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. . IN THREE VOLUME S.
THE WHOLE OF THE “SPECTATOR," &c.
PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, ...
No. 82 CLIFF-STREET.
No. 315.] Saturday, March 1, 1711-12. energy of expression, and in a clearer and
stronger light than I ever met with in any Nec deus intersit nisi dignus vindice nodus
other writer. As these points are dry in Inciderit
Hor. Ars Poet. v. 191.
themselves to the generality of readers, the Never presume to make a god appear
concise and clear manner in which he has But for a business worthy of a god.-Roscommon.
treated them is very much to be admired, Horace advises a poet to consider tho as is likewise that particular art which he roughly the nature and force of his genius. has made use of in the interspersing of all Milton seems to have known perfectly well those graces of poetry which the subject wherein his strength lay, and has therefore was capable of receiving. chosen a subject entirely conformable to The survey of the whole creation, and of those talents of which he was master. As every thing that is transacted in it, is a his genius was wonderfully turned to the prospect worthy of Omniscience, and as sublime, his subject is the noblest that much above that in which Virgil has drawn could have entered into the thoughts of his Jupiter, as the Christian idea of the Suman. Every thing that is truly great and preme Being is more rational and sublime astonishing has a place in it. The whole than that of the Heathens. The particusystem of the intellectual world; the chaos, lar objects on which he is described to have and the creation: heaven, earth, and hell; cast his eye, are represented in the most enter into the constitution of his poem. | beautiful and lively manner:
Having in the first and second books represented the infernal world with all its
Now had th' Almighty Father from above
(From the pure empyrean where he sits horrors, the thread of his fable naturally
High thron'd above all height) bent down his eye, leads him into the opposite regions of bliss His own works and their works at once to view and glory,
About him all the sanctities of heaven
Stood thick as stars, and from his sight receiv'd If Milton's majesty forsakes him any
Beatitude past utterance. On his right where, it is in those parts of his poem The radiant image of his glory sat, where the divine persons are introduced
His only Son. On earth he first beheld
Our two first parents, yet the only two as speakers. One may, I think, observe,
Of mankind, in the happy garden plac'd, that the author proceeds with a kind of fear Reaping immortal fruits of joy and love. and trembling, whilst he describes the sen
Uninterrupted joy, unrivali'd love,
In blissful solitude. He then survey'd timents of the Almighty. He dares not give
Hell and the gulf between, and Satap there his imagination its full play, but chooses to Coasting the wall of heav'n on this side night, confine himself to such thoughts as are
In the dun air sublime; and ready now drawn from the books of the most ortho
To stoop with wearied wings and willing feet
On the bare outside of this world, that seem'd dox divines, and to such expressions as Firm land imbosom'd without firmament; may be met with in scripture. The beau
Uncertain which, in ocean or in air. ties, therefore, which we are apt to look
Him God be holding from his prospect high,
Wherein past, present, future he beholds, for in these speeches, are not of a poetical Thus to his only Son foreseeing spake. nature, nor so proper to fill the mind with sentiments of grandeur, as with thoughts Satan's approach to the confines of the of devotion. The passions which they are creation is finely imaged in the beginning designed to raise, are a divine love and re-of the speech which immediately follows. ligious fear. The particular beauty of the The effects of this speech in the blessed speeches in the third book, consists in that spirits, and in the divine person to whom shortness and perspicuity of style, in which it was addressed, cannot but fill the mind the poet has couched the greatest mysteries of the reader with a secret pleasure and of Christianity, and drawn together, in a complacency: regular scheme, the whole dispensation of Providence with respect to man. He has
Thus while God spake, ambrosial fragrance fill'd
All heav'n, and in the blessed spirits elect represented all the abstruse doctrines of
Sense of new joy ineffable diffus'd. predestination, free-will and grace, as also Beyond compare the Son of God was seen the great points of incarnation and redemp
Most glorious ; in him all his Father shone,
Substantially express'd; and in his face tion, (which naturally grow up in a poem
Divine compassion visibly appear'd, that treats of the fall of man) with great! Love without end, and without measure grace,
I need not point out the beauty of that prising accidents, are nevertheless probable circumstance, wherein the whole host of when we are told, that they were the gods angels are represented as standing mute; who thus transformed them. It is this kind nor show how proper the occasion was to of machinery which fills the poems both of produce such a silence in heaven. The Homer and Virgil with such circumstances close of this divine colloquy, with the hymn as are wonderful but not impossible, and of angels that follows upon it, are so won- so frequently produce in the reader the derfully beautiful and poetical, that I should most pleasing passion that can rise in the not forbear inserting the whole passage, if mind of man, which is admiration. If there the bounds of my paper would give me be any instance in the Æneid liable to exleave:
ception upon this account, it is in the be
ginning of the third book, where Æneas is No sooner had th' Almighty ceas'd, but all The multitude of angels with a shout
represented as tearing up the myrtle that (Loud as from numbers without number, sweet dropped blood. To qualify this wonderful As from blest voices) utt'ring joy, heav'n rung circumstance, Polydorus tells a story from With jubilee, and loud Hosannas fill'd Th' eternal regions, &c. &c.
the root of the myrtle, that the barbarous
inhabitants of the country having pierced Satan's walk upon the outside of the uni- him with spears and arrows, the blood verse, which at a distance appeared to him which was left in his body took root in his of a globular form, but upon his nearer ap- wounds, and gave birth to that bleeding proach looked like an unbounded plain, is tree. This circumstance seems to have the natural and noble; as his roaming upon the marvellous without the probable, because frontiers of the creation, between that mass it is represented as proceeding from natuof matter which was wrought into a world, ral causes, without the interposition of any and that shapeless unformed heap of mate-god, or other supernatural power capable rials which still lay in chaos and confusion, of producing it. The spears and arrows strikes the imagination with something asto-grow of themselves without so much as the nishingly great and wild. I have before modern help of enchantment. If we look spoken of the Limbo of Vanity, which the into the fiction of Milton's fable, though we poet places upon this outermost surface of find it full of surprising incidents, they are the universe, and shall here explain myself generally suited to our notions of the things more at large on that, and other parts of and persons described, and tempered with the poem, which are of the same shadowy a due measure of probability. I must only nature.
make an exception to the Limbo of Vanity, Aristotle observes, that the fable of an with his episode of Sin and Death, and some epic poem should abound in circumstances of the imaginary persons in his chaos. that are both credible and astonishing; or, These passages are astonishing, but not as the French critics choose to phrase it, credible: the reader cannot so far impose the fable should be filled with the probable upon himself as to see a possibility in them; and the marvellous. This rule is as fine they are the description of dreams and shaand just as any in Aristotle's whole Art of dows, not of things or persons. I know that Poetry.
many critics look upon the stories of Circe, If the fable is only probable, it differs Polypheme, the Sirens, nay the whole Odysnothing from a true history; if it is only sey and Iliad, to be allegories; but allowing marvellous, it is no better than a romance. this to be true, they are fables, which, conThe great secret, therefore, of heroic poe- sidering the opinions of mankind that pretry is to relate such circumstances as may vailed in the age of the poet, might possibly produce in the reader at the same time both have been according to the letter. The belief and astonishment. This is brought to persons are such as might have acted what pass in a well-chosen fable, by the account is ascribed to them, as the circumstances of such things as have really happened, or in which they are represented might posat least of such things as have happened sibly have been truths and realities. This according to the received opinions of man- appearance of probability is so absolutely kind. - Milton's fable is a master-piece of requisite in the greater kinds of poetry, that this nature; as the war in heaven, the con- Aristotle observes the ancient tragic writers dition of the fallen angels, the state of inno-made use of the names of such great men cence, the temptation of the serpent, and as had actually lived in the world, though the fall of man, though they are very asto- the tragedy proceeded upon adventures nishing in themselves, are not only credible, they were never engaged in, on purpose to but actual points of faith.
make the subject more credible. In a word, The next method of reconciling miracles besides the hidden meaning of an epic allewith credibility, is by a happy invention of gory, the plain literal sense ought to appear the poet: as in particular, when he intro- probable. The story should be such as an duces agents of a superior nature, who are ordinary reader may acquiesce in, whatcapable of effecting what is wonderful, and ever natural, moral, or political truth may what is not to be met with in the ordinary be discovered in it by men of greater penecourse of things. Ulysses's ship being turnedtration. into a rock, and Æneas's fleet into a shoal! Satan, after having long wandered upon of water-nvmphs, though they are very sur-l the surface or outermost wall of the uni
verse, discovers at last a wide gap in it, i poem. The same observation might be which led into the creation, and is described applied to that beautiful digression upon as the opening through which the angels hypocrisy in the same book. pass to and fro into the lower world, upon their errands to mankind. His sitting upon the brink of this passage, and taking a No. 316.7 Monday, March 3, 1711-12. survey of the whole face of nature, that appeared to him new and fresh in all its | Libertas; quæ sera, tamen respexit inertem. beauties, with the simile illustrating this
Virg. Ecl. i. 28. circumstance, fills the mind of the reader
Freedom, which came at length, though slow to come with as surprising and glorious an idea as
Dryden. any that arises in the whole poem. He Mr. SPECTATOR,—If you ever read a looks down into that vast hollow of the uni-l letter which is sent with the more pleasure verse with the eye, or (as Milton calls it in for the reality of its complaints, this may his first book) with the ken of an angel. I have reason to hope for a favourable acHe surveys all the wonders in this immense ceptance; and if time be the most irretrievamphitheatre that lie between both the able loss, the regrets which follow will be poles of heaven, and takes in at one view thought, I hope, the most justifiable. The the whole round of the creation.
regaining of my liberty from a long state of His flight between the several worlds indolence and inactivity, and the desire of that shined on every side of him, with the resisting the farther encroachments of idle. particular description of the sun, are set ness, make me apply to you; and the unforth in all the wantonness of a luxuriant easiness with which I recollect the past imagination. His shape, speech, and be-years, and the apprehensions with which I haviour, upon his transforming himself into expect the future, soon determined me to an angel of light, are touched with exquisite it. Idleness is so general a distemper, that beauty. The poet's thought of directing I cannot but imagine a speculation on this Satan to the sun, which, in the vulgar subject will be of universal use. There is opinion of mankind, is the most conspicuous hardly any one person without some allay part of the creation, and the placing in it of it; and thousands besides myself spend an angel, is a circumstance very finely con- more time in an idle uncertainty which to trived, and the more adjusted to a poetical | begin first of two affairs, than would have probability, as it was a received doctrine been sufficient to have ended them both. among the most famous philosophers, that | The occasion of this seems to be the want every orb had its intelligence; and as an of some necessary employment, to put the apostle in sacred writ is said to have seen spirits in motion, and awaken them out of such an angel in the sun. In the answer their lethargy. If I had less leisure, I which the angel returns to the disguised should have more; for I should then find evil spirit, there is such a becoming ma- my time distinguished into portions, some jesty as is altogether suitable to a superior for business, and others for the indulging of being. The part of it in which he repre-pleasures; but now one face of indolence sents himself as present at the creation, is overspreads the whole, and I have no landvery noble in itself, and not only proper mark to direct myself by. Were one's time where it is introduced, but requisite to pre- a little straitened by business, like water pare the reader for what follows in the enclosed in its banks, it would have some seventh book:
determined course; but unless it be put into
some channel it has no current, but becomes I saw when at his word the formless mags, This world's material mould, carne to a heap:
a deluge without either use or motion, Confusjon heard his voice, and wild Uproar
When Scanderbeg, Prince of Epirus, Stood rul'd, stood vast infinitude confin'd;
was dead, the Turks, who had but too often Till at his second bidding Darkness fled, Light shone, &c.
felt the force of his arm in the battles he
had won from them, imagined that by wearIn the following part of the speech heling a piece of his bones near their heart, points out the earth with such circum- they should be animated with a vigour and stances, that the reader can scarce forbear force like to that which inspired him when fancying himself employed on the same living. As I am like to be but of little use distant view of it.
whilst I live, I am resolved to do what good
I can after my decease; and have accordLook downward on that globe, whose hither side With light from hence, though but reflected, shines; Jingly ordered 'my bones to be disposed of That place is earth, the seat of man, that light
in this manner for the good of my counHis day, &c.
trymen, who are troubled with too exorbi, I must not conclude my reflections upon tant a degree of fire. All fox-hunters, this third book of Paradise Lost, without upon wearing me, would in a short time be taking notice of that celebrated complaint brought to endure their beds in a morning, of Milton with which it opens, and which and perhaps even quit them with regret at certainly deserves all the praises that have ten.Instead of hurrying away to tease a been given it; though, as I have before poor animal, and run away from their own hinted, it may rather be looked upon as an | thoughts, a chair or a chariot would be excrescence than as an essential part of the thought the most desirable means of per