Изображения страниц

sions, where the subject is capable of The poet has very finely represented the poetical ornaments, as particularly in the joy and gladness of heart which arises in Confusion which he describes among the Adam upon his discovery of the Messiah. builders of Babel, and in his short sketch As he sees his day at a distance through of the plagues of Egypt. The storm of types and shadows, he rejoices in it; but hail and fire, with the darkness that over-when he finds the redemption of man comspread the land for three days, are de- pleted, and Paradise again renewed, he scribed with great strength. The beautiful breaks forth in rapture and transport: passage which follows is raised upon noble · O goodness infinite! goodness immense! hints in Scripture: That all this good of evil shall produce,' &c.

-Thus with ten wounds
The river dragon tam'd, at length submits
To let his sojourners depart; and oft

Humbles his stubborn heart; but still, as ice,
More harden'd after thaw: till in his rage
Pursuing whom he late dismiss'd, the sea
Swallows him with his host; but then lets man
As on dry land between two crystal walls,
Aw'd by the rod of Moses so to stand

The river dragon is an allusion to the crocodile, which inhabits the Nile, from whence Egypt derives her plenty. This allusion is taken from that sublime passage in Ezekiel: Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.' Milton has given us another very noble and poetical image in the same description, which is copied almost word for word out of the history of Moses!

All night he will pursue, but his approach
Darkness defends between till morning watch
Then through the fiery pillar and the cloud
God looking forth will trouble all his host,
And craze their chariot wheels: when by command
Moses once more his potent rod extends

Over the sea: the sea his rod obeys:

On their embattled ranks the waves return
And overwhelm their war-

As the principal design of this episode was to give Adam an idea of the holy person who was to reinstate human nature in that happiness and perfection from which it had fallen, the poet confines himself to the line of Abraham, from whence the Messiah was to descend. The angel is described as seeing the patriarch actually travelling towards the land of promise, which gives a particular liveliness to this part of the narration:

• I see him, but thou canst not, with what faith He leaves his gods, his friends, his native soil, Ur of Chaldea, passing now the ford

To Haran; after him a cumbrous train

Of herds, and flocks, and num'rous servitude;
Not wand'ring poor, but trusting all his wealth
With God, who call'd him in a land unknown.
Canaan he now attains: I see his tents
Pitch'd about Sechem, and the neighbouring plain
Of Moreh; there by promise he receives
Gift to his progeny of all that land;

From Hamath northward to the desert south:

(Things by their names I call, though yet unnam`d.) As Virgil's vision in the sixth neid probably gave Milton the hint of this whole episode, the last line is a translation of that verse where Anchises mentions the names of places, which they were to bear hereafter: Hæc tum nomina erunt, nune sunt sine nomine terra.

I have hinted in my sixth paper on Milton, that a heroic poem, according to the opinion of the best critics, ought to end happily, and leave the mind of the reader, after having conducted it through many doubts and fears, sorrows and disquietudes, in a state of tranquillity and satisfaction. Milton's fable, which had so many other qualifications to recommend it, was deficient in this particular. It is here therefore that the poet has shown a most exquisite judgment, as well as the finest invention, by finding out a method to supply this natural defect in his subject. Accordingly he leaves the adversary of mankind, in the last view which he gives of him, under the lowest state of mortification and disappointment. We see him chewing ashes, grovelling in the dust, and loaden with supernumerary pains and torments. On the contrary, our two first parents are comforted by dreams and visions, cheered with promises of salvation, and in a manner raised to a greater happiness_than_that which they had forfeited. In short, Satan is represented miserable in the height of his triumphs, and Adam triumphant in the height of misery.

Milton's poem ends very nobly. The last speeches of Adam and the archangel are full of moral and instructive sentiments The sleep that fell upon Eve, and the effects it had in quieting the disorders of her mind, produces the same kind of consolation in the reader, who cannot peruse the last beautiful speech, which is ascribed to the mother of mankind, without a secret pleasure and satisfaction:

[blocks in formation]

reader may observe with how poetical a description Milton has attributed the same kind of motion to the angels who were to take possession of Paradise:

So spake our mother Eve; and Adam heard
Well pleas'd, but answer'd not; for now too nigh
Th' archangel stood; and from the other hill
To their fix'd station, all in bright array
The cherubim descended; on the ground
Gliding meteorous, as evening mist
Ris'n from a river, o'er the marish glides,
And gathers ground fast at the lab'rer's heel
Homeward returning. High in front advanc'd
The brandish'd sword of God before them blaz'd
Fierce as a comet-

The author helped his invention in the following passage, by reflecting on the behaviour of the angel, who in holy writ has the conduct of Lot and his family. The circumstances drawn from that relation are very gracefully made use of on this occasion:

In either hand the hast'ning angel caught
Our ling'ring parents, and to th' eastern gate
Led them direct; and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain; then disappear'd,
They looking back, &c.

no means think, with the last-mentioned French author, that an epic writer first of all pitches upon a certain moral, as the ground-work and foundation of his poem, and afterwards finds out a story to it; I am however of opinion, that no just heroic poem ever was or can be made, from whence one great moral may not be deduced. That which reigns in Milton is the most universal and most useful that can be imagined. It is, in short, this, that obedience to the will of God makes men happy, and that disobedience makes them misera ble. This is visibly the moral of the prin cipal fable, which turns upon Adam and Eve, who continued in Paradise while they kept the command that was given them, and were driven out of it as soon as they had transgressed. This is likewise the moral of the principal episode, which shows us how an innumerable multitude of angels fell. from their disobedience. Besides this great moral, which may be looked upon as the soul of the fable, there are an infinity of under-morals which are to be drawn from the several parts of the poem, and which make this work more useful and instructive than any other poem in any language.

Those who have criticised on the Odyssey, the Iliad, and Æneid, have taken a great deal of pains to fix the number of months and days contained in the action of each of these poems. If any one thinks it worth his while to examine this particular in Milton, he will find, that from Adam's first appearance in the fourth book, to his expulsion from Paradise in the twelfth, the pas-author reckons ten days. As for that part of the action which is described in the three first books, as it does not pass within the regions of nature, I have before observed that it is not subject to any calculations of time.

The scene which our first parents are surprised with, upon their looking back on Paradise, wonderfully strikes the reader's imagination, as nothing can be more natural than the tears they shed on that occasion:

They looking back, all th' eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Wav'd over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces throng'd and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropp'd but wip'd them soon;

The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.

If I might presume to offer at the smallest alteration in this divine work, I should think the poem would end better with the sage here quoted, than with the two verses which follow:

They hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow
Through Eden took their solitary way.

These two verses, though they have their beauty, fall very much below the foregoing passage, and renew in the mind of the reader that anguish which was pretty well laid by

that consideration:

The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.

The number of books in Paradise Lost is equal to those of the Æneid. Our author, in his first edition, had divided his poem into ten books, but afterwards broke the seventh and the eleventh each of them into two different books, by the help of some small additions. This second division was made with great judgment, as any one may see who will be at the pains of examining it. It was not done for the sake of such a chimerical beauty as that of resembling Virgil in this particular, but for the more just and regular disposition of this great work.

Those who have read Bossu, and many of the critics who have written since his time, will not pardon me if I do not find out the particular moral which is inculcated in Paradise Lost. Though I can by

I have now finished my observations on a work which does an honour to the English under these four heads the fable, the chanation. I have taken a general view of it racters, the sentiments, and the language, and made each of them the subject of a particular paper. I have in the next place spoke of the censures which our author may incur under each of these heads, which I have confined to two papers, though I might have enlarged the number if I had been disposed to dwell on so ungrateful a subject. I believe, however, that the severest reader will not find any little fault heroic poetry, which this author has fallen into, that does not come under one of those heads among which I have distributed his several blemishes. After having thus treated at large of Paradise Lost, I could not think it sufficient to have celebrated this poem in the whole without descending to particulars. I have therefore bestowed a paper upon each book, and endeavoured not only to prove that the poem is beautiful in general, but to point out its particular beauties; and to deter

mine wherein they consist, I have endea- terests of true piety and religion, is a player voured to show how some passages are with a still greater imputation of guilt, in beautiful by being sublime, others by being proportion to his depreciating a character soft, others by being natural; which of them more sacred. Consider all the different are recommended by the passion, which pursuits and employments of men, and you by the moral, which by the sentiment, and will find half their actions tend to nothing which by the expression. I have likewise else but disguise and imposture; and all endeavoured to show how the genius of the that is done which proceeds not from a poet shines by a happy invention, a distant man's very self, is the action of a player, allusion, or a judicious imitation; how he For this reason it is that I make so frequent has copied or improved Homer or Virgil, mention of the stage. It is with me a matter and raises his own imaginations by the use of the highest consideration, what parts which he has made of several poetical pas- are well or ill performed, what passions or sages in Scripture. I might have inserted sentiments are indulged or cultivated, and also several passages in Tasso, which our consequently what manners and customs author has imitated: but, as I do not look are transfused from the stage to the world, upon Tasso to be a sufficient voucher, I which reciprocally imitate each other. would not perplex my reader with such As the writers of epic poems introduce quotations as might do more honour to the shadowy persons, and represent vices and Italian than to the English poet. In short, virtues under the character of men and I have endeavoured to particularize those women; so I, who am a Spectator in the innumerable kinds of beauty which it would world, may perhaps sometimes make use be tedious to recapitulate, but which are of the names of the actors of the stage, to essential to poetry, and which may be met represent or admonish those who transact with in the works of this great author. Had affairs in the world. When I am comI thought, at my first engaging in this design, mending Wilks for representing the tenthat it would have led me to so great a derness of a husband and a father in Maclength, I believe I should never have en- beth, the contrition of a reformed prodigal tered upon it; but the kind reception which in Harry the Fourth, the winning emptiness it has met with among those whose judg- of a young man of good-nature and wealth ment I have a value for, as well as the in The Trip to the Jubilee, the officiousuncommon demands which my bookseller ness of an artful servant in the Fox; when tells me have been made for these rticu- thus I celebrate Wilks, I talk to all the lar discourses, give me no reason to repent world who are engaged in any of those cirof the pains I have been at in composing cumstances. If I were to speak of merit them. L. neglected, misapplied, or misunderstood, might I not say Estcourt has a great capacity? But it is not the interest of others who bear a figure on the stage, that his talents were understood; it is their business to impose upon him what cannot become him, or keep out of his hands any thing in which he would shine. Were one to raise a suspicion of himself in a man who passes upon the world for a fine thing, in order to alarm him, one might say, If Lord Foppington was not on the stage (Cibber acts the false pretensions to a genteel behaviour so very justly,) he would have in the generality of mankind more that would admire than deride him. When we come to characters directly comical, it is not to be imagined what effect a well-regulated stage would have upon men's manners. The craft of an usurer, the absurdity of a rich fool, the awkward roughness of a fellow of half courage, the ungraceful mirth of a creature of half wit, might for ever be put out of countenance by proper parts for Dogget. Johnson, by acting Corbacchio the other night, must have given all who saw him a thorough detestation of aged avarice. The petulancy of a peevish old fellow, who loves and hates he knows not why, is very excellently performed by the ingenious Mr. William Penkethman, in the Fop's Fortune; where, in the character of Don Choleric Snap Shorto de Testy, he answers no questions but to those whom he likes, and wants

No. 370.] Monday, May 5, 1712.
Totus mundus agit histrionem.

-All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.

MANY of my fair readers, as well as very gay and well-received persons of the other sex, are extremely perplexed at the Latin sentences at the head of my speculations. I do not know whether I ought not to indulge them with translations of each of them: however, I have to-day taken down from the top of the stage in Drury-lane, a bit of Latin, which often stands in their view, and signifies, that 'The whole world acts the player.' It is certain that if we look all around us, and behold the different employments of mankind, you hardly see one who is not, as the player is, in an assumed character. The lawyer, who is vehement and loud in a cause wherein he knows he has not the truth of the question on his side, is a player as to the personated part, but incomparably meaner than he as to the prostitution of himself for hire; because the pleader's falsehood introduces injustice: the player feigns for no other end but to divert or instruct you. The divine, whose passions transport him to say any thing with any view but promoting the in

no account of any thing from those he approves. Mr. Penkethman is also master of as many faces in the dumb scene as can be expected from a man in the circumstances of being ready to perish out of fear and hunger. He wanders through the whole scene very masterly, without neglecting his victuals. If it be, as I have heard it sometimes mentioned, a great qualification of the world to follow business and pleasure too, what is it in the ingenious Mr. Penkethman to represent a sense of pleasure and pain at the same time, as you may see him do this evening?

As it is certain that a stage ought to be wholly suppressed or judiciously encouraged, while there is one in the nation, men turned for regular pleasure cannot employ their thoughts more usefully, for the diversion of mankind, than by convincing them that it is in themselves to raise this entertainment to the greatest height. It would be a great improvement, as well as embellishment to the theatre, if dancing were more regarded, and taught to all the actors. One who has the advantage of such an agreeable girlish person as Mrs. Bicknell, joined with her capacity of imitation, could in proper gesture and motion represent all the decent characters of female life. An amiable modesty in one aspect of a dancer, and assumed confidence in another, a sudden joy in another, a falling off with an impatience of being beheld, a return towards the audience with an unsteady resolution to approach them, and well-acted solicitude to please, would revive in the company all the fine touches of mind raised in observing all the objects of affection and passion they had before beheld. Such elegant enter-packed together a set of oglers, as he called The same gentleman some time after tainments as these would polish the town them, consisting of such as had an unlucky into judgment in their gratifications; and cast in their eyes. His diversion on this ocdelicacy in pleasure is the first step people casion was to see the cross bows, mistaken of condition take in reformation from vice. signs, and wrong connivances, that passed Mrs. Bicknell has the only capacity for this amidst so many broken and refracted rays sort of dancing of any on the stage; and I of sight. dare say all who see her performance tomorrow night, when sure the romp will do her best for her own benefit, will be of my mind.


tleman exhibited was to the stammerers, The third feast which this merry genwhom he got together in a sufficient body to fill his table. He had ordered one of his servants, who was placed behind a screen, to write down their table-talk, which was very easy to be done without the help of short-hand. It appears by the notes which were taken, that though their conversation never fell, there were not above twenty words spoken during the first course; that upon serving up the second, one of the company was a quarter of an hour in telling them that the ducklings and asparagus the same time in declaring himself of the were very good; and that another took up go off so well as the former; for one of the same opinion. This jest did not, however, guests being a brave man, and fuller of resentment than he knew how to express, went out of the room, and sent the facetious

* Villars, Duke of Buckingham.

No. 371.] Tuesday, May 6, 1712.

Jamne igitur laudas quod de sapientibus unus
Juv. Sat. x. 28.
And shall the sage your approbation win,
Whose laughing features wore a constant grin?
I SHALL Communicate to my readers the
following letter for the entertainment of
this day.

'SIR,-You know very well that our nation is more famous for that sort of men who are called "whims" and "humourists," than any other country in the world; for which reason it is observed, that our English comedy excels that of all other nations in the novelty and variety of its characters.



'Among those innumerable sets of whims which our country produces, there are none whom I have regarded with more curiosity than those who have invented any particular kind of diversion for the entertainment of themselves and their friends. My letter shall single out those who take delight in sorting a company that has something of burlesque and ridicule in its appearance. I shall make myself understood by the following example: One of the wits of the last age, who was a man of a good estate,* thought he never laid out his money better than in a jest. As he was one year at the Bath, observing that, in the great confluence of fine people, there were several among them with long chins, a part of the visage by which he himself was very much distinguished, he invited to dinner half a score of these remarkable persons who had their mouths in the middle of their faces. They had no sooner placed themselves about the table but they began to stare upon one another, not being able to imagine what had brought them together. Our English proverb says,

"Tis merry in the hall, When beards wag all.'

It proved so in the assembly I am now speaking of, who seeing so many peaks of faces agitated with eating, drinking, and discourse, and observing all the chins that were present meeting together very often over the centre of the table, every one grew sensible of the jest, and gave into it with so much good humour, that they lived in strict friendship and alliance from that day forward.

inviter a challenge in writing, which, though | wherein he made use of the same invention it was afterwards dropped by the interposi- to cure a different kind of men, who are the tion of friends, put a stop to these ludicrous pests of all polite conversation, and murder entertainments. time as much as either of the two former, Now, sir, I dare say you will agree with though they do it more innocently-I mean, me, that as there is no moral in these jests, that dull generation of story-tellers. My they ought to be discouraged, and looked friend got together about half a dozen of his upon rather as pieces of unluckiness than acquaintance, who were infected with this wit. However, as it is natural for one man strange malady. The first day one of them to refine upon the thought of another; and sitting down, entered upon the siege of impossible for any single person, how great Namur, which lasted till four o'clock, their soever his parts may be, to invent an art, time of parting. The second day a North and bring it to its utmost perfection; I shall Briton took possession of the discourse, here give you an account of an honest which it was impossible to get out of his gentleman of my acquaintance, who upon hands so long as the company stayed tohearing the character of the wit above-gether. The third day was engrossed after mentioned, has himself assumed it, and en- the same manner by a story of the same deavoured to convert it to the benefit of length. They at last began to reflect upon mankind. He invited half a dozen of his this barbarous way of treating one another, friends one day to dinner, who were each of and by this means awakened out of that them famous for inserting several redundant lethargy with which each of them had been phrases in their discourse, as "D'ye hear seized for several years. me?-D'ye see?—That is,─And so, sir." Each of his guests making use of his particular elegance, appeared so ridiculous to his neighbour, that he could not but reflect upon himself as appearing equally ridi-sportsman, or, if you please, the Nimrod culous to the rest of the company. By this among this species of writers, I thought means, before they had sat long together, this discovery would not be unacceptable to every one, talking with the greatest cir-you. I am, sir, &c.' cumspection, and carefully avoiding his favourite expletive, the conversation was

'As you have somewhere declared, that extraordinary and uncommon characters of mankind are the game which you delight in, and as I look upon you to be the greatest


cleared of its redundancies, and had a No. 372.] Wednesday, May 7, 1712.
greater quantity of sense, though less of
sound in it.

-Pudet hæc opprobria nobis
Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli.
Ovid. Met. i. 759.

'The same well-meaning gentleman took occasion, at another time, to bring together such of his friends as were addicted to a foolish habitual custom of swearing. In order to show them the absurdity of the practice, he had recourse to the invention above-mentioned, having placed an amanuensis in a private part of the room. After the second bottle, when men open their minds without reserve, my honest friend began to take notice of the many sonorous but unnecessary words that had passed in his house since their sitting down at table, and how much good conversation they had lost by giving way to such superfluous phrases. "What a tax," says he, "would they have raised for the poor, had we put the laws in execution upon one another!” Every one of them took this gentle reproof in good part; upon which he told them, that, knowing their conversation would have no secrets in it, he ordered it to be taken down in writing, and, for the humour-sake, would read it to them, if they pleased. There were ten sheets of it, which might have been reduced to two, had there not been those abominable interpolations I have before mentioned. Upon the reading of it in cold blood, it looked rather like a con-pleasure pay a tax to labour and industry. ference of fiends than of men. In short, I have been told also, that all the time of every one trembled at himself upon hear- Lent, in Roman-Catholic countries, the pering calmly what he had pronounced amidst sons of condition administer to the necesthe heat and inadvertency of discourse. sities of the poor, and attend the beds of 'I shall only mention another occasion | lazars and diseased persons, Our Protestant

Dryden. 'May 6, 1712. 'MR. SPECTATOR,-I am sexton of the parish of Covent-garden, and_complained to you some time ago, that as I was tolling in to prayers at eleven in the morning, crowds of people of quality hastened to assemble at a puppet-show on the other side of the garden. I had at the same time a very great disesteem for Mr. Powell and his little thoughtless commonwealth, as if they had enticed the gentry into those wanderings: but let that be as it will, I am convinced of the honest intentions of the said Mr. Powell and company, and send this to acquaint you, that he has given all the profits which shall arise to-morrow night by his play to the use of the poor charitychildren of this parish. I have been informed, sir, that in Holland all persons who set up any show, or act any stage-play, be the actors either of wood and wire, or flesh and blood, are obliged to pay out of their gains such a proportion to the honest and industrious poor in the neighbourhood: by this means they make diversion and

To hear an open slander, is a curse;
But not to find an answer is a worse.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »