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is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, retire har. raffed and overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master, and seek for companions.
Another inconvenience of Milton's design is, that it requires the description of what cannot be described, the agency of spirits. He saw that immateriality supplied no images, and that he could not show angels acting but by instruments of action; he therefore invested them with form and matter. This, being necessary, was therefore defensible; and he should have fecured the consistency of his system, by keeping immateriality out of sight, and enticing his reader to drop it from his thoughts. But he has
unhappily perplexed his poetry with his philosophy. His infernal and celestial powers are sometiines pure spirit, and sometimes animated body. When Satản walks with his lance upon the burning marle, he has a body ; when in his pasfage between hell and the new world, he is in danger of finking in the vacuity, and is supported by a gust of rising vapours, he has a body; when he animates the toad, he seems to be mere fpirit, that can penetrate matter at pleafure; when he starts up in his own shape, he has at least a determined form; and when he is brought before Gabriel, he has a spear and shield, which he had the power of hiding in the toad, though the arms of the contending angels are evidently material.
The vulgar inhabitants of Pandæmonium being incorporeal spirits, are at large, though without number, in a limited space; yet in the battle, when they were overwhelmed by mountains, their armour hurt them, crushed in upon their substance, now grown gross by finning. This likewise happened to the uncorrupted angels, who were overthrown the sooner for their arms, for unarmed they might easily as fpirits have evaded by contraction, or remove. Even as spirits they are hardly spiritual; for contraction and remove are images of matter; but if they could have escaped without their armour, they might have
escaped from it, and left' only the empty cover to be battered. Uriel, when he rides on a sun-beam, is material : Satan is material when he is afraid of the prowess of Adam.
The confusion of spirit and matter which pervades the whole narration of the war of heaven fills it with incongruity; and the book, in which it is related, is, I believe, the favourite of children, and gradually neglected as knowledge is increased.
After the operation of immaterial agents, which cannot be explained, may be considered that of allegorical persons, which have no real existence. To exalt causes into agents, to invest abstract ideas with form, and animate them with
activity, has always been the right of poetry. But such airy beings are, for the most part, suffered only to do their natural ofice; and retire. Thus Fame tells a tale, and Victory hovers over a general, or perches on a standard ; but Fame and Victory can do no more. To give them any real employment, or aicribe to them any material agency, is to make them allegorical no longer, but to thock the mind by ascribing effects to non-entity. In the Prometheus of Æschylus, we see Tislence and Strength, and in the dice fis of Euripides, we see Death brought upon the stage, all as active persons of the drama; but no precedents can justify absurdity.