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thought in Homer, and at the same time compare it with an instance of the same nature both in Virgil and Milton. Sentiments which raise laughter can very seldom be admitted with any decency into a heroic poem, whose business it is to excite passions of a much nobler nature. ' Homer, however, in his characters of Vulcan and Thersites, in his story of Mars and Venus, in his behaviour of Irus, and in other passages, has been observed to have lapsed into the burlesque character, and to have departed from that serious air which seems essential to the magnificence of an epic poem. I remember but one laugh in the whole Æneid, which rises in the fifth book, upon Monætes, where he is represented as thrown overboard, and drying himself upon a rock. But this piece of mirth is so well tined that the severest critic can have nothing to say against it; for it is in the book of games and diversions, where the reader's wind may be supposed to be sufficiently relaxed for such an entertainment. The only piece of pleasantry in Paradise Lost, is where the evil spirits are described as rallying the angels upon the success of their new invented artillery. This passage I look upon to be the most exceptionable in the whole poem, as being nothing else but a string of puns, and those too very indifferent ones,

. Satan beheld their plight, And to his maies thus in derision calla:

*O friends, why come not on those victors proud ?
Ere while they fierce were coming; and when we,
To entertain them fair with open front
And breast, (what could we more?) propounded terms
Of composition, straight they chang'd their minds,
Plew off, and into strange vagaries fell


As they would dance : yet for a dance they seem'd
Somewhat extravagant, and wild; perhaps
For joy of offer'd peace : but I suppose,
If our proposals once again were beard,
We should compel them to a quick result.

• To whom thus Belial in like gamesome mood :-
Leader, the terms we sent were terms of weigbl,
Of hard contents, and full of force urg'd home;
Such as we might perceive amus’d them all,
And stumbled many : who receives them right,
Had need from head to foot well understand:
Not understood, this gift they have besides,
They show us when our foes walk not uprigbı.

“So they among themselves in pleasant vein Stood scotling

Milton's Paradise Lost, b. vi. L609, &c.


Having already treated of the fable, the characters, and sentiments in the Paradise Lost, we are in the last place to consider the language; and as the learned world is very much divided upon Milton as to this point, I hope they will excuse me if I appear particular in any of my opinions, and incline to those who judge the most advantageously of the author.

It is requisite that the language of a heroic poem should be both perspicuous and sublime. In proportion as either of these two qualities is wanting, the language is imperfect. Perspicuity is the first and most necessary qualification; insomuch that a goodnalured reader sometimes overlooks a little slip even in the grammar or syntax, where it is impossible for him to mistake the poet's sense, Of this kind is that passage in Milton, wherein he speaks of Satan :

God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valu'd he nor shunnd.'

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And that in which he describes Adam and Eve:

Adam, the goodliest man of men since born His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.' It is plain, that in the former of these passages, according to the natural syntax, the divine persons mentioned in the first line are represented as created beings; and that, in the other, Adam and Eve are confounded with their sons and daughters. Such little blemishes as these, when the thought is great and natural, we should, with Horace, impute to a pardonable inadvertency, or to the weakness of human nature, which cannot attend to cach minute particular, and give the last finishing to every circumstance in so long a work. The ancient critics, therefore, who were actuated by a spirit of candour rather than that of cavilling, invented certain figures of speech, on purpose to palliate little errors of this nature in the writings of those authors who had so many greater beauties to atone for them.

If clearness, and perspicuity were only to be consulted, the poet would have nothing else to do but to clothe his thoughts in the most plain and natural expressions. But since it often happens that the most obvious phrases, and those which are used in ordinary conversation, become too familiar to the ear, and contract a kind of meanness by passing through the mouths of the vulgar; a poet should take particular care to guard himself against idiomatic ways of speaking. Ovid and Lacan have many poornesses of expression upon this account, as taking up with the first phrases that offered, without putting themselves to the trouble of looking after such as would not only have been natural, but also elevated and sublime. Milton has but few failings in this kind, of which, however, you may nect with soine instances, as in the follow. ing passages :

• Embryos and idiots, eremites and friars,
White, black, and gray, with all their trumpery.
Here pilgrims roam

- A while discourse they hold,
No fear lest dinner coul; when thus began
Our author
Who of all ages to succeed, but feeling
The evil on him brought by me, will curse
My head, ill fare our ancestor impure,
For this we may thank Adam.---

The great masters in composition know very well that many an elegant plorase becomes improper for a pact or an urator, when it has been debased by comulou use. For this reason the works of ancient authors, which are written in dead languages, have a great advantage over those which are written in languages that are now spoken. Were there any mean phrases or idioms in Virgil and Ilomer, they would not shock the car of the most delicate modern reader, so much as they would have done that of an old Greck or Roman, because we never hear them pronounced in our streets, or iu ordinary conversation.

It is not therefore sufficicut that the language of an epic poeın be perspicuous, unless it be also sublime. To this end, it ought to deviate froin the coinmon 5


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forms and ordinary phrases of speech. The judgment of a poet very much discovers itself in shunning the common roads of expression, without falling into such ways of speech as may seem stiff and unnatural; he must not swell into a false sublime, by endeavouring to avoid the other extreme. - Among the Greeks, Æschylus, and sometimes Sophocles, were guilty of this fault; among the Latins, Claudian and Statius; and among our own countrymen, Shakespear and Lee. In these authors the affectation of greatness often hurts the perspicuity of the style, as in many others the endeavour after perspicuity prejudices its greatness.

Aristotle has observed, that the idiomatic style may be avoided, and the sublime formed, by the following methods. First, by the use of metaphors; such are those of Milton :

• Imparadised in one another's arms.

And in his hand a reed
Stood waving tipt with fire.-
The grassy clods now calvid,-
Spangled with eyes -

In these and innumerable other instances, the me. taphors are very bold, but just. I must however observe that the metaphors are not so thick sown in Milton, which always eavours too much of wit; that they never clash with one another, which, as Aristotle observes, turns a sentence into a kind of ænigma or riddle; and that he seldom has recourse to them where the proper and natural words will do as well.

of raising the language, and giving it a poetical turn, is to make use of the idioms of other tongues. Virgil is full of the Greek forms of speech, which the critics call Hellenisms, as Horace in his


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