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Thrice fugitive about Troy wall, or rag
This subject for heroic fong
in hall with fewers and feneschals;
Milton seems to have given a purer signification than we commonly give to the word hero, and to have thought
it might be assigned to any person eminent and attrađive 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 hesoes were pure departed spirits, supposed to reside 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 Muses 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 tendency to nourish that fanguinary madness in mankind, which has continually made the earth a theatre
I am afraid that some poets and historians may have been a little accessary to the innumerable mafsacres 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 uttets to Achilles :
Αιει γαρ τοι ερις τε φιλη, πολεμοι τε μαχαι τε.
Yet a lover of the Grecian bard may observe, in his defence, that in assigning these words to the leader of his hoft, he shews the pacific propriety of his own sentiments; and that, however his verses may have instigated an Alexander to carnage, or prompted the calamitous frequency
of war, even this pagan poet, so famous as the defcriber of battles, 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 absurdity 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 sanguinary spirit. He aspired to delight the imagination, like Homer, and to produce, at the same time, a' much happier effect on the' mind. Has he fucceeded in this glorious idea? Assuredly he has :-to please is the end of poetry. Homer pleases perhaps more universally than Milton ; but the pleasure that the English poet excites, is more exquisite in its nature, and superior in its effect. An eminent $
painter of France used to say, that in reading Homer he felt his nerves dilated, and he seemed to increafe in ftature. Such an ideal effect as Homer, in this example, produced on the body, Milton produces in the fpirit. To a reader who thoroughly relishes the two poems on Paradise, his heart appears to be purified, in proportion to the pleasure he derives from the poet, and his mind to become angelic. Such a tafte for Milton is
rare, and the reason why it is so is this:-To form it completely, a reader must possess, in some degree, what was superlatively possessed by the poet, a mixture of two different species of enthusiasm, the poetical and the religious. To relish Homer, it is sufficient to have a passion for excellent
but the reader of Milton, who is only a lover of the Muses, loses half, and certainly the best half, of that transcendent delight which the poems of this divine enthusiast are capable of imparting. A devotional taste is as requisite for the full enjoyment of Milton as a taste for poetry; and this remark will sufficiently explain the inconsistency so striking in the sentiments of many distinguished writers, who have repeatedly spoken on the great English poet---particularly that inconsistency,which I partly promised to explain in the judgments of Dryden and Voltaire. These very different men had both a passion for verse, and both strongly felt the poetical powers of Milton : but Dryden perhaps had not much, and Voltaire had certainly not a particle, of Milton's religious enthu
fiasm; hence, instead of being impressed with the fanctity of his subject, they sometimes glanced upon it in a ludicrous point of view.
Hence they sometimes speak of him as the very prince of poets, and sometimes as a misguided genius, who has failed to obtain the rank he aspired to in the poetical world. But neither the caprices of conceit, nor the cold austerity of reason, can reduce the glory of this pre-eminent bard. It was in an hour propitious to his renown, that he relinquished Arthur and Merlin for Adam and the Angels; and he might say on the occasion, in the words of his admired Petrarch :
Io benedico il luogo, il tempo, e l'hora
I bless the spot, the season, and the hour,
To say that his poem wants human interest, is only to prove, that he who finds that defect wants the proper senfibility of man. A work that displays at full length, and in the strongest light, the delicious tranquillity of innocence, the tormenting turbulence of guilt, and the confolatory satisfaction of repentance, has surely abundance of attraction to awaken sympathy. The images and sentiments that belong to these varying situations are so suited to our mortal existence, that they cannot cease to interest, while human nature endures. The human heart,