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Tappen Prest, Gure
No. 315.] Saturday, March 1, 1711-12.
Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindic nodus
man) with great energy of expression, and in a clearer and stronger light than I ever met with in any other writer. As these points are dry in themselves to the generality of readers, the concise and clear manner in which he has treated them is very much to be admired, as is HORACE advises a poet to consider thorough-likewise that particular art which he has made ly the nature and force of his genius. Milton use of in the interspersing of all those graces seems to have known perfectly well wherein of poetry which the subject was capable of rehis strength lay, and has therefore chosen a subject entirely conformable to those talents The survey of the whole creation, and of of which he was master. As his genius was every thing that is transacted in it, is a proswonderfully turned to the sublime, his subject pect worthy of Omniscience, and as much is the noblest that could have entered into the above that in which Virgil has drawn his Juthoughts of man. Every thing that is truly piter, as the Christian idea of the Supreme Begreat and astonishing has a place in it. The ing is more rational and sublime than that whole system of the intellectual world; the of the Heathens. The particular objects on chaos, and the creation: heaven, earth, and which he is described to have cast his eye, hell; enter into the constitution of his poem. are represented in the most beautiful and liveHaving in the first and second books re-ly manner:
presented the infernal world with all its horrors, the thread of his fable naturally leads him into the opposite regions of bliss and glory.
Now had th' Almighty Father from above
Stood thick as stars, and from his sight receiv'd
In blissful solitude. He then survey'd
If Milton's majesty forsakes him any where, it is in those parts of his poem where the divine persons are introduced as speakers. One may, I think, observe, that the author proceeds with a kind of fear and trembling, whilst he describes the sentiments of the Almighty. dares not give his imagination its full play, but chooses to confine himself to such thoughts as are drawn from the books of the most orthodox divines, and to such expressions as may be met with in scripture. The beauties, therefore, which we are to look for in these speeches, are not of a poetical nature, nor so proper to fill the mind with sentiments of grandeur, as with thoughts of devotion. The passions which | they are designed to raise, are a divine love and religious fear. The particular beauty of Satan's approach to the confines of the creathe speeches in the third book, consists in that tion is finely imaged in the beginning of the shortness and perspicuity of style, in which speech which immediately follows. The ef the poet has couched the greatest mysteries of fects of this speech in the blessed spirits, and Christianity, and drawn together, in a regular in the divine person to whom it was addressed, scheme, the whole dispensation of Providence cannot but fill the mind of the reader with a with respect to man. He has represented all secret pleasure and complacency: the abstruse doctrines of predestination, freewill and grace, as also the great points of incarnation and redemption, (which naturálly grow up in a poem that treats of the fall of VOL. II.
Thus while God spake, ambrosial fragrance fill'd
Most glorious; in him all his Father shone,
Substantially express'd; and in his face
Love without end, and without measure grace.
Divine compassion visibly appear'd,
they were the gods who thus transformed them. It is this kind of machinery which fills the poems both of Homer and Virgil with such circumstances as are wonderful but not im
I need not point out the beauty of that possible, and so frequently produce in the reacircumstance, wherein the whole host of angels der the most pleasing passion that can rise in are represented as standing mute; nor show the mind of man, which is admiration. If how proper the occasion was to produce such there be any instance in the Æneid liable to a silence in heaven. The close of this divine exception upon this account, it is in the begincolloquy, with the hymn of angels that follows ning of the third book, where Æneas is repreupon it, are so wonderfully beautiful and po-sented as tearing up the myrtle that dropped etical, that I should not forbear inserting the blood. To qualify this wonderful circumstance, whole passage, if the bounds of my paper would give me leave:
No sooner had th' Almighty ceas'd, but all
Polydorus tells a story from the root of the myrtle, that the barbarous inhabitants of the country having pierced him with spears and arrows, the wood which was left in his body took root in his wounds, and gave birth to that bleeding tree. This circumstance seems to have the marvellous without the probable because it is represented as proceeding from
Satan's walk upon the outside of the uni-natural causes, without the interposition of verse, which at a distance appeared to him of any god, or other supernatural power capable a globular form, but upon his nearer approach of producing it. The spears and arrows grow looked like an unbounded plain, is natural and of themselves without so much as the modern noble; as his roaming upon the frontiers of help of enchantment. If we look into the ficthe creation, between that mass of matter tion of Milton's fable, though we find it full of which was wrought into a world, and that surprising incidents, they are generally suited shapeless unformed heap of materials which to our notions of the things and persons destill lay in chaos and confusion, strikes the scribed, and tempered with a due measure of imagination with something astonishingly great probability. I must only make an exception to and wild. I have before spoken of the Limbo of Vanity, which the poet places upon this outermost surface of the universe, and shall here explain myself more at large on that, and other parts of the poem, which are of the same shadowy nature.
Aristotle observes, that the fable of an epic poem should abound in circumstances that are both credible and astonishing; or, as the French critics choose to phrase it, the fable should be filled with the probable and the marvellous. This rule is as fine and just as any in Aristotle's whole Art of Poetry.
the Limbo of vanity, with his episode of Sin and Death, and some of the imaginary persons in his chaos. These passages are astonishing, but not credible; the reader cannot so far impose upon himself as to see a possibility in them; theyare the description of dreams and shadows not of things or persons. I know that many critics look upon the stories of Circe, Polypheme, the Sirens, nay the whole Odyssey and Iliad, to be allegories; but allowing this to be true, they are fables, which, considering the opinions of mankind that prevailed in the age of the poet, might possibly have been according If the fable is only probable, it differs nothing to the letter." The persons are such as might from a true history; if it is only marvellous, have acted what is ascribed to them, as the it is no better than a romance. The great circumstances in which they are represented secret, therefore, of heroic poetry is to relate might possibly have been truths and realities. such circumstances as may produce in the rea- This appearance of probability is so absolutely der at the same time both belief and astonish-requisite in the greater kinds of poetry, that ment. This is brought to pass in a well chosen Aristotle observes the ancient tragic writers fable, by the account of such things as have made use of the names of such great men as really happened, or at least of such things as had actually lived in the world, though the have happened according to the received opi- tragedy proceeded upon adventures they were nions of mankind. Milton's fable is a master-never engaged in, on purpose to make the subpiece of this nature; as the war in heaven, the ject more credible. In a word, besides the condition of the fallen angels, the state of in-hidden meaning of au epic allegory, the plain nocence, the temptation of the serpent, and literal sense ought to appear probable. The the fall of man, though they are very astonish-story should be such as an ordinary reader ing in themselves, are not only credible, but may acquiesce in, whatever natural, moral, or actual points of faith. political truth may be discovered in it by en The next method of reconciling miracles of greater penetration. with credibility, is by a happy invention of the Satan, after having long wandered upon the poet; as in particular, when he introduces surface or outermost wall of the universe, disagents of a superior nature, who are capable covers at last a wide gap in it, which led into of effecting what is wonderful, and what is not the creation, and is, described as the opening to be met with in the ordinary course of things. through which the angels pass to and fro into Ulysses's ship being turned into a rock, and the lower world, upon their errands to manEneas's fleet into a shoal of water nymphs, kind. His sitting upon the brink of this pasthough they are very surprising accidents, are sage, and taking a survey of the whole face of nevertheless probable when we are told, that nature, that appeared to him new and fresh
in all its beauties, with the simile illustrating|plaints, this may have reason to hope for a
low will be thought, I hope, the most justifia-
I saw when at his word the formless mass,
In the following part of the speech he points
the reader can scarce forbear fancying himself
Look downward on that globe, whose hither side
I must not conclude my reflections upon this
No. 316.] Monday, March 3, 1711-12.
Virg. Ecl. i. 28.
'If you ever read a letter which is sent with the more pleasure for the reality of its con
'When Scanderbeg, Prince of Epirus, was dead, the Turks, who had but too often felt the force of his arm in the battles he had won from them, imagined that by wearing a piece of his bones near their heart, they should be animated with a vigour and force like to that which inspired him when living. As I am like to be but of little use whilst I live, I am reand have accordingly ordered my bones to be solved to do what good I can after my decease; disposed of in this manner for the good of my countrymen, who are troubled with too exorbitant a degree of fire. All fox-hunters, upon wearing me, would in a short time be brought to endure their beds in a morning, and perhaps even quit them with regret at ten. of hurrying away to tease a poor animal, and run away from their own thoughts, a chair or a chariot would be thought the most desirable means of performing a remove from one place to another. I should be a cure for the unnatural desire of John Trott for dancing, and a specific to lessen the inclination Mrs. Fidget has to motion, and cause her always to give her approbation to the present place she is in. In fine, no Egyptian mummy was ever half so useful in physic, as I should be to these feverish constitutions, to repress the violent sallies of youth, and give each action its proper weight and repose
'I can stifle any violent inclination, and oppose a torrent of anger, or the solicitations of revenge, with success. Indolence is a stream which flows slowly on, but yet undermines the foundation of every virtue. A vice of a more lively nature were a more desirable tyrant than this rust of the mind, which gives a tincture
of its nature to every action of one's life. It since the good will not be confined to me alone, were as little hazard to be lost in a storm, as but will be of universal use. For there is no to lie thus perpetually becalmed: and it is to hope. of amendment where. men are pleased uo purpose to have within one the seeds of a with their ruin, and whilst they think laziness thousand good qualities, if we want the vigour is a desirable character; whether it be that and resolution necessary for the exerting them. they like the state itself, or that they think it Death brings all persons back to an equality; gives them a new lustre when they do exert and this image of it, this slumber of the mind, themselves, seemingly to be able to do that leaves no difference between the greatest ge- without labour and application, which others nius and the meanest understanding. A faculty attain to but with the greatest diligence. of doing things remarkably praise-worthy, thus I am, Sir, concealed, is of no more use to the owner, than á heap of gold to the man who dares not use it. 'To-morrow is still the fatal time when all is to be rectified. To-morrow comes, it goes, and still I please myself with the shadow, whilst I lose the reality: unmindful that the 'Permission to love you is all that I desire, present time alone is ours, the future is yet to conquer all the difficulties those about you unborn, and the past is dead, and can only live (as parents in their children) in the actions it has produced.
Your most obliged humble servant,
Clytander to Cleone.
place in my way, to surmount and acquire all those qualifications you expect in him who pretends to the honour of being,
Your most devoted humble servant,
--Fruges consumere nati. Hor. Ep. ii. Lib. 1. 27-
'The time we live ought not to be computed by the number of years, but by the use that has been made of it; thus, it is not the extent of ground, but the yearly rent, which gives the value to the estate. Wretched and thoughtless creatures, in the only place where covet-No. 317.] Tuesday, March 4, 1711-12. ousness were a virtue, we turn prodigals! Nothing lies upon our hands with such uneasiness, nor have there been so many devices for any one thing, as to make it slide away impercep- AUGUSTUS, a few minutes before his death, tibly and to no purpose. A shilling shall be asked his friends who stood about him, if they hoarded up with care, whilst that which is thought he had acted his part well; and upon above the price of an estate is flung away with receiving such an answer as was due to his disregard and contempt. There is nothing extraordinary merit, 'Let me then,' says he now-a-days, so much avoided, as a solicitous go off the stage with your applause;' using improvement of every part of time; it is a re- the expression with which the Roman actors port must be shunned as one tenders the name made their exit at the conclusion of a draof a wit and a fine genius, and as one fears thematic piece.* I could wish that men, while dreadful character of a laborious plodder: but they are in health, would consider well the notwithstanding this, the greatest wits any nature of the part they are engaged in, and age has produced thought far otherwise; for what figure it will make in the minds of those who can think either Socrates or Demosthenes they leave behind them, whether it was worth lost any reputation, by their continual pains coming into the world for; whether it be suitboth in overcoming the defects and improving able to a reasonable being; in short, whether the gifts of nature? All are acquainted with it apears graceful in this life, or will turn to the labour and assiduity with which Tully ac- an advantage in the next. Let the sycophant, quired his eloquence. Seneca in his letters to or the buffoon, the satirist or the good comLucilius assures him, there was not a day in panion consider with himself, when his body which he did not either write something, or shall be laid in the grave, and his soul pass read and epitomize some good author; and into another state of existence, how much it remember Pliny in one of his letters, where he will redound to his praise to have it said of gives an account of the various methods he him, that no man in England ate better, that used to fill up every vacancy of time, after he had an admirable talent at turning his several employments which he enumerates; friends into ridicule, that nobody out-did him "Sometimes," says he, "I hunt: but even at an ill-natured jest, or that he never went then I carry with me a pocket-book, that to bed before he had despatched his third whilst my servants are busied in disposing of bottle. These are, however, very common futhe nets and other matters, I may be employed neral orations, and eulogiums on deceased per in something that may be useful to me in my sons who have acted among mankind with studies; and that if I miss of my game, I may some figure and reputation.
at the least bring home some of my own But if we look into the bulk of our species, thoughts with me, and not have the mortifi- they are such as are not likely to be rememcation of having caught nothing all day." bered a moment after their disappearance. Thus, sir, you see, how many examples I They leave behind them no traces of their recall to mind, and what arguments I use with existence, but are forgotten as though they myself, to regain my liberty: but as I am afraid had never been. They are neither wanted by it is no ordinary persuasion that will be of ser- the poor, regretted by the rich, nor celebrated vice, I shall expect your thoughts on this subject with the greatest impatience, especially
* Vos valete et plaudite.