Page images

to give him a general idea of those effects which his guilt had brought upon his posterity, places before him a large hospital, or lazar-house, filled with persons lying under all kinds of mortal diseases. How finely has the poet told us that the sick persons languished under lingering and incurable distempers, by an apt and judicious use of such imaginary beings as those I mentioned in my last Saturday's paper!

[ocr errors]

6 Dire was the tossing, deep the groans; Despair
Tended the sick, busy from couch to couch;
And over them triumphant Death his dart
Shook, but delay'd to strike, tho' oft invok'd
With vows, as their chief good and final hope.'

The passion which likewise rises in Adam on this occasion is very natural:

Sight so deform what heart of rock could long Dry-ey'd behold? Adam could not, but wept, Tho' not of woman born; compassion quell'd His best of man, and gave him up to tears.'

The discourse between the angel and Adam which follows, abounds with noble morals.

As there is nothing more delightful in poetry than a contrast and opposition of incidents, the author, after this melancholy prospect of death and sickness, raises up a scene of mirth, love, and jollity. The secret pleasure that steals into Adam's heart, as he is intent upon this vision, is imagined with great delicacy. I must not omit the description of the loose female troop, who seduced the sons of God, as they are called in scripture.

'For that fair female troop thou saw'st, that seem'd Of goddesses, so blythe, so smooth, so gay,

Yet empty of all good, wherein consists
Woman's domestic honour, and chief praise;

Bred only and completed to the taste

Of lustful appetence, to sing, to dance,

To dress, and troule the tongue, and roll the eye.
To these that sober race of men, whose lives
Religious titled them the sons of God,

Shall yield up all their virtue, all their fame,
Ignobly, to the trains and to the smiles

Of those fair atheists

The next vision is of a quite contrary nature, and filled with the horrors of war. Adam at the sight of it melts into tears, and breaks out into that passionate speech,

O what are these!

Death's ministers, not men, who thus deal'death
Inhumanly to men, and multiply

Ten thousandfold the sin of him who slew

His brother: for of whom such massacre

Make they, but of their brethren, men of men?”

Milton to keep up an agreeable variety in his visions, after having raised in the mind of his reader the several ideas of terror which are conformable to the description of war, passes on to those softer images of triumphs and festivals, in that vision of lewdness and luxury which ushers in the flood.

As it is visible that the poet had his eye upon Ovid's account of the universal deluge, the reader may observe with how much judgment he has avoided every thing that is redundant or puerile in the Latin poet. We do not here see the wolf swimming among the sheep, nor any of those wanton imaginations which Seneca found fault with, as unbecoming this great catastrophe of nature. If our poet has imitated that verse in which Ovid tells us that there was nothing but sea, and that this sea had no shore to it, he has not set the thought in such a light

as to incur the censure which critics have passed upon it. The latter part of that verse in Ovid is idle and superfluous, but just and beautiful in Milton.

Jamque mare et tellus nullum discrimen habebant ;
Nil nisi pontus erat; deerunt quoque littora ponto.'
ÖVID. Metam. i. 201.

'Now seas and earth were in confusion lost;
A world of waters, and without a coast.'


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

In Milton the former part of the description does not forestal the latter. How much more great and solemn on this occasion is that which follows in our English poet,

[ocr errors][merged small]

Where luxury late reign'd, sea-monsters whelp'd
And stabled

than that in Ovid, where we are told that the seacalf lay in those places where the goats were used to browse! The reader may find several other parallel passages in the Latin and English description of the deluge, wherein our poet has visibly the advantage. The sky's being overcharged with clouds, the descending of the rains, the rising of the seas, and the appearance of the rainbow, are such descriptions, as every one must take notice of. The circumstance relating to Paradise is so finely imagined, and suitable to the opinions of many learned authors, that I cannot forbear giving it a place in this paper.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Of Paradise, by might of waves, be mov'd
Out of his place, push'd by the horned flood
With all his verdure spoil'd, and trees adrift
Down the great river to th' opening gulf,

[ocr errors]

And there take root; an island salt and bare,
The haunt of seals and orcs and sea-mews' clang.'

The transition which the poet makes from the vision of the deluge, to the concern it occasioned in Adam, is exquisitely graceful, and copied after Virgil, though the first thought it introduces is rather in the spirit of Ovid:

'How didst thou grieve then, Adam, to behold
The end of all thy offspring, end so sad,
Depopulation! Thee another flood,

Of tears and sorrow, a flood, thee also drown'd,
And sunk thee as thy sons: till gently rear'd
By th' angel, on thy feet thou stood'st at last,
Tho' comfortless, as when a father mourns
His children all in view destroyed at once.'

I have been the more particular in my quotations out of the eleventh book of Paradise Lost, because it is not generally reckoned among the most shining books of this poem; for which reason the reader might be apt to overlook those many passages in it which deserve our admiration. The eleventh and twelfth are indeed built upon that single circumstance of the removal of our first parents from Paradise; but though this is not in itself so great a subject as that in most of the foregoing books, it is extended and diversified with so many surprising incidents and pleasing episodes, that these two last books can by no means be looked upon as unequal parts of this divine poem. I must further add, that, had not Milton represented our first parents as driven out of Paradise, his fall of man would not have been complete, and consequently his action would have been imperfect.


N° 364. MONDAY, APRIL 28, 1712.

Novibus atque

Quadrigis petimus bene vivere.

HOR. 1 Ep. xi. 29.

Anxious through seas and land. to search for rest,
Is but laborious idleness at best.



'A LADY of my acquaintance, for whom I have too much respect to be easy while she is doing an indiscreet action, has given occasion to this trouble. She is a widow to whom the indulgence of a tender husband has entrusted the management of a very great fortune, and a son about sixteen, both which she is extremely fond of. The boy has parts of the middle size, neither shining nor despicable, and has passed the common exercises of his years with tolerable advantage, but is withal what you would call a forward youth: by the help of this last qualification, which serves as a varnish to all the rest, he is enabled to make the best use of his learning, and display it at full length upon all occasions. Last summer he distinguished himself two or three times very remarkably, by puzzling the vicar before an assembly of most of the ladies in the neighbourhood; and from such weighty considerations as these, as it too often unfortunately falls out, the mother is become invincibly persuaded that her son is a great scholar; and that to chain him down to the ordinary methods of education, with others of his age, would be to cramp his facul

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »