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God said, let Newton ie, and all was light.
And God said, let there be light, and there Imm light.
As there is no bearing the parallel, let us quit it. Bur, indeed, if Milton's genius could not master it, how vain to look for any thing equivalent in Cowley or Pope. It is altogether inimitable, and incomparable, being infinitely sublime and sacred in itself, and expressed in words exactly suitable. The sentence consists wholly of monosyllables, and those short, smooth, and, as it were, insisting upon a rapid pronunciation. The celerity of the words, assist in, and echo to, the command they convey
Let there be light
Can any thing flow faster or with .more facility from the lip?
And there was light.
If the reader can manage his articulation, the image, the tone, and every thing else will correspond. Here, again, we have srelh reason to complain of our great epic
poet*, since the five lines he hath employed on this subject contain a great many polysyllables, each demanding a slow, sluggish, reluctant delivery—The sublimest thought may be destroyed by using improper symbols to express it; since every word should, according to a judicious critics resemble the motion it signifies, a rough subject should be imitated by harsh sounding words; and words of many syllables, pronounced slow, or smooth, if grief or melancholy is to be excited.
To return. Indistinguishable darkness fat brooding upon the face of the deep previous to the command—Let there be light—and there was light: the word was given, and the order obeyed, in the fame instant. But what were the benevolent consequences of this command? Why, no less than the creation of the world, and all the elegancies and conveniencies belonging to it ;—the division of seasons, the establishment of the planets, and a general accomB 4 modation modation for the service of the favourite creature! In the remaining verses of this chapter, the ceconomy, wisdom and bounty of Providence stand displayed and recorded in all the purity and simplicity of sacred literature. Where is the barren fancy that doth not kindle as it goes? Where the heart that feels not the mercies which resulted from the orders of the original parent? The celestial spirit no sooner began to move, than all things were made: the day for delight, and the night for repose\ the breath of the morning became embalmed, and the evening breezes bore healthful blessings upon her wings: the waters became obedient to their bounds, and the earth smiled with variegated verdure : animals of various natures, some adapted to the wood, and some to the wave; some exulting in their speed, and others contented with their slowness; some trusting to the foot, and others mounting upon the wing sported over creation. Then, nor till then, was man, the erect, the immortal,
* Milton. § The author of the Elements of Criticism.
created. created. The world being now sit for the reception of such an inhabitant, he was introduced upon the scence as master cf the mighty drama. In the similitude of his maker, with the face of a cherub, and the form of a god, he was born for dominion. Authority fat on his brow, his eye denoted his power, and the father put into his hand the sceptre of command. The inferior creatures saw, acknowledged and obeyed. fThen arose woman; the companion, the friend, the wife of his greatness : society was founded upon the endearments of love and innocence, the lambs bleated forth their joy, the birds fung amidst the branches, man triumphed in his honours, :,. and the Deity surveyed his undertaking * and saw that it was good./
How admirably.these blessings are described may be easily seen by every one that reads the whole chapter first, and then' Milton's paraphrase of it: for the simplicity and unaffected dignity, which charactanscs the one, greatly surpasses, in general, B 5 the
the laborious pomp, and amplified majesty of the other. Let it be, at the fame time, considered, that we are now comparing our immortal poet with the only book in the world, perhaps, to which it must yield the palm: and, to do the author justice, I shall not pass over those happineffes, whether of genius or skill, which, here and there, seem to improve even upon Moses: a first instance occurs immediately.
His brooding wings the spirit of God outspread, ■
v In another place,
There wanted yet the masterwork, a creature,
With sanctity of reason, who might erect
His stature, and, upright, with front serene,
Govern the rest, self-knowing, and from thence,
Magnanimous to correspond with heaven.
After all, I may, possibly, be censured bysome, for considering the sacred writings, in any degree, as compositions; since, it is evident, that the chief end of this venerable volume is, as Mr. Rollin observes,