« AnkstesnisTęsti »
actors in this poem are not only be supposed to square exactly with our progenitors, but our represen- the heroic poems which have been tatives. We have an actual interest made since his time; since it is evi. in every thing they do, and no less dent to every impartial judge his than our utmost happiness is con- rules would still have been more cerned, and lies at stake in all their perfect, could he have perused the behaviour.
Æneid which was made some hun-, I shall fubjoin as a corollary to dred years after his death. the foregoing remark, an admirable In my next, I shall go through observation out of Aristotle, which other parts of Milton's poem; and hath been very much misrepresent- hope that what I shall there aded in the quotations of some mo- vance, as well as what I have aldern critics. “If a man of perfect ready written, will not only ferve • and confummate virtue falls into as a comment upon Milton, but • a misfortune, it raises our pity, upon Aristotle. • but not our terror, because we do « not fear that it may be our own WE have already taken a ge• case, who do not resemble the neral furvey of the fable and cha• suffering person. But as that great racters in Milton's Paradise Loft: philosopher adds, • If we see a The parts which remain to be con
man of virtue, mixt with infir- fider'd, according to Aristotle's me• mities, fall into any misfortune, thod, are the sentiments and the • it does not only raise our pity but language. Before I enter upon • our terror; because we are afraid the firit of these, I must advertise • that the like misfortunes may my reader, that it is my design as
happen to ourselves, who re- soon as I have finished my general • semble the character of the fuf. reflections on these four several • fering person.
heads, to give particular instances I fhall only remark in this place, out of the poem now before us of that the foregoing obfervation of beauties and imperfections which Aristotle, tho it may be true in may be observed under each of other occafions, does not hold in them, as also of such other partithis ; because in the present cafe, culars as may not properly fall unthough the persons who fall into der any of them. This I thought misfortune are of the most perfect fit to premise, that the reader may and confummate virtue, it is not not judge too haftily of this piece to be considered as what may pos- of criticism, or look upon it as imsibly be, but what actually is our perfect, before he has seen the own cafe; since we are embark'd whole extent of it. with them on the fame bottom, and The sentiments in an epic poem must be partakers of their happiness are the thoughts and behaviour or misery.
which the author ascribes to the In this, and some other very few persons whom he introduces, and inftances, Aristotle's rules for epic. are juft when they are conformpoetry (which he had drawn from able to the characters of the several his reflections upon Homer) cannot persons. The sentiments have like
wile a relation to things as well as genius in Shakespear to have drawn persons, and are then perfect when his Calyban, than his Hotspur or they are such as are adapted to the Julius Cæsar: The one was to be subject. If in either of these cases fupplied out of his own imaginathe poet endevors to argue or ex- tion, whereas the other might have plain, to magnify or diminish, to been formed upon tradition, history raise love or hatred, pity or ter- and observation. It was much eaa ror, or any other passion, we ought fier therefore for Homer to find to consider whether the sentiments proper sentiments for an assembly he makes use of are proper for of Grecian generals, than for Mil. those ends. Homer is censured by ton to diversify his infernal council the critics for his defect as to this with proper characters, and inspire particular in several parts of the them with a variety of sentiments. Iliad and Odyssey, tho' at the same The loves of Dido and Æneas are time those who have treated this only copies of what has passed begreat poet with candor, have attri- tween other persons. Adam and buted this defect to the times in Eve before the fall, are a different which he lived. It was the fault fpecies from that of mankind, who of the age, and not of Homer, if are descended from them; and there wants that delicacy in some none but a poet of the most unof his sentiments, which now ap- bounded invention, and the most pears in the works of men of a exquisite judgment, cou'd have filmuch inferior genius. Besides, if led their conversation and behathere are blemishes in any particu- viour with so many apt circumlar thoughts, there is an infinite stances during their state of inno. beauty in the greatest part of them. cence. In short, if there are many poets
Nor is it fufficient for an epic who would not have fallen into the poem to be filled with fuch thoughts meanness of some of his senti- as are natural, unless it abound also ments, there are none who could with such as are fublime. Virgil have risen up to the greatness of in this particular falls short of Haothers. Virgil has excelled all mer. He has not indeed so many others in the
propriety of his fen- thoughts that are low and vulgar timents. Miston shines likewise but at the same time has not so very much in this particular : Nor many thoughts that are fublime muft we omit one confideration and noble. The truth of it is, which adds to his honor and re. Virgil seldom rises into
aftoputation. Homer and Virgil in- nishing sentiments, where he is not troduced persons whose characters fired by the Iliad. He every where are commonly known among men, charms and pleases us by the force and such as are to be met with ei- of his own genius; but seldom elether in history, or in ordinary con- vates and transports us where he versation. Milton's characters, most does not fetch his hints from Homer. of them, lie out of nature, and Milton's chief talent, and indeed were to be formed purely by his his distinguishing excellence lies in own invention. It shows a greater the sublimity of his thoughts. There
are others of the Moderns who ri into human nature, and that he val him in every other part of poe- knew every thing which was the try; but in the greatness of his fen- most proper to affect it. timents he triumphs over all the Mr. Dryden has in some places, poets both modern and ancient, which I may hereafter take noHomer only excepted. It is im- tice of, misrepresented Virgil's way possible for the imagination of man of thinking as to this particular, to distend itself with greater ideas, in the tranilation he has given us than those which he has laid toge- of the Æneid. I do not remember ther in his first, second and fixth that Homer any where falls into books. The seventh, which de- the faults abovementioned, which scribes the creation of the world, were indeed the false refinements is likewise wonderfully sublime, of later ages. Milton, it muft be tho' not so apt to stir up emotion confest, has sometimes erred in this in the mind of the reader, nor respect, as I shall thew more at consequently so perfect in the epic large in another paper; tho' con. way of writing, because it is filled fidering all the poets of the age in with less action. Let the judicious which he writ, were infected with reader compare what Longinus has this wrong way of thinking, he is observed on several patiages in rather to be admired that he did Homer, and he will find paral- not give more into it, than that he lels for most of them in the Para- did sometimes comply with the vidise Loft.
cious taste which still prevails so From what has been said we much among modern writers. may infer, that as there are two But since several thoughts may kinds of sentiments, the natural be natural which are low and and the sublime, which are always groveling, an epic poet should not to be pursued in an heroic poem, only avoid such sentiments as are there are also two kinds of thoughts unnatural or affected, but also such which are carefully to be avoided. as are mean and vulgar. Homer The first are such as are affected has opened a great field of raland unpatural; the second such as lery to men of more delicacy than are mean and vulgar. As for the greatness of genius, by the homefirst kind of thoughts we meet with liness of some of his sentiments. little or nothing that is like them But, as I have before said, these in Virgil : He has none of those are rather to be imputed to the trifling points and puerilities that fimplicity of the age in which he are so often to be mct with in lived, to which I may also add, Ovid, none of the epigrammatic of that which he described, than turns of Lucan, none of those to any imperfection in that divine swelling sentiments which are so poet. Zoilus, among the Ancients, frequently in Statius and Claudian, and Monsieur Perrault, among the none of those mixed embellish. Moderns, pushed their ridicule very ments of Tasso. Every thing is far upon him, on account of some just and natural. His sentiments such sentiments. There is no bleHow that he had a perfect insight mish to be observed in Virgil,
and when we,
under this head, and but a very O Friends, why come not on these few in Milton.
victors proud! I fall give but one instance of
Ere while they fierce were coming, this impropriety of thought in Homer, and at the same time com To entertain them fair with oper pare it with an instance of the fame front, nature, both in Virgil and Milton. And breast, (what could we more) Sentiments which raise laughter, propounded terms can very seldom be admitted with
Of compofition; ftrait they chang'd any decency into an heroic poem, their minds, whose business is to excite passions
Flew off, and into strange vagaof a much nobler nature. Homer,
ries fell, however, in his characters of Vul As they would dance, yet for a can and Thersites, in his story of dance they seem'd Mars and Venus, in his behaviour Somewhat extravagant and wild, of Irus, and in other passages, has perhaps been observed to have lapsed into For joy of offer'd peace; but I fupthe burlesque character, and to pose have departed from that serious If our propofals once again were air which seems essential to the heard, magnificence of an epic poem. I We hould compel them to a quick remember but one laugh in the refult. whole Æneid, which rises in the To whom thus Belial in like fifth book upon Monætes, where gamesome mood. he is represented as thrown over Leader, the terms we sent, were board, and drying himself upon a terms of weight, rock. But this piece of mirth is so Of hard contents, and full of force well timed, that the severest critic urg'd home, can have nothing to say against it, Such as we might perceive amuş d for it is in the book of games and
them all, diversions, where the reader's mind And stumbled many; who receives may be supposed to be sufficiently
them right, relaxed for such an entertainment. Had need, from head to foot, well The only piece of pleasantry in Pa understand; radise Loft
, is where the evil spirits Not understood, this gift they have are described as rallying the Angels besides, upon the success of their new in They fhow us when our foes walk vented artillery. This passage I not upright. look upon to be the most excep Thus they among themselves in tionable in the whole poem, as be pleasant vein ing nothing else but a itring of puns,
Stood scoffing and those too very indifferent.
HAVING already treated of Satan beheld their plight, the fable, the characters and sentiAnd to his mates thus in derision ments in the Paradise Lost, we are call'd.
in the last place to consider the
language; and as the learned world tend to each minute particular, and is very much divided
Milton give the last finishing to every ciras to this point, I hope they will cumstance in so long a work. The excuse me if I appear particular in ancient critics therefore, who were any of my opinions, and incline acted by a spirit of candor, rather to those who judge the most ad- than that of cavilling, invented vantageoufly of the author.
certain figures of speech, on purIt is requisite that the language pose to palliate little errors of this of an heroic poem should be both nature in the writings of those auperspicuous and sublime. In pro- thors who had so many greater portion as either of these two qua- beauties to atone for them. Iities are wanting, the language is
If clearness and perfpicuity were imperfect. Perfpicuity is the first only to be consulted, the poet and most necessary qualification; in- would have nothing else to do but somuch that a good-natur'd reader to clothe his thoughts in the moft fometimes overlooks a little flip plain and natural expressions. But even in the grammar or syntax, since it often happens that the most where it is impossible for him to obvious phrases, and those which mistake the poet's fense. Of this are ufed in ordinary conversation, kind is that passage in Milton, become too familiar to the ear, and wherein he speaks of Satan. contract a kind of meanness by
passing through the mouths of the God and his Son except, vulgar, a poet should take particuCreated thing nought valu'd he lar care to guard himself against nor shunn'd.
idiomatic ways of speaking. Ovid
and Lucan have many poorneffes And that in which he describes
of expression upon this account, as Adam and Eve.
taking up with the first phrases that Adam the goodliest man of men offered, without putting themselves since born
to the trouble of looking after fuch His sons,
the fairest of her daugh- as would not only be natural, but ters Eve.
also elevated and sublime. Milton
has but a few failings in this kind, It is plain, that in the former of of which, however, you may meet these passages, according to the with some instances, as in the folnatural syntax, the divine Persons lowing passages. mentioned in the first line are represented as created beings; and Embrio's and idiots, eremites and that in the other, Adam and Eve friers are confounded with their sons and White, black and gray, with all daughters. Such little blemishes as these, when the thought is great Here pilgrims roam and natural, we should, with Ho - A while discourse they hold, race, impute to a pardonable in No fiar left dinner cool; when thus advertency, or to the weakness of
began human nature, which cannot at