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I must not omit to mention the fame unaccented foot, followed by a fpondee, in Par. Loft, B. iv. 719.
"On him who had stole Jove's authentick fire
because Dr. Pemberton pronounces this line to be faulty by the two short fyllables, which conftitute the fecond foot; and which he proposes thus to correct, Obferv. on Poetry, p. 132.
"On him, who Jove's authentick fire had stole."
But the fpondce, as it ftands in the poet's own line, gives a force to the expreffion which no other collocation of the words can produce. I confider Milton's happy pofitions of the fpondee as a principal beauty in his verfification. The mafterly hand of Fufeli, whofe pictures and sketches from the poetical works of Milton have given new grace and pathos to many a fcene, perhaps could hardly have exhibited, with greater precifion, on the canvas, the imagery which the following numbers exprefs:
"From his flack hand the garland wreath'd for Eve "Down dropt
We fee alfo the dejected Samfon, where he fays,
"So much I feel my genial fpirits droop,
"My hopes all flāt —”
Nor can we forbear to notice the energy of the fame measure, where the fword of Michael met
"The fword of Satan with fteep force to fmite
"6 Defcending, and in half cut fheer -"
in which paffage not only the word defcending is admirably placed, as doctor Newton has obferved, to exprefs the fenfe; but the fpondee, followed by a paufe, fixes alfo the imagination on the divided fword of Satan. And I am perfuaded that Pope had attended to the conftruction of this paffage, when, in tranflating the celebrated verfe of Homer, which defcribes the fword of Menelaus fnapping fhort, Iliad iii. 363, he wrote the following
"The brittle fteel, unfaithful to his hand,
"Broke fhort :-the fragments glitter'd on the fand.”
Pope, however, has been fuppofed to have here imitated the paffage in Virgil, where the fword of Turnus is also shattered into various fragments, Æn. xii. 740.
"Mortalis mucro, glacies ceu futilis, ictu
Diffiluit:-fulvâ refplendent fragmina arenâ."
But he seems to have had the Miltonick fpondee also in his mind.
Thefe obfervations (not to lengthen the Note with many other proofs which might be adduced, and which indeed will efcape the notice of few readers,) fufficiently prove, it is prefumed, the genius and felicity of Milton in adapting found to sense. That there are abfonous lines in the Paradife Loft, will not be denied ; of which fome might be the effect of negligence: "To maintain an unremitted excellence of verfification through fo long a poem," fays a very judicious writer, "was perhaps beyond the effort of human excellence." Pye's Comment. on the Poetic of Aristotle, P. p. 474. Of these lines, however, many might alfo have been intentionally fo conftructed. Cowper, the impreffive Cowper, who in modern days has so sweetly awakened the Miltonick harp, obferves that "a line, rough in itself, has yet its recommenda tions; it faves the ear the pain of an irkfome monotony, and feems even to add greater smoothnefs to others, Milton, whose ear and taste were exquifite, has exemplified in his Paradife Loft the effect of this practice frequently." Pref. to the Tranflation of the Iliad, p. x. Thus we may obferve that he repeats verfes, which fome have pronounced harsh and unmufical. Yet the repetition implies that he was at least not difpleased with thofe verfes. Thus, in the fixth book of Paradife Loft:
"Univerfal reproach, far worfe to bear
As in Samfon Agonistes, v. 175.
Univerfally crown'd with highest praifes —"
notwithstanding the line might have been written more smoothly, "Crown'd univerfally with highest praises."
Again, in the fame book of Par. Loft,
"Burnt after them to the bōttomlefs pit
So, in Par. Reg. B. i. 361.
"With them from blifs to the bottomlefs deep."
In the fame metre the following verfe concludes, which prevents the ungraceful accentuation of the fecond fyllable in audibly, maintained by fome criticks, Par. Loft, B. vii. 518.
"Prefent?) thus to his Son audibly spake."
But the great poet has been charged with fometimes laying the accent on infignificant particles. If it were requifite to lay the ftrefs of the voice on founds naturally fhort, the charge might feem formidable. How little attention it deferves, however, may be seen in the following inftance among others accented in a fimilar manner, Par. Loft, B. ii. 702.
"Thy lingering, or with one ftroke of this dart —” The poet's imagery and meaning would be deftroyed by fuch lifelefs accentuation. The pronunciation may be rather thus marked: "Thy lingering, or with one ftroke of this dart " because the emphasis on the word one," fays Mr. Sheridan, "marks the peculiar property of the dart of Death, which does its business at once, and needs no fecond stroke; and that on the word this prefents the dart to view, and the image of Death fhaking it at Satan." Ledures &c. as before, p. 280.
It has been alfo afferted, that the reader cannot follow, with any tolerable propriety, what is called irregular accentuation in thefe and fimilar paffages:
"And flowers aloft, fhading the fount of life -"
"Abject and loft lay thefe cov'ring the flood-"
But fading is a trochee, of which we have feen many pleafing inftances in various parts of the verfe; and covering is a dactyl; dactyls being admitted by Milton, like trochees, into the firft, third, and fourth places. And are thefe lines, thus pronounced, inharmonious?—
I must not conclude thefe remarks on Milton's verfification without noticing the alliteration, fometimes obfervable in his poetry; a figure, much abused indeed by our old poets, and in confequence finely ridiculed by Shakspeare. But to the following
inftances few perhaps will affix the name of triflings, or rather not concede the praife of beauty:
"Who with his foft pipe, and fmooth-dittied fong,
"Well knows to ftill the wild winds when they roar,
Comus, v. 86.
"These paths and bowers doubt not but our joint hands
"Defac'd, deflower'd, and now to death devote." Ib.gor.
Such inftances of beginning feveral words in the fame verse with the fame letter, and even of continuing the alliteration in the next verfe, may be found in the best claffick writers.
In the proofs of beautiful verfification which have been adduced, Milton has been confidered as a writer only of blank verfe. It may be added, that his rhyming poetry would have placed him high in the rank of English bards, had his blank verfe never been written. Lord Monboddo, in fome obfervations with which he was long fince pleased to honour me, obferves, "I hold Milton to be the best rhyming poet in English, as well as the best writer of blank verfe. He has given to his rhyming poetry a variety by long and fhort verfes, and by rhymes as much varied as poffible; by diftich rhymes, alternate rhymes, and rhymes often at the diftance of four lines; which altogether make fuch a variety as is not to be found in any other rhyming poem, except that fhort poem of Dryden's upon St. Cecilia's day. And he has given one variety to his rhyming verfe, which is not to be found. even in Dryden's Ode: and that is a change of the measure of the verse from the iambick, when the accented fyllable of the foot is laft, to the trochaick, when it is first; which changes altogether the flow of the verfe, and adapts it to fubjects very different."
I have converfed indeed with few perfons on the fubject of Milton's verfification, who have not acknowledged themfelves, in this refpect,
"held with his melodious harmony, "In willing chains and fweet captivity."
AN INQUIRY INTO THE
ORIGIN OF PARADISE LOST.
"THE petty circumftances, by which great minds are led to the first conception of great defigns, are so various and volatile, that nothing can be more difficult to discover: Fancy in particular is of a nature so airy, that the traces of her step are hardly to be difcerned; ideas are so fugitive, that if poets, in their life time, were queftioned concerning the manner in which the feeds of confiderable productions first arofe in their mind, they might not always be able to answer the inquiry; can it then be poffible to fucceed in such an inquiry concerning a mighty genius, who has been configned more than a century to the tomb, efpecially when, in the records of his life, we can find no pofitive evidence on the point in queftion? However trifling the chances it may afford of fuccefs, the inveftigation is affuredly worthy our purfuit; for, as an accomplished critick has faid, in fpeaking of another poet, with his ufual felicity of difcernment and expreffion, the inquiry cannot be void of entertainment whilft Milton is our conftant theme: whatever may be the fortune of the chace, we are fure it will lead us through pleasant profpects and a fine country." Hayley's Conjectures on the Origin of Paradife Loft.
THE earlieft obfervation refpecting the Origin of Paradife Loft appears to have been made by Voltaire, in the year 1727. He was