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every body's hands, there remains but little to be said upon this extraordinary performance. This being the case, my own sentiments will, I am sure, please you better than those of any other critic. Whether from the nature of his subject, with which every person is familiar; or whether, from any defect of the arrangement, Milton pleases more in detached parts than in the whole. With the plot or fable we are perfectly acquainted ; and it is unfortunate for Milion, though happy for society, that the Bible is universally read. The plot does not to me aj pear to warrant so extensive a detail.
The poet probably indulged his own inclination and habits in the middle 'book, when he makes
“ God the Father turn a school divine.”
But should have 'had some mercy on his readers, who might not have so strong a relish for these metaphysical disputations as he had himself. Yet even this is curious and interesting, nnt indeed to the multitude, but to all per sons who think, and why wi-b to know the state of theological opinions at that period of time in which Milton wrote. These discussions, I
must observe also, are maintained with dignity, and supported with all the ingenuity and learning that was possible. Milton was perhaps the most learned man of his time; his learning is apparent in almost every line that he has composed ; and so far the least interesting parts of Paradise Lost are valuable, as affording an animated picture of the knowledge of the times.
This however is foreign to his praise as an epic poet. In that view we must allow his plot to be regular, his action undisturbed by any collateral circumstances, bis characters (in Pandemonium at least) strongly marked and well defined. But still he seems to have protracted his plot beyond the proper limits; and therefore, as Dr. Johnson remarks of the Paradise Lost, “ its perusal is rather a duty than a .pleasure ; it is one of those books which the reader admires, and lays down and forgets to take up again.'
To one excellence of Milton, however, the great critic, whom I have cited, is blind. Milton was a great admirer of the beauties of nature, though he proclaims his ignorance of natural science, in a passage in the Allegro
• Or the twisted eglantine," where he undoubtedly confounds the sweetbriar with the woodbine. Still he was an admirer of nature, and in his System of Educa. tion, recommends, in the strongest tems, the study of natural philosophy, and natural history. Indeed I know nothing which tends more to expand the mind, and also to afford it rest and complacency in the vexatious turmoils of human life. All that proceeds from the hand of God is good; much that comes from the exertions of man partakes of that frailty and depravity of which he is the natural heir. But the great critic and moralist whom I have just quoted (Dr. Johnson), was somewhat limited in his views. His maxim was
“ The proper study of mankind is man.”
He therefore could not relish many of the beauties of Milton, which depend upon allusions to the works of nature.
We then assign to Milton all the excellencies of a regular plot or fable. We allow that he is admirable in his delineation of character, except that he fails (as every human intellect must fail) in depicting the Supreme Majesty ; but
we must allow that he has preserved the unity of action, and has finished his catastrophe with inimitable pathos and effect; and we must also allow that the exuberance of his genius has protracted the action much longer than was consistent with the laws of epic poetry, or the reader's patience. Had the Paradise Lost been comprised in six books instead of twenty-four, no poem, antient or modern, could have been brought into competition with it.
If I thus presume to censure the plan and arrangement of this extraordinary poem, let me do it justice in a point of view where I cannot apprehend opposition. It is a Thesaurus of poetical beauties. The thoughts, the figures, the language, the verse, are unrivalled. Dryden and Gray, I might perhaps add Pope, have profited largely from the happy combinations, and the bold application of language to be found in this poem. Even Sbakspeare bimself seldom dared to deviate from the universal idiom; but Milton taught us the full force of the English language ; he even enriched it. His poems would furnish a vocabulary copious enough for every purpose of rhetorical or poeti. cal composition. His imagination was so ac
tive, his knowledge was so unbounded, thatevery line is replete with curious information, with striking sentiment, or with poetical fancy. At the same time he draws a picture as noother man could have drawn it-Not to speak of his delineation of Satan, and the other characters in the infernal regions; not to instance the soft and tender- description of the state of our first parents ; can any thing equal the pathos and beauty of that passage which relates their expulsion from Paradise ?
Whatever may be his faults, great is the praise of that man, to whom even the fastidiousness of criticism mustassign the laurelled crown as the first ly.ric, and the first epic poet, of per.. haps the most exalted nation in science and in. literature on the face of the earth.
I cannot help observing, that the whole fa.. bric of. Paradise Lost, except the mere naked narrative of the Fall, is founded upon the most slender authority, imaginable, two or three short, obscure, and ill-understood passages, chiefly in the Epistle of St. Jude; and yet it forms at present a part of our popular theology. Our. grandsires, and even perhaps many grave Doc-. tors of Divinity, would exclaim against the im