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on the testimony of Philips but from the tion, which, as Mr.
which will strike u
however, by the pa ticed in the Dam thor, after his retu ject of his epic
u These MSS, of which we have before had occasion to speak, were found among some papers belonging to Sir Henry Newton Puckering, who was a great benefactor to Trinity Coll, library. They were subsequently collected, and bound by the care and at the expence of Mr. Clarke, at that time a fellow of Trin. Coll. and afterwards one of the King's Counsel. These MSS consist, in the author's own hand, of two draughts of bis letter to a friend, who had pressed him to engage in some profession; several of his juvenile poems, a few of his sonnets, and a variety of dramatic schemes, some on the subject of Paradise Lost, and many on other subjects taken from sacred or profane history. In these MSS are numerous interlineations and corrections; stops are seldom used; and the verses frequently begin with small letters. Among these papers are copies of some of the sonnets, composed after the author's loss of sight, which are written by different hands.
Dr. Pearce, who was afterwards Bishop of Rochester, in the preface to his remarks on Bentley's edition of the Paradise Lost, supposes that Milton derived the hint of his
from an Ita. lian tragedy called Il Paradiso perso; which Dr. Pierce, however, had not seen, and which we know of no person who has seen. Preface to Remarks, &c. p.7.
| bable that he was
the execution of tv
For the adop
*Tasso is celebrated qis of Villa, for the ir
10. the summit of the Aönian mount.
1. av de tre tion, which, as Mr. Hayley properly remarks, 22 tr is not so contemptible a work as we have
been taught to consider it, we shall find it difficult to refer the strong resemblance,
which will strike us, to the effect of chance, dhe od let iz or to believe that Milton could have drawn
the schemes in question if he had never seen the Adamo of Andreini. As we are assured, however, by the passages, which we have noticed in the Damon, that Arthur, or some other British hero was intended by the author, after his return from Italy, for the subject of his epic muse, it seems not impro
bable that he was fostering this idea at the a time when he was revolving the plan of his
sacred drama; and that he thus meditated
the execution of two great and distinct poetic sono compositions. It is uncertain in what happy
moment he determined on assigning to the Paradise Lost the honour of being his chief work, and of placing this divine theme
For the adoption of blank verse, as the instrument of his muse, he had not only the example of Trissino's Italia Liberata, of which probably he never thought, but that also of Tasso, by which it is fair to conclude that
*Tasso is celebrated by his friend and biographer, the Marquis of Villa, for the introduction of blank verse into the Ita
the poet to gi
tive idea of sp
most probabI eminent divin
no space, is T
and which, t
he was principally influenced, if the success One of the ful attempt, in his own language, of the illus
is occasioned trious Surrey should not be allowed to have impressed him with the determining bias.
It does not belong to the plan of the present work to enter into a regular examination of the beauties and the defects of the Pa- perfectly diser radise Lost; and they have so frequently undergone the investigation of acute and power-patible with ful minds, that nothing more can be expected on the ground than a few straggling ears after sequently
, ere a well gathered harvest. If any part of this admirable poem
has yet reason to complain capable of ac of defective justice, it is that of its diction and its numbers. These seem to be consi
: The highest in dered by Addison rather as the subjects of apology and defence than of praise; and Johnson has shown himself to be utterly disqualified for the task of appreciating their worth. From the power of Milton the English language has obtained a sublimity adequate to the loftiest conceptions of the human mind; and a variety and a richness of harmony on which his poetic successors, including the great Dryden himself, liave been utterly unable to improve. Jian poetry. T'asso, wrote a poem without rhyme on the Creation.
The Earl of Surrey translated, into blank verse, the second and the fourth book of the Æneid,
the most near
must be supp
and may con or inconsiste action of dr
Milton was beings spirit
the word spi
into difficult dies defined mension and action, obnc impressions
One of the principal defects of the poem is occasioned by the ambitious attempt of the poet to give sensible action to the negative idea of spirit. It is an opinion, in itself most probable and entertained by many eminent divines, that the Deity is the only perfectly disembodied spirit in the universe. Limited agency, indeed, seems to be incompatible with a substance which, occupying no space, is without locality; which is, consequently, every where and entirely present, and which, therefore, must necessarily be capable of acting every where, at the same instant, with an equal and undivided force. The highest intelligences, then, who approach the most nearly to the throne of the Supreme, must be supposed to be invested with bodies, and may consequently, without impropriety or inconsistency, be introduced into the action of dramatic or of epic song.
But Milton was resolved to make his angelic beings spirits, in the higher acceptation of the word spirit, and has, of course, been led into difficulties and contrarieties. With bodies defined, though not restrained as to dimension and shape, operating with successive action, obnoxious to corporeal pain and to impressions from external matter, these superhuman agents are declared to be “ incorpo
The whole of t been explained cian bard, wher Greeks with the to reprehension
real spirits;" and are, on some occasions, en
that of Moloch dued with the peculiar properties of spiritual fact they exist substances. In the sixth book this embarrassment more evidently or rather more strikingly occurs; and I agree with Dr. Johnson, who has remarked the incongruity which I have noticed, in placing this book, astonishingly sublime as are many of its passages, among the least happy of the twelve which constitute the poem. On the introduction of the
of Sin and Death, and the action which is attributed to them, I must confess myself to dissent in opinion from the able critic whom I have just named, as well as from Addison; to whose taste, if not to whose power of intellect, I feel much more inclined to bow in submissive deference. When he formed these personages and blended them with the agents of his poem, the poet appears to me to have availed himself of an indisputable privilege of his art; and, having endued them with consistent action, to be no more censurable for their creation than for
poses the proge Death: in the f be related is th in the last, tl which the adi posed by the
son. If any a
port Milton in
poetic preroga tained from the Sin is distinct] place, and De
the last enem
ranquish; bu sage in the A
cific and for pale horse, wi
With Ado the discontin
y When Satan in the toad affects the mind of Eve, and prc. sents what pictures he pleases to her imagination, he is evidently spirit which can blend with spirit, and act immediately apon it without the intervention of the bodily organs.
z Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt !
at the comm and have reg ther resulting or from Erro