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469

LIFE OF MILTON.

that of Moloch or of Belial, with whom in fact they exist in equally substantial being. The whole of the machinery of Homer has been explained into allegory; and the Grecian bard, when he desolates the camp of the Greeks with the arrows of Apollo, is as open to reprehension as the English, when he opposes poses the progress of Satan with the dart of Death: in the first instance, the plain fact to be related is the ravage of a pestilence; and in the last, the danger of annihilation to which the adventurous Archangel was exsposed by the attempt to break from his prison. If any authority were wanted to support Milton in this particular exertion of his poetic prerogative, it might easily be obtained from the sacred scriptures. In these Sin is distinctly personified in more than one place, and Death is not only described as the last enemy whom the Son of God is to vanquish; but, in a dreadfully sublime passage in the Apocalypse, is invested with specific and formidable agency, mounted upon a pale horse, with all hell following in his train. With Addison, I have always regretted the discontinuance of the story in vision, at the commencement of the twelfth book; and have regarded the circumstance, whether resulting from apprehended difficulty or from error in the great poet's judgment,

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as forming a blemish in the work and conducting it with abated vigour to the goal. But to suggest the defects of this glorious poem would be a short labour, while a display of its beauties would occupy a volume. With respect to grandeur of conception, it must be regarded as the first, or to the general exhibition of intellectual power, as, unquestionably, the second among all the productions of human genius; while, in the subordinate excellencies of composition, it will be found to yield the precedency only to the wonderful Iliad, or to the august and polished Æneid. If we reflect, indeed, on the greatly inferior language, in which the English poet has been compelled to embody the creation of his brain, we shall be much more surprised at the approach in perfection which he has made to the poetic diction of the two mighty masters of heroic song, than at his acknowledged inability to exalt the beauty and harmony of his muse into a doubtful competition with theirs.

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In the second edition of the Paradise Lost, which was published as we have already suggested, in 1674, the author divided

2 When I make this assertion I am not ignorant of the great and daring imagination of Dante, of the sportive and affluent fancy of Ariosto; of the powerful yet regulated and classic ge nius of Tasso.

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the seventh and the tenth book, for the purpose of breaking the length of their narration, each into two; and thus changed the original distribution of his work from ten into twelve books, On this new arrangement, the addition of a few lines became necessary to form a regular opening to the eighth and the twelfth book; and these nine verses," for such is their number, with six

The additional Lines are the following ones included between the inverted commas

66

Book VIII.

"The angel ended, and in Adam's ear"
"So charming left his voice, that he awhile.

"Thought him still speaking; still stood fix'd to hear: "Then as new waked" thus gratefully replied.

Book XII.

"As one who on his journey bates at noon"
"Though bent on speed: so here th' Archangel paused"
"Betwixt the world destroy'd, and world restored: "
"If Adam aught perhaps might interpose;"

"Then with transition sweet, new speech resumes-
Book. V. v. 637.

They eat, they drink, and " in communion sweet"
"Quaff immortality and joy, secure"

"Of surfeit, where full measure only bounds"
Excess," before th' all-bounteous king, &c.

Book XI. v. 484.

• Dæmoniac phrenzy, moaping melancholy,"
"And moon-struck madness, pining atrophy."
Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence."

v. 551.

Of rend'ring up," and patiently attend"
"My dissolution," &c.

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others, inserted partly in the fifth book, and partly in the eleventh, constituted all the alterations, deemed necessary by the poet, in that mighty production of his mind, on which his fame with posterity was principally to rest and which formed the great and the crowning exploit of his life. The Paradise Lost, therefore, may be contemplated with more wonder as springing, like another Pallas, in a state of full maturity from the head of its mighty father, and proudly relinquishing every subsequent demand on him for the assistance of parental affection. I notice this circumstance indeed, which has been remarked before me by Fenton, rather for its curiosity than to detract from the merit of those, who make their advances to relative perfection by frequent and laborious revision. The final excellence of the work is all with which the world is concerned; and the existence of the mental power, which eventually accomplishes the object, is all that respects the reputation of the writer.

That, under the disadvantage of blindness, the poet should be able to preserve entire the combination of such a poem as the Paradise Lost, is, indeed, a just subject of surprise. In compositions of any length, in which strict unity of design is required, the author, after the first construction of his fable,

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LIFE OF MILTON,

473

has his papers before him to correct those ac-
cidental deviations from his course, into which
he may unwarily have been betrayed. But
without this resource against error, and with
a very inadequate substitute for it in the occa
sional readings of a friend, Milton must have
retained in his memory all the intricacies of
his fable; and have seen them all, during the
time of composition, in one strong point of
concentrated vision. Through the whole ex-
tent of his poem no incongruity is to be de-
tected; and all the various lines are drawn
with infallible rectitude to their just point.
Bentley, indeed, imagined that he had dis-
covered inconsistency in the relations, in dif-
ferent parts of the poem, of the expulsion of
the rebel Angels from heaven: but the acute-
ness of the great critic, which had been so
illustriously displayed in a variety of preced-
ing instances, failed him in this; as it did in
almost
every other when it was exercised on

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A modern French critic (La Harpe in his Lyceum, vol. xiv.) calls the Paradise Lost a shapeless production,-a poem which has neither course nor plan; and which joins to many other faults that of terminating at the end of the fifth canto, so that it is impossible to wade through what follows without languor!!! To what cause are we to impute this strange language of the critic? It seems to argue the most entire ignorance of his subject in union with the most consummate conceit: but it may proceed from nothing more than the wish of propitiating popular regard by the sacrifice of a majestic foe on the altar of national vanity.

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