Imatges de pÓgina


that of time. But let us never think of Milton as a poet merely he was a citizen, alive to all that was due from man to man in all the relations of life. He was invested with a power to mould the mind of a nation, and to lead the people into the glorious ways of truth and prosperous virtue.' He beheld tyranny and intolerance trampling upon the most sacred prerogatives of God and man, and he was compelled by the nobility of his nature, by the obligations of virtue, by the loud summons of beleaguered truth, in short, by his patriotism as well as his piety, to lay down the lyre, and to adventure within the circle of peril and glory; and buckling on the controversial panoply, he threw it off only when the various works of this volume, surpassed by none in any sort of eloquence, became the record and trophy of his achievements, and the worthy forerunners ( of those poems which a whole people will not willingly let die.""

But there are two points in Milton's character to which none of his biographers have done justice, for this plain reason-they have little sympathy with his sentiments: I mean his Politics and his Religion,† in both of which he was far ahead of his age. His political principles were purely republican, for he believed, and supported with an eloquence, logic, and learning unequalled, that all governments should be for the good of the governed, and should derive their power solely and directly from the people. Believing, also, that all true religion is the communing of the heart with God, he thought that an "established religion" was a contradiction of terms, and contended, with all his powers, that every man shouldhave a perfect right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. As a natural conclusion from this, he maintained what is now called the "voluntary principle,"—the only one that obtains in our country, that each church or congregation should elect its own pastor, and support him by voluntary contributions. From his youth an opponent to Prelacy, in the latter part of his life he opposed the Presbyterian form of church government, and advocated Independency or Congregationalism, from conviction of its more scriptural order. He was also ahead of his nge in contending for the unlimited freedom of the press; and his great work on that subject is a rich armory, from which many defenders of this cause in later times, have drawn their strongest weapons.

When, therefore, we survey Milton's character in all its parts;-when we view him as the great champion of civil and religious liberty, who looked so much farther and saw so much deeper than the men of his time; and when we contemplate the variety, extent, and accuracy of his learning, the sublimity of his imagination, the loftiness of his soul;--and, above all, when we see all these high intellectual endowments and such deep wisdom united to such moral purity and holiness of character as he possessed,-who can hesitate to place him AT THE HEAD OF HIS RACE?‡

* His prose works, particularly his controversial.

I may except Robert Fletcher, in his admirable "Introductory Review" to Milton's Prose Works; Edwin Paxton Hood, in his excellent little work, entitled, "John Milton, the Patriot and Poet;" and the writer of the article "Milton," in the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Read Life by Ellwood, Toland, Fenton, Newton, Warton, Symmons, Mitford, and Brydges. Also, an eloquent article in the 42d volume of the Edinburgh Review, by Macaulay; and another, of glowing eloquence, in Dr. Channing's works, vol. 1. Coleridge and Hazlitt also have written upon Milton, each with his own peculiar power. Indeed, hardly any distinguished English scholar has not felt it a sort of duty as well as privilege, to cast in his mite in praise of this wonderful man.


THIS Book on the whole is so perfect from beginning to end, that it would be difficult to find a single superfluous passage. Milton's poetical style is more serried than any other: rhymed metre leads to empty words, involutions, and circumlocutions; but it is in the thought, still more than in the language, that this closeness is apparent. The matter, the illustrations, and the allusions, are historically, naturally, or philosophically true. The learning is of every extent and diversity;-recondite, classical, scientific, antiquarian. But the most surprising thing is how he vivifies every topic he touches by poetry: he gives life and picturesqueness to the driest catalogue of buried names, personal or geographical. They who bring no learning, yet feel themselves charmed by sounds and epithets which give a vague pleasure to the mind, and stir up the imagination into an indistinct emotion.

Notwithstanding all that bas been said so copiously about poetical imagination by critics, ancient and modern, I still think that the generality of authors and readers have a very confused idea of it. It is the power, not only of conceiving, but creating embodied illustrations of abstract truths, which are sublime, or pathetic, or beautiful.

But those ideas, which Milton has embodied, no imagination would have dared to attempt but his own: none else would have risen "to the highth of this great argument." Every one else would have fallen short of it, and degraded it.

Among the miraculous acquirements of Milton, was his deep and familiar intimacy with all classical and all chivalrous literature,the amalgamation in his mind of all the philosophy and all the sublime and ornamental literature of the ancients, and all the abstruse, the laborious, the immature learning of those who again drew off the mantle of Time from the ancient treasures of genius, and mingled with them their own crude conceptions and fantastic theories. He extracted from this mine all that would aid the imagination without shocking the reason. He never rejected philosophy; but where it was fabulous, only offered it as ornament.

It will not be too much to say, that of all uninspired writings, (if these be uninspired,) Milton's are the most worthy of profound study by all minds which would know the creativeness, the splendour, the learning, the eloquence, the wisdom, to which the human intellect can reach.

Milton's force and sublimity of fable is especially attested by his frequent concurrence with the hints and language of the Scriptures, and his filling up those dark and mysterious intimations which escaped less illuminated minds. Here, then, imagination took its grandest and most ora

cular form.

But they, who have degraded and depraved their taste by vulgar poetry, not only do not rise to the delight of this tone, but have no conception of it. They deem the bard's work to be a concentration of petty spangles of words, like false jewels made of paste by an adroit artisan. Every thing is technical, and they judge only by skill in decoration.

In Milton's language, though there is internal force and splendour, there is outward plainness. Common readers think that it sounds and looks like prose: this is one of its attractions; while all which is stilted, and decorated, and affected, soon fatigues and satiates. To delight the ear and the eye is a mere sensual indulgence ;-true poetry strikes at the soul.

After all which has been said of Milton by so many learned and able critics, these remarks may seem superfluous; but I persuade myself that some of the topics of praise here urged have not been duly noticed before. I must here also repeat my conviction, that of all critics, Addison is the most beautiful, eloquent, and just: he enters deep into the fable, the imagery, and the sentiment: most of the other commentators merely busy themselves with the explanation or illustration of the learning.

We are bound to study in what way Milton has exercised his mighty powers of invention and imagination, and what ought to be their purposes, their qualities, and their merits. If any one thinks the imagination to be an idle and empty power, he is as hard and dull as he is ignorant and blind. In the "Paradise Lost" we have demonstrated what a grand and holy imagination can do. SIR EGERTON BRYDGES.


[The following is from the hand of the poet himself: as it is short, I have given his own orthography,* peculiar in some points.-ED.]


"THE measure is English Heroic Verse, without Rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; Rime being no necessary Adjunct or true Ornament of Poem or good Verse, in longer Works especially, but the Invention of a barbarous Age, to set off wretched matter and lame Meeter; grac't indeed since by the use of some famous modern Poets, carried away by Custom, but much to thir own vexation, hindrance, and constraint, to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse then else they would have exprest them. without cause, therefore, some both Italian and Spanish Poets of prime note, have rejected Rime both in longer and shorter Works, as have also, long since, our best English Tragedies; as a thing of itself, to all judicious eares, triveal and of no true musical delight; which consists only in apt Numbers, fit quantity of Syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned Ancients both in Poetry and all good Oratory. This neglect then of Rime, so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be esteem'd an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recover'd to Heroic Poem from the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing."

* From Milton's own edition, as edited by Rev. J. Mitford, and reprinted most accurately and beautifully by Pickering, in eight volumes, 8vo.. London, 1851.




THIS first book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject, man's dis obedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed. Then touches the prime cause of his fall, the serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was by the command of God driven out of heaven with all his crew into the great deep. Which action passed over, the Poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into hell, described here, not in the centre, for heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed; but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: Here Satan, with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded: they rise; their numbers, array of battel, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and a new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in heaven: for that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandæmonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: the infernal Peers there sit in council.

Or Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

1. Of man's first disobedience. The poet here lays before the reader the sul ject of the following work-the disobedience of our ancestors to the command of God -the effects of that disobedience which Jost them Paradise; and the hope we are allowed to entertain, through the Divine Goodness, of being restored to the like blissful state. Such are the great events our poet proposes to celebrate. The

means by which they are brought about are to be unfolded by degrees, whilst here he offers to the reader's imagination only such ideas as are most capable to inspire him with reverence and attention. The poem begins with the origin of evil in our world, and the disobedience of our ancestors to God-the cause of all our WO.-CALLANDER.

4. Till one greater Man. Rom. v. 19.

Sing, heavenly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of chaos: or if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook, that flow'd
Fast by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast abyss,
And madest it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great argument

6. Secret top. There is some doubt in what sense Milton here uses the word secret. As the top of Sinai, when God gave his laws to Moses, was covered with "clouds" and "thick smoke," it was secret at that time in a peculiar sense. But, as Newton observes, Milton might have a further meaning in the epithet secret; for as he often uses words in their pure Latin sense, he may have used this in the sense of secretus, that is, set apart, separate for while Moses talked with God on the mount in private, the people were forbidden to approach, and afterwards even to ascend it, upon pain of death.

7. Of Oreb, or of Sinai. The mountain from which the law was given is called Horeb in Deut. i. 6; iv. 10, 15; v. 2; xviii. 16; but in other places in the Pentateuch it is called Sinai. These names are now applied to two opposite summits of an isolated, oblong, and central mountain in the midst of a confused group of grand and rugged mountain-heights at the southern extremity of the peninsula, at the head of the Red Sea. Horeb is the steep, awful cliff, frowning over the plain tahab, where the people of Israel were doubtless assembled. This plain, says Dr. Robinson, is about two miles long, and from one-third to twothirds of a mile wide. "Our conviction was strengthened that here was the spot where the Lord 'descended in fire,' and proclaimed the law. Here lay the plain where the whole congregation might be assembled: here was the mount that, rising perpendicularly in frowning majesty, could be approached. if not for bidden; and here the mountain-brow, where alone the lightnings and the thick cloud would be visible."

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is about three miles long, is Mount Sinai proper, now called by the monks Jebel has this traditionary name, its character Musa, or Moses' Mount. But, though it the description given in Exodus as do and topography do not apply so well to those of the northern summit, Horcb. applied to the whole ridge, and hence The name Sinai, however, is sometimes Milton's phrase "of Horeb or of Sinai."

15. Above the Ammian mount. In Boo-
Helicon, so famed in antiquity as the
tia, anciently called Aonia, was Mount
seat of Apollo and the Muses, and sung
by poets of every age. Milton, there-
fore, means to say that he intends to
of mere earthly scenes and interests.
"soar above" other poets, who have sung

(Gr. pvduos.) here means verse.
16. Rhyme, from the Latin rythmus,
verse is apt to be loose, thin, and more
full of words than thought: the blank
woven, and weighty in matter."-SIR E.
verse of Milton is compressed, close-

beginning of his second book of "The
17. And chiefly Thou, O Spirit. In the
Reason of Church Government," speak-
ing of his design of writing a poem
in the English language, he says, "It
tion of Dame Memory and her Siren
was not to be obtained by the invoca-
daughters, but by devout prayer to
that eternal Spirit who can enrich with
all utterance and knowledge, and sends
out his Seraphim with the hallow'd fire
of his Altar to touch and parify the
lips of whom he pleases." See Picker-
ing's edition, London, 1851, vol. iii. p. 149,
p. 265.
or Compendium of English Literature,"

24. That to the highth of this great argie precisely what distinguishes this poem At the south-ment. "The highth of the argument is

ern extremity of this central ridge, which

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