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But he has at other times neglected fuch reprefentations, as may be observed in the volubility and levity of the following lines, which express an action tardy and reluctant :
"Defcent and fall
"To us is adverfe. Who but felt of late,
In another place he describes the gentle glide of ebbing waters in a line remarkably rough and halting:
"Bears, tigers, ounces, pards,
"Gamboll'd before them; the unweildy elephant
Where Dr. Bentley fays, the poet intended the accent on the firft fyllable, in order to make the verfe itself unwieldy, that the reader might feel as well as understand it. But, as Mr. Mitford obferves, with the common accentuation of the word, the accentuation of the verse is equally good; and the expreffion, by the admiffion of a hyperrhythmical fyllable in the third foot which feems to confift of three long fyllables, perhaps greater :
"Gamboll'd before | them; th' unwieldy ělěphant" See other inftances of the trifyllabick foot in the Note", p. 212. as may be obferved in the volubility &c.] We muft remember the character of the fpeaker; Moloch, the most impetuous Spirit that fought in Heaven. The poet perhaps did not intend, in the lines cited by Dr. Johnson, the most distant representation of any action. He rather finely discriminates, by the rapidity of the language, the rafh and defperate fentiments of him who is the moft eager to renew the war against God, and who " appears incensed at his companions for losing so much time as even to deliberate upon it,"
tripping ebb, that ftole "With foft foot towards the Deep; who now had stopt "His fluces."
It is not indeed to be expected, that the found fhould always affift the meaning, but it ought never to counteract it; and therefore Milton has here certainly committed a fault like that of the player, who looked on the earth when he implored the heavens, and to the heavens when he addreffed the earth.
Thofe, who are determined to find in Milton an affemblage of all the excellencies which ennobled all other poets, will perhaps be offended that I do not celebrate his verfification in higher terms; for there are readers who difcover that, in this paffage,
"So ftretch'd out huge in length the Arch-Fiend lay," a long form is described in a long line; but the truth is, that length of body is mentioned only in a flow line, to which it has the refemblance only of time to space, of an hour to a maypole.
The fame turn of ingenuity might perform wonders upon the defcription of the ark:
"Then, from the mountain hewing timber tall, "Began to build a veffel of huge bulk;
"Meafur'd by cubit, length, and breadth, and highth."
In thefe lines the poet apparently defigns to fix the attention upon bulk; but this is effected by the enumeration, not by the measure; for what
analogy can there be between modulations of found, and corporeal dimensions?
Milton, indeed, seems only to have regarded this fpecies of embellishment so far as not to reject it, when it came unfought; which would often happen to a mind so vigorous, employed upon a fubject so various and extensive. He had, indeed, a greater and a nobler work to perform: A single fentiment of moral, or religious truth, a fingle image of life or nature, would have been cheaply loft for a thousand echoes of the cadence to the fense; and he, who had undertaken to "vindicate the ways of God to Man," might have been accused of neglecting his caufe, had he lavished much of his attention upon fyllables and founds. JOHNSON.
• had he lavished much of his attention upon fyllables and founds.] The poetry of Milton, if I may venture to differ from the au thority of Dr. Johnfon, abounds with inftances of ftudied management in the construction of the numbers; which, admitting different and oppofite movements, reprefent various paffions and ideas, and exhibit the fineft gradations of poetick harmony. How truly adapted to the subject (to mention an inftance or two) are the smooth and beautiful numbers, in which the poet relates the gentle tale of Adonis, in his first book of Paradise Loft; and the remarkable diverfification of paufes, by which, in the eleventh book, the groans of the fick are, as it were, heard, the busy employment of Defpair is marked, and the threatening dart of Death is feen! What an example is the defcription of Satan's rebellion and punishment in the beginning of his divine poem; in which paffage, as an elegant critick obferves, the poet fets out with almost a profaick weaknefs of verfe; whence, rifing gradu. ally, like the fwell of an organ, he foars into the highest dignity
of found! See Webb's Remarks on the Beauties of Poetry, 1762, p. 14. And Par. Loft, B. i. 34 to 50. See alfo B. i. 663 to 670, in which paffage the elevated numbers reprefent the circum. ftances to the life, and contribute highly to the fublimity of the defcription. With fimilar attention to mufical effect, the founds are made, where the fubject changes to what is foft and tender, to diminish gradually and breathe impreffive calmnefs. As in Par. Loft, B. iii. 402.
"Back from purfuit thy Powers with loud acclaim
Mr. Webb remarks, that this fall of notes, or weakness in the movement, is in the true fpirit of mufical imitation; and that the poet was here fo fenfible of the happinefs, that in the moment after he repeats the very fame movement, and contrasts it by measures the most lofty and fonorous :
"No fooner did thy dear and only Son
"Perceive thee purpos'd not to doom frail Man
Mr. Say indeed has noticed the art so often and plainly used by Milton; the carelefnefs of his numbers in fome places, in order more powerfully to contraft the mufical flow of those which immediately follow. Thus in Par. Loft, B. iii. 35.
"Blind Thamyris, and blind Mæonides,
Again, in Par. Reg. B. ii. 360, where, after the fame negligent enumeration of perfons,
"knights of Logres, or of Lyones,
"Lancelot, or Pelleas, or Pellenore ;"
there follow fome of the sweetest and most imitative verses in all
"And all the while harmonious airs were heard
"Of chiming frings, or charming pipes; and winds
"Of gentleft gale Arabian odours fann'd
"From their foft wings, and Flora's earlieft fmells."—
The laws of versification seem to have prefcribed, that the concluding foot of the English pentameter should be an iambus. It may be proper to obferve with how much judgement Milton has frequently converted this foot into a fpondee. As in Par. Loft, B. vii. 216.
"Silence, ye troubled Waves, and thou Deep, peace-❞
a beauty of the fame kind," doctor Newton fays, "as the spondee in the fifth place in Greek and Latin hexameters, of which there are fome memorable examples in Virgil, as when he speaks of low valleys, Georg. iii. 276, or when he would describe the majefty of the gods, Ecl. iv. 49, Æn. viii. 679, or great caution and circumfpection, En. ii. 68, or a great interval between two men running, Æn. v. 320.”—I conceive that Milton alfo in. tended the last foot of the following verse to be a spondee, as more dignified and impreffive than the accentuation, not uncommon indeed in our old poetry, of fupreme on the first fyllable, Par. Loft, B. i. 735.
"And fat as Princes, whom the Supreme King
"Exalted to fuch power
For the fame reason, a fpondee seems to be the measure of the third foot in Comus, v. 217.
"That He, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
"Are but as flavish minifters &c."
The feet, immediately preceding Supreme, being in both inftances unaccented, or pyrrhicks, as in the following line of Comus, which exhibits, with fine effect, a spondee in the firft, third, and fifth places:
❝ their way
"Lies through the perplex'd paths of this drear wood."