Page images
PDF
EPUB

Some natural tears they dropt, but wip'd them soon; !

The world was all before them, where to chụse
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.

[ocr errors]

If I might presume to offer at the smallest alteration in this divine work, I should think the poem would end better with the passage here quoted, than with the two verses which follow.

They hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

These two verses, though they have their beauty, fall very much below the foregoing passage, and renew in the mind of the reader that anguish which was pretty well laid by that consideration.

The world was all before them, where to chuse
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.

The number of books in Paradise Lost is equal to those of the Æneid. Our author in his first edition had divided his poem into ten books, but afterwards broke the seventh and the eleventh each of them into two different books, by the help of some small additions. This second division was made with great judgment, as any one may see who will be at the pains of examining it. It was not done for the sake of such a chimerical beauty as that of resembling Virgil in this particular, but for the more just and regular disposition of this great work

Those who have read Bossu, and many of the critics who have written since his time, will not parwhich is not find out the particular moral

if I which is inculcated in Paradise Lost. Though I can by no means think, with the last mentioned French author, that an epic writer first of all pitches upon a certain moral as the ground-work and foundation of his poem, and afterwards finds out a story to it; I am, however, of opinion, that no just heroic poem

[ocr errors]

ever was or can be made, from whence one great moral may not be deduced.

not be deduced. That which reigns in Milton is the most universal and most useful that can be imagined; it is, in short, this, 66 that obedience to the will of God makes men happy, and that disobedience makes them miserable." This is visibly the moral of the principal fable which turns upon Adam and Evę, who continued in Paradise while they kept the command that was given them, and were driven out of it as soon as they had transgressed. This is likewise the moral of the principal episode, which shews us how an innumerable multitude of angels fell from their state of bliss, and were cast into hell upon their disobedience.

Besides this great moral, which may be looked upon as the soul of the fable, there are an infinity of under morals, which are to be drawn from the several parts of the poem, and which makes this work more useful and instructive than any other poem in any language.

Those who have criticised on the Odyssey, the Iliad, and Æneid, have taken a great deal of pains to fix the number of months or days contained in the action of each of those poems. If any one thinks it worth his while to examine this particularin Milton, he will find from Adam's first appearance in the fourth book, to his expulsion from Paradise in the twelfth, the author reckons ten days. As for that part of the action which is described in the three first books; as it does not pass within the regions of nature, I have before observed, that it is not subject to any calculations of time.

I have now finished my observations on a work which does an honour to the English nation. I have taken a general view of it under these four heads, the fable, the characters, the sentiments, and the language, and made each of them the subject of a particular paper.

I have, in the next place, spoken of the censures which our author may incur under each of these heads, which I have confined to two papers, though I might have enlarged the number, if I had been disposed to dwell on so ungrateful a subject. I believe, however, that the severest reader will not find any little fault in heroic poetry, which this author has fallen into, that does not come under one of those heads among which I have distributed his several blemishes. After having thus treated at large of Paradise Lost, I could not think it sufficient to have celebrated this poem in the whole, without descending to particulars. I have therefore bestowed a paper upon each book, and endeavoured not only to prove that the poem is beautiful in general, but to point out its particular beauties, and to determine wherein they consist. I have endeavoured to shew how some passages are beautiful by being sublime ; others, by being soft; others, by being natural; which of them are recommended by the passion; which by the moral; which by the sentiment; and which by the expression. I have likewise endeavoured to shew how the genius of the poet shines by a happy invention; a distant allusion; or a judicious imitation : how, he has copied or improved Homer or Virgil, and raised his own imaginations by the use which he has made of several poetical passages in scripture. I might have inserted also several passages of Tasso, which our author has imitated: but as I do not look upon Tasso to be a sufficient voucher, I would not perplex my reader with such quotations as might do more honour' to the Italian ihan the English poet. In short, I have endeavoured to particularize those innumerable kinds of beauty, which it would be tedious to recapitulate, but which are essential to poetry, and which may be met with in the works of this great author. Had I thought, at my first engaging in this design, that it would have led me to so great a length, I believe I should have never entered upon it ; but the kind reception which it has met with among those whose judgments I have a value for, as well as the uncommon demands which my bookseller tells me have been made for these particular discourses, give me no reason to repent of the pains I have been at in composing them.

No. 269. - TUESDAY, JANUARY 8.

-Ævo rarissima nostro
Simplicitas

Ovid.

I im

I was this morning surprised with a great knocking at the door, when my landlady's daughter came up to me, and told me there was a man below desired to speak with me. Upon my asking her who it was, she told me it was a very grave elderly person, but that she did not know his name. mediately went down to him, and found him to be the coachman of my worthy friend Sir Roger de Coverly; He told me that his master came to town last night, and would be glad to take a turn with me in Gray's Inn walks.

ks. As I was wondering in myself what had brought Sir Roger to town, not having lately received any letter from him, he told me that his master was come up to get a sight of Prince Eugene, and that he desired I would immediately meet him.

I was not a little pleased with the curiosity of the old knight; though I did not much wonder at it, having heard him say more than once in private discourse, that he looked upon Prince Eugenio (for so the knight always calls him) to be a greater man than Scanderbeg

I was no sooner come into Gray's Inn walks, but I heard my friend upon the Terrace hemming twice or thrice to himself with great vigour, for he loves to clear his pipes in good air, (to make use of his own phrase,) and is not a little pleased with any oue

who takes notice of the strengh which he still exerts in his morning hems.

I was touched with a secret joy at the sight of the good old man, who, before he saw me, was engaged in conversation with a beggar man, that had asked an alms of him. I could hear my friend chide him for not finding out some work: but at the same time saw him put his hand in his pocket, and give him sixpence.

Our salutations were very hearty on both sides, consisting of many kind shakes of the hand, and several affectionate looks which we cast upon one another. After which the knight told me my good friend his chaplain was very well, and much at my service, and that the Sunday before he had made a most incomparable sermon out of Doctor Barrow. “ I have left' (says he) all my affairs in his hands, and being willing to lay an obligation upon him, have deposited with him thirty marks to be distri

his

poor parishioners.” He then proceeded to acquaint me with the welfare of Will Wimble. Upon which he put his hand into his fob, and presented me in his name with a tobacco-stopper, telling me that will had been busy all the beginning of the winter in turning great quantities of them; and that he made a present of one to every gentleman in the country, who has good principles, and smokes. He added, that poor Will was at present under great tribulation, for that Tom Touchy had taken the law of him for cutting some hazel-sticks out of one of his hedges.

Among other pieces of news which the knight brought from his country seat, he informed me that Moll White was dead; and that about a month after her death the wind was so very high, that it blew down the end of one of his barns. « But for my part, (says Sir Roger,) I do not think that the old woman had any hand in it.”

buted among

« PreviousContinue »