Imágenes de páginas

decline when he wrote his second hero, but has also many posipoem, and who therefore turn tive precepts every where interfrom it, as from a dry prosaic spersed. It is written for the composition, are, I will venture most part in a style admirably to say, no judges of poetry. condensed, and with a studied With a fancy, such as Milton's, reserve of ornament: it is neverit must have been more difficult theless illuminated with beauties to forbear poetic decorations than of the most captivating kind. to furnish them; and a glaring Its leading feature throughout is profusion of ornament would, I that “excellence of composition" conceive, have more decidedly which, as Lord Monboddo justly betrayed the poeta senescens, than observes, so eminently distina want of it. The first book of guished the writings of the anthe Paradise Lost abounds in cients; and in which, of all mosimilies, and is, in other respects, dern authors, Milton most reas elevated and sublime as any sembles them. We may justly in the whole poem.

But here apply to the whole poem an obthe poet's plan was totally dif- servation respecting our author ferent. Though it may be said from the pen of Mr. Headley, of the Paradise Regained, as (Biographical Sketches, prefixed Longinus has said of the Odyssey, to Headley's Select Beauties of that it is the Epilogue of the pre- Ancient English Poelry. Art. F. ceding poem, still the design and Quarles.) « To mix the waters conduct of it is as different, as « of Jordan and Helicon in the that of the Georgics from the same cup was reserved for the Æneid. The Paradise Regained “ hand of Milton; and for him, has something of the didactic “ and him only, to find the bays character; it teaches not merely “ of Mount Olivet equally verby the general moral, and by “ dant with those of Parnassus." the character and conduct of its Dunster.





Τραγωδια μιμησις πραξιως σπουδαιας, &c.

Aristot. Poet. cap. 6. Tragedia est imitatio actionis seriæ, &c. per misericordiam

et metum perficiens talium affectuum lustrationem.




TRAGEDY, as it was anciently composed, hath been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems: therefore said by Aristotle to be of power by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such like passions, that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion: for so in physic things of melancholic hue and quality are used against melancholy, sour against sour, salt to remove salt humours. Hence philosophers and other gravest writers, as Cicero, Plutarch, and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets, both to adorn and illustrate their discourse. The apostle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to insert 'a verse of Euripides into the text of holy Scripture, 1 Cor. xv. 33. and Paræus comnienting on the Revelation, divides the whole book as a tragedy, into acts distinguished each by a chorus of heavenly harpings and song between. Heretofore men in highest dignity have laboured not a little to be thought able to compose a tragedy. Of that honour Dionysius the elder was no less ambitious,

a a verse of Euripides] The verse nander, and it is extant among the here quoted is Evil communications cor. fragments of Menander, p. 79. Le rupt good manners: but I am inclined Clerc's Edit. to think that Milton is mistaken in calling it a verse of Euripides ; for Je.

Φθειρoυσιν ηθη χρησε ομιλιαι κακαι. . rome and Grotius, (who published the Such slips of memory may be found fragments of Menander,) and the best sometimes in the best writers. As we commentators, ancient and modern, say observed before, Diodorus Siculus cites that it is taken from the Thais of Me. Eupolis instead of Aristophanes.

than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Augustus Cæsar also had begun his Ajax, but unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinished. Seneca the philosopher is by some thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a Father of the Church, thought it not unbeseeming the sanctity of his person to write a tragedy, which is entitled Christ suffering. This is mentioned to vindicate Tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day with other common interludes; happening through the poet's error of intermixing comic stuff with tragic sadness and gravity; or introducing trivial and vulgar persons, which by all judicious hath been counted absurd; and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient tragedy use no prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self-defence, or explanation, that which Martial calls an epistle; in behalf of this tragedy coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us passes for best, thus much beforehand may be epistled; that chorus is here introduced after the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modelling therefore of this poem, with good reason, the ancients and Italians are rather followed, as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verse used in the chorus is of all sorts, called by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epode, which were a kind of stanzas framed only for the music, then used with the chorus that sung; not essential to the poem, and therefore not material; or being divided into stanzas or pauses, they may be called Alloostropha. Division into act and scene referring chiefly to the stage (to which this work never was intended) is here omitted.

It suffices if the whole drama be found not produced beyond the fifth act. Of the style and uniformity, and that com

« AnteriorContinuar »