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markable paffage : after suggesting that the Mosaic history
fignoreggiando in Jui lal medesima sopra le sensuali
petiti disordinati, per guidêrdone di giusta - obbedienza-
“ One night I dreamt that Moses explained to me the
- It strikes me as posible that these list words, aligned
idea he derived from Andreini, and the germ of his : greatest production.
A sceptical critic, inclined to discountenance this conjecture, might indeed observe, it is more probable that Milton never saw a little voluine not published until after his return from Italy, and written by an author fo. obscure, that his name does not occur in Tiraboschi's elaborate history of Italian literature ; nor in the patient Italian chronicler of poets, Quadrio, though he bestows a chapter on early dramatic compositions in prose-But the mind, that has once started a conjecture of this nature, must be weak indeed, if it cannot produce new shadows of argument in aid of a favourite hypothesis.-Let me therefore be allowed to advance, as a presumptive proof of Milton's having seen the work of Lancetta, that he makes a similar use of Moses, and introduces him to speak a prologue in the sketch of his various plans for an allegorical drama. It is indeed possible that Milton might never see the performances either of Lancetta or Andreini ----yet conje&ure has ground enough to conclude very fairly, that he was acquainted with both; for Andreini wrote a long allegorical drama on Paradise, and we know that the fancy of Milton first began to play with the subject according to that peculiar form of composition.-Lancetta treated it also in the shape of a dramatic allee gory; but said, at the same time, under the character of Moses, that the subject might form an incomparable epic
poem; and Milton, quitting his own hasty sketches of allegorical dramas, accomplished a work which answers to that intimation.
After all, I allow that the province of conjecture is the region of shadows; and as I offer my ideas on this topic rather as phantons that may amuse-a lover of poetical spe.culation, than as folid proofs to determine a cause of great moment, I am persuaded every good-natured reader will treat them with indulgence : assuredly I shall feel neither anger, nor inclination to contend in their defence, if any feverer critics
“ Irruat, & fruftra ferro diverberet umbras.” In mentioning the imperfect rudiments of Paradise Loft, Johnson says, very juftly, “ It is pleasant to see great “.works in their seminal state, pregnant with lạtent pof“ sibilities of excellence; nor could there be any more
delightful entertainment than to trace 'their gradual growth and expansion, and to observe how they are « sometimes suddenly advanced by accidental hints, and “ sometimes slowly improved; by steady meditation," Such entertainment would indeed be : peculiarly delightful in -respect to Milton. It is in some measure beyond our reach, because, if we except his sketches of plans for an allegorical drama, no real evidence is left concerning the origin and progress of his magnificent conception : but fuppofi--tion is often a pleasant substitute for absolute knowledge; and in the hope that it máy prove so in the present case, M m 2
let me advance in this ľadowy' research, and after accounting for the first flashes of Milton's subject on his fancy, pursue the vein of conjecture, in considering various ideas that might influence him in the prosecution of his work.
When Adam engaged the fancy of Milton, however that personage might first be impressed upon it as a subject of verse, many circumstances might conspire to confirm his ascendency. The work of different arts, which the poet surveyed in his travels, had, perhaps, a confiderable influence in attaching his imagination to our first parents.—He had most probably contemplated them not only in the colours of Michael Angelo, who decorated Rome with his picture of the creation, but in the marble of Bandinelli, who had executed two large statues of Adam and Eve, which, though they were far from satisfying the taste of connoiffeurs, might stimulate even by their imperfections the genius of a poet. 'In recollecting how painting and sculpture had both exercised their respective powers on these hallowed and interesting characters, the muse of Milton might be tempted to contend with the fister arts. ' I must confess, however, that. Richardson, a fond idolater of these arts and of Milton, is rather inclined to believe that they did not much occupy the attention of the poet, even during his residence in Italy : yet I am persuaded he must have been greatly struck by the works of Michael Angelo, a genius whom he resembled so much in bis grand characteristic, mental inag
nificence ! and to whom he was infinitely superior in the attractive excellencies of delicacy and grace. In touching on a point of resemblance between the poet and this pre-eminent artist, we i cannot fail to observe the abundance and variety of charms in the poetry of Milton. All the different perfections, which are assigned as characteristics to the most celebrated painters, are united in this marvellous poet.
He has the sublime grandeur of Michael Angelo, the chaste simplicity of Raphael, the sweetness of Correggio, and the richness of Rubens.. In his Sampson we may admire the force of Rembrandt, and in his Comus the grace and gaiety of Albano and Poussin: in short, there is no charm exhibited by painting, which his poetry has failed to equal, as far as analogy between the different arts can extend. If Milton did not pay much attention in his travels to those works of the great painters that he had opportunities of surveying (which I cannot think. probable) it is certain that his own works afford a most excellent field to exercise and animate the powers of the pencil *.. The article in which I apprehend
* The learned, ingenious, enthusiastic criticism may rather believe, what it is very Winckelman has advanced, in his most cele- poffible, I apprehend, to demonstrate, that brated work, a very different opinion; but christianity can hardly be more favourable to the ardour with which this extraordinary man the purity of inorals, thau it inight be rendered had studied and idolized the antients, render to the perfection of these delightful arts. Miled him deplorably presumptuous and precipi- ton himself may be regarded as an obvious and tate in several of his ideas relating to modern complete proof that the pofition is true as far genius, and particularly in what he has assert as poetry is concerned. In what degrees the ed of Milton. Some paffionate admirers of influence of the Christian religion can affect antiquity seem to lament the fall of paganism, the other two, it may be pleasing, and perhaps as fatal to poetry, to painting, and to sculpture; useful, to consider in fome future composition but a more liberal and enlightened spirit of devoted to their advancérnent.