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No more of talk where God or angel guest
1. No more of talk &c.] These ever is a very dangerous exam prologues or prefaces of Milton ple for a genius of an inferior to some of his books, speaking order, and is only to be justified of his own person, lamenting his by success. See Voltaire's Essay blindness, and preferring his on epic poetry, p. 111. But as subject to those of Homer and Mr. Thyer adds, however some Virgil and the greatest poets critics and Monsieur Voltaire before him, are condemned by may condemn a poet's somesome critics : and it must be al- times digressing from his sublowed that we find no such di- ject to speak of himself, it is gression in the Iliad or Æneid; very certain that Milton was of it is a liberty that can be taken a very different opinion long only by such a genius as Milton, before he thought of writing this and I question whether it would poem. For in his discourse of have succeeded in any hands but the Reason of Church-Governhis. As Monsieur Voltaire says ment, &c. apologizing for sayupon the occasion, I cannot but ing so much of himself as he own that an author is generally there does, he adds, “ For alguilty of an unpardonable self- though a poet, soaring in the love, when he lays aside his sub- high region of his fancies, with ject to descant upon his own “his garland and singing robes person: but that human frailty “ about him, might, without apois to be forgiven in Milton; nay logy, speak more of himself than I am pleased with it. He grati- “ I mean to do; yet for me sitfies the curiosity he has raised in ting here below in the cool me about his person; when I “ element of prose, a mortal admire the author, I desire to thing among many readers of know something of the man; no empyreal conceit, to venand he, whom all readers would “ture and divulge unusual things be glad to know, is allowed to “ of myself, I shall petition to speak of himself. But this how- “the gentler sort, it may not
To sit indulgent, and with him partake
“ be envy to me." Vol. i. p. 59. descriptions, as before. What Edit. 1738.
follow's is more of the tragic 1. --where God or angel guest] strain than of the epic. Which A difficulty has been made here, may serve as an answer to those where, as it seems to me, no critics, who censure the latter difficulty is. The poet says, books of the Paradise Lost as that he must now treat no more falling below the former. of familiar discourse with either 11. That brought into this world God or angel. For Adam had a world of woe,] The pun or held discourse with God, as what shall I call it in this line we read in the preceding book, may be avoided, as a great man and the whole foregoing episode observed to me, by distinguishis a conversation with the angel, ing thus, and as this takes up so large a
That brought into this world (a world part of the poem, this is parti
of woe) cularly described and insisted Sin and her shadow Death, upun here. The Lord God and the but I fancy the other will be angel Michael both indeed after- found more agreeable to Milton's wards discourse with Adam in the
We have a following books, but those dis- style and manner.
similar instance in xi. 627. courses are not familiar conversation as with a friend, they are The world ere long a world of tears of a different strain, the one
must weep. coming to judge, and the other But in these instances Milton to expel him from Paradise. was corrupted by the bad taste 5. -I now must change
of the times, and by reading the Those notes to tragic;] Italian poets, who abound with As the author is now changing such verbal quaintnesses. his subject, he professes likewise 12. and Misery to change his style agreeably to
Death's harbinger :) it. The reader therefore must Dr. Bentley reads malady: benot expect such lofty images and cause, as there is misery after
Death's harbinger : sad task, yet argument
death, so there is misery, which large in the Æneid. The anger does not usher in death, but in- that he is about to sing is an voke it in vain. But by misery argument more heroic not only here, Milton means sickness, than the anger of men, of Achildisease, and all sorts of mortal les and Turnus, but than that pains. So when in b. xi. Michael even of the gods, of Neptune is going to name the several and Juno. The anger of the diseases in the lazar-house re- true God is a more noble subpresented to Adam in a vision, ject than of the false gods. In
a , he says ver. 475.
this respect he has the advantage that thou may'st know
of Homer and Virgil, his arguWhat misery th' inabstinence of Eve ment is more heroic as he says, Shall bring on men.
if he can but make his style Pearce.
answerable. 13. Sad task, yel argu
21. —my celestial patroness,] ment] The Paradise Lost, even His heavenly Muse, his Urania, in this latter part of it, concern
whom he had invoked i. 6. vii. ing God's anger and Adam's 1, 31. And he boasts of her distress, is a more heroic subject nightly visitation, as he was not than the wrath of Achilles on his unaccustomed to study and comfoe, Hector, whom he pursued pose his verses by night; as he three times round the walls of intimates himself at the beginTroy according to Homer; or ning of book the third. than the rage of Turnus for La
but chief vinia disespoused, having been
Thee, Sion, and the flow'ry brooks first betrothed to him, and after- beneath, wards promised to Æneas ac
That wa.h thy hallow'd feet, and
warbling flow, cording to Virgil; or Neptune's
Nightly I visit. ire that so long perplexed the Greek, Ulysses, as we read in the And it is probable that in both Odyssey; or Juno's ire that for these passages he alludes to the so many years perplexed Cythe- beginning of Hesiod's Theogony, rea's son, Æneas, as we read at where he mentions likewise the 25
Her nightly visitation unimplor'd
ginning late;] Our author in
tended pretty early to write an Εννυχιαι στειχο», σιρικαλλεα οσσαν
epic poem, and proposed the
story of King Arthur for the sub21.) Milton's third wife re- ject of it: but that was laid aside lated of him, that he used to probably for the reasons here incompose his poetry chiefly in timated. The Paradise Lost he winter, and on his waking in a designed at first as a tragedy ; morning would make her write it was not till long after that he down sometimes twenty or thirty began to form it into an epic verses: and being asked whether poem: and indeed for several he did not often read Homer years he was so hotly engaged and Virgil, she understood it as in the controversies of the times, an imputation upon him for that he was not at leisure to stealing from those authors, and think of a work of this nature, answered with eagerness that he and did not begin to fashion it stole from nobody but the Muse in its present form till after the who inspired him; and being Salmasian controversy which asked by a lady present who the ended in 1655, and probably did Muse was, replied it was Goii's not set about the work in earnest grace, and the Holy Spirit that till after the Restoration, so that visited him nightly. Newton's he was long choosing, and beLife of Milton.
ginning lale. Mr. Richardson also says, that 28. —hitherto the only argu" Milton would sometimes lie
ment “ awake whole nights, but not Heroic deen:'d,] “a verse could he make; and By the moderns as well as by “ on a sudden his poetical fancy the ancients; wars being the “ would rush upon him with an principal subject of all the he“ impelus or astrum.” See John- roic poems from Homer down son's Life of Milton. Dunster. to this time. But Milton's sub23. or inspires
ject was different, and whatever Easy my unpremeditatel verse:) others may call it, we see he Here is the same kind of beauty reckons it himself An heroic that we observed before in iii. poem, though he names it only 37. The verse flows so easy, A poem in his title page. It that it seems to have been made is indeed, as Mr. Warburton without premeditation.
most excellently observes in his
Heroic deem'd, chief mast’ry to dissect
Divine Legation of Moses, book affectation of this sort of knowii. sect. 4. the third species of ledge, which certainly debases epic poetry. For just as Virgil his poetry. Richardson. rivalled Homer, so Milton emu- 33. -or to describe ruces and lated both. He found Homer games,] As the ancient poets possessed of the province of have done ; Homer in the morality, Virgil of politics, and twenty-third book of the Iliad, nothing left for him but that of Virgil in the fifth book of the religion. This he seized, as Æneid, and Statius in the sixth aspiring to share with them in book of his Thebaid: Or tilts the government of the poetic and torneaments, which are often world; and by means of the the subject of the modern poets, superior dignity of his subject, as Ariosto, Spenser, and the got to the head of that trium- like. virate which took so many ages
34. -imblazon'd shields] in forming. These are the three The Italian poets in general are species of the epic poem; for its much too circumstantial about largest province is human ac- these trifling particulars. But I tion, which can be considered cannot help thinking that our but in a moral, a political, or author had principally in view religious view; and these the Boiardo, who, in his catalogue three great creators of them; of Agramante's troops, gives us for each of these poems was a most fastidious detail of im- . struck out at an heat, and came blazonry, having for above a to perfection from its first essay. hundred verses together noHere then the grand scene is thing else scarcely but names of closed, and all farther improve warriors, and descriptions of the ments of the epic at an end. devices and impresses which
29. -chief masťry to disseci they bore in their arms. See &c.] As the admired subjects Boiardo's Orland. Inam. b. ii. for an heroic poem were mis
c. 29. Thyer. taken, so those were wrong who 35. Impresses quaint, &c.] thought the dissecting of knights Uncommon witty devices was a principal part of the skill emblems, painted their of a poet, describing wounds as shields usually with a motto. a surgeon. He doubtless here We remember one which was glanced at Homer's perpetual not painted; it was a blank