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tially hides the grandeur and uncomprehended beauty of all true poetry. Almost the only one among them who has written with the express purpose of employing a more general and philosophical species of criticisın is Addison, a man of elegant taste and accomplished mind, but possessing little of that depth of thought, or vigor of intellect, which is necessary to the character of a critic. Johnson, again, strong as was his mind, was as little fitted for the office he had assumed; for be was as deficient in depth of perception and feeling, as Addison was in intellectual power. Much, therefore, as has been done towards illustrating the works of Milton, the praise or blame he has received has not proceeded from any very elevated principles of criticism.
Milton is the most learned of our English poets. There is no work of either this or any other country on which so much profound erudition has been expended as on Paradise Lost. The learning of all ages, the opinions of the wisest men, the superstitions of the most benighted nations, the truths of philosophy and science, and the most solemn mysteries of religion, were all explored by the great author, and he poured out the whole vast treasure of his mind into the golden vase his imagination had formed. But to decide upon the true character of his genius, we must not be content with the examination of his larger works. They were composed after his mind was more than furnished, after it was enveloped with learning; and it is sometimes, therefore, not clear whether knowledge have not mastered thought instead of being its auxiliary.
From the earlier poems of Milton we are able to discover, with some degree of certainty, the principal and original characteristics of his genius. In them we trace the love of truth, the creative imagination, the power over language, which form the features of his subsequent productions. But we see them in their origin. With him the love of truth was the offspring of a tranquil but noble soul, and from the dawning of his mind it was the object he most earnestly sought. But he sought it chiefly among books, or among those who derived their materials of thinking solely from them. The fashion of the times was not in favor of original thinking, and hence he, like the other great men of the period, principally employed himself in heaping together all the knowledge which the accumulated learning of ages could afford. One consequence of this was the subjection of passion, thought and feeling, to memory; and there is, therefore, to be discuvered no beauty of a sentimental kind, even in his freshest and earliest poems. The same cause will also account for the absence of that heart-reaching, spiritual eloquence, with which poetry sometimes awakens us. There are scarcely any thoughts to be found in Milton which can be ascribed to his sympathy with individual suffering, or to his covsideration of human nature in its simple but deep workings. He gave himself no time for this unincunibered view of humanity. He sought the true philoso- .
phy of nature, but it was in the history of sects and kingdoms; and he learnt to excite wonder but not passion. Whatever, therefore, might have been the tendencies of his nature, truth in his poetry is a reflected, not primitive truth; the truth which learning searches for and discovers, not what every heart feels and recognizes.
But Milton possessed an imagination of the highest order; an imagination which could combine or create at will the noblest objects of contemplation. His early poems sufficiently attest the energy of this divine power in his mind. The classical style of his verses never affects its originalty; and they run like a stream of light and beauty wherever the imagination is free to operate. All the other faculties of his intellect received their tone from this. His power of description was raised by it into a creative faculty; the objects of memory passed through it, and became godlike and eternal. It elevated his thoughts to other worlds of beings, which it alone could make visible; and reason in her severest moods was led by it to take her weapons from the splendid and ethereal armory of poetry. In Comus, the Allegro, and Penseroso, and the religious Odes, we see all this power of the imagination operating, but producing only beautiful and holy forms; we are entertained with the sight of nature suffused with heavenly light, with the discourse of bright and spiritual beings, and with the view of past scenes, over which hangs the cloud of divine glory. All here is fresh and spring-like. The poet's imagination was a bird of Paradise, that had not strength of wing to explore the dark world beyond it.
When years, continued study, and experience of the world, had altered the general tone of his feelings, this distinguishing power of his genius assumed, with increasing strength, a severer character. The world of interminable being was all before it, and it chose out of the tremendous wilderness of space, the most fearful spot it could discover. Here it rejoiced in its power. The great void grew instinct with life. The universe of thought became substantial, and night and ruin stood palpably distinct in the outflooding and creating light of heaven. No mortal ever saw that vision so distinct as Milton, and seeing it he could but write as he did. His imagination was a sense, not the result of einotion. It was from sight, not feeling, his inspiration came, and hence the grandeur, but coldness, of his genius-- the distinctness and reality of his creations
the cramped scholasticism of his philosophy.
There are other points of a minor but highly interesting nature in considering the genius of Milton. His deficiency of passion was the only element which was wanting to the perfection of his poetic character. When we examine it in respect to every other, we find it full and complete; perfect, not only in the higher and rarer requisites of genius, but in those lighter qualities from which inferior minds derive their sole claim to consideration. Milton had as perfect a knowledge of the art of poetry as any cold, formal writer of
verses who has no other means of gaining respectability. He had also an equal degree of judgment in arranging the different parts of his subject, and while there was no species of learning which he had not pursued, there was no, not even the commonest kind of, information which he could not accommodate, with the nicest skill, to his purpose. But of all these minor features of his genius, that which most deserves consideration is the exquisite power he possessed over every kind of metre. The versification of his shorter poems is the most beautiful specimen we possess of the music of our language. 'The blank metre of Paradise Lost is more various, more rich in the melody of cadences, than that of any other English po
This perhaps, is owing to a circumstance not generally observed, that Milton is almost the only writer in blank verse who had previously made himself a perfect master of rhyme and the rhyming measures.
The first Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject, Man's disobedi
ence, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was placed: Then touches the prime cause of his Fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the Serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the Poem hastens into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fall. en into Hell, described here, not in the centre, (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed,) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; They confer of their miserable fall; Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded.They rise; their numbers; array of battle; their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven; for, that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: The infernal peers there sit in counci'.
Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit