Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

1712,

No. 351. Character in the Person of Eneas, but has given a Saturday, Place in his Poem to those particular Prophecies which April 12, he found recorded of him in History and Tradition. The Poet took the Matters of Fact as they came down to him, and circumstanced them after his own Manner, to make them appear the more natural, agreeable, or surprizing. I believe very many Readers have been shocked at that ludicrous Prophecy, which one of the Harpyes pronounces to the Trojans in the Third Book, namely, that, before they had built their intended City, they should be reduced by Hunger to eat their very Tables, But, when they hear that this was one of the Circumstances that had been transmitted to the Romans in the History of Eneas, they will think the Poet did very well in taking Notice of it. The Historian abovementioned acquaints us, a Prophetess had foretold Eneas, that he should take his Voyage Westward, till his Com panions should eat their Tables; and that accordingly, upon his landing in Italy, as they were eating their Flesh upon Cakes of Bread, for want of other Conveni encies, they afterwards fed on the Cakes themselves; upon which one of the Company said merrily, We are eating our Tables. They immediately took the Hint, says the Historian, and concluded the Prophecy to be fulfilled. As Virgil did not think it proper to omit so material a Particular in the History of Eneas, it may be worth while to consider with how much Judgment he has qualified it, and taken off every thing that might have appeared improper for a Passage in an Heroic Poem. The Prophetess who fortells it is an hungry Harpy, as the Person who discovers it is young Ascaníus.

Heus etíam mensas consumimus! inquit Iulus,

Such an Observation, which is beautiful in the Mouth of a Boy, would have been ridiculous from any other of the Company, I am apt to think that the chang ing of the Trojan Fleet into Water-Nymphs, which is the most violent Machine in the whole Æneid, and has given Offence to several Criticks, may be accounted for the same way, Virgil himself, before he begins that Re

1712,

lation, premises that what he was going to tell appeared No. 351.
incredible, but that it was justified by Tradition. What Saturday,
further confirms me that this Change of the Fleet was April 12,
a celebrated Circumstance in the History of AEneas, is,
that Ovid has given a Place to the same Metamor
phosis in his Account of the heathen Mythology,

None of the Criticks I have met with having con sidered the Fable of the Æneid in this Light, and taken Notice how the Tradition, on which it was founded, authorizes those Parts in it which appear the most exceptionable; I hope the Length of this Reflection will not make it unacceptable to the curious Part of my Readers,

The History, which was the Basis of Milton's Poem, is still shorter than either that of the Iliad or Æneid. The Poet has likewise taken Care to insert every Cir cumstance of it in the Body of his Fable. The Ninth Book, which we are here to consider, is raised upon that brief Account in Scripture, wherein we are told that the Serpent was more subtle than any Beast of the Field, that he tempted the Woman to eat of the forbidden Fruit, that she was overcome by this Tempta tion, and that Adam followed her Example. From these Few Particulars Milton has formed one of the most entertaining Fables that Invention ever produced. He has disposed of these several Circumstances among so many beautiful and natural Fictions of his own, that his whole Story looks only like a comment upon sacred Writ, or rather seems to be a full and compleat Relation of what the other is only an Epitome, I have insisted the longer on this consideration, as I look upon the Dis position and Contrivance of the Fable to be the principal Beauty of the Ninth Book, which has more Story in it, and is fuller of Incidents, than any other in the whole Poem. Satan's traversing the Globe, and still keeping within the Shadow of the Night, as fearing to be dis covered by the Angel of the Sun, who had before detected him, is one of those beautiful Imaginations with which he introduces this his second Series of Adventures. Having examined the Nature of every Creature, and found out one which was the most proper for his Purpose, he

༣.

[ocr errors][merged small]

1712.

No. 351 again returns to Paradise; and, to avoid Discovery, sinks Saturday, by Night with a River that ran under the Garden, and April 12, rises up again through a Fountain that issued from it by the Tree of Life. The Poet, who, as we have before taken Notice, speaks as little as possible in his own Person, and, after the Example of Homer, fills every Part of his Work with Manners and Characters, introduces a Soliloquy of this infernal Agent, who was thus rest less in the Destruction of Man. He is then describ'd as gliding through the Garden under the Resemblance of a Mist, in order to find out that Creature in which he design'd to tempt our first Parents, This Description has something in it very poetical and surprizing.

So saying, through each Thicket dank or dry
Like a black Mist, low creeping, he held on
His midnight Search, where soonest he might find
The Serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found
In Labyrinth of many a round self-roll'd,

His head the midst, well stor'd with subtle wiles.

The Author afterwards gives us a Description of the Morning, which is wonderfully suitable to a Divine Poem, and peculiar to that first Season of Nature: He represents the Earth before it was curst as a great Altar breathing out its Incense from all Parts, and sending up a pleasant Savour to the Nostrils of its Creator; to which he adds a noble Idea of Adam and Eve, as offering their Morning Worship, and filling up the Universal Consort of Praise and Adoration.

Now when as sacred Light began to dawn

In Eden on the humid Flowers, that breathed
Their Morning Incense, when all things that_breathe
From th' Earth's great Altar send up silent Praise
To the Creator, and his Nostrils fill

With grateful Smell, forth came the human Pair,
And joyn'd their vocal Worship to the Choir
Of Creatures wanting Voice-

The Dispute which follows between our two first Parents is represented with great Art: It proceeds from a Difference of Judgment, not of Passion, and is managed with Reason, not with Heat: It is such a Dispute as we may suppose might have happened in Paradise, had

Man

1712,

Man continued happy and innocent. There is a great No. 351
Delicacy in the Moralities which are interspersed in Saturday,
Adam's Discourse, and which the most ordinary Reader April 12,
cannot but take Notice of That Force of Love which
the Father of Mankind so finely describes in the Eighth
Book, and which I inserted in my last Saturday's
Paper, shews it self here in many beautiful Instances:
As in those fond Regards he casts towards Eve at her
parting from him.

Her long with ardent look his Eye pursued
Delighted, but desiring more her stay,
Oft he to her his Charge of quick Return
Repeated, she to him as oft engaged

To be return'd by Noon amid the Bowre.

In his Impatience and Amusement during her Absence,

Adam the while

Waiting desirous her Return, had wove

Of choicest Flowers a Garland to adorn

Her Tresses, and her Rural Labours crown,
As Reapers oft are wont their Harvest Queen,
Great Joy he promised to his Thoughts, and new
Solace in her Return, so long delay'd,

But particularly in that passionate Speech, where seeing her irrecoverably lost, he resolves to perish with her rather than to live without her,

-Some cursed Fraud

Or Enemy hath beguil'd thee, yet unknown,
And me with thee hath ruin'd, for with thee
Certain my Resolution is to die,

How can I live without thee, how forego

Thy sweet Converse, and Love so dearly joynd,
To live again in these wild Woods forlorn?
Should God create another Eve, and I
Another Rib afford, yet loss of thee

Would never from my Heart: no, no, I feel
The link of Nature draw me: Flesh of Flesh,
Bone of my Bone thou art, and from thy State
Mine never shall be parted, Bliss or Woe,

The Beginning of this Speech, and the Preparation to it are animated with the same Spirit as the Conclusion, which I have here quoted.

The several Wiles which are put in Practice_by_the

Tempter

!

1712,

No. 351. Tempter, when he found Eve separated from her Saturday, Husband, the many pleasing Images of Nature which April 12, are intermixt in this Part of the Story, with its gradual and regular Progress to the fatal Catastrophe, are so very remarkable, that it would be superfluous to point out their respective Beauties,

I have avoided mentioning any particular Similitudes in my Remarks on this great Work, because I have given a general Account of them in my Paper on the First Book. There is one, however, in this Part of the Poem which I shall here quote, as it is not only very beautiful, but the closest of any in the whole Poem; I mean that where the Serpent is describ'd as rolling forward in all his Pride, animated by the evil Spirit, and conducting Eve to her Destruction, while Adam was at too great a Distance from her to give her his Assistance. These several Particulars are all of them wrought into the following Similitude,

-Hope elevates, and Joy

Brightens his Crest; as when a wand'ring Fire
Compact of unctuous Vapour, which the Night
Condenses, and the Cold invirons round,
Kindled through agitation to a Flame,

(Which oft, they say, some evil Spirit attends)
Hovering and blazing with delusive Light,

Misleads the amaz'd Night-wanderer from his way
To Bogs and Mires, and oft thro' Pond or Pool,
There swallow'd up and lost, from Succour far

That secret Intoxication of Pleasure, with all those transient Flushings of Guilt and Joy which the Poet represents in our first Parents upon their eating the forbidden Fruit, to those Flaggings of Spirit, Damps of Sorrow, and mutual Accusations which succeed it, are conceiv'd with a wonderful Imagination, and described in very natural Sentiments,

When Dido in the Fourth Eneid yielded to that fatal Temptation which ruin'd her, Virgil tells us the Earth trembled, the Heavens were filled with Flashes of Lightning, and the Nymphs howled upon the Mountain Tops. Milton, in the same poetical Spirit, has described all Nature as disturbed upon Eve's eating the forbidden Fruit.

So

« PředchozíPokračovat »