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nature, the anguish arising from the consciousnefs of transgression, and the horrours attending the sense of the Divine Displeasure, are very justly described and forcibly impressed. But the passions are moved only on one occafion; fublimity is the general and prevailing quality in this poem ; sublimity variously modified, sometimes descriptive, sometives argumentative.
The defects and faults of Paradise Loft, for faults 2-1 and defects every work of man must have, it is the business of impartial criticism to discover. As, in displaying the excellence of Milton, I have not made long quotations, because of selecting beauties there had been no end, I shall in the same general manner mention that which seems to deserve censure; for what Englishman can take delight in transcribing passages, which, if they lessen the reputation of Milton, diminish in some degree the honour of our country?
The generality of my scheme does not admit the frequent notice of verbal inaccuracies; which Bentley, perhaps better skilled in grammar than in poetry, has often found, though he sometimes made them, and which he imputed to the obtrusions of a reviser whom the author's blindness obliged him to employ. A supposition rafh and groundless, if he thought it true ; and vile and pernicious, if, as is said, he in private allowed it to be false.
The plan of Paradise Lost has this inconvenience, that it comprises neither human actions nor human manners. The man and woman who act and suffer, are in a state which no other man or woman can ever know. The reader finds no transaction in which he can be engaged ; beholds no condition in which he
can by any effort of imagination place himself; he has, therefore, little natural curiosity or sympathy.
We all, indeed, feel the effects of Adam's disobe: dience; we all sin like Adam, and like him must all bewail our offences; we have restless and insidious enemies in the fallen angels, and in the blessed spirits we have guardians and friends ; in the Redemption of mankind we hope to be included ; in the description of heaven and hell we are surely interested, as we are all to reside hereafter either in the regions of horrour or bliss,
But these truths are too important to be new; they have been taught to our infancy; they have mingled with our folitary thoughts and familiar conversation, and are habitually interwoven with the whole texture of life. Being therefore not new, they raise po unaccustomed emotion in the mind; what we knew be. fore, we cannot learn ; what is not unexpected, cannot surprise.
Of the ideas suggested by these awful scenes, from some we recede with reverence, except when stated hours require their association; and from others we shrink with horrour, or admit them cnly as falutary inflictions, as counterpoises to our interests and pasfions. Such images rather obstruct the career of fancy than incite it.
Pleasure and tesrour are indeed the genuine fources of
poetry; but poetical pleasure must be such as human imagination can at least conceive, and poetical terrour such as human strength and fortitude may combat. The good and evil of Eternity are too ponderous for the wings of wit; the mind sinks under them in
passive passive helplessness, content with calın belief and humble adoration.
Known truths, however, may take a different ap- ? by ? pearance, and be conveyed to the mind by a new train of intermediate images. This Milton has undertaken, and performed with pregnancy and vigour of mind pecu, liar to himself. Whoever considers the few radical positions which the Scriptures afforded him, will wonder by what energetick operation he expanded them to such extent, and rainified them to so much variety, restrained as he was by religious reverence from licentiousness of fiction.
Here is a full display of the united force of study and genius ; of a great accumulation of materials, with judgement to digest, and fancy to combine them; Milton was able to select from nature, or from story, from an ancient fable, or from modern science, what: ever could illustrate or adorn his thoughts. An accumulation of knowledge impregnated his mind, fer. mented by study, and exalted by imagination.
It has been therefore said, without an indecent hy: perbole, by one of his encomiasts, that in reading Paradise Lost we read a book of universal knowledge.
But original deficience cannot be supplied. The want of human interest is always felt. Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, retire harrassed, and overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master, and seek' for companions.
Another inconvenience of Milton's design is, that it requires the description of what cannot be described, the agency of spirits. He saw that immateriality supplied no images, and that he could not show angels acting but by instruments of action; he therefore invested them with form and matter. This, being necessary, was therefore defensible; and he should have fecured the consistency of his system, by keeping immateriality out of sight, and enticing his reader to drop it from his thoughts. But he has unhappily perplexed his poetry with his philosophy. His infernal and celestial powers are sometimes pure spirit, and sometimes animated body. When Satan walks with his lance upon the burning marle, he has a body; when, in his passage between hell and the new world, he is in . danger of sinking in the vacuity, and is supported by a gust of rising vapours, he has a body; when he animates the toad, he seems to be mere spirit, that can penetrate matter at pleasure ; when he starts up in bis own shape, he has at least a determined form; and when he is brought before Gabriel, he has a spear and a shield, which he had the power of hiding in the toad, though the arms of the contending angels are evidently material.
The vulgar inhabitants of Pandæmonium, being incorporeal spirits, are at large, though without number, in a limited space; yet in the battle, when they were overwhelmed by mountains, their armour hurt them, crushed in upon their substance, now grown gross by fin. ning This likewise happened to the uncorrupted angels, who were overthrown the sooner for their arnis, for unarmed they might easily as spirits bave evaded by contraction or remove. Even as spirits they are hardly
spiritual ; for contraction and remove are images of mat, ter ; but if they could have escaped without their ar, mour, they might have escaped from it, and left only the empty cover to be battered. Uriel, when he rides on a sun-beam, is material ; Satan is material when he is afraid of the prowess of Adam.
The confusion of spirit and matter which pervades the whole narration of the war of heaven fills it with incongruity; and the book, in which it is related, is, I believe, the favourite of children, and gradually neglected as knowledge is increased.
After the operation of immaterial agents, which cannot be explained, may be considered that of allegorical persons, which have no real existence. Το exalt causes into agents, to invest abstract ideas with form, and animate them with activity, has always been the right of poetry. But such airy beings are, for the most part, suffered only to do their natural office, and retire. Thus Fame tells a tale, and Victory hovers over a general, or perches on a standard; but Fame and Victory can do more. To give them any real employment, or ascribe to them
agency, is to make them allegorical no longer, but to shock the mind by ascribing effects to non-entity. In the Prometheus of Æschylus, we fee Violence and Strength, and in the Alcestis of Euripides, we see Deatb, brought upon the stage, all as active persons of the drama; but no precedents can justify absurdity.
Milton's allegory of Sin and Death is undoubtedly faulty. Sin is indeed the mother of Death, and may be allowed to be the portress of hell ; but when they stop the journey of Satan, a journey described as real, and when Death offers him battle, the allegory is