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2. The ingenious author of the Observations on Spenser (from which fine specimen of his critical talents one is led to expect great things) directs us to another imitation of this sort.
Tasso had said,
Si bagna Amore, e gode al chiaro lume. On which short hint Spenser has raised the following luxuriant imagery,
The blinded archer-boy, ".
Like lark in show'r of rain,
And glad the time did spend
Which fall from her fair eyes,
3. I will just add two more examples of the same kind; chiefly, because they illustrate an observation, very proper to be attended to on this subject; which is, “ That in this display 6 of a borrowed thought, the Imitation will “ generally fall short of the Original, even ” though the borrower be the greater Ge«nius."
The Italian poet, just now quoted, says sublimely of the Night, .
- Usci la Notte, è sotto l'ali ... Menò il silentio
C. v. S. 79. .,
Milton has given a paraphrase of this passage, but very much below his original, i Now came still ev'ning on, and twilight gray Had in her sober livery all things clad; Silence accompany'd- .
The striking part of Tasso's picture, is, “ Night's bringing in Silence under her wings.” So new and singular an idea as this had detected an Imitation. Milton contents himself, then, with saying simply, Silence accompany'd. However, to make amends, as he thought, for this defect, Night itself, which the Italian had merely personized, the English poet not only personizes, but employs in a very becoming office: . : Now came still ev’ning on, and twilight
gray . Had in her sober livery all things clad. Every body will observe a little blemish, in this fine couplet. He should not have used
the epithet still, when he intended to add,
Silence accompanied-But there is a worse fault in this Imitation, To hide it, he speaks of Night's livery. When he had done that, to speak of her wings, had been ungraceful. Therefore he is forced to say obscurely as well as simply, Silence accompany'd: And so loses a more noble image for a less noble one. The truth is, they would not stand together. Livery belongs to human grandeur ; wings to divine or celestial. So that in Milton's very attempt to surpass his original, he put it out of his power to employ the circumstance that most recommended it.
He is not happier on another oocasion, Spenser had said with his usual simplicity, “ Virtue gives herself light thro' darkness for “ to wade."
F.Q. B. 1.
Milton catched at this image, and has run it into a sort of paraphrase, in those fine lines, ^ Virtue could see to do what virtue would “By her own radiant light, tho' Sun and Moon of Were in the flat sea sunk
In Spenser's line we have the idea of Virtue tropt down into a world, all over darkened with vice and error. Virtue excites the light of truth to see all around her, and not only dissipate the neighbouring darkness, but to direct her course in pursuing her victory and driving her enemy out of it; the arduousness of which exploit is well expressed by-thro' darkness for to WADE. On the contrary, Milton, in borrowing, substitutes the physical for the moral idea-by her own radiunt lightand tho' Sun and Moon were in the flat sea sunk. It may be asked, how this happened ? Very naturally. Milton was caught with the obvious imagery, which he found he could display to more advantage; and só did not enough attend to the noble sentiment that was couched under it.
XIII. These are instances of a paraphrastical licence in dilating on a famous Sentiment or Image. The ground is the same, only flourished upon by the genius of the Imitator. At times we find him practising a different art; « not merely spreading, as it were, and laying - open the same sentiment, but adding to it, “and by a new and studied device improving “ upon it.” In this case we naturally conclude that the refinement had not been made, if the
plain and simple thought had not preceded and given rise to it. You will apprehend, my meaning by what follows.
1. Shakespear had said of Henry. IVth, :~He cannot long hold out these pangs"; The incessant care and labour of his mind '. Hath wrought the mure, that should confine
. it in, : : : : : : : So thin, that life looks through, and will break out.
Hen. IV. A. 4.
You have, here, the thought in its first simplicity. It was not unnatural, after speaking of the body, as a case or tenement of the Soul, the mure that confines it, to say, that as that case wears away and grows thin, life looks through, and is ready to break out.
DANIEL, by refining on this sentiment, if by nothing else, shews himself to be the copyist. Speaking of the same Henry, he observes, And Pain and Grief, inforcing more and : ; more,
Besieg'd the hold that could not long defend; Consuming so all the resisting store
Of those provisions Nature deign'd to lend,