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lent critical discourses, written in his vindication by Giovanni Ralli and Ottavio Menini ;-there is a third also, according to Quadrio, by Scipione, di Manzano, under the name of Olimpo Marcucci, printed at Venice, in 4to, 1594. They all bestow great praise on the author whom they vindicate, who appears to have been a very amiable man, and a poet of considerable powers, though he poffessed not the fublimity and the refinement of Milton or Tafso. In his general ideas of poetry

he resembled them both; and in his mode of expressing himself, in the preface to his Angeleida, he reminds me very strongly of those passages in the profe works of Milton, where he speaks on the hallowed magnificence of the art. They both confidered facred subjects as peculiarly proper for verfe ; an idea condemned by Johnson, who sympathised as little with Milton in his poetic as in his political principles. It was by entertaining ideas of poetry, directly contrary to those of his critic, that Milton rendered himself, in true dignity, the first poet of the world. I Nor can we think that dignity in any degree impaired, by discovering that many hints might be fuggested to him by various poets, in different languages, who had seized either a part or the whole of his subject before him.' On the contrary, the more of these we can discover, and the more we compare them with the English bard, the more reason we shall find to exult in the pre-eminence of his poetical powers. Taffo, in his critical discourses, inculcates a very just maxim concerning the originality of epic poets, which is very applicable to Milton.—“Nuovo

66 sarà

" sarà il poema, in cui nuova fara la testura de' “ nodi, nuove le folutioni, nuovi gli episodi, cite

per entro vi sono trápofti, quantunque la materia “ fosse notislima, e dagli altri prima trattala; perche “ la novita del poema fi considera piuttolto alla “ forma, che alla materia." This

great writer illustrates his position, that the novelty of a poem is to be estimated more from its form than its subject, by the example of Alamanni; an epic poet of Italy; who lost the paradife he might otherwise have acquired, by copying too fondly, under modern nanies, the incidents of Homer. Milton is of all authors undoubtedly one of the most original, both in thought and expression: the language of his greater works is evidently borrowed from no model, but it seems to have great conformity with the précépts which Taffo has delivered in the discourses I have just cited, for the formation of an epic style. Yet in criticism, as in polítics, Milton was undoubtedly

“ Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri.”

This ex

He thought on every topic for himself; justly remarking, that “ to neglect rules and follow nature, “ in them that know art and use judgment, is no * transgression, but an enriching of art." cellent maxim insured to him the exercise and the independence of his own elevated mind. There is frequent allusion to the works of antiquity in Miltón, yet no poet, perhaps, who revered the ancients with such affectionate enthusiasm, has copied them


so little. This was partly owing to the creative opulence of his own genius, and partly to his hav, ing fixed on a subject so different from those of Homer and Virgil, that he may be said to have accomplished a revolution in poetry, and to have purified and extended the empire of the epic muse. One of the chief motives that induced his imagination to desert its early favourite Arthur, and attach itself to our first parents, is partly explained in those admirable verses of the ninth book, where the poet mentions the choice of his own subject, contrasted with those of his illustrious predecessors :

Not less, but more heroic, than the wrath
Of stern Achilles on his foe pursued
Thrice fugitiye about Troy wall, or rage
Of Turnus for Lavinia disespous'd,
Or Neptune's ire, or Juno's, that so long !
Perplex'd the Greek, and Cytherea's son,

This subject for heroic song
Pleas'd me long choosing, and beginning late;
Not sedulous by nature to indite
Wars, hitherto the only argument
Heroic deem'd, chief mastry to diffect,
With long and tedious havoc, fabled knights
In battles feignd; the better fortitude
Of patience and heroic martyrdom
Unsung; or to describe races and games,
Or tilting furniture, imblazon'd shields,
Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds,
Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights
At joust and torneament; then marshal'd feast


Serv'd up in hall with fewers and feneschals;
The skill of artifice or office mean,
Not that which justly gives heroic name
To person or to poem: me of these
Nor skill'd, nor studious, higher argument
Remains, sufficient of itself to raise
That name.

Milton seems to have given a purer fignification than we commonly give to the word hero, and to have thought it might be afligned to any person eminent and attractive enough to form a principal figure in a great picture. In truth, when we recollect the etymology which a philosopher and a faint have left us of the term, we cannot admire the propriety of devoting it to illustrious homicides. Plato derives the Greek word from others, that imply either eloquence or love; and St. Augustine, from the Grecian name of Juno, or the air, because original heroes were pure departed spirits, supposed to refide in that element. In Milton's idea, the ancient heroes of epic poetry seem to have too much resembled the modern great man, according to the delineation of that character in Fielding's exquisite history of Jonathan Wild the Great. Much as the English poet delighted in the poetry of Homer, he appears to have thought, like an American writer of the present age, whose fervent passion for the Museş is only inferior to his philanthropy, that the Grecian bard, though celebrated as the prince of moralists by Horace, and esteemed a teacher of virtue by St. Bafil, has too great a ten


tre of

dency to nourish that fanguinary madness in mankind, which has continually made the earth a thea

carnage. I am afraid that some poets and historians may have been a little accessary to the innumerable massacres with which men, ambitious of obtaining the title of hero, have desolated the world; and it is certain, that a severe judge of Homer may, with some plausibility, apply to him the reproach that his Agamemnon utteps to Achilles :

Αιει γαρ τοι ερις τε φιλη, πολεμοι τε μαχαι τε.

For all thy pleasure is in strife and blood."

Yet a lover of the Grecian bard may observe, in his defence, that in afligning these words to the leader of his hoft, he shews the pacific propriety of his own sentiments; and that, however his verfes may have instigated an Alexander to carnage, or prompted the calamitous frequency of war, even this pagan poet, fo famous as the describer of batįles, detested the objects of his description. But whatever may be thought of the heathen bard, Milton, to whom a purer religion had given greater purity, and I think greater force of imagination, Milton, from a long survey of human nature, had contracted such an abhorrence for the atrocious abfurdity of ordinary war, that his feelings in this point seem to have influenced his epic fancy. He appears to have relinquished common heroes, that he might not cherish the too common characteristic of mana fanguinary spirit. He aspired to delight the ima


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