« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
The first sort by their own suggestion mistake not, will oblige us to come to fell,
the same conclusion. My reasons for Self-tempted, self-depraved: Man falls, thinking so are these. deceived
If poetry be necessarily confined to By the other first; Man therefore sball
certain subjects, he who has a genius The other none: In mercy and justice
for poetry, will also have that genius
which points out these subjects to him both, Through Heaven and Earth, so shall my
instinctively. To possess a genius for glory excel;
poetry, is to possess those strong and But mercy, first and last, shall brightest
ardent feelings which seldom listen to shine."
the suggestions of reason. I would Paradise Lost, Book III.
be sorry to insinuate that poetic enthusiasm and common sense or reason are
hostile to each other, or that the poet It would be an unnecessary waste of may not be as sensible and as capable language, to bring forward arguments of discriminating right from wrong, as to prove that the effect which this
the philosopher himself. But there is speech has on the mind of every reader
still a marked and characteristic differis not to excite emotions of any kind, ence between them. The reason of the (and where there is no emotion pro
poet is acquired without seeking after duced, there can be no poetry) but to
it; that of the philosopher is the result summon up all the reasoning faculties
of contemplation and study The poet which we possess, in order to ascertain
either sees at a glance what is right whether the arguments which the Deity and what is wrong, or he never sees it has recourse to, are true, and whether
at all: the philosopher cannot grasp it they vindicate him from every possible so easily, but then he pursues it more charge of injustice which can be urged
steadily: When he cannot perceive it at against him, in his conduct towards
first sight, he examines all the avenues man, and the rebel Angels. It is not that lead to its abode, and unravels, my business to inquire whether they
one after another, all the involutions be just or unjust, reasonable, or unrea- in which it can possibly conceal itself. sonable, because, in either case, the in
The philosopher unties the Gordian fluence which they exercise over our knot of science, but the poet cuts it, feelings will be the same, namely, no like Alexander, with his sword. In a influence at all. In a question of such word, the philosopher passes through moment, our feelings are entirely sus- all the premises or preliminary truths pended, for the severity of reason will from which his conclusions are drawn, not suffer them to come into council, before he suffers himself to believe that or bias, in the least, the judgment which they are true, whereas the poet comes it intends to pronounce.
to his conclusions at once, and thereNo doubt it will be argued, that fore never seems to reason at all, as he Milton could not have done otherwise takes for granted all the antecedent than he did, that his subject required truths on which his assumptions are argument and discussion, and that con- founded. If the poet, then, be guided sequently if he had not recourse to
more by his feelings than by his reathem, he could not have done justice son, he cannot relish subjects that reto his subject. I admit the argument quire much reasoning, and little or no in its fullest meaning; but what does feeling. The ardour of his natural it prove? Certainly nothing less than temper (for if he possess not this ardour that Milton happened to choose a subject he cannot be a poet,) instinctively leads not calculated for poetry, or otherwise him to select a subject where he will be that having no genius for poetry, he at full liberty to speak the impassioned was obliged to take up a subject adapt- language which his own feelings ined to his genius. Now I apprehend, spire, and consequently if he selects that which ever of these suppositions a subject that requires no ardour, it we adopt, the result will be equally proves he did not possess it, and that unfavourable to Milton, so far as his
he wanted those feelings which cannot poetic genius is concerned. To adopt rest quiet, wherever they exist, until the latter supposition, is unequivocally the heart is suffered to give them exto admit that his genius was not formed pression, and discharge itself of them for poetry: to adopt the former, if I by disclosing them to the world. They
may be suppressed for a time, but they proves there is an indiscribable son will unburden themselves at length; thing to guide him, besides the me and the longer they are kept in con- colour of the man's face. This, li finement, the more restless and impa- the former, is not more a source tient they become, and the more likely pleasure than of pain, for as our mo they are to produce the richest, and the agreeable and delightful emotions ari maturest fruits. Rousseau did not be- from sympathizing with correspondir come a poet until he reached his for- emotions in the breasts of others, : tieth year, and it is doubtful whether he likewise do our most disagreeable se should have ever attained the same cele- sations arise, from witnessing the pr brity had he commenced at twenty. dominance of contrary emotions. T'h
If Milton, then chose a subject not source of pleasure, like the former, a calculated for poetry, it follows that fects us through the medium of th he wanted that native ardour which senses; but it is not mere matter and would have led him to adopt a pro- form that affects us, but internal, in per one, and which would have in- visible emotions which make them stinctively guided him to a theme, selves known to us in a manner which wherein the glow of innate feeling human reason cannot explain. Imagi could have communicated itself to nation is the third source of our pleamankind. The question then to be sures, but this source appears to me to resolved is; - whether the subject of be the least understood, and it is ne“Paradise Lost,” be a poetical subject, cessary to understand it, if we would which, according to my theory, means, form a correct idea of Milton's genius. whether it be a subject that addresses We are told it consists in the power of itself to the feelings and sensibility of creating new images, and of wandering man?
at large through all the regions of To resolve this question, it is neces- possible existence, to select, combine, sary to ascertain what the causes are and diversify whatever we discover in by which our feelings are apt to be these ideal abodes. This, at least, is affected, for if the subject of "Paradise the substance of the idea which is genLost” be not intimately connected with erally attached to imagination, howthese causes, it cannot be calculated for ever variously it may be expressed or poetical purposes.
defined by different writers; and they All the pleasures and pains of which also tell us, that the pleasures which man is capable, seems to arise from it imparts, are, of all others, the most three sources. The first and most palpa- pleasing and delightful. With this ble are the impressions made upon us by opinion, I can as little agree as with its the presence of external objects. These detinition. In the first place, the proobjects affect us through certain media, vince of imagination, is much more cailed the five senses; and it is a uni- extensive than it is allowed to be, versally received doctrine, that all our though some writers please themselves ideas are acquired through these media. with the idea of having given it an The second source of our pleasures are unlimited, and undefined extent. It is the emotions and passions which arise certain, however, that imagination is in the breasts of others, and which com- not confined to the creation, selection, municate themselves to us by a sort of combination, or diversification of senindescribable sympathy. We recognize sible images, for it is equally converthe passions of love, hatred, anger, ma- sant in reviving, creating, &c. the emolignity, pride, revenge, fear, courage, tions, passions, sensibilities, affections, &c. &c. in the countenance, even before and all the endless modifications of we are taught to distinguish the ex- feeling by which the human heart is ternal signs by which they are gene capable of being affected.
Was it rally accompanied, and which are never not by the power of imagination that safe criteria of mental emotions, be- Homer invested all the characters of cause the same passions evince them- his Iliad with affections, passions, and selves differently, in different people. tempers of mind which they never pos, What makes one man red turns ano- sessed, and which therefore existed ther man pale ; but whether red or pale, only in the mind of the poet? But the spectator has no difficulty in re- emotions and passions convey no imcognizing the nature of the feelings by ages to the mind, and consequently which he is agitated, which evidently imagination is not confined to images
of sensible being. Imagination pro- without dwelling on their natures, in perly consists in renewing the two ascertaining whether “Paradise Lost" first sources of our pleasures, which I be a fit subject for poetry, were it not have already explained, and hence it is, that in treating of the genius of Mil. that the pleasures of imagination, how- ton, it is necessary to find out how far ever greatly they may have been ex- imagination is a source of poetic pleatolled by fanciful writers, are never so sure, because it will immediately apardent, never so rapturous and delight- pear, that his “ Paradise Lost” is not, ful, as the pleasures resulting from the only the offspring of imagination altwo first sources; because the images together, but that it also conveys this and affections which they picture to impression to the mind of the reader, the mind, are only copies of the former. whereas the Iliad, though it is equally The idea which a lover forms of his the offspring of imagination, excludes mistress, in her absence, is an idea of the appearance of it as much as possiimagination; but this idea never con- ble. veys such rapturous emotions as he If “Paradise Lost" be a proper subfeels when she is present. The thoughts ject for poetry, it must take its images of her, it is true, make him happy, but and descriptions from one or other of how greatly is this happiness encreased the three sources of pleasure which I the moment she appears in his presence. have just explained, because these are The presence of sensible objects affects the only sources we are acquainted us, therefore, more strongly than the with, capable of imparting either hapimages which imagination forms of piness or pleasure of any kind, and them in their absence. The same may where there is nothing to please, there be said of the second source of our can be no poetry. That “Paradise pleasures. We are much more af- Lost” does not take its images and desfected by witnessing a generous action, criptions either from sensible appearthan we are when imagination after- ances, or human passions, is obvious, wards revives the impression. The because it treats of an order of being pains of imagination, are, in like man- whom we are taught from our infancy ner, less vivid than those which result to believe, possess nothing in common from the former sources. It hurts us with man. Whenever we attempt to to revive, even in idea, the image of a form an idea of spiritual being, we man who has injured us, but if he divest it as much as we can of all mahappen to present himself before us, terial qualities, and we would divest it the sensation is greatly increased. The of them all together, if we could form pleasures and pains of imagination are the most obscure idea of it without therefore never so sensibly felt, except them. We clothe spirit in the lightest where the mind is disordered by an robes of material texture which we can over-heated fancy, as those which arise possibly imagine, merely because we from the two first sources of our plea- must do so, or form no' idea of it at sures, because the images and passions all; but we still bear in mind, that the which it attempts to realize, are mere texture is infinitely too gross, that howpictures or copies of the former. It ever we may subtilize and refine it, it will affords us, however, a light and agree- still be too gross, and that consequently able pleasure; for though none of its spirit is something of which we know pictures are so affecting as the origi- nothing. Hence it necessarily follows, nals, it possesses the advantage of mul- that we can take no interest in that tiplying these pictures, ad infinitum ; with which we are wholly unacquaintand therefore compensates, in a great ed; and that the smallest degree of measure, for the slight impression interest which it can ever impart to us, which each of them makes upon us, must arise from resembling it to someby their multitude and diversity. A thing with which we are acquainted. present object affects us so strongly, This resemblance, however, is purely that we will not suffer ourselves to arbitrary, for we know that whatever withdraw our attention from it; but an we resemble it to, we are mistaken. ideal object affects us so slightly, that Hence it is, that the pleasure arising we pass from it without dificulty, to from the resemblance, is always, atcontemplate another, and another. It tended with the reflection, that it is would be sufficient, however, to men- founded in deception, and that it bears tion these three sources of pleasure, no analogy whatever to the sensible
being with - which we have compared and fall to them' be adverse," they it; and while ever the pleasure is at- would never think it difficult to rise, tended with this reflection, it carries nor would Moloch ever think of conalong with it a dissatisfaction which vincing them that “the ascent" was more than balances the enjoyment "easy."
' No person would be foolish which it would otherwise impart. enough to argue with a man who stood Wherever there is a suspicion of decep- on the top of a steeple in order to contion, there can be no enjoyment; for, vince him, that if he threw himself off, as Goldsmith justly observes :
he would come down to the earth in
stead of rising to Heaven, simply be“ The heart, distrusting, asks if this be cause he could never doubt of it, as he joy."
knew his proper nature was to descend.
If then the Angels knew that their When we know, that a circumstance
proper nature was to ascend, it would related to us is impossible, the pleasure be as absurd in Moloch to seek to conis lost, though it be even a circum- vince them of it, as it would in me, to stance that would have given us great seek to convince a man on the top of a pleasure if it could have occurred; but
steeple, that his proper nature was to our pleasure is not in the least dimi- descend, and that it be threw himself nished by reflecting that the circum- off, he had no chance of scaling the stance in all probability never happen- Heavens. Moloch, then, instead of coned, provided we perceive nothing im- vincing his brethren that the ascent was possible in it; because we always argue easy, should rather have taken it for on the side of our feelings, while we granted that they knew it as well as have the least grounds for doing so ; himself, and dwelt on the advantages and always wish to believe, that what- which it gave them in making a new ever they incline us to is true, unless
attempt. The arguments of Moloch, its impossibility be glaringly manifest. indeed, are true, though it is perfectly Whatever is possible, then, will delight absurd to suppose that he would have us in poetry, if it delight us in the recourse to them.
And yet, true as reality; but whatever we know to be they are, Milton himself proves them impossible, can never yield unmixed absurd, if he was consistent in describsatisfaction; for though we should ing Satan, wish it might have happened, we cannot sympathize with it while we know -"Incumbent on the dusky air it to be a shadow. When therefore, That felt unequal weight." Moloch, addressing the rebel host, says:
It is obvious, indeed, that Milton, in
this passage, describes the Angels as
"Perhaps spiritual and sensible beings, at the The way seems difficult and steep to scale, same moment. As spiritual beings “deWith upright wing against a bigher foe. scent and fall to them' was adverse :" Let such bethink them, if the sleepy As sensible beings, the way, might drench
seem difficult and steep to scale." "To Of that forgetful lake benumb not still,
avoid this absurd mixture, he had no That in our proper motion we ascend Up to our pative seat: descent and fall
choice, but that of representing them To us is adverse.
Had he Who but felt of late,
always as sensible agents. When the fierce foe hung on our broken
even done so, however, they would be
still unfit instruments for poetical purInsulting, and pursued us through the
poses, because we are so habituated to deep,
consider them as unembodied essences, With what compulsion and labourious that we are always more or less dissaflight
tisfied when we see them in a dress We supk thus low? The ascent is easy which we know cannot belong to them.
Milton, it is true, was reduced to the The event is feared ;"
necessity of clothing them in this dress,
but this only shews, that the subwho can avoid perceiving the absur. ject which he chose, was not adapted dity of putting such a speech into to poetry, as it necessarily obliged his mouth? If the proper motion of him to describe what could not be Angels be to ascend, and if “ descent described; and consequently, what
could excite no interest, because we who could sympathise in his anger? cannot be interested in what we are Who would feel interested in his fate? unacquainted with. It also obliged Who would accompany him to battle, him to found the personal description and exult in every triumph which he of all his characters on deception, ex- obtained over the enemy? We are incept Adam and Eve, for we know, not terested then in his fate, only because only, that there is no truth, but that we believe him to be of a kindred nathere can be no truth in all he has said ture with ourselves, as well in mind as of the Angels, and the interest which in body. Pares cum paribus facile we take in relations which we know congregantıır. But no man will claim cannot be true, is only the interest of kindred with him who lies “floating children. We read merely to amuse many a rood;" on the contrary, we
so ourselves, for the moment, with airy should turn from such pictures with fictions, and throw aside the book with disgust, were we not satisfied that there perfect indifference, from a conscious- is not, and that there cannot be a word ness that we have been reading what of truth in the description. We know has no foundation in nature, and which there is nothing in the nature of spirithad its existence only in the mind of ual essences that conveys an idea of the poet. This is not the sort of in- magnitude or materiality, and thereterest we take in the characters of the fore we look upon these descriptions of Iliad. We know that if every thing Milton, as mere chimeras,-bubbles of related there be not true, at least they imagination, which may excite a smile, might have happened, and therefore we but which would create disgust, if we sympathize with all the characters, as could only believe them to be true. much as if they were real. But who They do not disgust us, therefore, simcan sympathize with beings“the least” ply because we do not believe in them; of whom
but the same cause that prevents them
from disgusting us, prevents them from Could wield
giving us any pleasure but what is Those elements, and arm him with the strictly of a puerile nature.
We smile force
at them, indeed, but we cannot sympaOf all their regions."
thize with them, because our feelings
will neither suffer us to sympathize Ifindeed, we could believe there was with beings who are foreign to our a being of earthly mould, such as the own nature, nor yet to be elicited withAngels of Milton are described, so out a cause; and though they may be prodigiously strong, and so hugely im- sometimes elicited by imaginary causes, mense, as to pull up a mountain by the
these causes must always assume the roots, much less to “ wield the ele
mask of reality, for we can never symments," so far from sympathizing with pathise with what we know to be a any act of his, we should avoid him as
manifest mockery of truth. a monster, and we should be equally The“ Paradise Lost' then, excites no disgusted with Milton's Angels, if we sympathy, because we can never imreally imagined they were what he pose so far upon our understandings as describes them to be. If Achilles, the to believe the one-twentieth of what it bravest of Homer's warriors, was des
contains. In the first place, we know cribed “extended long and large” and it is, from beginning to end, a mere ficlying
tion of imagination, except so far as it
is a transcript of the Scriptures; and I “ Floating many a rood; in have already shewn the fallacy of supbulk as huge
posing, that the pleasures of imaginaAs whom the fables pame of monstrous
tion are as vivid, as ardent, or as imsize, Titanian, or earth-born, that warred on
passioned as those of real existence. In Jove;
the second place, all other works of Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
imagination have an advantage over By ancient Tharsus held, on that sea
the “ Paradise Lost," because their beast
images are taken from real existence, Leviathan, which God of all his works whereas, those of the “ Paradise Lost" Created highest that swim the ocean are taken from we know not what, stream,"
from beings of whom we know nothing
except "through a glass darkly." And Eur. Hug. l'ol. 81. April 1822.