« PredošláPokračovať »
Passions, desires, and fears, is more a king ;
Latius regnes avidum domando
Spiritum, &c. and see Sat. 15. vii. 83.–NEWTON.
The “ Paradise Regained," Mr. Hayley very justly observes," is a poem that particularly deserves to be recommended to ardent and ingenuous youth ; as it is a mirably calculated to inspire that spirit of self-command, which is, as Milton esteemed it, tbe truest beroism, and the triumph of Christianity.” Life of Milton, p. 126.—DUNSTER.
o Subject himself to anarchy within,
Or laveless passions in him, which he serves. Palpably alluding to Charles the Second, and his dissolute manners. Compare “ Paradise Lost," b. xii. 86, &c.-DUNSTER.
p But to guide nations in the way of truth
By saving doctrine, and from errour lead,
Is yet more kingly. In this speech concerning riches and realms, our poet has culled all the choicest, finest fowers out of the heathen poets and philosophers who have written upon these subjects. It is not so much their words, as their substance sublimed and improved: but here he soars abore them ; and nothing could have given him so complete an idea of a divine teacher, as the life and character of our blessed Saviour.- NEWTON.
9 That other o'er the body only reigns,
And oft hy force; which, to a generous mind,
So reigning, can be no sincere delight. This is perfectly consonant to our Lord's carly sentiments, as the poet describes him relating them in the first book of this poem, ver. 221, &c.—Dunster.
r Besides, to give a kingdom hath been thought
Greater and nobler done, &c. S. Hephorstion to those who transferred the kingdom of Sidon from themselves to another ; Quint. Curt. iv. 1.-“ Vos quidem macti virtute, inquit, estote, qui primi intellexistis, quanto majus esset regnum fastidire quam accipere,” &c. Dioclesian, Charles V., and others, who have resigned the crown, were perhaps in our author's thought, upon this occasion : for, as Seneca says, Thyest. iii. 529 :
• Habere regnum, casus est; virtus, dare.--NEWTON. Possibly Milton had here in his mind the famous Christina, queen of Sweden, who after having reigned twenty-one years, resigned her crown to her cousin Charles Gustavus, when she was still a young woman, being only thirty years old. Our anthor had before paid her considerable compliments. The verses under Cromwell's picture, sent to Christina, have been generally supposed to be his ; though Mr. Warton inclines to think they were written by Andrew Marvel; and adds, that he suspects “ Milton's babit of facility in elegiac
Far more magnanimous, than to assume'.
Latinity had long ago ceased." What ground he had for this suspicion he does not specify. nor is it easy to conjecture. I should not willingly persuade myself that our author could soon lose any faculty which he had acquired. Besides, these verses must have been writien before the year 1654, when Christina abdicated ; and only nine years before that, when he published a collection of his Latin and English poems in 1645, he had added to his seventh Elegy ten lines, which sufficiently show that he then perfectly retained bis elegiac Latinity; and why it should be supposed entirely to cease in eight or nine years more, I cannot imagine. As Marvel was not bis associate in the secretaryship till the year 1657, Milton has officially the best claim to them : it was also an employment, which, we may well suppose, he was fond of; as at this time be certainly thought highly of Christina, and was particularly flattered with the idea, that, on reading his " Defensio Populi," she withdrew all her protection from his antagonist Salmasius, who was then resident at her court; and whom, it was then said, she dismissed with contempt, as a parasite and an advocate of tyranny. Accordingly, in his “ Delensio Secunda," Milton honours her with a most splendid panegyric; and in appealing to her that he had no determined prejudices against kings, nor any wish wantonly to attack their rights, he particularly congratulates himself upon having a witness of his integrity tam rere regiam. The espression is sufficiently obvious and backneyed in the flattery of royalty ; but it is well worth observing, when it comes from one who so seldom singe in that strain. It may also be noticed here, as we trace a resemblance of it in some of the preceding lines; where our author, having said that in the laborious and disinterested discharge of magistracy consists the real and proper “office of a king,'' proceeds to ascribe a superior degree of royalty, of the most distinguished eminence, to him who is duly practised in the habit of selfcommand;
Yet he, who reigns within himself, and rules
Passions, desires, and fears, is more a king: and still more to him who conscientiously labours for the well-doing and well-being of mankind at large, by the zealous propagation of truth and pure unadulterated religion ;
But to guide nations in the way of truth
Is yet more kingly. Milton, it appears, however, was rather unfortunate in his selection of a farourite from among the crowned heads of his time. Mr. Warton, in his note on the “ Verses to Chris. tina,” collects many curious anecdotes of her improprieties and absurdities; and Harte, the English historian of Gustavus Adolphus, terms her“an unaccountable woman; reading much, yet not extremely learned ; a collector and critic in the fine arts, but collecting without judgment, and forming conclusions without taste; affecting pomp, and rendering herself a beggar; fond to receive servile dependence, yet divesting herself of the means; paying court to the most serious christians, and making profession of little less than atheism." But our author saw only the bright side of her character; and considered her as a learned, pious, patriotic, disinterested princess. —Dunster.
See farther information, drawn from indisputable authority, relating to the extraordinary Christina, in my note on the poet's verses to her.— TODD.
$ And to lay down
Far more magnanimous than to assume. We
'e may rather trace Milton here to Macrobius, than to the passage cited in a preceding note from Q. Curtius by Dr. Newton :-“ Quid? quod duas virtutes, quæ inter nobilce quoque unice claræ sunt, in uno video fuisse mancipio ; imperiun regendi peritiam, et imperium contemnendi magnanimitatem. Anaxilaus enim Messenius, qui Messanam in Sicilia condidit, fuit Rheginorum tyrannus. Is, cum parvos relinquerei liberos, Micitho servo suo commendasse contentus est: is tutelam sancte gessit; imperiumque tam clementer obtinuit, ut Rhegini a servo regi non dedignarentur. Perductus deinde in statem pueris et bona et imperium tradidit. Ipse parvo viatico sumpto profectus est; et Olympix cum summa tranquillitate consenuit." Saturnal. i. 11.- DUNSTER.
And for thy reason why they should be sought,
• To gain a sceptre. Dunster gires the following closing summary of this book :-Our Saviour's passing the night is well described. The coming op of morn is a beautiful counterpart of “ night coming on in the desert,” which so finely closed the preceding book. Our Lord's waking - his viewing the country—and the description of the “ pleasant grove," which is to be the scene of the banquet-are all set off with every grace that poetry can give. The appearance of Satan, varied from his first disguise, as he has now quite another part to act, is perfectly well imagined ; and his speech, referring to Scripture examples of persons miraculously fed in desert places, is truly artful and in character ; as is his second sycophantic address, whero, having acknowledged our Lord's right to all created things, he adds,
With honour. The banquet, ver. 340, comprises everything that Roman luxury, Eastern magnificence, mythological fable, or poetic fancy can supply ; and if compared with similar descriptions in the Italian poets, will be found much superior to them. In the concluding part of his invitation, the virulence of the arch-fiend breaks out, as it were involuntarily, in a sarcastic
allusion to the divine prohibition respecting the tree of knowledge; but he immediately | resumes his hypocritical servility, which much resembles bis language in the ninth book of
the Paradise Lost,” when, in his addresses to Eve, “persuasive rhetorick sleek’d his tonguc." The last three lines are quite in this style :
All these are spirits of air, and woods, and springs,
Thee homage, and acknowledge thee their Lord.
I can at will, doubt not, as soon as thou,
Array'd in glory, on my cup to attend. This part of the book, in particular, is so highly finished, that I could wish it had concluded, as it might well have done, with the vanishing of the banquet. The present conclusion, from its subject, required another style of poetry : it has little description, no machinery, and no mythologica) allusions to elevate and adorn it; but it is not without a sublimity of another kind. Satan's speech, in which he assails our Lord with the temptation of riches as the means of acquiring greatness, is in a noble tone of dramatic dialogue, and the reply of our Saviour, where he rejects the offer, contains a series of the finest moral precepts, expressed in that plain majestic language, which, in many parts of didactic poetry, is the most becoining vestitus orationis. Still it must be acknowledged, that all this is much lost and obscured by the radiance and enriched descriptions of the preceding three hundred lines. These had been particularly relieved, and their beauty had been rendered more eminently conspicuous, from the studied equality and scriptural plainness of the exordium of this book; which has the effect ascribed by Cicero to the subordinate and less shining parts of any writing, “ quo magis id, quod erit illuminatum, extare atque eminere videatur," -De Orator. iii. 101. ed. Proust. But the conclusion of this book, though excellent in its kind, unfortunately, from its loco-position, appears to considerable disadvantage. Writers of didactic poetry, to sccure the continuance of their readers' attention, must be careful not only to diversify, but as much as possible gradually to elevate, their strain. Accordingly, they generally open their several divisions with their dryer precepts, proceed then to more pleasing illustrations, and are particularly studious to close each book with some description, or episode, of the most embellished and attractive kind.
The third book of the “ Paradise Regained" continues to be argumentative : but Satan, having found himself hitherto foiled, begins by the most wily and flattering compliments. He now dwells upon the attractions and delights of worldly glory: and tells our Saviour how he is fitted to attain it above all other beings, both by counsel and action ; and that it is his duty not to throw away his gifts, and pass his life in obscurity: he says, that men, at a more youthful age than his, have conquered the world. Our Saviour replies calmly :
Thou neither dost persuade me to seek wealth
The people's praise, if always praise unmix'd ?
Till conquerour Death discovers them scarce men,
Violent or shameful death* their due reward.
Equal in famo to proudest conquerours. I must here draw the reader's notice to Thyer's observation, who praises " the author's great art, in weaving into the body of so short a work so many grand points of the christian theology and morality.” Jesus exclaims ;
But why should man seek glory, who of his own
But condemnation, ignominy, and shame? Satan, not silenced, takes up another ground : he appeals to Christ's duty to fre his country from heathen servitude. Our Saviour answers that this must be done in the Almighty's time, and by the Almighty's means; but demands of Satan, why he should be anxious for his rise, when it would be his own fall.
Satan's cunning reply is one of the finest of all that Milton has invented of him. Then it was that he took Christ to a high mountain, to show him the monarchical the earth. The description of the prospect at the foot of the mountain is in the richest style of picturesque poetry : he now points out the Assyrian empire.
After going through an immense Geographical view, conducted with wonderful art, skill, and learning, and everywhere discriminated by the happiest epithets ;Satan says,
All these the Parthian (now some ages past,
From the luxurious kings of Antioch won. Then comes a most magnificent picture of great armies going out to battle. This is done, to show our Saviour the necessity of worldly power, and numerous military
* Here is a little carelessness in this repetition of the word " death."
preparations, to enable him to fulfil the duties for which he supposes him to be sent ou earth ;- the recovery of the throne of David. For this end he offers to secure for hin the Parthian alliance.
Oar Saviour, in answer, speaks with scorn “ of the cumbersome luggage of war;" and at the same time reproaches Satan with the insidiousness of his pretended zeal for the welfare of Israel, or David, or his throne, when he had hitherto proved their greatest enemy.
Of the poetry of this character it is scarcely necessary to urge the exalted merits. Imagination exerts itself in various tracks, and various forms : here it executes its duty iu filling up the outlines of a divine story ;—that is, a story of inspired wisdom, -of holiest virtue.-of superiority to all worldly temptations, --of patient suffering, -of faith in the Supreme Being,-of examples of the punishment of the wicked, — and of the inappearable malice of Satan. It is necessarily therefore more intellectual, spiritual, and didactic, in every part, than material : and yet it is so intermixed with a due portion of imagery, that the fertility of a rich poctical genius pervades the whole poen.
Mind is of more value than matter : it is the soul which belongs to the image, rather than the image itself, which is the gem : thought, opinion, conclusion, the impression of the heart,- these are what instruct us, and elevate our nature. these, what poem is so full as “ Paradise Regained ?" Its mere learning is miraculous ; but that is of comparatively less interest. Yet the more enlarged is the author's experience, the wider the field whence he derives his deductions and convictions, the more numerous the eminent minds by whose wisdom he is aided, the richer and more sure must be the intellectual fruits at which he arrives.
Milton is so familiar with the ancient classics, that he perpetually falls, not only into a concurrence of observation and sympathy of feeling, but into their very expressions: yet not as if it was borrowed, but as if it was simultaneous : its freshness and its force prove its originality.
Our Saviour's answer to Satan, in assertion of the vanity of human glory, astonislies by its vigour of thought and blaze of eloquence. It is like the beams of the cheering sun let in upon a billowy and blinding mist : the understanding ratifies it ; the conscience hails it. That no doctrine can be more pure, more noble, more sound, more useful than this, will scarcely be denied : its poetical character depends upoo its loftiness, which also is of the most decisive kind,
The poetry of mere style, the artifices of language, are nothing : great thoughts and great images will support themselves. The necessity of illustration proves that the primary idea or image is dark, or weak, or trifling. Grandeur or beauty wants no dress : metaphorical phrases are often corrupt ; and similes are generally superfluous and impertinent ; yet these are taken to be the essence of modern poetry. I mention this, because the mere reader of the productions of our own times is apt to suppose Milton prosaic, when his strains are of the most poetical tone ; because his style is simple and pure. The finest passages in our Saviour's exposition of the nothingness of human glory, are the plainest : till poets learn this, they will be but frivolous and gaudy pretenders. Whoever thinks magnificently, scorns the aid of flowers and spangles.
If we could bring back poetry, even in mere style, to what it was in the times of Spenser, and Shakspeare, and Milton, we should indeed be gaining an immense benefit to the world of English readers, and redeeming the splendour of the Muse's name and office. The unmeaning gaudiness, the gilded inanity of the greater part of modern verses, has turned the public taste for poetical composition into loathing. Let the reader study Milton's energetic thought and chaste manner day and night; and if at first any factitious taste may render it more a duty than a pleasure, his di rased habit will soon amend itself, and be changed to simplicity and purity. Then he will find his momentary delight followed by no satiety; but the wholesome food strengthen his mind, and grow with his growth. If the « Paradise Regained” does not please him, let him be sure that he has much to amend in his intellectual qualifications.