Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

an exhaustless imagination. I wish the Paradise Lost were more carefully read and studied than I can see any ground for believing it is, especially those parts which, from the habit of always looking for à story in poetry, are scarcely read at all—as for example, Adam's vision of future events in the 11th and 12th books. No one can rise from the perusal of this immortal poem without a deep sense of the grandeur and the purity of Milton's soul, or without feeling how susceptible of domestic enjoyments he really was, notwithstanding the discomforts which actually-resulted from an apparently unhappy choice in marriage. He was, as every truly great poet has ever been, a good man; but finding it impossible to realize his own aspirations, either in religion, or politics, or society, he gave up his heart to the living spirit and light within him, and avenged himself on the world by enriching it with this record of his own transcendent ideal.

Lit. Rem. I. 169–78.

indeed, wd, in comesaid, effeme

In Spenser, indeed, we trace a mind constitutionally tender, delicate, and, in comparison with his three great compeers, I had almost said, effeminate ; and this additionally saddened by the unjust persecution of Burleigh, and the severe calamities, which overwhelmed his latter days. These causes have diffused over all his compositions 'a melancholy grace', and have drawn forth occasional strains, the more pathetic from their gentleness. But nowhere do we find the least trace of irritability, and still less of quarrelsome or affected contempt of his censurers.

The same calmness, and even greater self-possession, may be affirmed of Milton, as far as his poems, and poetic character are concerned. He reserved his

anger for the enemies of religion, freedom, and his country. My mind is not capable of forming a more august conception, than arises from the contemplation of this great man in his latter days: poor, sick, old, blind, slandered, persecuted,

Darkness before, and danger's voice behind, in an age in which he was as little understood by the party, for whom, as by that, against whom he had contended; and among men before whom he strode so far as to dwarf himself by the distance; yet still listening to the music of his own thoughts, or if additionally cheered, yet cheered only by the prophetie faith of two or three solitary individuals, he did nevertheless

- Argue not Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot Of heart or hope; but still bore up and steer'd

Right onward. From others only do we derive our knowledge that Milton, in his latter day, had his scorners and detractors; and even in his day of youth and hope, that he had enemies would have been unknown to us, had they met been likewise the enemies of his country.

Biog. Lit. ch. 2. The reader of Milton must be always on his duty: he is surrounded with sense; it rises in every line ; every word is to the purpose. There are no lazy intervals; all has been considered, and demands and merits observation. If this be called obscurity, let it be remembered that it is such an obscurity as is a compliment to the reader; not that vicious obscurity, which proceeds from a muddled head.

Ashe, p. 529.

I think nothing can be added to Milton's definition or rule of poetry—that it ought to be simple, sensuous, and impassioned ; that is to say, single in conception, abounding in sensible images, and informing them all with the spirit of the mind.

Milton's Latin style is, I think, better and easier than his English. His style, in prose, is quite as characteristic of him as a philosophic republican, as Cowley's is of him as a first-rate gentleman.

T. T. May 8, 1824. / In the Paradise Lost-indeed in every one of his poems—it is Milton himself whom you see; his Satan, his Adam, his Raphael, almost his Eve—are all John Milton ; and it is a sense of this intense egotism that gives me the greatest pleasure in reading Milton's works. The egotism of such a man is a revelation of spirit.

T. T. Aug. 18, 1833.

RABELAIS AND SWIFT Rabelais is a most wonderful writer. Pantagruel is the Reason ; Panurge the Understanding, the pollarded man, the man with every faculty except the reason. I scarcely know an example more illustrative of the distinction between the two. Rabelais had no mode of speaking the truth in those days but in such a form as this; as it was, he was indebted to the King's protection for his life. Some of the commentators talk about his book being all political ; there are contemporary politics in it, of course, but the real scope is much higher and more philosophical. It is in vain to look about for a hidden meaning in all that he has written ; you will observe that, after any particularly deep thrust, as the Papimania, for

B. C.

[graphic]
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed]
« ПредишнаНапред »