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With all his army; now thou hast avenged
Thus they the Son of God, our Saviour meek,
on his way with joy; he unobserved Home to his mother's house private returned.
END OF PARADISE REGAINED
A DRAMATIC POEM.
Τραγωδία μίμησις πράξεως σπουδαίας.-κ. τ.λ.
ARISTOT. Poet., cap. vi. Tragedia est imitatio actionis seriæ, &c., per misericordiam et metum
perficiens talium affectuum lustrationem,
OF THAT SORT OF DRAMATIC POEM WHICH IS
TRAGEDY, as it was anciently composed, hath been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems; therefore said by Aristotle to be of power, by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such like passions, that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading
1 The tragedy of “Samson Agonistes" has been celebrated as the second work of the great author of “ Paradise Lost,” and opposed, with all the confidence of triumph, to the dramatic performances of other nations. It contains, indeed, just sentiments, maxims of wisdom, and oracles of piety, and many passages written with the ancient spirit of choral poetry, in which there is a just and pleasing mixture of Seneca's moral declamation, with the wild enthusiasm of the Greek writers. It is therefore worthy of examination, whether a performance thus illuminated with genius, and enriched with learning, is composed according to the indispensable laws of Aristotelian criti. cism; and, omitting at present all other considerations, whether it exhibits a beginning, a iddle, or an end.
The beginning is undoubtedly beautiful and proper, opening with a graceful abruptness, and proceeding naturally to a mournful recital or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion: for so in physic, things of melancholic hue and quality are used against melancholy, sour against sour; salt to remove salt humours. Hence, philosophers and other gravest writers, as Cicero, Plutarch, and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets, both to adorn and illustrate their discourse. The Apostle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to insert a verse of Euripides into the text of Holy Scripture, 1 Cor. xv. 33; and Paræus, commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole book as a tragedy, into acts distinguished each by a chorus of heavenly harpings and
song between. Heretofore, men in highest dignity have laboured not a little to be thought able to compose a tragedy. Of that honour Dionysius the elder was no less ambitious, than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Augustus Cæsar also begun his Ajax, but unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinished. Seneca, the philosopher, is by some thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a father of the church, thought it not unbeseeming the sanctity of his person to write a tragedy, which is entitled “ Christ Suffering.” This is mentioned to vindicate tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which, in the account of many, it undergoes at this day with other common interludes; happening through the poets' error of intermixing comic stuff with tragic sad. ness and gravity; or introducing trivial and vulgar persons, which by all judicious hath been counted absurd ; and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient tragedy use no prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self defence or explanation, that which Martial calls an epistle; in behalf of this tragedy coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us passes for best, thus much beforehand may be epistled ; that chorus is here introduced after, the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modelling, therefore, of
of facts necessary to be known. Samson's soliloquy is interrupted by a chorus or company of men of his own tribe, who condole his miseries, extenuate his fault, and conclude with a solemn vindication of divine justice. So that, at the conclusion of the first act, there is no design iaid, no discovery made, nor any disposition formed, ta wards the consequent event.-Johnson, Rambler, No. 139.