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but they are not amiable. The reader may rise from their works with a greater degree of active or paffive fortitude, and fometimes of prudence; but he will be able to carry away few precepts of justice, and none of mercy.
From the Italian writers it appears, that the advantages of even Christian knowledge may be possessed in vain. Ariosto’s pravity is generally known ; and though the Deliverance of Jerusalem may be considered as a sacred fubject, the poet has been very sparing of moral instruction.
In Milton every line breathes sanctity of thought, and purity of manners, except when the train of the narration requires the introduction of the rebellious
fpirits ; and even they are compelled to acknowledge their subjection to God, in such a manner as excites reverence and confirms piety.
Of human beings there are but two; but those two are the parents of mankind, venerable before their fall for dig. nity and innocence, and amiable after it for repentance and submission. In their first state their affection is tender without weakness, and their piety sublime without presumption. When they have finned, they shew how discord begins in natural frailty, and how it ought to cease in mutual forbearance; how confidence of the divine favour is forfeited by fin, and how hope of pardon may be obtained by penitence and
prayer. A state of innocence we can only conceive, if indeed, in our present misery, it be possible to conceive it; but the sentiments and worship proper to a fallen and offending being, we have all to learn, as we have all to practise.
The poet, whatever be done, is always great. Our progenitors, in their first state, conversed with angels; even when folly and fin had degraded them, they had not in their humiliation the port of mean fuitors; and they rise again to reverential regard, when we find that their prayers were heard.
As human passions did not enter the world before the Fall, there is in the Paradise Loft little opportunity for the. pathetick; but what little there is has
not been lost. That passion which is peculiar to rational nature, the anguish arising from the consciousness of transgreffion, and the horrours attending the sense of the Divine displeasure, are very justly described and forcibly impressed. But the passions are moved only on one occasion; sublimity is the general and prevailing quality in this poem; fublimity variously modified, sometimes de fcriptive, sometimes argumentative.
The defects and faults of Paradise Loft, for faults and defects every work of man must have, it is the business of impartial criticism to discover. As, in displaying the excellence of Milton, I have not made long quotations, because of selecting bcauties there had
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been no end, I shall in the fame general manner mention that which seems to deserve cenfure; for what Englishman can take delight in transcribing passages, which, if they lessen the reputation of Milton, diminish in some degree the 'honour of our country?
The generality of my scheme does not admit the frequent notice of verbal inaccuracies; which Bentley, perhaps better skilled in grammar than in poetry, has often found, though he some"times made them, and which he imputed to the obtrusions of a reviser whom the author's blindness obliged him to employ. A supposition rash and groundless, if he thought it true; and