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To write at this time the life of an Author like the Poet abovementioned, would be superfluous and impertinent.—Every circumstance that attended him is so generally known; his admirers have so minutely recorded his excellencies, and his enemies have taken the same kind of care of his failings, that little more is left for us than to consider him in the particular province of a DRAMATIC Poet.
MILTON appears to have been but slenderly gifted for the effects of Tragedy--His powers inclined little to the pathetic, though EURIPIDES was his favourite author. The other grand principle of tragic effort seemed as little within his attainment.--The terror that his conception would excite is rendered less vivid by the solemn prolongation of his periods, and the concatenation of his lines.—The nervous brevity of Shakspere he admired, but he did not imitate. His two dramatic poems, exquisite as they are, considered as the vehicles of Aorid imagination and elegant expressions are nevertheless utterly remote from modern sentiment and modern language. There is little to regret that, following the obvious bias of his mind, he soared into the epic field of unbounded invention, and permitted the Drama of his country, 'gothic and barbarous as he deemed it, to remain without a contest in those hands to which NATURE seemed to have consigued the portraiture of MANNERS and of Man.
Fortune is frequently favourable in the arrange. ment of events : an escape from the enthusiasm of his politics might have rendered the great Milton an uncouth Historian, and an cessful Dramatist. The extent of his attainments made him little doubtful of their capabilities. It was the most felicitous circumstance of his life, that abandoning the DRAMA religiously, and History from calamity, he fixed upon a Theme of such exquisite beauty as cnabled him to bear the evils of blindness and adversity, soothed by the nightly harmonies of heaven, and sustained unfaulteringly by the holy fervour of inspired Poesy.
This beautiful MASK has given rise to much Criticisin, respecting circumstances of the scene to which objections are applied :—we shall briefly consider them with all possible respect--as the authorities are cf high eminence.
FIRST-It is objected, that there is a considerable impropriety in the Spirit addressing the Audience to acquaint them with his nature and mission, in a monologue of extreme length, in the First Scene.The remark is, however, attempted to be repelled by a reference to the continued CHORUS of the Greek drama never vacating the stage. This palliation will, notwithstanding its tone of triumph, be of little avail, until it is shewn that there is in Comus any Chorus whatever. The Greek audiences were not Choroides; that constant occupant of their Theatres, denominated the CHORUS, was relevant to the Drama, and as ex. pedience demanded, either of Virginsor SENATORS, SOLDIERS or Priests. The Address is, in truth, an elegant absurdity-and intended to the audience.
To the SECOND--Dr. JOHNSON has hinted at the ridiculous expedient to celebrate the beauty of Philosophy, and the sanctity of Virginity, in the dispu
tation of the Brothers overtaken by night; and by darkness divided from their Sister. From this charge the Bard may be more easily vindicated—Why they were so long absent is another question, I have to account for the disputation: we find them in the double obscurity of night and a thick shade formed by innumerous boughs. To dissipate the fear of the Younger Brother for his Sister's safety, the Elder descants upon the unassailable nature of virgin purity. In the uncertainty of their situation, to move was dangerous; to expatiate, therefore, while it fortified their minds against alarming apprehension, deceived the weariness of time, combined with the aking priva. tions of silence and darkness,
Comus, as it is here given, is an adaptation to the modern stage—by the retrenchment of much Dialogue, and the addition of many Airs.-That the Poetry of this beautiful piece suffers by a modern hand can be little doubted. Veneration for the Au. thor might wish it in the original state ; but a dra. maticexhibition must please to be repeated ;--the aim should be to venture as little innovation as possible. The Music of Arne, in the modern Comus, is well known; it is as intelligent as modern music can be.
Let not this article be closed without paying to de: ceased merits the praise so deservedly their due :From the late Mr. HENDERSON's performance of Corus was derived one of the most luxuriant feasts that the writer of this article ever banqueted upon. The jocundity-plausibility--festivity, and voluptuousness he assumed, were among the finest effects of his consummate abilities. His manner of reciting the rich melody of his first speech, and the happy con