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on the testimony of Philips but from the author's MSS," preserved in the library of Trinity Coll. Cambridge, was first designed in the form of a tragedy, to be opened with the address of Satan to the sun, now inserted in the beginning of the fourth book of the poem. In the different schemes which we possess of this projected drama,
we observe various allegorical beings intro-however, by the pa
ticed in the Dam
other British hero
duced among its persons, and on comparing them with those in Andreini's produc
" These MSS, of which we have before had occasion to speak, were found among some papers belonging to Sir Henry Newton Puckering, who was a great benefactor to Trinity Coll. library. They were subsequently collected, and bound by the care and at the expence of Mr. Clarke, at that time a fellow of Trin. Coll. and afterwards one of the King's Counsel. These MSS consist, in the author's own hand, of two draughts of his letter to a friend, who had pressed him to engage in some profession; several of his juvenile poems, a few of his sonnets, and a variety of dramatic schemes, some on the subject of Paradise Lost, and many on other subjects taken from sacred or profane history. In these MSS are numerous interlineations and corrections; stops are seldom used; and the verses frequently begin with small letters. Among these papers are copies of some of the sonnets, composed after the author's loss of sight, which are written by different hands.
Dr. Pearce, who was afterwards Bishop of Rochester, in the preface to his remarks on Bentley's edition of the Paradise Lost, supposes that Milton derived the hint of his poem from an Ita. lian tragedy called Il Paradiso perso; which Dr. Pierce, however, had not seen, and which we know of no person who has Preface to Remarks, &c. p. 7.
tion, which, as Mr.
which will strike u
or to believe that
the Adamo of And
thor, after his retu ject of his epic m bable that he was time when he was
sacred drama; an
the execution of t compositions. It
moment he deter Paradise Lost the Tork, and of plac the summit of the For the adop instrument of his
example of Trissin probably he neve Tasso, by which
Tasso is celebrated
quis of Villa, for the i
bition, which, as Mr. Hayley properly remarks,
is not so contemptible a work as we have been taught to consider it, we shall find it difficult to refer the strong resemblance, which will strike us, to the effect of chance, dor to believe that Milton could have drawn the schemes in question if he had never seen the Adamo of Andreini. As we are assured, bal big however, by the passages, which we have noalticed in the Damon, that Arthur, or some other British hero was intended by the author, after his return from Italy, for the subMject of his epic muse, it seems not improbable that he was fostering this idea at the time when he was revolving the plan of his sacred drama; and that he thus meditated the execution of two great and distinct poetic compositions. It is uncertain in what happy moment he determined on assigning to the Paradise Lost the honour of being his chief work, and of placing this divine theme upon the summit of the Aönian mount.
For the adoption of blank verse, as the instrument of his muse, he had not only the example of Trissino's Italia Liberata, of which probably he never thought, but that also of Tasso, by which it is fair to conclude that
* Tasso is celebrated by his friend and biographer, the Marquis of Villa, for the introduction of blank verse into the Ita
One of the
he was principally influenced, if the successful attempt, in his own language, of the illustrious Surrey should not be allowed to have impressed him with the determining bias.
is occasioned the poet to gi tive idea of sp
It does not belong to the plan of the present work to enter into a regular examination of the beauties and the defects of the Paradise Lost; and they have so frequently undergone the investigation of acute and power-patible with ful minds, that nothing more can be expected no space, is w on the ground than a few straggling ears after a well gathered harvest. If any part of this admirable poem has yet reason to complain of defective justice, it is that of its diction and its numbers. These seem to be consi
sequently, eve and which, t
capable of ac instant, with The highest in
the most near
dered by Addison rather as the subjects of apology and defence than of praise; and Johnson has shown himself to be utterly disqualified for the task of appreciating their
worth. From the power of Milton the g-action of dr
lish language has obtained a sublimity adequate to the loftiest conceptions of the human mind; and a variety and a richness of harmony on which his poetic successors, including the great Dryden himself, have been utterly unable to improve.
Tasso wrote a poem without rhyme on the
The Earl of Surrey translated, into blank verse, the second
and the fourth book of the Æneid.
must be supp
and may con
beings spirit the word spi into difficult
dies defined. mension and
action, obno impressions
One of the principal defects of the poem is occasioned by the ambitious attempt of the poet to give sensible action to the negative idea of spirit. It is an opinion, in itself most probable and entertained by many eminent divines, that the Deity is the only perfectly disembodied spirit in the universe. Limited agency, indeed, seems to be incompatible with a substance which, occupying no space, is without locality; which is, consequently, every where and entirely present, and which, therefore, must necessarily be capable of acting every where, at the same instant, with an equal and undivided force. The highest intelligences, then, who approach the most nearly to the throne of the Supreme, must be supposed to be invested with bodies, and may consequently, without impropriety or inconsistency, be introduced into the action of dramatic or of epic song. But Milton was resolved to make his angelic beings spirits, in the higher acceptation of the word spirit, and has, of course, been led into difficulties and contrarieties. With bodies defined, though not restrained as to dimension and shape, operating with successive action, obnoxious to corporeal pain and to impressions from external matter, these superhuman agents are declared to be “ incorpo
real spirits;" and are, on some occasions, endued with the peculiar properties of spiritual substances. In the sixth book this embarrassment more evidently or rather more strikingly occurs; and I agree with Dr. Johnson, who has remarked the incongruity which I have noticed, in placing this book, astonishingly sublime as are many of its passages, among the least happy of the twelve which constitute the poem.
On the introduction of the persons of Sin and Death, and the action which is attributed to them, I must confess myself to dissent in opinion from the able critic whom I have just named, as well as from Addison; to whose taste, if not to whose power of intellect, I feel much more inclined to bow in submissive deference. When he formed these personages and blended them with the agents of his poem, the poet appears to me to have availed himself of an indisputable privilege of his art; and, having endued them with consistent action, to be no more censurable for their creation than for
When Satan in the toad affects the mind of Eve, and presents what pictures he pleases to her imagination, he is evidently spirit which can blend with spirit, and act immediately upon it without the intervention of the bodily organs. Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt!
sage in the A cific and form pale horse, wi With Add the discontin at the comm and have reg
or from erro