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rical beings introduced among its persons, and on comparing them with those in Andreini's production, 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, or to believe that Milton could have drawn the schemes in question if he had never seen the Adamo of Andreini. As we are assured however, by the passages which we have noticed in the Damon, that Arthur or some other British hero was intended by the author after his return from Italy for the subject of his epic muse, it seems not improbable that he was fostering this idea at the time when lie 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 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.
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 powerful minds, that nothing more can be expected on the ground than a few straggling ears after a well gathered harvest. If any part of this admirable poem has still reason to complain of defective justice, it is that of its diction and its numbers. These seem to be considered by Addison rather as the subjects of apology and defence than of praise; and Johnson has shown himself to be wholly unqualified for the task of appreciating their worth. From the power of Milton the English language has obtained a sublimity adequate to the loftiest conceptions of the hu
Tasso is celebrated by his friend and biographer, the Marquis of Villa, for the introduction of blank verse into the Italian poetry. Tasso wrote a poem without rhyme on the Creation.
The Earl of Sur translated into blank verse the second and the fourth book of the Æneid,
man 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.
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 bo
dies 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 “ incorporeal 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, 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
1 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.
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 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 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 exposed 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 in more than one place distinctly personified; and Death is not only described as the last enemy whoin 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