페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

So, in Par. Reg. B. i. 361.

"With them from blifs to the bottomless deep."

In the fame metre the following verfe concludes, which prevents the ungraceful accentuation of the second fyllable in audibly, maintained by fome criticks, Par. Loft, B. vii. 518.

"Prefent?) thus to his Son audibly fpake."

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 feen 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 emphafis on the word one," fays Mr. Sheridan, "marks the peculiar property of the dart of Death, which does its bufinefs at once, and needs no fecond ftroke; 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, shading 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?—

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

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 praise of beauty:

"Who with his foft pipe, and smooth-dittied fong,
"Well knows to fill the wild winds when they roar,
Comus, v. 86.
"And hush the waving woods
"These paths and bowers doubt not but our joint hands
"Will keep from wilderness with ease, as wide
Par. Loft, B. ix. 244.
"As we need walk-
"Defac'd, deflower'd, and now to death devote." Ib. 901.

-"

-'

Such inftances of beginning feveral words in the fame verfe 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 observations 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 verse. He has given to his rhyming poetry a variety by long and fhort verfes, and by rhymes as much varied as poffible; by distich 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 verfe from the iambick, when the accented fyllable of the foot is laft, to the trochaick, when it is firft; which changes altogether the flow of the verfe, and adapts it to fubjects very different."

I have converfed indeed with few perfons on the subject of Milton's verfification, who have not acknowledged themfelves, in this respect,

"held with his melodious harmony, "In willing chains and fweet captivity."

[ocr errors]

AN INQUIRY INTO THE

ORIGIN OF PARADISE LOST.

"THE petty circumftances, by which great minds are led to the first conception of great designs, are so various and volatile, that nothing can be more difficult to discover: Fancy in particular is of a nature fo 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 fuch an inquiry concerning a mighty genius, who has been configned more than a century to the tomb, especially 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 success, the investigation 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 whilst Milton is our confiant 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

then studying in England; and had become fo well acquainted with our language as to publish an English effay on epick poetry; in which are the following words:

66

Milton, as he was travelling through Italy in his youth, faw at Florence a comedy called Adamo, written by one Andreini, a player, and dedicated to Mary de Medicis, queen of France. The fubject of the play was the Fall of Man the actors, God, the Devils, the Angels, Adam, Eve, the Serpent, Death, and the feven mortal Sins: That topick, fo improper for a drama, but fo fuitable to the abfurd genius of the Italian ftage (as it was at that time), was handled in a manner entirely conformable to the extravagance of the defign. The scene opens with a Chorus of Angels; and a Cherubim thus fpeaks for the reft: Let the rainbow be the fiddlestick of the fiddle of the heavens! let the planets be the notes of our mufick! let time beat carefully the measure, and the winds make the sharps, &c. Thus the

a

"A la lira del Ciel Iri fia l'arco,
"Corde le sfere fien, note le ftelle,
"Sien le paufe e i fofpir l'aure novelle,
"El tempo i tempi à mifurar non parco!"

Choro d' Angeli, &c. Adamo, ed. 1617. The better judgement of the author, Mr. Walker obferves, determined him to omit this chorus in a fubfequent edition of his drama: accordingly it does not appear in that of Perugia, 1641. See the Hiftorical Memoir on Italian Tragedy, 1799, P. 169.

a

play begins, and every scene rifes above the last in profufion of impertinence !

"Milton pierced through the abfurdity of that performance to the hidden majesty of the fubject, which, being altogether unfit for the stage, yet might be (for the genius of Milton, and his only,) the foundation of an epick poem.

He took from that ridiculous trifle the first hint of the nobleft work, which human imagination has ever attempted, and which he exe-. cuted more than twenty years after."

That Milton had certainly read the facred drama of Andreini, is the opinion both of Dr. Jofeph Warton and of Mr. Hayley. Another elegant critick has obferved, that Voltaire may have related a tradition perhaps current in England at the time it was vifited by him; b " a period at which, it may be prefumed, fome of the contemporaries of Milton were living, for he was then only about fifty years dead. Milton, with the candour which is ufually united with true genius, probably acknowledged to his friends his obligations to the Italian dramatist, and the floating tradition met the ardent inquiries of the French poet." It may be worth mentioning here, that Dante, according to the account of fome Italian criticks, took the hint

Hift. Mem. on Ital. Tragedy, p. 170.

• Warton's Hift. of Eng. Poetry, vol. iii. p. 241.

« 이전계속 »