Imágenes de páginas

are others of the Moderns who rj- into human nature, and that he val him in every other part of poe- knew every thing which was the try; but in the greatnets of his fen- most proper to affect it. timents he triumphs over all the Mr. Dryden has in some places, poets both modern and ancient, which I may hereafter take noHomer only excepted. It is im- tice of, misreprcfented Virgil's way possible for the imagination of man of thinking as to this particular, to distend itself with greater ideas, in the translation he has given us than those which he has laid toge- of the Æneid. I do not remember ther in his first, second and fixth that Homer any where falls into books. The seventh, which de- the faults abovementioned, which scribes the creation of the world, were indeed the false refinements is likewise wonderfully sublime, of later ages. Milton, it must be tho' not so apt to ftir up emotion confeft, has sometimes erred in this in the mind of the reader, nor respect, as I shall shew more at consequently so perfect in the epic large in another paper; tho conway of writing, because it is filled sidering all the poets of the age in with less action. Let the judicious which he writ, were infected with reader compare what Longinus has this wrong way of thinking, he is observed on several passages in rather to be admired that he did Homer, and he will find paral- not give more into it, than that he lels for most of them in the Para. did sometimes comply with the vi. dise Lost.

cious taste which still prevails so From what has been said we much among modern writers. may infer, that as there are two But since several thoughts may kinds of sentiments, the natural be natural which are low and and the sublime, which are always groveling, an epic poet should not to be pursued in an heroic poem, only avoid fuch sentiments as arę there are also two kinds of thoughts unnatural or affected, but also such which are carefully to be avoided. as are mean and vulgar. Homer The first are such as are affected has opened a great held of raland unnatural; the second such as lery to men of more delicacy than are mean and vulgar. As for the grcatness of genius, by the home. tirft kind of thoughts we mcet with liness of some of his sentiments. little or nothing that is like them But, as I have before said, these in Virgil : He has none of those are rather to be imputed to the willing points and puerilities that fimplicity of the age in which he are so often to be met with in lived, to which I may also add, Ovid, 'none of the epigrammatic of that which he described, than turns of Lucan, none of those to any imperfe&tion in that divine swelling sentiments which are so poct. Zoilus, among the Ancients, frequently in Statius and Claudian, and Monsieur Perrault, among the none of those mixed embellish. Moderns, pushed their ridicule very ments of Tašlo. Every thing is far upon him, on account of some just and natural. His sentiments such sentiments. There is no bleNow that he had a perfect insight milh to be observed in Virgil,


under this head, and but a very Friends, why come not on these few in Milton.

victors proud! I shall give but one instance of Ere while they fierce were coming. this impropriety of thought in Ho- and when we mer, and at the same time com- To entertain them fair with eter pare it with an instance of the same . front, nature, both in Virgil and Milton. And breaft, (what could we more) Sentiments which raise laughter, propounded terms can very seldom be admitted with Of composition; strait they chang'd any decency into an heroic poem, their minds, whose business is to excite pafsions Flew off, and into strange vagaof a much nobler nature. Homer,

re. Homer, ries fell, however, in his characters of Vul- .As they would dance, yet for a can and Thersites, in his story of dance they seem'd Mars and Venus, in his behaviour Somewhat extravagant and wild, of Irus, and in other passages, has perhaps been observed to have lapled into For joy of offer'd peace; but I supthe burlesque character, and to pose have departed from that serious If our proposals once again were air which seems essential to the I heard, magnificence of an epic poem. I We should compel them to a quick remember but one laugh in the result. whole Æneid, which rises in the .To whom thus Belial in like fifth book upon Monætes, where gamesome mood. he is represented as thrown over- Leader, the terms we sent, were board, and drying himself upon a terms of weight, rock. But this piece of mirth is so of hard contents, and full of force well timed, that the severest critic urg'd home, can have nothing to say against it, Such as we might perceive amus'd for it is in the book of games and them all, diversions, where the reader's mind And stumbled many; who receives may be supposed to be sufficiently them right, relaxed for such an entertainment. Had need, from head to foot, well The only piece of pleasantry in Pa understand; radife Loft, is where the evil spirits Not understood, this gift they have are described as rallying the Angels besides, upon the success of their new in They show us when our foes walk vented artillery. This passage I not upright. look upon to be the most excep Thus they among themselves in tionable in the whole poem, as be pleasant vein ing nothing else but a string of puns, Stood scoffing and those too very indifferent.

HAVING already treated of Satan beheld their plight, the fable, the characters and sentiAnd to his mates thus in derision ments in the Paradise Lost, we are calld. «

in the last place to consider the

language ; language; and as the learned world tend to each minute particular, and is very much divided upon Milton give the last finishing to every cir. as to this point, I hope they will cumstance in so long a work. The excuse me if I appear particular in ancient critics therefore, who were any of my opinions, and incline acted by a spirit of candor, rather to those who judge the most ad- than that of cavilling, invented vantageously of the author.

certain figures of speech, on purIt is requisite that the language pose to palliate little errors of this of an heroic poem should be both nature in the writings of those auperfpicuous and sublime. In pro- thors who had so many greater portion as either of these two qua- beauties to atone for them. sities are wanting, the language is If clearness and perspicuity were imperfect. Perspicuity is the first only to be consulted, the poet and most necessary qualification; in- would have nothing else to do but somuch that a good-natur'd reader to clothe his thoughts in the most fometimes overlooks a little flip plain and natural expressions. But even in the grammar or syntax, fince it often happens that the most where it is impossible for him to obvious phrases, and those which mistake the poet's sense. Of this are used in ordinary conversation. kind is that passage in Milton, become too familiar to the ear, and wherein he speaks of Satan.

contract a kind of meanness by

passing through the mouths of the God and his Son except, . vulgar, a poet should take particuCreated thing nought valu'd he lar care to guard himself againft nor Thunn'd.

idiomatic ways of speaking. Ovid

and Lucan have many poornesses And that in which he describes

of expression upon this account, as Adam and Eve.

taking up with the first phrases that Adam the goodliest man of men offered, without putting themselves since born

to the trouble of looking after such His sons, the fairest of her daugh- as would not only be natural, but ters Eve

also elevated and sublime. Milton

has but a few failings in this kind, It is plain, that in the former of of which, however, you may meet these passages, according to the with some instances, as in the fol, niewral syntax, the divine Persons lowing passages. sxentioned in the first line are represented as created beings; and Embrio's and idiots, eremites and that in the other, Adam and Eve are confounded with their sons and Wbite, black and gray, with all daughters. Such little blemishes

their trumpery, as these, when the thought is great Here pilgrims roam and natural, we should, with Ho. A while discourse they hold, race, impute to a pardonable in No fear left dinner cool; when thus advertency, or to the weakness of began human nature, which cannot at Our author



Who of all ages to succeed, but these authors the affectation of feeling

greatness often hurts the perspi. The evil on him brought by me, cuity of the stile, as in many others will curse

the endevor after perspicuity preMy head, III fare our ancestor judices its greatness. impure,

Aristole has observed, that the For tbis we may thank Adam — idiomatic stile may be avoided, and

the sublime formed, by the followThe great masters in composition ing methods. First, by the use of know very well that many an ele- metaphors: such are those in Milton. gant phrase becomes improper for

Imparadis'd in one another's arms.

at a poet or an orator, when it has been debased by common use. For

And in his hand a reed this reason the works of ancient

Stood waving tipt with fire. authors, which are written in dead

The grassy clods now calv'd. languages, have a great advan. pangled with eyes tage over those which are writ- In these and innumerable other ten in languages that are now spo- instances, the metaphors are very ken. Were there any mean phrases bold but juft; I must however obor idioms in Virgil and Homer, ferve, that the metaphors are not they would not shock the ear of thick sown in Milton, which althe most delicate modern reader, so ways savors too much of wit ; that much as they would have done that they never clash with one another, of an old Greek or Roman, be- which, as Aristotle observes, turns cause we never hear them pro. a sentence into a kind of an enigma nounced in our streets, or in ordi- or riddle; and that he seldom has nary conversation.

recourse to them where the proper It is not therefore sufficient, that and natural words will do as well. the language of an epic poem be Another way of raising the lanperfpicuous, unless it be also sublime, guage, and giving it a poetical To this end it ought to deviate turn, is to make use of the idioms from the common forms and or- of other tongues. Virgil is full of dinary phrases of speech. The the Greek forms of speech, which judgment of a poet very much the critics call Hellenisms, as Hodiscovers itself in thunning the com- race in his odes abounds with them mon roads of expression, without much more than Virgil. I need not falling into such ways of speech as mention the several dialects which may seem stiff and unnatural; he Homer has made use of for this jaust not swell into a false sublime, end. Milton in conformity with by endevoring to avoid the other the practice of the ancient poets, extreme. Among the Greeks, Æf- and with Aristotle's rule, has inchylas, and sometimes Sophocles fused a great many Latinisms as were gailty of this fault; among well as Græcisms, and sometimes the Latins, Claudian and Statius; Hebraisms, into the language of and among our own Country- his poem; as towards the beginmen, Shakespear- and Lee. In ning of it,


Nor did they not perceive the evil you observe the measure of his plight

verse, he has with great judgment In which they were, or the fierce fuppressed a fyllable in several pains not feel.

words, and shortned those of two Yet to their general's voice they syllables into one, by which mefoon obey'd.

i thod, besides the above-mentioned -Who shall tempt with wand'ring advantage, he has given a greater : feet .

variety to his numbers. But this The dark unbottom'd infinite a- practice is more particularly re• byss,

markable in the names of persons And through the palpable obfcure and of countries, as Beëlzebub, Heffind out

febon, and in many other particuHis uncouth way, or spread his lars, wherein he has either changed airy flight

the name, or made use of that Upborne with indefatigable wings which is not the most commonly Over the vast abrupt !

known, that he might the better So both ascend

depart from the language of the In the visions of God —

... vulgar. B. 11. "

1. The same reason recommended Under this head may be reckoned to him several old words, which the placing the adjective after the also makes his poem appear the substantive, the transposition of more venerable, and gives it a words, the turning the adjective greater air of antiquity. into a substantive, with several I must likewise take notice, that other foreign modes of speech, there are in Milton several words which this poet has naturalized to of his own coining, as Cerberear, give his verse the greater found, miscreated, Hell-doom'd, embryon aand throw it out of prose.

toms, and many others. If the The third method mentioned by reader is offended at this liberty Aristotle, is what agrees with the in our English poet, I would regenius of the Greek language more commend him to a discourse in than with that of any other tongue, Plutarch, which shows us how freand is therefore more used by Ho- quently Homer has made use of mer than by any other poet. I the same liberty. mean the lengthning of a phrase Milton by the above-mentioned by the addition of words, which helps, and by the choice of the may either be inserted or omitted, noblest words and phrases which as also by the extending or con. our tongue would afford him, has tracting of particular words by the carried our language to a greater insertion or omission of certain syl- highth than any of the English lables. Milton has put in practice poets have ever done before or this method of raising his language, after him, and made the sublimity as far as the nature of our tongue of his stile equal to that of his will permit, as in the passage above- sentiments. mentioned, eremite, for what is I have been the more particular hermite, in common discourse. If in these observations on Milton's


« AnteriorContinuar »