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Every thing that is truly great and astonishing, has a place in it. The whole system of the intellectual world; the chaos, and the creation : heaven, earth, and hell ; enter into the constitution of his poem.
Having in the first and second books represented the infernal world with all its horrors, the thrzad of his fable naturally leads him into the oppofi:e regions of bliss and glory.
If Milton's majesty forsakes him any where, it is in those parts of his poem, where the divine persons are introduced as speakers. One may, I think, observe, that the author proceeds with a kind of fear and trembling, whilit he describes the sentiments of the Almighty. He dares not give his imagination its full play, but chufes to confine himself to such thoughts as are drawn froin the books of the most orthodox divines, and to such expressions as may be inet with in fcripture. The beauties, therefore, which ve are to look for in these speeches, are not of a poetical nature, nor fo proper to fill the mind with sentiments of grandeur, as with thoughts of devoiion. The passions, which they are designed to rise, are a divine love and religious fear. The parii cular beauty of the speeches in the child took, Corfiis in that shortness and perfpicuity of style, in which the poet has couched the greatest mysteries of chritianity, and drawn together, in a regular scheme, the whole dispensation of Providence with respect to man. He has represented all the abstruse doctrines of predestin nation, free-will and grace, as also the great points of incarnation and redemption, which naturally gro: up in a poem that the its of the fall of man, with great energy, of expresiion, and in a clearer and stronger light than I ever met with in any other writer. As these points are dry in themselves to the generality of readers, the concise and clear manner in which he has treated them, is very much to be admired, as is likewise that particular art which he has made use of in the interspersing of all those graces of poetry, which the fubject was capable of receiving
The survey of the whole creation, and of every thing that is transacted in it, is a profpect worthy of omni cience; and as much above that, in which Virgil
has drawn his Jupiter, as the christian idea of the Supreme Being is more rational and sublime than that of the heathens. The particular objects on which he is described to have cast his eye, are represented in the most beautiful and lively inanner.
Now had th’ Almighty Father from above
Thus to his only Son foreseeing fpake. Satan's approach to the confines of the creation is finely imaged in the beginning of the speech which immediately follows. The effects of this speech in the blessed spirits, and in the divine person to whom it was addressed, cannot but fill the mind of the reader with a lęcret pleasure and complacency.
Thus while God spake, ambrofial fragrance fill'd
Subftantially express’d; and in his face
No sooner had th' Almighty ceased, but all
'Th'eternal regions. ; &c. &c.
Aristotle obseryes, that the fable of an epic poem should abound in circunstances that are both credible and astonishing; or as the French critics' choose to phrase it, the fable should be filled with the probable and the marvellous, · This rule is as fine and juit as any in Arilto:le's whole art of poetry.
If the fable is only probable, it differs nothing from
secret therefore of heroic poetry is to relate luch circumitances as may produce in the reader at the same tiine both belief and aftonilhment. This is brought to pass in a well cholen falle, by the account of such things as have really happened, or at leat of such things as have happened according to the received opinions of mankind." Milton's fable is a master-piece of this nature ; as the war in heaven, the condition of the fallen angels, the state of innocence, the toptation of the serpent, and the fall of man, though they are very astonishing in themselves, are not only credible, but actual points of fash.
The next method of reconciling niracles with credibility, is by a happy invention of the poet; as in particular, when he introduces agents of a superior nature, who are capable of effecting what is wonderful, and vihat is not to be met with in the ordinary course of things. Ulyfles's ship being turned into a rock, and Eneas's fleet into a shoal of water-nymphs, though they are very surprising accidents, are nevertheless probable when we are told that they were the gods who chus transformed them. It is this kind of machinery which fills the poeins both of Homer and Virgil with such circumstances as are wonderful but not imposible, and fo frequently produce in the reader the most pleasing passion that can rise in the mind of man, which is admiration. If there be any instance in the Æneid liable to exception upon this account, it is in the beginning of the third book, where Æneas is represented as tearing up the myrtle that dropped blood. To qualify this wonderful circumstance, Polydorus tells a ftory from the foot of the myrtle, that the barbarous inhabitants of the country having pierced him with spears and arrows, the wood which was left in his body took root in his wounds, and gave birth to that bleeding tree, . This circumstance seems to have the marvellous without the probable, because it is represented as proceeding from natural causes, without the inter position of any god, or other supernatural power capable of producing it.
The (pears and arrows grow of themselves without so much as the modern lielp of inchantinent. If we lcok into the fiction of Milton's fable, though we find it full of surprising incidents, they are generally suited to our notions of the things and persons described, and tempered
with a due measure of probability. I must only make
Satan, after having long wandered upon the furface,