deserving Mr. Courtly's accusation, that you seem too gentle, and to allow too many excuses for an enormous crime, which is the reproach of the age, and is in all its branches and degrees expressly forbidden by that religion we pretend to profess; and whose laws, in a nation that calls itself Christian, one would think should take
place of those rules which men of corrupt minds, and those of weak understandings, follow. know not any thing more pernicious to good manners, than the giving fair names to foul actions; for this confounds vice and virtue, and takes off that natural horror we have to evil. An innocent creature, who would start at the name of strumpet, may think it pretty to be called a mistress, especially if her seducer has taken care to inform her, that an union of hearts is the principal matter in the sight of heaven, and that the business at church is a mere idle ceremony. Who knows not that the difference between obscene and modest words expressing the same action, consists only in the accessary idea, for there is nothing immodest in letters and syllables. Fornication and adultery are modest words; because they express an evil action as criminal, and so as to excite horror and aversion; whereas words representing the pleasure rather than the sin, are, for this reason, indecent and dishonest. Your
papers would be chargeable with something worse than indelicacy, they would be immoral, did you treat the detestable sins of uncleanness in the same manner as you rally an impertinent self-love, and an artful glance; as those laws would be very unjust that should chastise murder and petty larceny with the same punishment. Even delicacy requires that the pity shewn to distressed indigent wickedness, first betrayed into, and then expelled the harbours of the brothel, should be changed to detestation, when we consider pampered vice in the habitations of the wealthy. The most free person of quality, in Mr. Courtly's phrase, that is, to speak properly, a woman of figure who has forget her birth and breeding, dishonoured her relations and herself, abandoned her virtue and reputation, together with the natural modesty of her sex, and