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M's degressions

NO. 297.

THE SPECTATOR.

17

complaint for his blindness, his panegyric on Marriage, his reflections on ADAM and EVE's going naked, of the angels eating, and several other passages in his poem, are liable to the same exception, though I must confess there is so great a beauty in these very digressions, that I could not wish them out of his poem.

I have, in a former paper, spoken of the Characters of MILTON'S Paradise Lost, and declared my opinion, as to the allegorical persons who are introduced in it. *

If we look into the Sentiments, I think they are sometimes defective under the following heads; first, as there are several of them too much pointed, and some that degenerate even into Puns. Of this last kind, I am afraid, that in the first book, where, speaking of the Pygmies he calls them,

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Another blemish that appears in some of his thoughts, is his frequent allusion to Heathen fables, which are not certainly of a piece with the divine subject of which he treats. I do not find fault with these allusions, where

the

poet himself represents them as fabulous, as he does in some places, but where he mentions them as truths and matters of fact. The limits of my paper will not give me leave to be particular in instances of this kind; the reader will easily remark them in his perusal of the

poem.

A third fault in his Sentiments, is an unnecessary ostentation of learning, which likewise occurs very frequently. It is certain that both HOMER and VIRGIL were masters of all the learning of their times, but it shews itself in their works after an indirect and concealed manner. MILTON Seems ambitious of letting us know, by his excursions on free-will and predestination, and his many glances upon history, astronomy, geography,

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* See No. 273.

did he have purpose for dring wo

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phy, and the like, as well as by the terms and phrases he sometimes makes use of, that he was acquainted with the whole circle of arts and sciences.

If, in the last place, we consider the Language of this great poet, we must allow what I have hinted in a former paper, that it is often too much laboured, and sometimes obscured by old words, transpositions, and foreign idioms. SENECA's objection to the stile of a great author, Riget ejus oratio, nibil in eâ placidum, nibil lene, is what many critics make to MILTON. As I cannot wholly refute it, so I have already apologized for it in another paper: to which I may further add, that MILTON'S Sentiments and ideas were so wonderfully sublime, that it would have been impossible for him to have represented them in their full strength and beauty, without having recourse to these foreign assistances. Our language sunk under him, and was unequal to that greatness of soul, which furnished him with such glorious conceptions.

A second fault in his Language is, that he often affects a kind of jingle in his words, as in the following passages, and many others:

"And brought into the world a world of woe.

--Begirt th' Almighty throne

Beseeching or besieging

This tempted our attempt

At one slight bound high overleapt all bound."

I know there are figures of this kind of speech, that some of the greatest ancients have been guilty of it, and that ARISTOTLE himself has given it a place in his Rhetoric among the beauties of that art. But as it is

in itself poor and trifling, it is, I think at present, universally exploded by all the masters of polite writing,

The last fault which I shall take notice of in MILTON'S stile, is the frequent use of what the learned call technical words, or terms of art. It is one of the greatest beauties of poetry, to make hard things intelligible, and

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asarity bad?

to deliver what is abstruse of itself in such easy lan-
guage as may be understood by ordinary readers; be-
sides, that the knowledge of a poet should rather seem
born with him, or inspired, than drawn from books and
systems. I have often wondered how Mr. DRYDEN
could translate a passage out of VIRGIL after the fol-
lowing manner:

"Tack to the larboard and stand off to sea,
Veer starboard sea and land.".

MILTON makes use of larboard in the same manner.
When he is upon building, he mentions Dorick Pillars,
Pilasters, Cornice, Freeze, Architrave. When he talks of
heavenly bodies, you meet with "ecliptic and eccen-
tric, the trepidation, stars dropping from the zenith,
rays culminating from the equator:" to which might
be added many instances of the like kind in several

other arts and sciences.

I shall in my next papers give an account of the many particular beauties in MILTON, which would have been too long to insert under those general heads I have already treated of, and with which I intend to conclude this piece of criticism.

L.

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Í AM a virgin, and in no case despicable, but yet

such as I am I must remain, or else become, it is to be feared, less happy; for I find not the least good effect from the just correction you some time since gave that too free, that looser part of our sex which spoils the men; the same connivance at the vices, the same easy admittance of addresses, the same vitiated relish of the conversation of the greatest rakes (or in a more fashionable way of expressing one's self, of such as have seen the world most) still abounds, increases, multiplies.

The humble petition, therefore, of many of the most strictly virtuous, and of myself, is, that you will once more exert your authority, and, according to your late promise, your full, your impartial authority, on this sillier branch of our kind; for why should they be the uncontroulable mistresses of our fate? Why should they, with impunity, indulge the males in licentiousness whilst single, and we have the dismal hazard and plague of reforming them when married? Strike home, Sir, then, and spare not, or all our maiden hopes, our gilded hopes of nuptial felicity are frustrated, are vanished, and you yourself,

I

yourself, as well as Mr. COURTLY, will, by smoothing over immodest practices with the gloss of soft and harmless names, for ever forfeit our esteem. Nor think that I am herein more severe than need be: if I have not reason more than enough, do you and the world judge from this ensuing account, which, I think, will prove the evil to be universal.

You must know then, that since your reprehension of this female degeneracy came out, I have had a tender of respects from no less than five persons, of tolerable figure too as times go: but the misfortune is, that four of the five are professed followers of the mode. They would face me down, that all women of good sense ever were, and ever will be latitudinarians in wedlock; and always did and will give and take, what they profanely term conjugal liberty of conscience.

The two first of them, a Captain and a Merchant, to strengthen their arguments, pretend to repeat after a couple of ladies of quality and wit, that VENUS was always kind to MARS; and what soul that has the least spark of generosity, can deny a man of bravery any thing; and how pitiful a trader that, whom no woman but his own wife will have correspondence and dealings with? Thus these; whilst the third, the Country Squire, confessed, that indeed he was surprised into good-breed ing, and entered into the knowledge of the world unawares; that dining the other day at a gentleman's house, the person who entertained was obliged to leave him with his wife and nieces; where they spoke with so much contempt of an absent gentleman for being so slow at a hint, that he resolved never to be drowsy, unmannerly, or stupid, for the future, at a friend's house; and on a hunting morning, not to pursue the game either with the husband abroad, or with the wife at home.

'The next that came was a tradesman, no less full of the age than the former; for he had the gallantry to tell me, that at a late junket which he was invited to, the motion being made, and the question being put, it was, by

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