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file, because it is that part of him feveral elifions, that are not cu in which he appears the most fingu- ftomary among other English poets, lar. The remarks I have here as may be particularly observed in made upon the practice of other his cutting off the letter 1, when poets, with my observations out of it precedes a vowel. This, and Ariftotle, will perhaps alleviate the some other innovations in the meaprejudice which some have taken sure of his verse, has varied his to his poem upon this account; numbers, in such a manner, as tho' after all, I must confess, that makes them incapable of satiating I think his file, tho' admirable in the ear and cloying the reader, general, is in some places too much which the same uniform measure Aiffened and obscured by the fre- would certainly have done, and quent use of those methods, which which the perpetual returns of rime Aristotle has prescribed for the raif- never fail to do in long narrative ing of it.
poems. I shall close these reThis redundancy of those seve: flections upon the language of Paral ways of speech which Aristotle radise Loft, with observing that calls foreign language, and with Milton has copied after Homer, which Milton has so very much rather than Virgil, in the length of enriched, and in some places dark. his periods, the copiousness of his ned the language of his poem, was phrases, and the running of his the more proper for his use, be- verses into one another. cause his poem is written in blank verse. Rime without any other af. I HAVE now confider'd Milton's fiftance, throws the language off Paradise Loft under those four great from prose, and very often makes heads of the fable, the characters, an indifferent phrase pass unre. the sentiments, and the language ; garded; but where the verse is and have shown that he excels, in not built upon rimes, there pomp general, under each of these heads. of sound, and energy of expref- I hope that I have made several fion, are indispensably necessary to discoveries which may appear new, support the stile, and keep it from even to those who are versed in falling into the fatness of prose. critical learning. Were I indeed
Those who have not a taste for to choose my readers, by whose this elevation of ftile, and are apt judgment I would stand or fall, to ridicule a poet when he goes out they should not be such as are acof the common forms of expref- quainted only with the French and fion, would do well to see how Italian critics, but also with the anAristotle has treated an ancient au- cient and modern who have written thor, called Euclid, for his insipid in either of the learned languages. mirth upon this occafion. Mr. Dry. Above all, I would have them well den used to call this sort of men his versed in the Greek and Latin poets, prose-critics.
without which a man very often I should, under this head of the fancies that he understands a critic, language, consider Milton's num- when in reality he does not combers, in which he has made use of prehend his meaning.
It is in criticism, as in all other Greek or Latin critic who has not Sciences and speculations; one who shown, even in the stile of his cribrings with him any implicit no- ticisms, that he was a mafter of all tions and observations which he has the elegance and delicacy of his namade in his reading of the poets, tive tongue. will find his own reflections me- The truth of it is, there is nothodized and explained, and per- thing more absurd than for a man haps several little hints that had to set up for a critic, without a passed in his mind, perfected and good insight into all the parts of improved in the works of a good learning; whereas many of those critic; whereas one who has not who have endevored to signalize these previous lights, is very often themselves by works of this nature an utter ftranger to what he reads, among our English writers, are not and apt to put a wrong interpreta- only defective in the abovemention upon it.
tioned particulars, but plainly difNor is it fufficient, that a man cover by the phrases which they who sets up for a judge in criti- make use of, and by their confused cism, should have perused the au- way of thinking, that they are not thors above-mentioned, unless he acquainted with the most common has also a clear and logical head. and ordinary fyftems of arts and Without this talent he is perpetually sciences. A few general rules expuzzled and perplexed amidft his tracted out of the French authors, own blunders, mistakes the sense of with a certain cant of words, has those he would confute, or if he fometimes set up an illiterate heavy chances to think right, does not writer for a moft judicious and know how to convey his thoughts formidable critic. . to another with clearness and per. One great mark, by which you fpicuity. Aristotle, who was the may discover' a critic who has beft critic, was also one of the best neither taste nor learning, is this, logicians that ever appeared in the that he feldom ventures to praise world.
any passage in an author which · Mr. Lock's Essay on Human Un- has not been before received and derstanding would be thought a very applauded by the public, and that odd book for a man to make him. his eriticism turns wholly upon self master of, who would get a re. little faults and errors. This part putation by critical writings; tho' of a critic is so very easy to fucat the same time it is very certain, ceed in, that we find every ordinary that an author, who has not learn- reader, upon the publishing of a ed the art of distinguishing between new poem, has wit and ill-nature words and things, and of ranging enough to turn several passages of his thoughts, and setting them in it into ridicule, and very often proper lights, whatever notions he in the right place. This Mr. Drymay have, will lose himself in con- den has very agreeably remarked fusion and obscurity. I might fur- in those two celebrated lines, ther observe, that there is not a
Errors, like straws, upon the sura but one who fhows it in an improface flow;
per place, is as impertinent and abHe who would search for pearls surd. Besides, a man who has the must dive below.
gift of ridicule, is apt to find fault
with any thing that gives him an A true critic ought to dwell ra- opportunity of exerting his beloved ther upon excellencies than imper- talent, and very often censures a fections, to discover the concealed passage, not because there is any beauties of a writer, and commu- fault in it, but because he can be nicate to the world such things as merry upon it. Such kinds of pleaare worth their observation. The fantry are very unfair and difíngemost exquifite words and fineft nuous in works of criticism, in ftrokes of an author are those which the greateft masters, both which very often appear the most ancient and modern, have always doubtful and exceptionable to a appeared with a serious and inman who wants a relish for polite structive air. learning; and they are these, which As I intend in my next paper to a sour undistinguishing critic gene- how the defects in Milton's Pararally attacks with the greatest vio- dise Loft, I thought fit to premise lence. Tully observes, that it is these few particulars, to the end very easy to brand or fix a mark that the reader may know I enter upon what he calls verbum ardens, upon it, as on a very ungrateful or, as it may be rendered into Eng- work, and that I fhall just point at lish, a glowing bold expreffion, and the imperfections, without endeto turn it into ridicule by a cold ill- voring to inflame them with ridi. natured criticism. A little wit is cule. I must also observe with
equally capable of exposing a beau- Longinus, that the productions of e ty, and of aggravating a fault; a great genius, with many lapses
and though such a treatment of an and inadvertencies, are infinitely : author naturally produces indigna- preferable to the works of an infe
tion in the mind of an understand. rior kind of author, which are scruing reader, it has however its ef- pulously exact and conformable to
fect among the generality of those all the rules of correct writing. Er whose hands it falls into, the I shall conclude my paper with a
rabble of mankind being very apt story out of Boccalini, which suffiit to think that every thing which is ciently shows us the opinion that
laughed at with any mixture of wit, judicious author entertained of the That is ridiculous in itself.
sort of critics I have been here 5 Such a mirth as this, is always mentioning. A famous critic, says
unseasonable in a critic, as it ra- he, having gathered together all
ther prejudices the reader than con- the faults of an eminent poet, made : vinces him, and is capable of mak- a present of them to Apollo, who
ing a beauty, as well as a blemish, received them very graciously, and
the subject of derision. A man, resolved to make the author a fuit. $ who cannot write with wit on a able return for the trouble he had proper subject, is dull and ftupid, been at in collecting them. In
order to this, he set before him a Adam and Eve sinking from a state sack of wheat as it had been juft of innocence and happiness into threshed out of the theaf. He then the most abject condition of fin bid him 'pick out the chaff from and sorrow. among the corn, and lay it aside The most taking tragedies among by itself. The critic applied him- the Ancients were built on this latt félf to the talk with great industry sort of implex fable, particularly and pleasure, and after having made the tragedy of @dipus, which prothe due separation, was presented by ceeds upon a story, if we may be Apollo with the chaff for his pains. lieve Aristotle, the most proper for
tragedy that could be invented by AFTER what I have said, I the wit of man. I have taken shall enter on the subject without some pains in a former paper to farther preface, and remark the se- show, that this kind of implex fable, veral defects which appear in the wherein the event is unhappy, is fable, the characters, the senti. more apt to affect an audience than ments, and the language of Mil- that of the first kind; notwithstand. ton's Paradise Loft; not doubting ing many excellent pieces among but the reader will pardon me, if I the Ancients, as well as most of allege at the same time whatever those which have been written of may be said for the extenuation of late years in our own country, are such defects. The first imperfection raised upon contrary plans. I maft which I shall obserye in the fable is, however own, that I think this that the event of it is unhappy. kind of fable, which is the moft
The fable of every poem is ac- perfect in tragedy, is not so proper cording to Aristotle's division either for an heroic poem. fimple or implex. It is called simple Milton seems to have been fenwhen there is no change of fortune fible of this imperfection in his in it, implex when the fortune of fable, and has therefore endevored the chief actor changes from bad to to cure it by several expedients; good, or from good to bad. The particularly by the mortification implex fable is thought the most which the great adversary of manperfect; I suppose, because it is kind meets with upon his return to more proper to stir up the passions the affembly of infernal Spirits, as of the reader, and to surprise him it is described in a beautiful paf. with a greater variety of accidents. fage of the tenth book; and like
The implex fable is therefore of wise by the vision, wherein Adam two kinds: In the first the chief at the close of the poem sees his actor makes his way through a long ofspring triumphing over his great series of dangers and difficulties, till enemy, and himself restored to a he arrives at honor and prosperity, happier Paradise than that from as we see in the story of Ulysses. In which he fell. the second, the chief actor in the There is another objection againft poem falls from some eminent pitch Milton's fable, which is indeed al. of honor and prosperity into mi- most the same with the former, tho sery and disgrace. Thus we see placed in a different light, namely,
That the hero in the Paradise Loft Aristotle, that the author of an heis unsuccessful, and by no means a roic poem should seldom speak match for his enemies. This gave himself, but throw as much of his occafion to Mr. Dryden's reflection, work as he can into the mouths of that the Devil was in reality Mil. those who are his principal actors. ton's hero. I think I have obviated Aristotle has given no reason for this objection in my first paper. The this precept ; but I presume it is Paradise Loft is an epic, or a nar- because the mind of the reader is rative poem, and he that looks for more awed and elevated when he an hero in it, searches for that hears Æneas or · Achilles speak, which Milton never intended; but than when Virgil or Homer talk in if he will needs fix the name of an their own persons. Besides that afhero upon any person in it, 'tis cer- suming the character of an eminent tainly the Messiah is the hero, both man is apt to fire the imagination, in the principal action, and in the and raise the ideas of the author. chief episodes. Paganism could Tully tells us, mentioning his dianot furnish out a real action for a logue of old age, in which Cato is fable greater than that of the Iliad the chief speaker, that upon a reor Æneid, and therefore an hea- view of it he was agreeably impothen could not form a higher no- fed 'upon, and fancied that it was tion of a poem than one of that Cato, and not he himself, who utkind which they call an heroic. tered his thoughts on that subject. Whether Milton's is not of a sub. If the reader would be at the limer nature I will not presume to pains to see how the story of the determin: It is sufficient that I Iliad and Æneid is delivered by fhow there is in the Paradise Loft those persons who act in it, he will all the greatness of plan, regula- be surprised to find how little in eirity of design, and masterly beau- ther of these poems proceeds from ties which we discover in Homer the authors. 'Milton has, in tho and Virgil.
general difpofition of his fable, I must in the next place observe, very finely observed this great rule; that Milton has interwoven in the insomuch, that there is scarce a texture of his fable some particu- third part of it which comes from lars which do not seem to have the poet; the rest is spoken either probability enough for an epic by Adam and Eve, or by some good poem, particularly in the actions or evil Spirit who is engaged either which he ascribes to Sin and Death, in their destruction or defense. and the picture which he draws of From what has been here obthe Limbo of Vanity, with other served, it appears, that digressions passages in the second book. Such are by no means to be allowed of allegories rather favor of the spirit in an epic poem. If the poet, even of Spenser and Ariofto, than of in the ordinary course of his nar. Homer and Virgil. St r ation, should speak as little as pos
In the structure of this poem he fible, he should certainly never let has likewise admitted of too many his narration Neep for the sake of digressions. It is finely observed by any reflections of his own. I have