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in her highest beauty. Their enemies are the Fallen Angels; the Meffiah their friend, and the Almighty their protector. In short, every thing that is great in the whole circle of being, whether within the verge of nature, or out of it, has a proper part affigned it in this admirable
In poetry, as in architecture, not only the whole, but the principal members, and every part of them, fhould be great. I will not prefume to fay, that the book of games in the Eneid, or that in the Iliad, are not of this nature, or to reprehend Virgil's fimile of the top, and many other of the fame kind in the Iliad, as liable to any cenfure in this particular; but I think we may fay, without derogating from those wonderful performances, that there is an indifputable and unqueftioned magnificence in every part of Paradife Loft, and indeed a much greater than could have been formed upon any pagan system.
But Aristotle, by the greatnefs of the action, does not only mean that it should be great in its nature, but also in its duration, or in other words that it should have a due length in it, as well as what we properly call greatnefs. The just meafure of this kind of magnitude, he explains by the following fimilitude. An animal, no bigger than a mite, cannot appear perfect to the eye,
because the fight takes it in at once, and has only a confufed idea of the whole, and not a diftinct idea of all its parts; if, on the contrary, you should suppose an animal of ten thousand furlongs in length, the eye would be fo filled with a single part of it, that it could not give the mind an idea of the whole. What these animals are to the eye, a very short or a very long action would be to the memory. The first would be, as it were, loft and swallowed up by it, and the other difficult to be contained in it. Homer and Virgil have shown their principal art in this particular; the action of the Iliad, and that of the Eneid, were in themselves exceeding fhort, but are so beautifully extended and diversified by the invention of episodes, and the machinery of gods, with the like poetical ornaments, that they make up an agreeable story, sufficient to employ the memory without overcharging it. Milton's action is enriched with fuch a variety of circumstances, that I have taken as much pleasure in reading the contents of his books, as in the best invented story I ever met with. It is poffible, that the traditions, on which the Iliad and Eneid were built, had more circumftances in them, than the history of the Fall of Man, as it is related in Scripture. Befides, it was easier for Homer and Virgil to dash the truth with fiction, as they were in no danger of offending the reli
gion of their country by it. But as for Milton, he had not only a very few circumstances upon which to raise his Poem, but was also obliged to proceed with the greatest caution in every thing that he added out of his own invention. And, indeed, notwithstanding all the restraint he was under, he has filled his story with fo many furprising incidents, which bear fo clofe an analogy with what is delivered in Holy Writ, that it is capable of pleafing the most delicate reader, without giving offence to the most scrupulous.
The modern criticks have collected, from feveral hints in the Iliad and Eneid, the fpace
a which bear fo close an analogy with what is delivered in Holy Writ,]" It would not, I believe, be impoffible, though the task might appear too invidious, to point out feveral incidents in Milton, that are fo far from having a close analogy with what is delivered in Holy Writ, that in reality they have no analogy with it at all. And, fetting afide this confideration, it is not eafy to determine, how far invention, the poet's peculiar province, extends, when it is circumfcribed by the Christian System. For it may be queftioned, whether fiction is at all allowable, when the Divine Being is the fubject of it." A Letter concerning Epick Poems, taken from Scripture Hiftory, Lond. 1764, p. 21. The writer of this Letter cites the remark of Gibbon, in his Effay an the Study of Literature. See the English edition, 1764, p. 23. "The Almighty Fiat of Mofes ftrikes us with admiration; but reafon cannot comprehend, nor imagination defcribe, the operations of a Deity, at whofe command alone millions of worlds are made to tremble: nor can we read with any fatisfactory pleasure of the Devil, in Milton, warring for two whole days in Heaven against the armies of the Omnipotent."
of time, which is taken up by the action of each of those poems; but, as a great part of Milton's story was tranfacted in regions that lie out of the reach of the fun and the sphere of day, it is impoffible to gratify the reader with such a calculation, which indeed would be more curious than inftructive; none of the criticks, either
b which indeed would be more curious than inftructive;] The following account of the time, employed in the action of the Poem, is copied from a MS found among Sir Robert Walpole's Papers in bishop ATTERBURY's hand-writing; and is printed in the 5th vol. of Atterbury's Epift. Correspondence, 1798, p. 191.
"The scene opens 18 days after the defeat of the rebellious Angels for they were nine days falling, and had lain nine days. aftonished on the burning lake, B. vi. 871, B. i. 50.
"What time was spent in the confultation of Devils, and Satan's voyage to the gates of Hell, and through Chaos, &c. till he alighted on the top of Mount Niphates, Milton no where intimates; and it is vain to measure that space: but he is faid to have ftopped on Mount Niphates at noon, B. iv. 30.
"He fees Adam and Eve towards evening, B. iv. 331, 355, 540, and 590.
"That night he tempts Eve with a dream, and leaves Paradife juft before day-light, B. iv. 1014, 1015.
"In the morning Adam and Eve wake, B. v. 1; and pay their adorations, B. v. 139; and then go to work, and return to their bower at noon, where Raphael then vifits them, B. v. 300, 311, 369, 376. Raphael stays with them till evening, B. v. 376; and then departs, B. viii. 653.
"Satan returns at midnight, B. xi. 53, into Paradife on the eighth night after he parted from thence, B. ix. 63, 67, including the night of his departure, that is, the feventh night inclufive, after Raphael left Paradise.
"During the night he ranges Paradise, B. ix. 181; and enters the ferpent, B. ix. 187.
ancient or modern, having laid down rules to circumfcribe the action of an epick poem with any determined number of years, days, or hours.
"In the morning, B. ix. 192, Adam and Eve go out fepa rately to their work. Eve is tempted, and about noon eats the forbidden fruit, B. ix. 739.
"That evening the Son comes down to Paradife to judge them, B. x. 53, 92, 95. Adam and Eve spend that night in mutual expoftulations, and then in devotions.
"Next morning, B. xi. 135, 173, as they are going to their labour, Raphael meets and ftops them; and, after revealing to them what was to happen to them and their feed, drives them that evening out of Paradise.
"So that ten days and ten nights is the utmoft extent of time during which the action of the Poem continues; except the time fpent in Hell, and Satan's voyage from thence to Paradife; of which there is no account."
Dr. Newton further obferves, that Satan fled from the Mef. fiah's prefence when he came down to judge Adam and Eve, and returned by night, B. x. 341. In his return to Hell, he meets Sin and Death in the morning, "while the fun in Aries rofe," B. x. 329. After Sin and Death had arrived in Paradise, the Angels are commanded to make feveral alterations in the heavens and elements and Adam is reprefented as lamenting aloud to himself through the fill night," B. x. 846. Adam is afterwards made to talk fomewhat confufedly, in one place, as if it was ftill the day of the Fall, B. x. 962; and, in another place, as if it was fome day after the Fall, B. x. 1050. And, having felt the cold damps of the night before, he is confidering how they may provide themselves with fome better warmth before another night comes, B. x. 1069. That other night must be supposed to be paft, fince the morning appears again "to refalute the world with facred light," B. xi. 134.
So that, according to this addition in the calculation, the morning of the Poem, B. xi. 135, commences the eleventh day of the action. Addifon, fays doctor Newton, "reckons oply