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and in the conduct of it, he has shewn a stretch both of imagination and invention, which is perfectly wonderful. It is astonishing how, from the few hints given us in the sacred scripturés, he was able to raise so complete and regular a structure; and to fill his poem with such a variety of incidents. Dry and harsh passages sometimes occur. The author appears, upon some occasions, a metaphysician and a divine, rather than a poet. But the general tenor of his work is interesting; he seizes and fixes the imagination; engages, elevates, and affects us as we proceed; which is always a sure test of merit in an epic composition. The artful change of his objects; the scene laid now in earth, now in hell, and now in heaven, affords a sufficient diversity; while unity of plan is, at the same time, perfectly supported. We have still life, and calm scenes, in the employments of Adam and Eve in Paradise; and we have busy scenes and great actions, in the enterprise of Satan, and the wars of the angels. The innocence, purity, and amiableness of our first parents, opposed to the pride and ambition of Satan, furnishes a happy contrast, that reigns throughout the whole poem; only the conclusion, as I before observed, is too tragic for epic poetry.

The nature of the subject did not admit any great display of characters; but such as could be introduced, are supported with much propriety. Satan, in particular, makes a striking figure, and is, indeed, the best drawn character in the poem. Milton has not described him, such as we suppose an infernal spirit to be. He has, more suitably to his own purpose, given him a human, that is, a mixed character, not altogether void of some good qualities. He is brave and faithful to his troops. In the midst of his impiety, he is not without remorse. He is even touched with pity for our first parents; and justifies himself in his design against them, from the necessity of his situation. He is actuated by ambition and resentment, rather than by pure malice. In short, Milton's Satan is no worse than many a conspirator or factious chief, that makes a figure in history. The different characters of Beelzebub, Moloch, Belial, are exceedingly well painted in those eloquent speeches which they make, in the second book. The good angels, though always described with dignity and propriety, have more uni

formity than the infernal spirits in their appearance; though among them, too, the dignity of Michael, the mild condescension of Raphael, and the tried fidelity of Abdiel, form proper characteristical distinctions. The attempt to describe God Almighty himself, and to recount dialogues between the Father and the Son, was too bold and arduous, and is that wherein our poet, as was to have been expected, has been most unsuccessful. With regard to his human characters; the innocence of our first parents, and their love, are finely and delicately painted. In some of his speeches to Raphael and to Eve, Adam is, perhaps, too knowing and refined for his situation. Eve is more distinctly characterised. Her gentleness, modesty, and frailty, mark very expressively a female character.

Milton's great and distinguished excellence, is, his sublimity. In this, perhaps, he excels Homer; as there is no doubt of his leaving Virgil, and every other poet, far behind him. Almost the whole of the first and second books of Paradise Lost, are continued instances of the highest sublime. The prospect of hell and of the fallen host, the appearance and behaviour of Satan, the consultation of the infernal chiefs, and Satan's flight through chaos to the borders of this world, discover the most lofty ideas that ever entered into the conception of any poet. In the sixth book also, there is much grandeur, particularly in the appearance of the Messiah; though some parts of that book are censurable; and the witticisms of the devils upon the effect of their artillery, form an intolerable blemish. Milton's sublimity is of a different kind from that of Homer. Homer's is generally accompanied with fire and impetuosity; Milton's possesses more of a calm and amazing grandeur. Homer warms and hurries us along; Milton fixes us in a state of astonishment and elevation. Homer's sublimity appears most in the description of actions; Milton's, in that of wonderful and stupendous objects.

But though Milton is most distinguished for his sublimity, yet there is also much of the beautiful, the tender, and the pleasing, in many parts of his work. When the scene is laid in Paradise, the imagery is always of the most gay and smiling kind. His descriptions show an uncommonly fertile imagination; and in his similes, he is, for the most part, remarkably happy. They are seldom improperly introduced; seldom either

low or trite. They generally present to us images taken from the sublime or the beautiful class of objects; if they have any faults, it is their alluding too frequently to matters of learning, and to fables of antiquity. In the latter part of Paradise Lost, there must be confessed to be a falling off. With the fall of our first parents, Milton's genius seems to decline. Beauties, however, there are, in the concluding books, of the tragic kind. The remorse and contrition of the guilty pair, and their lamentations over Paradise, when they are obliged to leave it, are very moving. The last episode of the angel's shewing Adam the fate of his posterity, is happily imagined; but, in many places the execution is languid.

Milton's language and versification have high merit. His style is full of majesty, and wonderfully adapted to his subject. His blank verse is harmonious and diversified, and affords the most complete example of the elevation, which our language is capable of attaining by the force of numbers. It does not flow like the French verse, in tame, regular, uniform melody, which soon tires the ear; but is sometimes smooth and flowing, sometimes rough; varied in its cadence, and intermixed with discords, so as to suit the strength and freedom of epic composition. Neglected and prosaic lines, indeed, we sometimes meet with ; but, in a work so long, and in the main so harmonious, these may be forgiven.

On the whole; Paradise Lost is a poem that abounds with beauties of every kind, and that justly entitles its author to a degree of fame not inferior to any poet; though it must also be admitted to have many inequalities. It is the lot of almost every high and daring genius, not to be uniform and correct. Milton is too frequently theological and metaphysical; sometimes harsh in his language; often too technical in his words, and affectedly ostentatious of his learning. Many of his faults must be attributed to the pedantry of the age in which he lived, He discovers a vigour, a grasp of genius equal to every thing that is great; sometimes he rises above every poet; at other times he falls much below himself.




DRAMATIC poetry has, among all civilized nations, been considered as a rational and useful entertainment, and judged worthy of careful and serious discussion. According as it is employed upon the light and the gay, or upon the grave and affecting incidents of human life, it divides itself into the two forms, of comedy or tragedy. But as great and serious objects command more attention than little and ludicrous ones; as the fall of a hero interests the public more than the marriage of a private person; tragedy has always been held a more dignified entertainment than comedy. The one rests upon the high passions, the virtues, crimes, and sufferings of mankind. The other on their humours, follies, and pleasures. Terror and pity are the great instruments of the former; ridicule is the sole instrument of the latter. Tragedy shall therefore be the object of our fullest discussion. This and the following Lecture shall be employed on it; after which I shall treat of what is peculiar to comedy.

Tragedy, considered as an exhibition of the characters and behaviour of men, in some of the most trying and critical situations of life, is a noble idea of poetry. It is a direct imitation of human manners and actions. For it does not, like the epic poem, exhibit characters by the narration and description of the poet; but the poet disappears; and the personages themselves are set before us, acting and speaking what is suitable to their characters. Hence, no kind of writing is so great a trial of the author's profound knowledge of the human heart. kind of writing has so much power, when happily executed, to raise the strongest emotions. It is, or ought to be, a mirror in which we behold ourselves, and the evils to which we are exVOL. II.



posed; a faithful copy of the human passions, with all their direful effects, when they are suffered to become extravagant.

As tragedy is a high and distinguished species of composition, so also, in its general strain and spirit, it is favourable to virtue. Such power hath virtue happily over the human mind, by the wise and gracious constitution of our nature, that as admiration cannot be raised in epic poetry, so neither in tragic poetry can our passions be strongly moved, unless virtuous emotions be awakened within us. Every poet finds, that it is impossible to interest us in any character, without representing that character as worthy and honourable, though it may not be perfect ; and that the great secret for raising indignation, is to paint the person who is to be the object of it, in the colours of vice and depravity, He may, indeed, nay, he must, represent the virtuous as sometimes unfortunate, because this is often the case in real life; but he will always study to engage our hearts in their behalf; and though they may be described as unprosperous, yet there is no instance of a tragic poet representing vice as fully triumphant, and happy in the catastrophe of the piece. Even when bad men succeed in their designs, punishment is made always to attend them; and misery of one kind or other, is shewn to be unavoidably connected with guilt. Love and admiration of virtuous characters, compassion for the injured and the distressed, and indignation against the authors of their sufferings, are the sentiments most generally excited by tragedy. And, therefore, though dramatic writers may sometimes, like other writers, be guilty of improprieties, though they may fail of placing virtue precisely in the due point of light, yet no reasonable person can deny tragedy to be a moral species of composition. Taking tragedies complexly, I am fully persuaded, that the impressions left by them upon the mind are, on the whole, favourable to virtue and good dispositions. And, therefore, the zeal which some pious men have shewn against the entertainments of the theatre, must rest only upon the abuse of comedy; which, indeed, has frequently been so great as to justify very severe censures against it.

The account which Aristotle gives of the design of tragedy, is, that it is intended to purge our passions by means of pity and terror. This is somewhat obscure. Various senses have

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