« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Lord. For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; to declare the name of the Lord to Zion, and his praise to Jerusalem; where the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord. Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea
all of them shall wax old as a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.
" CAMPBELL” ON THE POETRY OF MIL.
In Milton, there may be traced obligations to several minor English poets; but his genius had too great a supremacy to belong to any school. Though he acknowledged filial reverence for Spenser as a poet, he left no gothic irregular tracery in the design of his own great work, but gave a classical harmony of parts to its stupendous pile. It thus resembles a dome, the vastness of which is at first sight concealed by its symmetry, but which expands more and more to the eye while it is contemplated. His early poetry seems nei
ther to have disturbed or corrected the bad taste of his age.
When “Paradise Lost” appeared, though it was not neglected, it attracted no crowd of imitators, and made no visible change in the poetic practice of the age. He stood alone, and aloof above his times, the bard of immortal subjects, and, as far as there is perpetuity in language, of immortal fame. There is something that overawes the mind in conceiving his long deliberated selection of that theme his attempting it when his eyes were shut
the face of nature, his dependance, we might almost say, on supernatural inspiration, and in the calm air of strength with which he opens “Paradise Lost”, beginning a mighty performance without the appearance of an effort. The warlike part of Paradise Lost was inseparable from its subject. Whether it could have been differently managed, is a problem which our reverence for Milton will scarcely permit us to state. What an awful effect has the dim and undefined conception of the conflict which we gather from the opening of the first book! There the veil of mystery is left undrawn between us and a subject, which the powers of description were inadequate to exhibit. If we call diction the garb of thought, Milton, in his style, may be said to wear the garb of sovereignty. The idioms even of foreign languages contributed to adorn it. He was the most learned of poets : yet his learning interferes not with his substantial English purity. His simplicity is unimpaired by glowing ornament, like the bust in the sacred flame, which burnt, but was not consumed.
The powers of Milton's Hell are godlike shapes and forms. Their appearance dwarfs every other poetical conception, when we turn our dilated eyes from contemplating them. It is not their external attributes alone which expand the imagination, but their souls, which are as colossal as their stature" their thoughts that wander through eternity”—the pride that burns amid the ruins of their divine natures, and their genius, that feels with the ardor, and debates with the eloquence of heaven.
ERSKINE, ON THE TRIAL OF “STOCK
I have not considered this subject through the cold medium of books, but I have been speaking of man and his nature, and of human dominion from, what I have seen of them myself amongst reluctant nations submitting to our authority. I have heard them in my youth from a naked savage, in the indignant character of a prince surrounded by his subjects, addressing the governor of a British colony, holding a bundle of sticks in his hand, as the notes of his unlettered eloquence :—who is it? said the jealous ruler over the desert, encroached upon by the restless foot of English adventure-"Who is it that causes this river to rise in the high mountains, and to empty itself into the ocean? Who is it that causes to blow the loud winds of winter, and that calms them in the summer? Who
is it that rears up the shade of those lofty forests, and blasts them with the quick lightning at his pleasure ? The same Being who gave to you a country on the other side of the waters, and gave ours to us: and by this title we will defend it, said the warrior, throwing down his tomahawk on the ground and raising the war sound of his nation." These are the feelings of subjugated man all round the globe; and depend upon it, nothing but fear will control where it is vain to look for affection.
These reflections are the only antidotes to those anathemas,of super-human eloquence which have lately shaken these walls. If England, from a lust of ambition and dominion, will insist on maintaining despotic rule over distant and hostile nations, beyond all comparison more numerous and extended than herself, and gives commissions to her Viceroys to govern them, with no other instructions than to preserve them, and secure permanently their revenues ; with what color of reason can she place herself in the moral chair, and affect to be shocked at the execution of her own orders ? Such a proceeding, Gentlemen, begets serious reflections. It would be better perhaps for the masters and servants of all such governments, to join in supplication, that the great author of violated humanity. may not confound them together in one common judgment. You will be told that the matters which I have justified as legal, and even meritorious, have not
been made the subject of complaint;, that whatever intrinsic merit parts of the book or even the whole may be admitted to posses, such merit can afford no justification for the selected passages, some of which, even with the context, carry the meaning charged by the information, and which are indecent animadversions on authority. To this I would answer that you are not bound to subject an author to infamy, because, in the zealous career of a just and animated composition he happens to have tripped with his pen into one or two intemperate expressions, if you are satisfied of the general purity of his intentions. If this severe duty were binding on your consciences, the liberty of the press would be an empty sound, and no man could venture to write on any subject, however pure
pure his purpose, without an attorney at one elbow and a counsel at the other. It is the nature of every thing in this world that is great and useful, both in the animate and inanimate world, to be wild and irregular. Genius breaks from the fetters of criticism, but its wanderings are sanctioned by its majesty and wisdom, when it advances in its path ; subject it to the critic and you tame it into dulness. Mighty rivers break down their banks in the winter, sweeping away to death the flocks which are fattened on the soil they fertilize in the summer : the few may be saved by embankments from drowning, but the flock must perish for hunger. Tempests shake our dwellings and dissipate our commerce; but they scourge before thew the lazy elements, which, without