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of which this stream rises. Something like this we saw acts ally come to pass; for the water was stained to a surprising redness; and, as we observed in travelling, bad discoloured the sea a great way into a reddish bue, occasioned doubtlesa by a sort of minium, or red earth, washed into the river by the violence of the rain, and not by any stain from Adonis's blood."
The passage in the catalogue, explaining the manner how spirits transform themselves by contraction, or enlargement of their dimensions, is introduced with great judgment, to make way for several surprising accidents in the sequel of the poem. There follows one, at the very end of the first book, which is what the French critics call marvellous, but at the same time probable, by reason of the passage last mentioned. As soon as the infernal palace is finished, we are told the multitude and rabble of spirits immediately shrunk themselves into a small compass, that there might be room for such a numberless assembly in this capacious hall. But it is the poet's refinement upon this thought which I most admire, and which is, indeed, very noble in itself. For he tells us, that, notwithstanding the vulgar, among the fallen spirits, contracted their forms, those of the first rank and dignity still preserved their natural dimensions.
Thus incorporeal spirits to smallest forms
Frequent and full-
There are several other strokes in the first book wonder. fully poetical, and instances of that sublime genius so peculiar to the author. Such is the description of Azazel's stature, and of the infernal standard which he unfurls; as also of that ghastly light, by which the fiends appear to one another in their place of torments.
The seat of desolation, void of light,
The shout of the whole host of fallen angels when drawn up in battle array:
- The universal host up sent
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old night
-He through the armed files
GloriesThe flash of light which appeared upon the drawing of their swords :
He spake : and to confirm his words out flew
Far round illumined hell-
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet.
-From the arched roof,
As from a sky:There are also several noble similes and allusions in the first book of Paradise Lost. And here I must observe, that when Milton alludes either to things or persons, he never quits his simile till it rises to some very great idea, which is often foreign to the occasion that gave birth to it. The resemblance does not, perhaps, last above a line or two, but the poet runs on with the hint, till he has raised out of it some glorious image or sentiment, proper to inflame the mind of the reader, and to give it that sublime kind of entertainment, which is suitable to the nature of an heroic poem. Those who are acquainted with Homer's and Virgil's way of writing, cannot but be pleased with this kind of structure ir: Milton's similitudes. I am the more particular
on this head, because ignorant readers, who have forned their taste upon the quaint similes, and little turns of wit, which are so much in vogue amoug modern poets, cannot relish these beauties which are of a much higher nature, and are therefore apt to censure Milton's comparisons, in which they do not see any surprising points of likeness. Monsieur Perrault was a man of this vitiated relish, and for that very reason has endeavoured to turn into ridicule several of Homer's similitudes, which he calls Comparaisons à longue queue, "Long-tailed comparisons." I shall conclude this paper on the first book of Milton with the answer which Monsieur Boileau makes to Perrault on this occasion : Comparisons (says he) in odes, and epic poems, are not introduced only to illustrate and embellish the discourse, but to amuse and relax the mind of the reader, by frequently disengaging him from too painful an attention to the principal subject, and by leading him into other agreeable images. Homer (says he) excelled in this particular, whose comparisons abound with such images of nature as are proper to relieve and diversify his subjects. He continually instructis the reader, and makes him take notice, even in objects which are every day before our eyes, of such circumstances as wė: should not otherwise have observed.” To this he adds, as a maxim universally acknowledged, “ that it is not necessary in poetry for the points of the comparison to correspond with one another exactly, but that a general resemblance is sufficient, and that too much nicety in this particular savours of the rhetorician and epigrammatist.”
In short, if we look into the conduct of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, as the great fable is the soul of each poem, so to give their works an agreeable variety, their episodes are so many short fables, and their similes so many short episodes; to which you may add, if you please, that their metaphors are so many short similes. If the reader considers the comparisons in the first book of Milton, of the sun in an eclipse, of the sleeping leviathan, of the bees swarming about the hive, of the fairy dance, in the view wherein I have placed them, he will eas ly discover the great beauties that are in each of those pastages.
No. 309. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23.
Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbræque silentes,
Pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas. VIRG.
whom Milton introduces into his poem always discover such sentiments and behavicur, as are in a peculiar manner conformable to their respective characters. Every circumstance in their speeches and actions is with great justness and delicacy adapted to the persons who speak and act. As the poet very much excels in this consistency of his characters, I shall beg leave to consider several passages of the second book in this light. That superior greatness, and mock-majesty, which is ascribed to the prince of the fallen angels, is admirably preserved in the beginning of this book. His opening and closing the debate; his taking on himself that great enterprise at the thought of which the whole infernal assembly trembled; his encountering the hideous phantom who guarded the gates of hell, and appeared to him in all his terrors; are instances of that proud and daring mind which could not brook submission even to omnipotence.
Satan was now at hand, and from his seat
Admired, not fearedThe same boldness and intrepidity of behaviour discovers itself in the several adventures which he meets with during his passage through the regions of unformed matter, and particularly in his address to those tremendous powers who are described as presiding over it.
The part of Moloch is likewise in all its circumstances full of that fire and fury which distinguish this spirit from the rest of the fallen angels. He is described in the first book as besmeared with the blood of human sacrifices, and delighted with the tears of parents and the cries of children. In the second book he is marked out as the fiercest spirit that fought in heaven; and if we consider the figure which he makes in the sixth book, where the battle of the angels is described, we find it every way answerable to the same flirious enraged character.
- Where the might of Gabriel fought,
And uncouth pain fled bellowing.It may be worth while to observe, that Milton has represented this violent impetuouis spirit, who is burried on by such precipitate passions, as the first that rises in that assembly, to give his opinion upon their present posture of affairs. Accordingly he declares himself abruptly for war, and appears incensed at his companions, for losing so much time as even to deliberate upon it. All his sentiments are rash, audacious, and desperate. Such is that of arming themselves with tortures, and turning their punishments upon him who inflicted them.
-No, let us rather choose,
His own invented tormentsHis preferring annihilation to shame or misery is also hiighly suitable to his character; as the comfort he draws from their disturbing the peace of heaven, that if it be not victory, it is revenge, is a sentiment truly diabolical, and becoming the bitterness of this implacable spirit.
Belial is described in the first book as the idol of the lewd and luxurious. He is in the second book, pursuant to that description, characterized as timorous and slothful, and if we look into the sixth book, we find him celebrated in the battle of angels for nothing but that scoffing speech which he makes to Satan, on their supposed advantage over the enemy.
bis appearance is uniform, and of a piece in these three vereral views, we find his sentiments in the infernal assem.