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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 their place found any more in heaven." Bishop Newton says, "within the compass of this one book we have all the variety of battles that can well be conceived. We have a single combat and a general engagement: the first day's fight is with darts and swords, in imitation of the ancients: the second day's fight is with artillery, in imitation of the moderns; but the images in both are raised proportionably to the superior nature of the beings here described: and when the poet has briefly comprised all that has any foundation in fact and reality, he has recourse to the fiction of the poets in their descriptions of the giants' war with the gods. And,

When war hath thus perform'd what war can do,

he rises still higher, and the Son of God is sent forth, in the majesty of the Almighty Father, agreeably to Scripture; so much doth the sublimity of Holy Writ transcend all that is true, and all that is feigned, in description."

In the following passages, Addison rises to a sublimity, which assuredly has never, in any criticism, been surpassed:-"It required great pregnancy of invention, and strength of imagination, to fill this battle with such circumstances as should raise and astonish the mind of the reader; and at the same time, an exactness of judgment to avoid everything that might appear light or trivial. Those who look into Homer, are surprised to find his battles still rising one above another, and improving in horror to the end of the Iliad. Milton's fight of angels is wrought up with the same beauty: it is ushered in with such signs of wrath as are suitable to Omnipotence incensed. The first engagement is carried on under a cope of fire, occasioned by the flights of innumerable burning darts and arrows which are discharged from either host. The second onset is still more terrible, as it is filled with those artificial thunders which seem to make the victory doubtful, and produce a kind of consternation even in the good angels. This is followed by the tearing up of mountains and promontories; till in the last place, Messiah comes forth in the fulness of majesty and terror. The pomp of his appearance, amidst the roarings of his thunders, the flashings of his lightnings, and the noise of his chariot wheels, is described with the utmost flights of human imagination.

"There is nothing on the first and last day's engagement which does not appear natural, and agreeable enough to the ideas most readers would conceive of a fight between two armies of angels.

"The second day's engagement is apt to startle an imagination which has not been raised and qualified for such a description by the reading of the ancient poets, and of Homer in particular. It was certainly a very bold thought in our author to ascribe the first use of artillery to the rebel angels: but as such a pernicious invention may be well supposed to have proceeded from such authors, so it entered very properly into the thoughts of that being, who is all along described as aspiring to the majesty of his Maker. Such engines were the only instruments he could have made use of to imitate those thunders that, in all poetry, both sacred and profane, are represented as the arms of the Almighty. The tearing up of hills was not altogether so daring a thought as the former: we are in some measure prepared for such an incident by the description of the giants' war, which we meet with in many of the ancient poets. What still made this circumstance the more proper for the poet's use, is the opinion of many learned men, that the fable of the giants' war, which makes so great a noise in antiquity, and gave birth to the sublimest description in Hesiod's works, was an allegory founded upon this very tradition of a fight between the good and bad angels.

"Milton has taken everything that is sublime from the Latin and Greek poets in the giants' wars, and composes out of them the following great image:

From their foundations loosening to and fro,
They plucked the seated hills with all their load,-
Rocks, waters, woods, and by the shaggy tops
Uplifting, bore them in their hands.

"Milton has likewise raised his description in this book with many images taken out of the poetical parts of Scripture. The Messiah's chariot is formed upon a vision of Ezekiel, who, as Grotius observes, has very much in him of Homer's spirit in the poetical parts of his prophecy. The lines, in that glorious commission which is given the Messiah, to extirpate the host of rebel angels, are drawn from a sublime passage in the Psalms. The reader will easily discover many other strokes of the same nature.

"As Homer has introduced into his battle of the gods everything that is great and terrible in Nature, Milton has filled his fight of good and bad angels with all the like eircumstances of horror. The shout of armies, the rattling of brazen chariots, the hurling of rocks and mountains, the earthquakes, the fire, the thunder, are all of them employed to lift up the reader's imagination, and give him a suitable idea of so great an action. With what art has the poet represented the whole body of the earth trembling even before it was created! ver. 218, &c. In how sublime and just a manner does he afterwards describe the orbed heaven shaking under the wheels of the Messiah's chariot, with that exception of the throne of God! Notwithstanding the Messiah appears clothed with so much terror and majesty, the poet has still found means to make his readers conceive an idea of him, beyond what he himself is able to describe, ver. 832, &c. In a word, Milton's genius, which was so great in itself, and so strengthened by all the helps of learning, appears in this book every way equal to his subject, which was the most sublime that could enter into the thoughts of a poet."

Speaking of the eighth book, which describes the creation of Adam and Eve, Addison says, "These, and the like wonderful incidents in this part of the work, have in them all the beauties of novelty, at the same time that they have all the graces of nature: they are such as none but a great genius could have thought of; though, upon a perusal of them, they seem to rise of themselves from the subject of which he treats. In a word, though they are natural, they are not obvious; which is the true character of all fine writing."

In the tenth book, upon the arrival of Sin and Death into the works of the Creation, he observes,-"The following passage, ver. 641, &c., is formed upon that glorious image in Holy Writ, which compares the voice of an innumerable host of angels uttering hallelujahs to the voice of mighty thunderings, or of many waters." He continues:"Though the author, in the whole course of his poem, particularly in the book we are now examining, has infinite allusions to places of Scripture, I have only taken notice in my remarks of such as are of a poetical nature, and which are woven with great beauty into the body of this fable: of this kind is that passage in the present book, where, describing Sin as marching through the works of nature, he adds, Behind her Death

Close following pace for pace, not mounted yet
On his pale horse:

which alludes to that passage in Scripture, so wonderfully poetical, and terrifying to the imagination :-' And I looked, and beheld a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him: and power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with sickness, and with the beasts of the earth."

Addison concludes his series of eloquent, just, and admirable criticisms thus:"I have now finished my observations on a work which does an honour to the English nation. I have taken a general view of it under these four heads, the fable, the characters, the sentiments, and the language: I have in the next place spoken of the censures which our author may incur under each of these heads; of which I might have enlarged the number if I had been disposed to dwell on so ungrateful a subject.

Johnson has borrowed this in speaking of Gray's Elegy.

I believe, however, that the severest reader will not find any little fault in heroic poetry, which this author has fallen into, that does not come under one of these heads, among which I have distributed his several blemishes.

"After having thus treated at large of 'Paradise Lost,' I could not think it sufficient to have celebrated this poem in the whole, without descending to particulars: I have therefore endeavoured not only to prove that the poem is beautiful in general, but to point out its particular beauties, and to determine wherein they consist. I have endeavoured to show how some passages are beautiful by being sublime; others by being soft; others by being natural; which of them are recommended by the passion; which by the moral; which by the sentiment; and which by the expression. I have likewise endeavoured to show how the genius of the poet shines by a happy invention, a distant allusion, or judicious imitation; how he had copied or improved Homer or Virgil, and raises his own imaginations by the use he has made of several poetical passages in Scripture. I might have inserted also several passages of Tasso which our author has imitated; but as I do not look upon Tasso to be a sufficient voucher, I would not perplex my reader with such quotations, as might do more honour to the Italian than the English poet. In short, I have endeavoured to particularize those innumerable kinds of beauty, which it would be tedious to recapitulate, but which are essential to poetry; and which may be met with in the works of this great author."

I have here cited enough to draw again the attention of the modern reader to an elegant and exquisite author, whom the more recent fame of subsequent crities seems in some degreee to have pushed aside; but who is as superior to Johnson, as Milton is to Pope or Dryden. Addison was not vigorous in his metrical compositions; but he had a beautiful invention in prose. He was a classical scholar, of far finer taste than Johnson; and if not more profound as a moralist, more rich, more chaste, and, as it seems to me, more original. Johnson's critique on Milton is an instance how much he secretly borrowed. In his "Rambler" is a large proportion of verbiage: he has none of that nice, delicate, and sensitive discrimination which delights in Addison; those touches of the heart; those unforced and mellow observations; those flashes of polished and exquisite humour. He too often dictates as a pedagogue, and silences by his coarseness. It is not out of place thus to censure him in a "Life of Milton," whom he has traduced with as much bad taste in literature as malignity of temper. And what is the worth of the praise by which he has affected to counteract his scoffs and his cavils?—a disguised echo of the encomium of a predecessor, whose principles of poetry he was outraging by the whole tenor of his own judgments through the series of poetical biographies he was then composing. Examine the rules by which Addison has tried the details of execution in the successive books of "Paradise Lost:" will the praises or censures of Johnson on the poets whom he has criticised abide these tests? Johnson cared little for poetical invention, for imagery, or for sentiment: his whole idea of excellence lay in what he called ratiocination in verse: thus Dryden and Pope were his supreme favourites.

I remember how he shocked the taste and the creed of the higher and more imaginative classes of his poetical readers, when his "Lives" came out: but he was the fashion of the day; and the attempt was vain to stem the tide. The sensitive were stunned by his coarseness; and the worldlings and the talkers became insolent in their triumph. An epigrammatic point, an observation on life, a stinging couplet, can be felt and repeated by every pert disputant in society: but cite a noble passage from a great poet, and it draws sneers or ridicule !

Johnson's work did great injury to the national taste; and debases it even to this day. Imagination, repressed in its proper issues, has broken out in wrong places: it has become fantastic and distorted; in seeking not to be obvious, it has become unnatural. In the search for novelty we ought not to feign impossibilities or improbabilities: nothing should be extravagant; nothing over-coloured. We are to imagine what may be; but which is at the same time grand, beautiful, or pathetic. We are to take advantage of the dim hints of remote history, to fill up the details with the marvellous, the sublime, and the fair. Poetry deals more with the imagination than the under standing; but it must not outrage the understanding.

Some contend that Johnson had imagination: if he had, it was the imagination of

big and vague words: all his "Rasselas" consists of generalizations: it is little more than a series of moral observations; sometimes powerful or plaintive; too often pompous and verbose, where triteness is covered by grandiloquence. On a few occasions he may have been picturesque-especially in his "Journey to the Hebrides;" but very rarely. Sounding words are easily put together by one long practised in literary composition. He has given no proof of distinct images; of that power of selecting the leading feature, which revives the whole object, and which, above all others, Milton and Shakspeare possessed; and which distinguish-as the epithets in Gray's "Elegy,” and Collins's "Ode to Evening." Johnson not only could not invent such, but his mind had no mirror for them when they were presented by others; it gave him no pleasure to muse upon them. He had the faculty of powerful reason and strong memory; but the materials of thought afforded by his fancy were sterile and few: he loved therefore society and busy manners for the purposes of observation; in solitude he was miserable: he had no relief from painful recollections. It is thus, in part, that we may account for his distaste of Milton. When he praised, the praise was extorted, and borrowed under the powerful authority of a mightier critic.



Ir is universally admitted that the primary and most essential quality of a poet is invention; but it must be invention also of a sublime or beautiful kind; and, to be perfect, it must display this excellence in fable, characters, sentiments, and language. Of all our English poets, Milton only has combined all these merits. Shakspeare wanted the first, though he was admirable in the last three. What invention of fable, or even of character, is there in Dryden or Pope? I can hardly think that strictly they have invention of sentiments; for these are by them drawn from observation.

Spenser attained the marvellous in pure invention; but his fictions go beyond nature, and outrage our faith. Chaucer's tales are rarely, if ever original: they are principally borrowed from the Italians, or from old romances. Sackville's famous legend is historical. The productions of subsequent poets of the best fame,-I do not speak of the living,-are too brief for much fable, except of Lord Byron: but whatever splendours Lord Byron had, his fables are generally extravagant. In Cowley, Waller, Denham, Prior, Thomson, Collins, Gray, Young, Akenside, Shenstone, Cowper, Burns, Beattie, the Wartons, Kirke White, Shelley, Coleridge, there was no fable. In Crabbe were short fables;-but if they did not want nature, they wanted dignity: they were colloquial and monotonous. Hayley had nothing of the force of fiction;-all his incidents were unpoetical.

Thus it is, that before the sun of Milton, all other stars are paled,-unless of Homer and Virgil;-and what is there in the fable of these two that can stand before the divine brightness of the bard of angels?

With regard to characters,-invention of such as are at once true to nature, and yet grand, or attractive, is very rare. Those of Dryden and Pope are portraits,-copied from individuals: they are admirable as portraits :-but they have not the sublimity of poetic invention; they have frail humanity for their types. They have not the magnificence of Satan and his brother rebels,-still less of the good angels, nor the purity and beauty of Adam and Eve.

Where there is not invention, there cannot be adequate grandeur. Experience and reality fall short of our ideal greatness. We can always imagine higher things than we observe; and give full evidence to that imagination:-but not if it exceeds probability, or at least possibility.-Incredulus odi.-Shakspeare, having conceived a character, always preserves it; as Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Lear, Hamlet, &c. Each electrifies by acting apppropriately: but this can never be effected by drawing merely from observation: the inventor is the master of the very soul of the person he invents. * Sir Walter Scott requires an examination peculiar to himself.

He rules all the motives and conduct of the invented being;-and if he paints any inconsistency, it is from his own weakness, and want of sagacity.

The same principles apply to the sentiments as to the characters: if not in conformity with the moral and intellectual traits of the character represented, they are faulty; while that character itself must be striking and estimable, as well as natural.

To invent fable, characters, sentiments, all with these excellencies,-can only be within the power of a gigantic mind.-Lastly, we come to the language. This ought to be such as expresses these complex inventions the most clearly, most harmoniously, and at the same time with the most dignity. Whatever overlays them,--whatever draws attention from the thought to the words,-is faulty: if the thought is good, it does not want to be raised by the dress:-if it is weak, or trite, it is not fit for poetry; and no ornament of cover can supply a radical defect:-on the contrary, it is a deception, which, when detected, disgusts.-Tinnit;-inane est.—The florid style is always bad. An over-regard to a monotonous harmony fatigues in Pope. Nothing can be more tiresome than a long continuation of the unbroken couplet.

Milton's metrical combinations,-unfettered by rhyme, run into every variety and extent of musical cadence;-and his diction has often double force from its bold nakedness. His majestic thoughts support themselves in the plainest words.

What is called an illustrative imagination is a feebler sort of power:-it is a petty invention. Metaphors and similes may occasionally show visibly what in its abstraction is not easily conceived; but these are rarely necessary except in didactic poetry, which is of an inferior class. Sometimes the thought and the metaphor rise together in the mind, and cannot be separated; but there are spiritual ideas sublimer than any illustration from materiality.

The embodiment ought to lie, not in the metaphor, but in the abstraction itself. By the junction of the metaphor there are two ideas; and the attention is drawn from the principal to the secondary. He, whose chief strength exists in his secondary ideas, is not a great poet. I must confess that I think this was mainly the case with Dryden and Pope. What are Pope's "Moral Essays" but illustration and decoration?—A vast proportion of the primary thoughts is trite.-There is no embodiment except in the dress the inside remains abstract. There is not only no contexture of fable, but no fable at all. Mere skill in language can never supply the want of fable, or characters, or sentiments.

Characters and sentiments derive a complex force from a well-combined fable: they are comparatively feeble, if insulated. The actions and the movements of the head and heart are operated upon by the conflicting or consecutive incidents of the fable; and each differently according to the discriminative conformation of the respective actors. That generalization, which separates the represented being from an intricate and particular train of circumstances, can never exhibit him in those strong, affecting, and vivid lights, which are forced forward by the gradual developments of a wellfeigned and well-told tale.

Let Pope draw the characters of Buckingham and Wharton-to say nothing of the absence of invention, we do not read them in a moral worked up by the recital of a long succession of incidents. They are single figures,-contemplated only by themselves. The absence of fable, then, is a defect, which must insuperably disqualify a candidate for a seat on the highest point of Parnassus. Will the "Rape of the Lock" be pleaded in Pope's favour? Here the invention has neither greatness nor nature: it is a sportive trifle, as far as the fable goes: it is a piece of exquisite artifice; a laboured gem of filagree-work.

The power of language must not be wanting;-but it is the least of the four requisites. It cannot be truly good, where the thought is wanting;-but it is sometimes wanting where the thought is good. It is that, of which the semblance of excellence is most easily attained; and which is most apt to delude the common reader.

Flowing language is the taste of superficial and feeble minds: perhaps it is because they only regard the ornament, and can take in but a single image at a time. If there be deep thought into the bargain, it is too complex for them.

Let us suppose,—what I am afraid is true,-that Milton is too high for the voluntary taste of common intellect;-yet it is surely a duty, that all who desire to attain the

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