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is impossible for the imagination of man to distend itself with greater ideas, than those which he has laid together in his first, second, and sixth books. The seventh, which describes the creation of the world, is likewise wonderfully sublime, though not so apt to stir up emotion in the mind of the reader, nor consequently so perfect in the epic way of writing, because it is filled with less action. Let the judicious reader compare what Longinus has observed on several passages in Homer, and he will find parallels for most of them in the Paradise Lost.""
Again, in another place —
"Aristotle observes, that the fable of an epic poem should abound in circumstances that are both credible and astonishing; or, as the French critic chooses to phrase it, the fable should be filled with the probable and the marvellous. This rule is as fine and just as any in Aristotle's whole Art of Poetry.
"If the fable is only probable, it differs nothing from a true history; if it is only marvellous, it is no better than a romance: the great secret therefore of heroic poetry is to relate such circumstances as may produce in the reader at the same time both belief and astonishment. This is brought to pass in a well-chosen fable, by the account of such things as have really happened according to the received opinions of mankind. Milton's fable is a master-piece of this nature; as the War in Heaven, the Condition of the Fallen Angels, the State of Innocence, the Temptation of the Serpent,
and the Fall of Man, though they are very astonishing in themselves, are not only credible, but actual points of faith.
"Again, when Satan is within prospect of Eden, and looking round upon the glories of the creation, he is filled with sentiments different from those which he discovered whilst he was in hell. The place inspires him with thoughts more adapted to it he reflects upon the happy condition from whence he fell, and breaks forth into a speech that is softened with several transient touches of remorse and self-accusation: but at length he confirms himself in impenitence, and in his design of drawing man into his own state of guilt and misery. This conflict of passions is raised with a great deal of art, as the opening of his speech to the sun is very bold and noble.
"The speech is, I think, the finest that is ascribed to Satan in the whole poem. The evil spirit afterwards proceeds to make his discoveries concerning our first parents, and to learn after what manner they may be best attacked. His bounding over the walls of Paradise; his sitting in the shape of a cormorant upon the tree of life, which stood in the centre of it, and overtopped all the other trees of the garden; his alighting among the herd of animals, which are so beautifully represented as playing about Adam and Eve, together with his transforming himself into different shapes, in order to hear their conversations, are circumstances that give an agreeable surprise to the reader, and are devised
with great art, to connect that series of adventures in which the poet has engaged this great artificer of fraud.
"The thought of Satan's transformation into a cormorant, and placing himself on the Tree of Life, seems raised upon that passage in the Iliad, where two deities are described as perching at the top of an oak in the shape of vultures.
"His planting himself at the ear of Eve under the form of a toad, in order to produce vain dreams and imaginations, is a circumstance of the same nature, as his starting up in his own form is wonderfully fine, both in the literal description, and in the moral which is concealed under it. His answer upon his being discovered, and demanded to give an account of himself, is conformable to the pride and intrepidity of his character.”
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
"THE description of Adam and Eve" (continues Addison in his admirable Essay,) "in the fourth book, as they first appeared to Satan, is exquisitely drawn, and sufficient to make the fallen angel gaze upon them with all that astonishment, and those emotions of envy, in which he is represented.
"There is a fine spirit of poetry in the lines which follow; wherein they are described as sitting on a bed of flowers, by the side of a fountain, amidst a mixed assembly of animals. The speeches of these first two lovers flow equally from passion and sincerity: the professions they make to one another are full of warmth; but at the same time founded on truth: in a word, they are the gallantries of Paradise. The part of Eve's speech, in which she gives an account of herself upon her first creation, and the manner in which she was brought to Adam, is, I think, as beautiful a passage as any in Milton, or perhaps in any other poet whatsoever. These passages are
all worked off with so much art, that they are capable of pleasing the most delicate reader, without offending the most severe:
That day I oft remember, when from sleep, &c.
A poet of less judgment and invention than this great author would have found it very difficult to have filled these tender parts of the poem with sentiments proper for a state of innocence; to have described the warmth of love, and the professions of it, without artifice or hyperbole; to have made the man speak the most endearing things, without descending from his natural dignity, and the woman receiving them without departing from the modesty of her character; in a word, to adjust the prerogative of wisdom and beauty, and make each appear to the other in its proper force and loveliness. This mutual subordination of the two sexes is wonderfully kept up in the whole poem, as, particularly on the speech of Eve, I have before mentioned, and upon the conclusion of it; when the poet adds that the devil turned aside with envy at the sight of so much happiness, v. 492, &c."
Of all the difficulties Milton had to overcome, the greatest seems to me to have been the description of the battle of the angels in the sixth book; because he was necessitated to resort to material agency. It is founded on Rev. xii. 7, 8,-"There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought, and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was