« AnteriorContinuar »
gentleman, that all the crimes and vices of mankind may be traced to the laws, with which they have, in some way or other, contrived to hamper themselves. He seems, at one and the same time, to have the worst, and the best, opinion of mankind. He heartily despises them for tolerating such things as laws and authority; and yet he has no doubt, that they are noble and virtuous enough to keep society in order, by their own mere sense of right and wrong. It is the laws, which make them villains; for, were there no laws to break, would there be any crimes to punish? But, perhaps, the reader will better catch the spirit of his philosophy, from the following passage, in the book, which we have had such frequent occasion to cite.
"Nothing,' says he, can be more odious to a liberal mind, than the practice which unhappily takes place, in some degree, -in all courts of justice, of measuring the words of the persons arraigned before them, and requiring them to speak in what is called, the manner befitting their unhappy situation. The insolence of the judges, the delight they apparently feel in interrupting, in checking, in rebuking, in trampling upon, the prisoners brought before them, which we more or less perceive in the reading of all trials, certainly conduces to none of the ends of justice. They expect to be emphatically thanked for their generosity, if they practice any degree of decency towards the man whose cause they are appointed to hear, and if they consent to put him to death with any sort of gentility. They look for a canting and hypocritical profession of offence and of sorrow; and hold out a lure, often a fallacious one, that such professions shall be considered in mitigation of punishment. They are more anxious to degrade and dishonour, than to inflict the censure of the law. If a man fairly asserts his own conception of his case, and refuses to acknowledge offence, where, whatever may be the judg
The Subject proposed. Invocation of the Holy Spirit.-The Poem opens with John baptizing at the river Jordan. Jesus coming there is baptized; and is attested, by the descent of the Holy Ghost, and by a voice from Heaven, to be the Son of God. Satan, who is present, upon this immediately flies up into the regions of the air: where, summoning his Infernal Council, he acquaints them with leis a pprehensions that Jesus is that seed of the Woman, destined to destroy all their power, and points out to them the immediate necessity of bringing the matter to proof, and of attempting, by snares and fraud, to counteract and defeat the person, from whom they have so much to dread. This office he offers himself to undertake; and, his offer being accepted, sets out on his enterprise. - In the mean time God, in the assembly of holy Angels, declares that he has given up his Son to be tempted by Satan; but foretels that the Tempter shall be completely defeated by him :-upon which the Angels sing a hymn of triumph. Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the wilderness while he is meditating on the commencement of his great office of Saviour of Mankind. Pursuing his meditations he narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and philanthropic impulses he had felt from his early youth, and how his mother Mary, on perceiving these dispositions in him, had acquainted him with the circum. stances of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a person than the Son of God; to which he adds what his own in.