Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

miscellany, entitled, The Literary Museum, in a note to Roscius Anglicanus, has, in a very liberal manner, collected and refuted the charges against Milton on this point, and abundantly proved, that instead of censuring the unfortunate Charles for amusing himself with Shakespeare, he only censured him for imitating the religious hypocrisy of Richard the Third so closely as to utter the very sentiments that are assigned to Richard in the page of the dramatic poet.

Milton undoubtedly thought, what an ardent polịtical writer of the present age has not scrupled to affert, that “ Charles the First lived and died an hypocrite.” These two acute judges of mankind were, I believe, mistaken in this idea: it seems more probable, that this unfortunate prince was flattered into a persuasion, that he was really the meritorious martyr his adherents endeavoured to represent him. But whatsoever his genuinė character might be, the severe sentiments which Milton entertained of the king, and the delusive hopes that he cherished of the protector, had equally their source in the virtuous ardour of his own fpirit. The consciousness of his integrity, when time had fully unveiled to him fome illusions, gave that tranquillity and vigour to his declining days, which

enabled him to produce his astonishing poems, not ..more astonishing for their intrinsic merit, than for

the period of their production; so that his poetry, in this point of view, may be regarded both as the offspring and the witness of his virtue. The world had never been enriched with his two poems on

Paradise,

Paradife, if their great author, when he was, ac. cording to his own true and pathetic description,

[ocr errors]

« In darkness and with dangers compass'd round,"

had not, in fome little degree, resembled the hero of his latter poem, and like that hallowed personage, whom he delineates fo divinely, amid the darkness and the fiends of the desert,

“ Sat unappall'd in calm and finless peace.”

Yet to such misrepresentations has the life and the

poetry of Milton been exposed, that both have been considered as too austere to be amiable, though assuredly, both in the one and the other, the most engaging qualities are admirably united to the most aweful--the graceful and the tender to the grand and the sublime..

The attractions of his muse have triumphed over obloquy, and in the estimation of the world she is justly thought to resemble the enchanting Eve of

the poet,

Adorn'd
With what all earth or heay'n could bestow
To make her amiable.

But equal justice has not hitherto been rendered to the personal virtues of the author ; it has, therefore, been my chief aim, in a delineation of his ļife, to make Milton rather more beloved than more admired; and I

and I may the more reasonably hope to succeed in that idea, because, though I have

[ocr errors]

never been attached to his political opinions, yet, in proportion to my researches into his character as a nian, he has advanced in my esteem and my affection.

I lament that the necessity of investigating many misrepresentations, and of correcting much asperity against him, has frequently obliged me to speak rather in the tone of an advocate, than of a common biographer; but I may say, in the words of the great Roman author, pleading the cause of a poet infinitely less entitled to love and admiration; Hunc ego non diligam, non admirer, non omni ratione defendendum putem ? Atque fic a summis hominibus eruditissimisque accepimus, cæterarum rerum ftudia et doctrina, et præceptis, et arte constare ; poetam natura ipfa valere, et mentis viribus excitari, et quasi divino quodam spiritu afflari-if poetical powers may ever deserve to be regarded as heavenly inspiration, such undoubtedly were those of Milton, and the use to which he applied them was worthy of the fountain whence they flowed. He is pre-eminent in that class of poets, very happily described in the two following verses by the amiable lord Falkland

;

Who, while of heav'n the glories they recite,
Find it within, and feel the joys they writer

It is by the epic compositions of Milton alone that England may esteem herself as a rival to antiquity in the highest province of literature; and it

appears

1

appears therefore just, that the memory of the man, to whom she is indebted for the purest, the most extensive, and permanent glory, should for ever excite her affectionate veneration.

[ocr errors]

CONJECTURES

ON THE

OR I G IN

OF THE

PAR À DIS E LOS T.

« AnteriorContinuar »