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ages, the opinions of the wisest men, the supersti-
tions of the most benighted nations, the truths of
philosophy and science, and the most solemn mys-
teries of religion, were all explored by the great
author, and he poured out the whole vast treasure
of his mind into the golden vase his imagination
had formed. But to decide upon the true character
of his genius, we must not be content with the
examination of his larger works. They were com-
posed after his mind was more than furnished, after
it was enveloped with learning; and it is some-
times, therefore, not clear whether knowledge have
not mastered thought instead of being its auxiliary.

From the earlier poems of Milton we are able to
discover, with some degree of certainty, the prin-
cipal and original characteristics of his genius. In
them we trace the love of truth, the creative ima-
gination, the power over language, which form the
features of his subsequent productions. But we see
them in their origin. With him the love of truth
was the offspring of a tranquil but noble soul, and
from the dawning of his mind it was the object he
most earnestly sought. But he sought it chiefly
among books, or among those who derived their
materials of thinking solely from them. The fashion
of the times was not in favour of original thinking,
and hence he, like the other great men of the
period, principally employed himself in heaping
together all the knowledge which the accumulated
learning of ages could afford. One consequence of
this was the subjection of passion, thought, and
feeling, to memory; and there is, therefore, to be
discovered no beauty of a sentimental kind, even in
his freshest and earliest poems. The same cause
will also account for the absence of that heart-
reaching, spiritual eloquence with which poetry
sometimes awakens us. There are scarcely any
thoughts to be found in Milton which can be
ascribed to his sympathy with individual suffering,
or to his consideration of human nature in its simple
but deep workings. He gave himself no time for
this unincumbered view of humanity. He sought
the true philosophy of nature, but it was in the

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history of sects and kingdoms; and he learnt to excite wonder but not passion. Whatever, therefore, might have been the tendencies of his nature truth in his poetry is a reflected not primitive truth; the truth which learning searches for and discovers, not what every heart feels and recognizes. But Milton possessed an imagination of the highest order; an imagination which could combine or create at will the noblest objects of contemplation. His early poems sufficiently attest the energy of this divine power in his mind. The classical style of his verses never affect its originality; and they run like a stream of light and beauty wherever the imagination is free to operate. All the other faculties of his intellect received their tone from this. His power of description was raised by it into a creative faculty; the objects of memory passed through it, and became godlike and eternal. It elevated his thoughts to other worlds of beings, which it alone could make visible; and reason in her severest moods was led by it to take her weapons from the splendid and ethereal armoury of poetry. In Comus, the Allegro, and Penseroso, and the religious Odes, we see all this power of the imagination operating, but producing only beautiful and holy forms; we are entertained with the sight of nature suffused with heavenly light, with the discourse of bright and spiritual beings, and with the view of past scenes, over which hangs the cloud of divine glory. All here is fresh and spring-like. The poet's imagination was a bird of Paradise, that had not strength of wing to explore the dark world beyond it. When years, continued study, and experience of the world, had altered the general tone of his feelings, this distinguishing power of his genius assumed, with increasing strength, a severer character. The world of interminable being was all before it, and it chose out of the tremendous wilderness of space the most fearful spot it could discover. Here it rejoiced in its power. The great void grew instinct with life. The universe of thought became substantial, and night and ruin stood palpably distinct in the outflooding and creating light of heaven.

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No mortal ever saw that vision so distinct as Milton,
and seeing it he could but write as he did. His
imagination was a sense, not the result of emotion.
It was from sight, not feeling, his inspiration came,
and hence the grandeur, but coldness, of his genius
—the distinctness and reality of his creations—the
cramped scholasticism of his philosophy.
There are other points of a minor but highly in-
teresting mature in considering the genius of Milton.
His deficiency of passion was the only element
which was wanting to the perfection of his poetic
character. When we examine it in respect to every
other, we find it full and complete; perfect, not only
in the higher and rarer requisites of genius, but in
those lighter qualities from which inferior minds
derive their sole claim to consideration. Milton
had as perfect a knowledge of the art of poetry as
any cold, formal writer of verses, who has no other
means of gaining respectability. He had also an
equal degree of judgment in arranging the different
parts of his subject, and while there was no species
of learning which he had not pursued, there was
no, not even the commonest kind of, information
which he could not accommodate, with the nicest
skill, to his purpose. But of all these minor features
of his genius, that which most deserves considera-
tion is the exquisite power he possessed over every
kind of metre. The versification of his shorter
poems is the most beautiful specimen we possess of
the music of our language. The blank metre of
Paradise Lost is more various, more rich in the
melody of cadences, than that of any other English
poem. This, perhaps, is owing to a circumstance
not generally observed, that Milton is almost the
only writer in blank verse who had previously made
himself a perfect master of rhyme and the rhyming


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In speaking of the intellectual qualities of Milton, we may begin with observing, that the very splendour of his poetic fame has tended to obscure or conceal the extent of his mind, and the variety of its energies and attainments. To many he seems only a poet, when in truth he was a profound scholar, a man of vast compass of thought, imbued thoroughly with all ancient and modern learning, and able to master, to mould, to impregnate with his own intellectual power, his great and various acquisitions. He had not learned the superficial doctrine of a later day,+that poetry flourishes most in an uncultivated soil, and that imagination shapes its brightest visions from the mists of a superstitious age; and he had no dread of accumulating knowledge, lest it should oppress and smother his genius. He was conscious of that within him, which could quicken all knowledge, and wield it with ease and might; which could give freshness to old truths, and harmony to discordant thoughts; which could bind together by

living ties and mysterious affinities the most remote discoveries; and rear fabrics of glory and beauty from the rude materials which other minds had collected. Milton had that universality which marks the highest order of intellect. Though accustomed almost from infancy to drink at the fountains of classical literature, he had nothing of the pedantry and fastidiousness which disdain all other draughts. His healthy mind delighted in genius, on whatever soil or in whatever age it burst forth and poured out its fulness. He understood too well the rights, and dignity, and pride of creative imagination, to lay on it the laws of the Greek or Roman school. Parnassus was not to him the only holy ground of genius. He felt that poetry was as a universal presence. Great minds were every where his kindred. He felt the enchantment of Oriental fiction, surrendered himself to the strange creations of Araby the blest,' and delighted still more in the romantic spirit of chivalry, and in the tales of wonder in which it was embodied. Accordingly his poetry reminds us of the ocean, which adds to its own boundlessness contributions from all regions under heaven. Nor was it only in the department of imagination, that his acquisitions were vast. He travelled over the whole field of knowledge, as far as it had then been explored. His various philological attainments were used to put him in possession of the wisdom stored in all countries, where the intellect had been

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