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she was to select her husband, uses nearly
The honour, sir, which flames in your fair eyes,
The Mask of Comus was acted before the earl of Bridgewater, the president of Wales, in 1634, at Ludlow Castle; and the characters of the Lady and the iwo Brothers were
* The readers of Milton's juvenile poetry are under considerable obligations to Mr. Warton ; but this gentleman, like other commentators, sonictimes employs much perverse ingenuity in making what is plain obscure, what is good bad. Accumulating passages,
in a note on verse 81 of this piece
And so attend ye on her glittering state,
The swan with arched neck
i. e., the swan with arched neck, between the mantling of her white wings, proudly rows her canopy, (her head and bent neck) with her feet for oars. Having established this sense of the passage, he very properly accuses the great poet of an affected and unnatural conceit!!! If this be not ingenuity become mad, mischievous, and dull-I will appeal, from the black letter critics, to all the readers of taste,
From old Bellerium to the northern main,
from the Land's End to Johu-a Grot's house,
represented by the lady Alice Egerton, then about thirteen
of and her two brothers, lord Brackley and Thomas Egerton, who were still younger. The story of this piece is said to have been suggested by the circumstance of the lady Alice having been separated from her company in the night, and having wandered for some time by herself in the forest of Haywood, as she was returning from a distant visit to meet her father, on his taking possession of his newly intrusted scepter. On this small base of fact a most sumptuous and beautiful edifice of fancy has been constructed.
Comus, KOMOL, or revelry, had been
• See Warton's note on Comus, said to be mentioned in a MS. by Oldys, 1.34.
P Την γαρ στέγην την δ' έποτ' εκλέιπει χορός
Σύμφθογίος, εκ ευφωνoς: γαρ ευ λίγει.
personified, as Mr. Warton has remarked before me, in a dreadfully sublime passage of the Agamemnon of Æschylus; and the jolly god had been already introduced upon our stage in a mask by Ben Jonson: but it remained for Milton to develope his form and character, to give him a lineage and an empire, and to make him the hero of the most exquisite dramatic poem, which, perhaps, the genius of man has ever produced. Among the compositions of our own country it certainly stands unrivalled for its affluence in poetic imagery and diction; and, as an effort of the creative power, it can be paralleled only by the muse of Shakspeare, by whom, in this respect, it is possibly exceeded.
With Shakspeare the whole, with exception to some rude outlines or suggestions of the story, is the immediate emanation of his own mind: but Milton's erudition prohibited him from this extreme originality, and was perpetually supplying him with thoughts, which would sometimes obtain the preference from his judgment, and would sometimes be mistaken for her own property by his invention. Original, however, he is; and of all the sons of song inferior in this requisite of
genius only to Shakspeare. Neither of these wonderful men was so far privileged above
his species as to possess other means of acquiring knowledge than through the inlets of the senses, and the subsequent operations of the mind on this first mass of ideas. The most exalted of human intelligences cannot form one mental phantasm uncompounded of this visible world. Neither Shakspeare nor Milton could conceive a sixth corporeal sense, or a creature absolutely distinct from the inhabiters of this world. A Caliban or an Ariel; a devil, or an angel are only several compositions and modifications of our animal creation; and heaven and hell can be built with nothing more than our terrestrial elements newly arranged and variously combined. The distinction, therefore, between one human intelligence and another must be occasioned solely by the different degrees of clearness, force, and quickness with which it perceives, retains and combines. On the superiority in these mental faculties it would be difficult to decide between those extraordinary men, who are the immediate subjects of our remark: for if are astonished at that power, which, from a single spot, as it were, could collect sufficient materials for the construction of a world of its own, we cannot gaze without wonder
at that proud magnificence of intellect, which rushing, like some mighty river through extended lakes, and receiving into its-bosom the contributory waters of a thousand regions, preserves its course, its name, and its character entire. With Milton, from whatever mine the ore may originally be derived, the coin issues from his own mint with his own image and superscription; and passes inio currency
with a value peculiar to itself. To speak accurately, the mind of Shakspeare could not create; and that of Milton invented with equal or with nearly equal power and effect. If we admit in the Tempest, or the Midsummer's Night's Dream, a higher flight of the inventive faculty, we must allow a less interrupted stretch of it in the Comus. In this
be something, which might have been corrected by the revising judgment of its author; but its errors, in thought and in language, are so few and trivial that they must be regarded as the inequality of the plumage, and not as the depression or the unsteadiness of the wing. The most splendid results of Shakspeare's poctry are still urged and separated by some interposing defect: but the poetry of the Cornus, may be contemplated as a series of