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The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide. The number of books in Paradise Lost is equal to those of the Æneid. Our author in his first edition had divided his poem into ten books, but afterwards broke the seventh and the eleventh each of them into two different books, by the help of some small additions. This second division was made with great judgment, as any one may see who will be at the pains of examining it. It was not done for the sake of such a chimerical beauty as that of resembling Virgil in this particular, but for the more just and regular disposition of this great work.
Those who have read Bossu, and many of the critics who have written since his time, will not pardon me if I do not find out the particular moral which is inculcated in Paradise Lost. Though I can by no means think, with the last-mentioned French author, that an epic writer first of all pitches upon a certain moral, as the ground-work and foundation of his poem, and afterwards finds 'out a story to it: I am, however, of opinion, that no just heroic poem ever was, or can be made, from whence one great moral may not be deduced. That which reigns in Milton is the most universal and most useful that can be imagined; it is in short this, that obedience to the will of God makes men happy, and that disobedience makes them miserable.' This is visibly the moral of the principal fable which turns upon Adam and Eve, who continued in Paradise while they kept the command that was given them, and were driven out of it as soon as they had transgressed. This is likewise the moral of the principal episode, which shews us how an innumerable multitude of angels fell from their state of bliss, and were cast into hell, upon their disobedience. Besides this great moral, which may be looked upon as the soul of the fable, there are an infinity of under morals which are to be drawn from the several parts of the poem, and which makes this work more useful and instructive than any other pocm in any language.
Those who have criticised on the Odyssey, the Iliad, and Æneid, have taken a great deal of pains to fix the number of months or days contained in the action of each of those poems. If any one thinks it worth his while to examine this particular in Milton, he will find, that from Adam's first appearance in the fourth book, to his expulsion from Paradise in the twelfth, the author reckons ten days. As for that part of the action which is described in the three first books, as it does not pass within the regions of nature, I have before observed that it is not subjeet to any calculations of time.
I have now finished my observations on a work which does an honour to the English nation. I have taken a general view of it under those four heads, the fable, the characters, the sentiments, and the language, and made each of them the subject of a particular paper.
I have in the next place spoken of the censures which our author may incur under each of these heads, which I have confined to two papers, though I might have enlarged the number, if I had been disposed to dwell on so ungrateful a subject. I believe, however, that the severest reader will not find any.
little fault in heroic poetry, which this author has fallen into, that does not come under one of those heads among which I have distributed his several blemishes. After having thus treated at large of Paradise Lost, I could not think it sufficient to have celebrated this poem in the whole, without descending to particulars. I have therefore bestowed a paper upon each book, and endeavoured not only to prove that the poem is beautiful in general, but to point out its particular beauties, and to determine wherein they consist. I have endeavoured to shew how some passages are beautiful by being sublime ; others by being soft; others by being natural : which of them are recommended by the
passion; which by the moral; which by the sentiment; and which by the expression. I have likewise endeavoured to shew how the genius of the poet shines by a happy invention; a distant allusion; or a judicious imitation : how he has copied or improved IIomer or Virgil, and raised his own imaginations by the use which he has made of several poetical passages in Scripture. I might have inserted also several passages of Tasso, which our author has imitated; but as I do not look upon Tasso to be a sufficient voucher, I would not perplex my reader with such quotations, as might do more honour to the Italian than English poet.' In short, I have endeavoured to particularize those innumerable kinds of beauty, which it would be tedious to recapitulate, but which are essential to poetry, and which may be met with in the works of this great author. Had I thought, at my first engaging in this design, that it would have led me to so great a length, I believe I should never have entered upon it; but the kind reception which it has met with among those whose judgments I have a value for, gives me no reason to repent of the pains I have been at in composing them."
* A singular reason, meaning, I suppose, that Milton did more honor to Tasso by copying him, than to his own taste by the selection of such a model.–V. vol. ii. Travels in Italy, notes, pass.—G.
* Composing them. The substantive, to which them refers, is understood, and not expressed. This inaccuracy might have been avoided by saying, - the kind reception which these papers have met with, &c.-II.
No. 269. TUESDAY, JANUARY 8.
Evo rarissima nostro
OVID. Ars Am. i. 241.
And brings our old simplicity again.
I was this morning surprised with a great knocking at the door, when my landlady's daughter came up to me and told me there was a man below desired to speak with me. Upon my asking her who it was, she told me it was a very grave elderly person, but that she did not know his name. I immediately went down to him, and found him to be the coachman of my worthy friend Sir Roger de Coverley. He told me that his master came to town last night, and would be glad to take a turn with me in Grays-Inn walks. As I was wondering in myself what had brought Sir Roger to town, not having lately received any letter from him, he told me that his master was come up to get a sight of Prince Eugene, and that he desired I would immediately meet him."
* The prince's mission to this country was no less popular than his victories—gained in association with Marlborough—had made his person. It was to urge the prosecution, with Austria, of the war against France in terms of the treaty of 1706; and to endeavour to restore to the queen's favour his great ally the duke, who had only four days before his arrival been dismissed with disgrace from all his employments. “Gratitude, esteem, the partnership in so many military operations,” we read in Prince Eugene's Autobiography, “and pity for a person in disgrace, caused me to throw myself with emotion into Marlborough's arms."
Nothing could exceed the enthusiastic reception with which Eugene was greeted; and an adroit illustration of the eagerness of the public to behoid bim, is the bringing Sir Roger up to London solely for that purpose, only two days after the prince's appearance. “The Knight,” says the “Spec tator,” “made me promise to get hinn a stand in some convenient place where he might have a full view of that extraordinary man." This was in
I was not a little pleased with the curiosity of the old knight, though I did not much wonder at it, having heard him say more than once in private discourse, that he looked upon Prince Eugenio (for so the knight always calls him) to be a greater man than Scanderbeg
fact a necessity; for whenever the prince ventured in the streets, he was beset by eager multitudes, from the evening of his arrival (5th January, 1712) till his departure.
While there was a chance of gaining over the illustrious envoy, the court party joined in the general homage, and on her birth-day, Anne gave the Prince a jewelled sword, valued at £4,500. Then Swift, at first sight, “vlidn't think him an ugly faced fellow, but well enough; and a good shape.” (Journal, Jan. 13.) Eugene was not to be won; and persisted in passing most of his time with Marlborough: whom Ilarley, the lord treasurer, had just stripped of his title of general. One day at dinner, while Harley was plying the prince with flattery and depreciating Marlborough, he called Eugene the first general in Europe. “If I am so," said the prince, “'tis to your lordship I am indebted for that distinction.” Both by words and behaviour Prince Eugene firmly adhered to the cause he had come over to advance, and he fell into utter disrepute with the Tory or peace party. Then it was that Swift, eager as the rest, got a second glimpse of the great man; but the same pair of eyes jaundiced with party prejudice found him “plaguy yellow and literally ugly besides.” (Journal, Feb. 10.)
Meanwhile the illustrious envoy was the idol of the populace and of the Whigs. He returned their idolatry by a pleasing affability in public, and by a variety of small but agreeable courtesies in private. Amongst these it must be noted that he stood sponsor to Steele's second son. The Whig ladies professed to be in love with him, and returned a compliment often paid to themselves by making him their toast. In company, he had, according to Burnet, “a most unaffected modesty, and does scarcely bear the acknowledgements that all the world pay him.”
His popularity was gall to the Tories, who with a too-prevalent and mean revenge set about showering libels upon him. On the 17th of March, Prince Eugene retired from this country: his disgust and disappointment slightly tempered by the kindness of the queen; who, at parting, gave him her portrait.
A running fire of squibs and pamphlets was kept up against the Torie: on account of their cringing reception and spiteful dismissal of the illustrious visitor. One was advertised in No. 471 of the “Spectator” as “Prince Eugene not the man you took him for; or a Merry Tale of a Modern Hero. Price 6d.”_*