« ПредишнаНапред »
vile and pernicious, if, as is said, he in private allowed it to be false.
. The plan of Paradise Lost has this inconvenience, that it comprises neither human actions nor human manners. The man and woman who act and suffer, are in a state which no other man or woman can ever know. The reader finds no transaction in which he can be engaged ; beholds no condition in which he can by any effort of imagination place himself; he has, therefore, little natural curiosity or sympathy.
We all, indeed, feel the effects of Adam's disobedience; we all sin like Adam, and like him inust all bewail our offences; we have restless and infidious enemies in the fallen angels, and
in the bleffed fpirits we have guardians and friends; in the Redemption of mankind we hope to be included; and in the description of heaven and hell we are surely interested, as we are all to refide hereafter either in the regions of horror or of bliss. -- But these truths are too important to be new; they have been taught to our infancy; they have mingled with our folitary thoughts and familiar conversation, and are habitually interwoven with the whole texture of life. Being therefore not new, they raise no unaccustomed emotion in the mind; what we knew before we cannot learn ; what is not unexpected cannot surprise.
...Of the ideas suggested by these awful scenes, from fome we recede with reverence, except when stated hours require their association; and from others we shrink with horror, or admit them only as falutary inflictions, as counterpoises to our interests and passions. Such images rather obstruct the career of fancy than incite it.
Pleasure and terrour are indeed the genuine fources of poetry; but poetical pleasure must be such as human imagination can at least conceive, and poetical terrour such as human ftrength and fortitude may combat. The good and evil of Eternity are too ponderous for the wings of wit; the mind finks under them in passive helplessness, content 04
with calm belief and humble adoration.
Known truths, however, may take a different appearance, and be conveyed 10 the mind by a new train of interinediate images. This Milton has undertaken, and performed with pregnancy and vigour of mind peculiar to himself. Whoever considers the few radical pofilions which the Scriptures afforded him, will wonder by what energetick operation he expanded them to such extent, and ramified them to so much variety, restrained as he was by religious reverence from licentiousness of fiction.
Here is a full display of the united force of study and genius; of a great accumulation of materials, with judge
ment to digest, and fancy to combine them : Milton was able to select from nature, or from story, from ancient fable, or from modern science, whatever could illustrate or adorn his thoughts. An accumulation of knowledge impregnated his mind, fermented by study, and fublimed by imagination.
It has been therefore said, without an indecent hyperbole, by one of his encomiasts, that in reading Paradise Lost we read a book of universal knowledge.
But original deficience cannot be fupplied. The want of human interestis always felt. Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. Its perufal