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country of the Cimmerians, which is always covered with clouds and darkness; and, when the spirits of the dead appear, we hardly know whether Uiysses is above or below ground. The ghosts, too, even of the heroes, appear dissatisfied with their condition.
In Virgil, the descent into hell discovers great refinement, corresponding to the progress of philosophy. The objects are more distinct, grand and awful. There is a fine description of the separate mansions of good and bad spirits. Fenelon's visit of Telemachus to the shades is still much more philosophical than Virgil's. He refines the ancient mythology by his knowledge of the true religion ; and adorns it with that beautiful enthusiasm, for which he is so remarkable. His relation of the happiness of the just is an excellent description in the mystic strain.
THE HENRIADE OF VOLTAIRE.
Tue Henriade is without doubt a regular epic poem. In several places of this work, Voltaire discovers that boldness of conception, that vivacity and liveliness of expression, by which he is so much distinguished. Several of his comparisons are new and happy. But the Hepriade is not his masterpiece. In the tragic line he has certainly been more successful than in the epic.
French versification is ill suited to epic poetry. It is not only fetiered by rhyme, but wants elevation. Hence not only feebleness, but sometimes prosaic flatness in the style. The poem consequently languishes ; and the reader is not animated by that spirit which is inspired by a sublime composition of the epic kind.
The triumph of Henry IV. over the arms of the league is the subject of the Henriade. The action of the poem properly includes only the seige of Paris. It is an action perfectly epic; and conducted with a due
regard to unity, and to the rules of critics. But it has great defects. It is founded on civil wars ; and presents to the mind those odious objects, massacres and assassinations. It is also of too recent a date, and too much within the bounds of well known history. The author has farıher erred by mixing fiction with truth. 'The poem, for instance, opens with a voyage of Henry to England, and an interview between him and queen Elizabeth ; though Henry never saw England, nor ever oonversed with Elizabeth. In subjests of such potoriety, a fiction of this kind shocks every intelligent reader.
A great deal of machinery is employed by Voltaire for the purpose of embellishing his poem. But it is of the worst kind, that of allegorical beings. Discord, cunning and love appear as personages, and mix with human actors,
This is contrary to all rational criticism. Ghosts, angels and devils, have a popular exist. ence ; but every one knows that allegorical beings are no more than representations of human passions and dispositions ; and ought not to have place, as actors, in a poem which relates to human transactions.
In justice, however, it must be observed, that the machinery of St. Louis possesses real dignity. The prospect of the invisible world, which St. Louis gives to Henry in a dream, is the finest passage in the Henriade. Death bringing the souls of the departed in succession before God, and the palace of the destinies opened to Henry, are striking and magnificent objects.
Though some of Voltaire's episodes are properly extended, his narration is too general. The events are superficially related, and too much crowded. The strain of sentiment, however, which pervades the Henriade, is high and noble.
MILTON'S PARADISE LOST.
MILTON chalked out a new and very extraordinary
As soon as we open his Paradise Lost, we are introduced into an invisible world, and surrounded by. celestial and infernal beings. Angels and devils are not his machinery, but his principal actors, What in any other work would be the marvellous, is in this the natural course of events; and doubts may arise wheth. er his poem be strictly an epic composition. But, whether it be so or not, it is certainly one of the high. est efforts of poetical genius ; and in one great characteristic of epic poetry, majesty and sublimity, is equal to any thing that bears this name.
The subject of this poem led Milton upon difficult ground. If it' had been more human and less theological ; if his occurrences had been more connected with real life ; if he had afforded a greater display of the characters and passions of men ; his poem would have been more pleasing to most readers. His subject, however, was peculiarly suited to the daring sublimity of his genius. As he alone was fitted for it, so he has shown in the conduct of it a wonderful stretch of imagination and invention. From a few hints given in the sacred scriptures, he has raised a regular structure, and filled his poem with a variety of incidents. He is sometimes dry and harsh ; and too often the metaphysician and divine. But the general tenour of his work is interesting, elevated and affecting. The artful change of his objects, and the scene, laid now in heaven, now on earth, and now in hell, affords a sufficient diversity ; while unity of plan is perfectly supported. Calm scenes are exhibited in the employments of Ad. am and Eve in Paradise, and busy scenes and great ac. tions in the enterprises of Satan and in the wars of angels. The amiable innocence of our first parents, and the proud ambition of Satan, afford a happy contrast through the whole poem, which gives it an uncommon charm. But the conclusion perhaps is too tragic for epic poetry.
The subject naturally admits no great display of characters; but such as could be introduced, are properly supported. Satan makes a striking figure ; and is the best drawn character in the poem. Milton has artfully given him a mixed character, not altogether void of some good qualities. He is brave and faithful to his troops. Amid his impiety he is not without rea
He is even touched with pity for our first parents; and from the necessity of his situation, justifies: his design against them. He is actuated by ambition and resentment, rather than by pure malice. The characters of Beelzebub, Moloch, and Belial, are well painted. The good angels, though described with dignity, have more uniformity of character. Among them, however, the mild condescension of Raphael and the tried fidelity of Abdiel, form proper characteristic distinctions. The attempt to describe God Ala mighty himself was too bold, and accordingly most un. successful. The innocence of our first parents is deli. cately painted. In some speeches perhaps Adam ape pears too knowing and refined for his situation. Eve is hit off more happily. Her gentleness, modesty and frailty, are expressively characteristic of the female character.
Milton's great and distinguishing excellence is his sublimity. In this perhaps he excels even Homer, The first and second books of Paradise Lost, are almost a continued series of the highest sublime. But this sublimity differs from that of Homer; which is always accompanied by impetuosity and fire. The sublime of Milton is a calm and amazing grandeur. Hoiner warms and hurries us along; Milton fixes us in a state of elevation and astonishment. Homer's sublima ily appears most in his description of actions ; Milton's in that of wonderful and stupendous objects.
But while Milton excels most in sublimity, his work abounds in the beautiful, the pleasing and the tender. When the scene is in Paradise, the imagery is gay and smiling. His descriptions show a fertile imagination ; and in his similes he is rensarkably happy. If faulty,
it is from their too frequent allusions 10 matiers of learning and to ancient fables. It must also be confessed that there is a falling off in the latter part of Paradise Lost.
The language and versification of Milton have high merit. His blank verse is harmonious and diversified ; and his style is full of majesty. There may be found, indeed, some prosaic lines in his poem. But in a work so long and so harmonious, these may be forgiven.
Paradise Lost, amid beauties of every kind, has many inequalities. No high and daring genius was ever uniformly correct. Milton is too frequently theological and meraphysical ; His words are often technical ; and he is affectedly ostentatious of his learning. Many of his faults, however, are to be imputed to the pedantry of his age. He discovers a vigour, a grasp of genius, equal to every thing great ; sometimes he rises above every other poet ; and sometimes ho falls below himself,
DRAMATIC POETRY..., TRAGEDY.
In all civilized nations dramatic poetry has been a favourite amusement. It divides itself into the two forms of tragedy and comedy. Of these, tragedy is the most dignified; as great and serious objects interest us more than little and ludicrous ones. The former rests on the high passions, the virtues, crimes and sufferings of mankind; the latter on their humours, fol. lies and pleasures; and ridicule is its sole instrument.
Tragedy is a direct imitation of human manners and actions. It does not, like an epic poem, exhibit characters by description or narration ; it sets the personages before us, and makes them act and speak with propriety. This species of writing, therefore, requires deep knowledge of the human heart ; and when happily executed, it has the power of raising the strongest emotions.