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No. IV.


If, however, every thing in " Paradise Lost" were real, it would still excite but little interest, because we could never sympathize with the characters described in it, however convinced we might be of their existence. We are so formed by nature, that we can sympathize with nothing of which our senses can take no cognizance. They are as much the media of our feelings as they are of our ideas, and therefore all our pleasures must be referred to them as their original sources, because our pleasures themselves are only modifications of feeling. The pleasures of imagination indeed, do not proceed directly from these sources, but they can, like our ideas of reflection, be ultimately traced to them. An object, however, may be such as we can take cognizance of, and yet excite no sympathy; for many of the objects which are submitted to our senses excite no emotion whatever, except on those particular occasions when they are connected with other objects, or when we are ourselves placed under certain influences. But there are certain objects that never please us, whatever influences we may be subject to at the moment, unless the mind be actually disordered. These objects are such as infinitely exceed us in might and power, and which possess a nature entirely different from our own. We love to see strength, energy, rapidity, and mental fortitude; but it is certain that whatever we love most, becomes indifferent, and sometimes disgusting to us, when carried to excess. If Homer, therefore, had endowed any of his characters with the strength of an elephant, or the rapidity of an arrow, he would never stir up those passions in us which are inspired by the presence of Ajax, Achilles and Hector. Even mental fortitude can excite no sympathy when it approaches to insensibility. The beings described in the "Paradise Lost," have therefore, none of the conditions that could render them agreeable. In


the first place, they are placed beyond the cognizance of our senses: in the second, if they were such enormous masses of animated being as they are described by Milton, they would only create terIf then they do not terrify us, it is simply because we feel a conviction that they are not what they are described to be; but this conviction, as I have already observed, destroys the interest, and consequently renders them unfit instruments for poetical agency; so that in whatever point of view we consider them, they can never excite that genial rapture and enthusiasm which is the soul of poetry. There is, indeed, an unskilful mixture of gods and men in the Iliad, but yet the human species are those which are chiefly engaged; and even Homer's gods are more interesting than Milton's angels; because we find them always in company with our own species, endeavouring to promote or retard their designs. Besides, we know that Milton himself never believed his angels to be what he described them to be; whereas we suppose Homer to have believed implicitly in every thing he relates. Neither did he attach the same idea to his gods that we do to angels. The gods of the ancients were not properly immaterial beings, for they always supposed them to possess something of materiality; but we have been taught from our earliest infancy to divest spirit of every thing material. Milton, then, evidently engaged in a subject which did not come home to the feelings of human nature. We endure his characters merely because we know them to be the creations of fancy; but experience shews us, that mere imagination imparts only light and airy pleasures, even where its images are taken from objects with which we are perfectly acquainted. Pope's " Ode to St. Cecilia's Day," has never been so much admired as Dryden's; though I could never discover that any writer or critic has

• By the Author of the “Critical Dissertation on the Nature and Principles of Taste," reviewed in our Number for March, 1822.

accounted for the cause. If we read it from beginning to end, we can find no passage or sentiment which we would wish to change. If, then, we can find no fault, why do we prefer Dryden's to it? Our preference, however, is right, and shews the reliance which should always be placed on the judgment of the public; for it always decides justly, though it cannot always assign a cause for its decision. The cause, however, will appear manifest enough, when we come to perceive, that what is founded on obvious fiction, or, in other words, what is evidently the creation of fancy or imagination, never excites our sympathies so strongly as what carries along with it all the appearances of truth and reality. In Pope's Ode, all the characters are feigned, or if Orpheus and Eurydice had any real existence, at least we have every reason to doubt of it. They would, however, be extremely interesting; because whether real or not, they are represented as such, and afford no sensible evidence of being otherwise, were it not that a great part of the poem is gone over before either of them is introduced; and even then their names are not mentioned, and no person can tell whom the poet alludes to, except he be already acquainted with their history. Pope seems to have thought, that the art of concealing their names, and introducing them by general terms and allusions to their history, which could only be known to the learned, would appear more ingenious, and better contrived, than the vulgar mode of introducing them at once by their proper names. But in this he was mistaken; for ideas of association produce little effect in poetry till a deep interest is first excited, and this interest can be excited only by what is palpably placed before our eyes. The poet must never commence by alluding to images with which he supposes us already acquainted; for whatever celerity of mind we may possess, it requires some time to go in search of them, and recal them to our memory; and while we are thus engaged, our attention is necessarily divided between what we read, and what the poet sends us in pursuit of; so that the mind derives little pleasure from either. Poetic images, to produce a strong impression, must consequently be placed before us, and not hid behind a veil; and the more conspicuous they appear, the more powerful will be their impression, because

they have then all the appearances of life and reality. I do not mean, however, that all images should appear equally prominent, but each should appear as conspicuous as its situation in the group will allow. After passion is once excited, poetic allusions, and remote imagery may afterwards be occasionally introduced with great propriety, because they serve to connect the capital parts, and to relieve us from the enervating influence of more ardent pleasures, and more impassioned delights. If these observations be true, it is obvious that Pope acted very injudiciously in keeping back the interest of the poem as long as he could; and eveu then refusing to let us know who the characters were towards whom he wished to excite our sympathies. Orpheus is never spoken of by name till we come within four lines of the end, and is merely called, "the poet," "the husband," but if we would know who the poet or the husband is, we must go to our mythological dictionary, and find out who the musician was who went to hell and made the stone of

Sisyphius stand still,

Ixion rest upon his wheel, And the pale spectres dance! Neither are we told who the object of his affections was, till he is on the point of leaving hell. We are merely informed, that

Love, strong as Death, the poet led

To the pale nations of the dead. But we are kept in ignorance of the fond idol of his attachment as long as possible; and it would seem that Pope would not have informed us of it, even at his departure from hell, if he could have avoided it. This study of concealment will, no doubt, amuse the reader, because it shews ingenuity; and if the object of the poet be merely to amuse, he does well to have recourse to it; but it will never excite passion, and passion alone is the soul of poetry. Instead of beginning at once, as he ought to have done, with Orpheus and Eurydice, Pope commences his Ode by a common place address to the Nine. No other Being, either human or divine, appears till he has gone through nearly half the Ode, except Music, Melancholy, Morpheus, Sloth, Envy, War, and Faction. These, every person knows to be mere allegorical beings, with whom we cannot possibly sympathize, because we know them


to be mere fictions of the poet. Through out the rest of the Ode, we have nothing but "shady forms," " Sisyphus," "death," " ghosts,' fairies," &c. for whom we feel as little concern as for the letters which compose their names, till we come to Orpheus and Eurydice themselves, who would be still more interesting than they are, if we could only prevail on ourselves to believe that they were real personages; for every thing is interesting only in proportion as it appears to be real. The pleasure which we derive, therefore, from the perusal of the greater part of this poem, is merely what is created by the ingenuity of the poet, whom we cannot help admiring for his invention, and the skill with which he has grouped such airy, unsubstantial forms. But it is one thing to admire the poet, and another to be interested by the poem ; for without this interest, it appears to us merely as a gilded bauble. How different is the interest excited by Dryden's Ode. All the characters are real, or at least, we believe them to be so. Jupiter and Bacchus, it is true, are introduced; but we find them in company with Philip, the conqueror of Greece, Alexander, the conqueror of the world, Timotheus, the chief of musicians, and Darius, the most interesting of them all, because the most unfortunate. Who can read the following lines, without that conflict of contending emotions which possessed the soul of Alexander himself.

Soothed with the sound, the king grew vain,
Fought all his battles o'er again;
And thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice

he slew the slain.

The master saw the madness rise,
His glowing cheeks, his ardent eyes;
And, while he heaven and earth defied,
Changed his hand, and checked his pride.
He chose a mournful musc,

Soft pity to infuse :

He sung Darius, great and good,
By too severe a fate

Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,
Fallen from his high estate,
And weltering in his blood;
Deserted at his utmost need,
By those his former bounty fed;
On the bare earth exposed he lies,
With not a friend to close his eyes.
With downcast look the joyless victor sat,
Revolving in his altered soul
The various turns of fate below:
And now and then a sigh he stole,
And tears began to flow,

Had Dryden never written more than
Eur. Mag. Vol. 81. May 1822.

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these lines, they should have rendered him immortal. They do not present us with airy images, or shady forms," but describe, what we know to be true, the rapid succession of feelings, passions, emotions and sympathies, excited in our breasts by a corresponding series of external impressions. Dryden commences his Ode at once with " Philip's warlike son," and leaves the "Nine" to be invoked by children. I doubt not, indeed, but a youth would prefer Pope's Ode to Dryden's, because it is more airy and amusing; and amusement is all that youth seek after. They are as yet strangers to the stronger energies and passions of human nature; and consequently they cannot sympathize with them. A youth cannot feel the variety of passions which agitated the bosom of Alexander during the royal feast; and therefore, so far from being affected by them, he views them with indifference; or, perhaps, laughs them to scorn; but he can travel with pleasure through the airy regions of romance, and inhale ambrosial fragrance as he wanders with Pope,

By the streams that ever flow;
By the fragrant winds that blow
O'er the Elysian flowers;
By those happy souls who dwell
In yellow meads of Asphodel,

Or Amaranthine bowers. Indeed the charms of imagination are so captivating, when judiciously intermingled with the realities of life; and the pleasures which they afford are of so light and airy a character, that even philosophers themselves have been seduced into an opinion, that they are the most agreeable and impassioned of all others: and though experience continually detects the illusion, it is still an opinion universally received. But if its pleasures be really of the highest character, why are descriptive poems the most uninteresting of all others when they are not intermixed with incidents and situations taken from real life. The truth is, that imagination is like sugar, which pleases us when mixed with relishes less agreeable than itself, but which soon satiates us when taken alone. It is the same with imagination: it pleases us for a moment, and satiates us the moment after, unless it be intermixed with incidents taken from real life. But even the pleasure which it imparts for the first moment never rises to passion. It possesses

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charms, however, of the most delightful and enchanting kind; but they neither enchant nor delight, except when they are unexpectedly met with in descriptions of scenes and occurrences supposed to be real; for, as I have observed in my Essay on "the Criterion of Poetical Preeminence," imagination when properly regulated, throws its charms over the whole circle of the arts and sciences; and clothes the most abstract subject in the magic vesture of its own enchantment."

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It is obvious, then, that a poem, such as the "Paradise Lost," which is not only from beginning to end a mere fiction of imagination, but which also manifests itself to be such to every reader, can give no lasting interest, and excite no passion. It is no argument to say, that it is founded on the scriptures, unless it be admitted, at the same time, that it can please only those who have faith in things not submitted to the cognizance of the senses; for the scriptures themselves unequivocally declare, that the doctrines which they teach are too sublime for human comprehension; that no man can see God and live; and that we now see as in a glass, darkly. Indeed, if they taught us any other doctrine, it would be impossible to credit them without forfeiting reason altogether, because we have a demonstrative conviction, that we know nothing of immaterial being. But even granting that all men believed in the scriptures, it is still obvious that faith is an act of the understanding; for if it be a mere impulse of feeling, we require neither priests nor preachers to convince us of the truth of its doctrines. If faith be an act of the understanding, it cannot be a source of poetical pleasures; for I have already shewn, and I could adduce the highest authority in support of what I then advanced, that nothing is more destructive of poetic rapture than the least appearance of reasoning, discussion, deliberation, or any act of the mind which does not appear to emanate instinctively from our immediate feelings. Hence it is, that too much acquired learning is frequently dangerous to the poet, because it generates a habit of reasoning, of which we cannot easily divest ourselves, even when our object is not to convince the understanding, but to please the heart; and if this be not always, at least it should be always the object of the poet; for if he

wants only to instruct, he will always find prose a more convenient vehicle of communicating his knowledge to the world.

Perhaps it may be argued, that as the Iliad of Homer is as much a work of imagination as the Paradise Lost of Milton; all my distinctions are, consequently, mere castles in the air. But it might as well be contended, that he who attempted to distinguish between a monarchical and a republican government was a fool, because the one was as much a government as the other. Instead of replying to such an objection, I would merely ask those who make it, whether they do not imagine that every thing in Dryden's Ode to Music is real, while they are reading it, and that every thing in Pope's is fictitious; or, at least, extremely doubtful; and whether they are not more moved by what they imagine to be real, than by what they know to be fictitious? If they admit this, I require no more, because all I wish to prove is, that whatever appears real, no matter whether it be so or not, is a source of higher pleasure, of greater interest, of more ardent feelings, and of deeper passion than what appears to be the mere offspring of imagination, should it even afterwards turn out to be true. All the productions of taste are, indeed, called works of imagination; but this only shews the necessity under which species under one genus. we are placed of comprising different

To remove, however, all obscurity or confusion of ideas that can possibly arise from calling all the productions of taste, works of imagination, I beg leave to say, that poetic descriptions may be divided into four classes: firstsuch descriptions of human life and of human passions as have all the appearance of truth and reality; second

descriptions of human life and passions which, from various circumstances in the description, prove them to be purely fictitious; third-descriptions of external nature that have all the appearance of truth and reality; fourth descriptions of external nature that are obviously feigned. All these classes of poetic descriptions are referred to the imagination by an extension of the term; but in a more rigid and confined sense, ideas of imagination are mere images or pictures of things which are not present to our view when we are actually describing

them, which are taken entirely from our own conceptions; and which are presented in such a manner, that the reader instinctively perceives that their prototypes in nature never existed; and that consequently they are purely fictitious. When, therefore, I say that mere imagination imparts only light and airy pleasures, I confine myself to imagination, understood in this sense alone; or, in other words, to the second and fourth classes of poetic descriptions. It is in the first class of descriptions alone, that we can expect to find that soul and spirit of poetry on which I have so much insisted, because every passion which agitates and disturbs the breast of another, raises a corresponding emotion in our own. The description of external nature, even when the picture is taken from actual observation, and painted with the greatest fidelity and truth, can never excite in the human breast the rapture and enthusiasm which poetry is capable of exciting, when it confines itself to the delineation of mental passions and affections. Thompson has described external nature with the greatest elegance and poetic beauty; but what part of his Seasons delights us most,-his pictures of external nature, or his incidental descriptions of human life? I believe no reader would hesitate in replying to this question, or be mistaken in his reply. His Autumn is, perhaps, the most beautiful of his Seasons; but what is there in the Autumn that excites such tender emotions as Palemon's joy in discovering Lavinia to be the daughter of his dear friend, Acasto.

And art thou then Acasto's dear remains!

She whom my restless gratitude has sought
So long in vain? O heavens! the very same.
The softened image of my noble friend;
Alive his every look; his every feature
More elegantly touched.

It ill befits thee, Oh it ill befits
Acasto's daughter, his whose open stores,
Though vast, were little to his ample heart,
The father of a country, thus to pick
The very refuse of those harvest fields,
Which from his bounteous friendshipIenjoy.

The description of human life and passions is, therefore, the highest species of description in poetry; and the more it appears to be taken from real life, the more powerful is its effect. Appear ance however, is all that is requisite to create this deep interest in the mind, for we do not examine the poet and the

historian by the same canons of criticism; and while ever the former preserves the sensible appearances of truth, his pictures affect us as powerfully as if they were taken from real life.

The" Paradise Lost," then, possesses this radical defect, that human feelings and passions, which are the soul of poetry, so seldom enter into it, that it is impossible to say, whether Milton was at all acquainted with the human heart. The stronger passions of our nature are never met with in Adam and Eve. The sentiments put into their mouths are too moral and philosophic, and so void of passion and transport of any kind, that Milton could have described them as he did, had he been a perfect Stoic. Even when they quarrel with each other at the end of the ninth book, and where he consequently had an opportunity of making them speak the language of genuine passion, each of them runs into a cold strain of philosophic arguments to justify himself. In fact, the very manner in which Adam is introduced when he commenced the quarrel, proves that he had not a spark of real passion in his breast, or, more probably, that he who introduced him knew not what passion was, and consequently was not qualified to describe it in others. Adam and Eve are described, throughout the "Paradise Lost" as passionately fond of each other: at least they tell each other so, though it is certain that the language in which they describe it, bears not the native impress of genuine affection; and seems less the spontaneous effusions of real attachment, than the studied expressions of dissembled indifference. Whenthem seems to be acting the lover, but ever they address one another, each of in doing so they appear to affect a passion which they do not feel. They are strangers to the language which love instinctively inspires; they are strangers to that tenderness and want of reserve which are its inseparable attendants; and they address each other with as much formality as can possibly be observed in the modern circles of fashionable life. If, however, they really felt that attachment for each other which they profess, it is certain that we could recognize it even in their quarrel; but surely when we are told, that Adam, estranged in look and altered style, speech, intermitted, thus to Eve renewed, we cannot possibly bring ourselves to believe, that he ever felt any real affec

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