« PreviousContinue »
the Paradise Lost." In the sixth book, the apostate Angels are certainly driven into the deep by the sole might of the Messiah: but although the army of the faithful, which had before been engaged in the combat “ silent stood,-Eyewitnesses of his Almighty acts," and advanced to meet him on his returning from the victory, it is not asserted that his immediate ministers, the “ ten thousand thousand saints" whoattended him from the throne of God, did not pursue the enemy in their fall, and .
hang on their broken rear:" the contrary, indeed, seems to be implied when it is said that “ Eternal wrath burnt after them to the bottomless pit.” When Satan, therefore, in the first book observes, “ But see the
clares that he saw by millions her vic no contradiction is
But admitting irreconcileable wi by Raphael
, the d me considered th
« The great Bent'ey, when he undertook the editing of Milton, was far advanced in age, and soon after this work, which förmed his last publication, his faculties discovered very
evident decline. In many of his former works he has displayed a vigour and sagacity of mind, an extent and accuracy of erudition which are truly wonderful, and which, perhaps, have never been exceeded. But his edition of Milton, though it exhibits many characters of the great critic, must be pronounced to be one egregious failure. To the critical sagacity of Bentley may be applied what Virgil says of the sword of Metiscus.
“ Idque diu dum terga dabant palantia Teucri
e Par Lost, b. vi. 1.767.
an accurate repo pected from a p whom the uproa which incumle made him sensi must have been object of regard overwhelming rebels at this trwhen they wer sand thunders " shot through senses were so nine days in a "the fiery sur
from the pre
throw, hower thunders of
la the side
angry victor hath recall'd_His ministers of
vengeance and pursuit,-Back to the gates of is the heaven;" and when Chaos, in the second, de
clares that he saw as, “ Heaven-Pour'd out by millions her victorious bands-Pursuing," no contradiction is necessarily intimated.
But admitting that these accounts were */ / irreconcileable with the fact, as it is related
by Raphael, the difficulty would vanish when Lamtum we considered the persons by whom the va
rying circumstances are mentioned. Could an accurate report of such an event be expected from a personification of Chaos, to whom the uproar and the tumult of a rout which 6 incumbered him with ruin," and made him sensible of “ tenfold confusion," must have been the leading, if not the sole object of regard? or from beings under the overwhelming astonishment, attributed to the rebels at this tremendous crisis of their fate, when they were “ transfix'd with ten thousand thunders," when their “ hearts” were “shot through with plagues," and when their senses were so confounded that they lay for nine days in a state of complete oblivion on “ the fiery surge which received them falling from the precipice of heaven?” Their overthrow, however, is uniformly ascribed to the thunders of their adversary, with the power
Kated res .6952
NỘI, with a pro
racter of the au
of whose“ dire arms” they were till then unacquainted; and whose “ red right hand” had been exerted “ to plague them.” The coherency, therefore, of the fable in this wonderful poem must be allowed to be perfect; and, as a cause of surprise, with reference to the particular situation of the author, to be exceeded only by an equal consistency discoverable 'in the Iliad,-if, in truth, that mighty intellectual effort be as certainly the work of a blind, as it was of one man.
Much has been said on the unequal flow of Milton's genius; and by some it has been represented as under the influence of particular seasons, while by others it has been regarded as the effect of immediate and positive inspiration. Philips declares that his uncle's poetic faculty was vivid only in the winter, and Toland assigns the spring as the season of its peculiar activity; while Richard
This is spoken with reference to some extravagances, though not perhaps absolute novelties of opinion, which have lately been supported by a few German scholars. These learned men, who are endued with microscopic vision, “ To inspect a mite, not comprehend the heaven;" would wish us to believe that the Iliad was composed at different periods by different rhapsodists, and was not originally committed to writing. By any person capable of comprehending the full force of the internal evidence suggested by the Iliad, these fancies must be immediately rejected as utterly unworthy of attention.
'In one of his that when he was cute it with his fu of interruption in ut mora, nulla quie finest, quoad pero rum meorum quas
On this pass to admit the une nation, insults o weaker credulity liberty to do: Milton with ho
Foto son, with a proper respect to the ardent cha
racter of the author's mind,' expresses a doubt whether such a work could be suffered for any considerable period to stand absolutely still.
Philips, to whom his relation was accustomed to show the poem in its progress, informs us that, in consequence of not having
seen any verses for some time on the advance Ti veteran of summer, he requested to know the cause
of what appeared to him to be extraordinary, and that he received in reply from the poet, that “ his vein never flowed happily, but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal; and that what he attempted at other times was never to his satisfaction, though he courted his fancy ever so much.” In opposition to
In one of his letters to his friend Deodati, Milton says that when he was engaged in any study, he was urged to prosecute it with his full vigour and application, and was impatient of interruption in his pursuit. “Meum sic est ingenium, nulla ut mora, nulla quies, nulla ferme illius rei cura aut cogitatio distineat, quoad pervadam quo feror, et grandem aliquam studiorum meorum quasi periodum conficiam."
3 On this passage from Philips, Dr. Johnson, forced as he is to admit the unequal and uncertain flow of the human imagination, insults over the weak fancies of Milton, and the still weaker credulity of his biographers. This, Dr. Johnson was at liberty to do: but he goes rather too far when he charges Milton with holding an opinion, respecting the general decay
ܝܪ -f *
from the vege
this, and in support of his own opinion, To- and Italy it is land adduces the information, given to him striking and fa by a friend of Milton's, and the testimony of
sessed of irresi the bard himself, who, in his beautiful elegy on the arrival of spring, speaks of this de- page displayed lightful season as renovating and invigorating gery, and find his genius. While the former part of this evidence cannot be poised against that of the author's confidential pupil and nephew, the latter must be considered as too weak and uncertain to be intitled to any great regard.
When he celebrates the inspiration of spring, Milton seems to be only following the example of his poetic predecessors, and to be writing with the taste of a classic rather than from his experience as a man. This season, when nature starts from her slumber and appears to exult in a species of new life, has always supplied the Muse with a favourite topic of description and panegyric. Even in our northern climate, this prime of the year has sufficient charms to allure the susceptible imagination of the poet; but under the glowing skies of Greece
By man, lute state of in such a sta bably, be ver genial virtue,
the woods and would excite stincts and i On artificial be is, from na we do not be than as the health, can b sequence. not sensible and it is in
wto contact medium the
and old age of Nature, which Milton has himself expressly contradicted. See Milton's Latin verses with the title of “ Natu. tam non pati sepium."
The comple intellect on and the var