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the Paradise Lost. In the sixth book, the
The great Bent'ey, when he undertook the editing of Milton, was far advanced in age, and soon after this work, which formed his last publication, his faculties discovered very evident decline. In many of his former works he has displayed a vigour and sagacity of mind, an extent and accuracy of erudition which are truly wonderful, and which, perhaps, have never been exceeded. But his edition of Milton, though it exhibits many characters of the great critic, must be pronounced to be one egregious failure. To the critical sagacity of Bentley may be ap plied what Virgil says of the sword of Metiscus.
victor hath rengeance and pu
heaven;" and whe
clares that he saw
by millions her vic
Do contradiction is But admitting irreconcileable wi
by Raphael, the d
we considered th
made him sensi
must have been object of regard overwhelming as rebels at this tr when they wer
sand thunders, "shot through
senses were SO
nine days in a
"the fiery surg
throw, howeve thunders of th
LIFE OF MILTON,
475 angry victor hath recall'd-His ministers of vengeance and pursuit,-Back to the gates of heaven;" and when Chaos, in the second, declares that he saw as, "Heaven-Pour'd out the one by millions her victorious bands-Pursuing," contradiction is necessarily intimated.
But admitting that these accounts were irreconcileable with the fact, as it is related by Raphael, the difficulty would vanish when we considered the persons by whom the varying circumstances are mentioned. Could an accurate report of such an event be expected from a personification of Chaos, to whom the uproar and the tumult of a rout which incumbered him with ruin," and made him sensible of "tenfold confusion," must have been the leading, if not the sole object of regard? or from beings under the overwhelming astonishment, attributed to the rebels at this tremendous crisis of their fate, when they were "transfix'd with ten thousand thunders," when their "hearts” were "shot through with plagues," and when their senses were so confounded that they lay for nine days in a state of complete oblivion on "the fiery surge which received them falling from the precipice of heaven?" Their overthrow, however, is uniformly ascribed to the thunders of their adversary, with the power
In the sixth bos
the enem broken rea
of whose" dire arms" they were till then unacquainted; and whose "red right hand” had been exerted " to plague them." The coherency, therefore, of the fable in this wonderful poem must be allowed to be perfect; and, as a cause of surprise, with reference to the particular situation of the author, to be exceeded only by an equal consistency discoverable in the Iliad,-if, in truth, that mighty intellectual effort be as certainly the work of a blind, as it was of one man." Much has been said on the unequal flow of Milton's genius; and by some it has been represented as under the influence of particular seasons, while by others it has been regarded as the effect of immediate and positive inspiration. Philips declares that his uncle's poetic faculty was vivid only in the winter, and Toland assigns the spring as the season of its peculiar activity; while Richard
• This is spoken with reference to some extravagances, though not perhaps absolute novelties of opinion, which have lately been supported by a few German scholars. These learned men, who are endued with microscopic vision, "To inspect a mite, not comprehend the heaven;" would wish us to believe that the Iliad was composed at different periods by different rhapsodists, and was not originally committed to writing. By any person capable of comprehending the full force of the internal evidence suggested by the Iliad, these fancies must be immediately re jected as utterly unworthy of attention.
of interruption in ut mora, nulla quie tineat, quoad per rum meorum qua On this pass to admit the une nation, insults of weaker credulity
liberty to do:Milton with hol
son, with a proper respect to the ardent character of the author's mind,' expresses a doubt whether such a work could be suffered for any considerable period to stand absolutely still.
Philips, to whom his relation was accustomed to show the poem in its progress, informs us that, in consequence of not having seen any verses for some time on the advance of summer, he requested to know the cause of what appeared to him to be extraordinary, and that he received in reply from the poet, that "his vein never flowed happily, but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal; and that what he attempted at other times was never to his satisfaction, though he courted his fancy ever so much.” In opposition to
In one of his letters to his friend Deodati, Milton says that when he was engaged in any study, he was urged to prosecute it with his full vigour and application, and was impatient of interruption in his pursuit. "Meum sic est ingenium, nulla ut mora, nulla quies, nulla ferme illius rei cura aut cogitatio distineat, quoad pervadam quo feror, et grandem aliquam studiorum meorum quasi periodum conficiam."
On this passage from Philips, Dr. Johnson, forced as he is to admit the unequal and uncertain flow of the human imagination, insults over the weak fancies of Milton, and the still weaker credulity of his biographers. This, Dr. Johnson was at liberty to do:-but he goes rather too far when he charges Milton with holding an opinion, respecting the general decay
this, and in support of his own opinion, Toland adduces the information, given to him by a friend of Milton's, and the testimony of the bard himself, who, in his beautiful elegy on the arrival of spring, speaks of this delightful season as renovating and invigorating his genius. While the former part of this evidence cannot be poised against that of the author's confidential pupil and nephew, the latter must be considered as too weak and uncertain to be intitled to any great regard.
When he celebrates the inspiration of spring, Milton seems to be only following the example of his poetic predecessors, and to be writing with the taste of a classic ra-ther than from his experience as a man. This season, when nature starts from her slumber and appears to exult in a species of new life, has always supplied the Muse with a favourite topic of description and panegyric. Even in our northern climate, this prime of the year has sufficient charms to allure the susceptible imagination of the poet; but under the glowing skies of Greece
and old age of Nature, which Milton has himself expressly contradicted. See Milton's Latin verses with the title of "Naturam non pati senium."
and Italy it is striking and fa sessed of irresi therefore surp
gery, and find from the vege
lute state of 1
in such a sta
bably, be ver genial virtue, the woods and
would excite stincts and f
he is, from na
and it is in into contact medium th The compl intellect o
and the val