to pronounce diffikty and purp'. Though Mr. Masson talks of " slurs and elisions,” his ear would seem somewhat insensible to their exact nature or office. His diffikty supposes a hiatus where none is intended, and his making purple of one syllable wrecks the whole verse, the real slur in the latter case being on azure or.) When he asks whether Milton required" these pronunciations in his verse,'

,” no positive answer can be given, but I very much doubt whether he would have thought that some of the lines Mr. Masson cites “ remain perfectly good Blank Verse even with the most leisurely natural enunciation of the spare syllable," and I am sure he would have stared if told that " the number of accents” in a pentameter verse was " variable." It may be doubted whether elisions and compressions which would be thought in bad taste or even vulgar now were more abhorrent to the ears of Milton's generation than to a cultivated Italian would be the hearing Dante read as prose. After all, what Mr. Masson says may be reduced to the infallible axiom that poetry should be read as poetry.

Mr. Masson seems to be right in his main principles, but the examples he quotes make one doubt whether he knows what a verse is. For example, he thinks it would be a “horror,” if in the verse

“That invincible Samson far renowned " we should lay the stress on the first syllable of invincible. It is hard to see why this should be worse than conventicle or rémonstrance or súcces

1 Exactly analogous to that in treasurer when it is shortened to two syllables.


sor or incompatible, (the three latter used by the correct Daniel) or why Mr. Masson should clap an accent on surface merely because it comes at the end of a verse, and deny it to invincible. If one read the verse just cited with those that go with it, he will find that the accent must come on the first syllable of invincible, or else the whole passage becomes chaos.? Should we refuse to say obleeged with Pope because the fashion has changed ? From its apparently greater freedom in skilful hands, blank verse gives more scope to sciolistic theorizing and dogmatism than the rhyming pentameter couplet, but it is safe to say that no verse is good in the one that would not be good in the other when handled by a master like Dryden. Milton, like other great poets, wrote some bad verses, and it is wiser to confess that they are so than to conjure up some unimaginable reason why the reader should accept them as the better for their badness. Such a bad verse is

“Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens and shapes of death,” which might be cited to illustrate Pope's

“ And ten low words oft creep in one dull line.” Milton cannot certainly be taxed with any partiality for low words. He rather loved them tall, as the Prussian King loved men to be six feet high in their stockings, and fit to go into the gren

1 Milton himself has invisible, for we cannot suppose him guilty of a verse like

“Shoots invisible virtue even to the deep," while, if read rightly, it has just one of those sweeping elisions that he loved.


adiers. He loved them as much for their music as for their meaning, - perhaps more.

His style, therefore, when it has to deal with commoner things, is apt to grow a little cumbrous and unwieldy. A Persian poet says that when the owl would boast, he boasts of catching mice at the edge of a hole. Shakespeare would have understood this. Milton would have made him talk like an eagle. His influence is not to be left out of account as partially contributing to that decline toward poetic diction which was already beginning ere he died. If it would not be fair to say that he is the most artistic, he may be called in the highest sense the most scientific of our poets. If to Spenser younger poets have gone to be sung-to, they have sat at the feet of Milton to be taught. Our language has no finer poem than “Samson Agonistes,” if any so fine in the quality of austere dignity or in the skill with which the poet's personal experience is generalized into a classic tragedy.

Gentle as Milton's earlier portraits would seem to show him, he had in him by nature, or bred into him by fate, something of the haughty and defiant self-assertion of Dante and Michael Angelo. In no other English author is the man so large a part of his works. Milton's haughty conception of himself enters into all he says and does. Always the necessity of this one man became that of the whole human race for the moment.

There were no walls so sacred but must go to the ground when he wanted elbow-room; and he wanted a great


deal. Did Mary Powell, the cavalier's daughter, find the abode of a roundhead schoolmaster incompatible and leave it, forthwith the cry of the universe was for an easier dissolution of the marriage covenant. If he is blind, it is with excess of light, it is a divine partiality, an over-shadowing with angels' wings. Phineus and Teiresias are admitted among the prophets because they, too, had lost their sight, and the blindness of Homer is of more account than his Iliad. After writing in rhyme till he was past fifty, he finds it unsuitable for his epic, and it at once becomes “ the invention of a barbarous age to set off wretched matter and lame metre.' If the structure of his mind be undramatic, why, then, the English drama is naught, learned Jonson, sweetest Shakespeare, and the rest notwithstanding, and he will compose a tragedy on a Greek model with the blinded Samson for its hero, and he will compose it partly in rhyme. Plainly he belongs to the intenser kind of men whose yesterdays are in no way responsible for their to-morrows. And this makes him perennially interesting even to those who hate his politics, despise his Socinianism, and find his greatest poem a bore. A new edition of his poems is always welcome, for, as he is really great, he presents a fresh side to each new student, and Mr. Masson, in his three handsome volumes, has given us, with much that is superfluous and even erroneous, much more that is a solid and permanent acquisition to our knowledge.

It results from the almost scornful withdrawal for a

of Milton into the fortress of his absolute personality that no great poet is so uniformly self-conscious as he. We should say of Shakespeare that he had the power of transforming himself into everything; of Milton, that he had that of transforming everything into himself. Dante is individual rather than self-conscious, and he, the castiron man, grows pliable as a field of grain at the breath of Beatrice, and flows away in waves of sunshine. But Milton never let himself

go moment. As other poets are possessed by their theme, so is he self-possessed, his great theme being John Milton, and his great duty that of interpreter between him and the world. I say it with all respect, for he was well worthy translation, and it is out of Hebrew that the version is made. Pope says he makes God the Father reason school-divine.” The criticism is witty, but inaccurate. He makes Deity a mouthpiece for his present theology, and had the poem been written a few years later, the Almighty would have become more heterodox. Since Dante, no one had stood on these visiting terms with heaven.

Now it is precisely this audacity of self-reliance, I suspect, which goes far toward making the sublime, and which, falling by a hair's-breadth short thereof, makes the ridiculous. Puritanism showed both the strength and weakness of its prophetic

re; enough of the latter to be scoffed out of England by the very men it had conquered in the field, enough of the former to intrench itself in three or four immortal memories. It has left an

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