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One foot he center'd, and the other turn'd
The thought of the golden compasses is conceived altogether in Homer's spirit, and is a very noble incident in this wonderful description, Homer, when he speaks of the gods, ascribes to them several arms and instruments with the same greatness of imagination. Let the reader only peruse the description of Minerva's Ægis, or Buckler, in the fifth book of the Iliad, with her spear, which would overturn whole squadrons, and her helmet that was sufficient to cover an army drawn out of an hundred cities: the golden compasses in the above mentioned passage appear a very natural instrument in the hand of him, whom Plato somewhere calls the Divine Geometrician. As poetry delights in clothing abstracted ideas in allegories and sensible images, we find a magnificent description of the creation formed after the same manner in one of the prophets, wherein he describes the Almighty architect as measuring the waters in the hollow of his hand, meting out the heavens with his span, comprehending the dust of the earth in a measure, weighing the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. Another of them describing the Supreme Being in this great work of creation, represents him as laying the foundations of the earth, and stretching a line upon it. And in another place as garnishing the heavens, stretching out the north over the empty place, and hanging the earth upon nothing. This last noble thought Milton has expressed in the following verse.
And earth self-balanc'd on her center hung.
The beauties of description in this book lie so very thick, that it is impossible to enumerate them in this paper. The poet has
employed on them the whole energy of our tongue. The several great scenes of the creation rise up to view one after another, in such a manner, that the reader seems present at this wonderful work, and to assist among the choirs of angels, who are the spectators of it. How glorious is the conclusion of the first day.
Thus was the first day ev'n and morn.
The hollow universal orb they fill'd. We have the same elevation of thought in the third day; when the mountains were brought forth, and the deep was made.
Immediately the mountains huge appear
We have also the rising of the whole vegetable world described in this day's work, which is filled with all the graces that other poets have lavished on their description of the spring, and leads the reader's imagination into a theatre equally surpri. sing and beautiful.
The several glories of the heavens make their appearance on the fourth day.
First in his east the glorious lamp was seen
In that aspect, and still the distance keeps
One would wonder how the poet could be so concise in his description of the six days' works, as to comprehend them within the bounds of an episode, and at the same time so particular, as to give us a lively idea of them. This is still more remarkable in his account of the fifth and sixth days, in which he has drawn out to our view the whole animal creation, from the reptile to the behemoth. As the lion and the leviathan are two of the noblest productions in the world of living creatures, the reader will find a most exquisite spirit of poetry in the account which our author gives us of them. The sixth day concludes with the formation of man, upon which the angel takes occasion, as he did after the battle in heaven, to remind Adam of his obedience, which was the principal design of this his visit.
The poet afterwards represents the Messiah returning into Heaven, and taking a survey of his great work. There is something inexpressibly sublime in this part of the poem, where the author describes that great period of time, filled with so many glorious circumstances; when the heavens and earth were finished; when the Messiah ascended up in triumph through the everlasting gates, when he looked down with pleasure upon this new creation ; when every part of nature seemed to rejoice in its existence; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
So ev'n and morn accomplish'd the sixth day:
Thence to behold this new created world
I cannot conclude this book upon the creation, without men tioning a poem which has lately appeared under that title. The work was undertaken with so good an intention, and is executed with so great a mastery, that it deserves to be looked upon as one of the most useful and noble productions in our English
The reader cannot but be pleased to find the depths of philosophy enlivened with all the charms of poetry, and to see so great a strength of reason, amidst so beautiful a redundancy of the imagination. The author has shewn us that design in all the works of nature, which necessarily leads us to the knowledge of its first cause. In short, he has illustrated, by numberless and incontestable instances, that divine wisdom which the son of Sirach has so nobly ascribed to the Supreme Being in his formation of the world, when he tells us, that he created her, and saw her, and numbered her, and poured her out upon all his works.
* By Sir Richard Blackmore, and the only work of his that has partially escaped oblivion. Johnson speaks of it in terms of high commendation. Swift ridicules all of Blackmore's works; upon which Chalmers, or some author used by him in his notes on the Spectator, gravely says•When men have done laughing, and wisely lay aside all the Dean's writings for life, this poem of Blackmore's will be read for its superior intention and better tendency'-a day, which, like the millennium, seems to be still a good way off.-G.
No. 345. SATURDAY, APRIL 5.
Sanctius hic animal, mentisque capacius altæ
Ov. MET, i. 76.
The accounts which Raphael gives of the battle of angels, and the creation of the world, have in them those qualifications which the critics judge requisite to an episode. They are nearly related to the principal action, and have a just connection with the fable.
The eighth book opens with a beautiful description of the impression which this discourse of the arch-angel made in our first parents. Adam afterwards, by a very natural curiosity, inquires concerning the motions of those celestial bodies which make the most glorious appearance among the six days' works. here, with a great deal of art, represents Eve as withdrawing from this part of their conversation to amusements more suitable to her sex. He well knew, that the episode in this book, which is filled with Adam's account of his passion and esteem for Eve, would have been improper for her hearing, and has therefore devised very just and beautiful reasons for her retiring.
So spake our sire, and by his count'nance seem'd