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most eminent for number; and within the house a controversy was, whether the ceremony of a herse. cloth should be cast over his coffin; but the major part, being quakers, not assenting, the coffin was, about 5 o'clock in the evening, brought into the street. At its coming out, there stood a man on purpose to cast a velvet herse over the coffin, and ħe endeavoured to do it; but the crowd of quakers not permitting it, and having gotten the body upon their shoulders, they carried it away without further ceremony, and the whole company are directed to Moorfields, and thence to the new church adjoining Bedlam, where it was interred.'*
There were some articles of Milton's faith, which, for want of a better term, we may call superstitions. “An opinion wanders about the world,' says Dr. Johnson, and sometimes finds reception among wise men; an opinion, which restrains the opera. tions of the mind to particular regions, and supposes that a luckless mortal may be born in a degree of latitude too high or too low for wisdom or for wit. From this fancy, wild as it is,' he adds, Milton had not wholly cleared his head, when he feared lest the climate of his country might be too cold for flights of imagination.'t We are afraid this opinion still wanders about the world; and we are very sure, that Dr. Johnson's own countrymen have never re. ceived the lesson, which he thus taught them. If, among the countless absurdities, which Englishmen have said of this country, it were worth while to name one thing more absurd than the rest, it would be, that, from the cold mists of their own island, they should charge the climate of America with stupifying genius, and abridging life. We have long
* Cromwelliana, p. 168. + Par. Lost, b. ix.
unless an age too late, or cold Climate or years, damp my intended wing Depress'd.
known how to congratulate ourselves upon living under a sky thus stigmatised; but it was not till the publication of a recent work, by an Englishman himself, that we could fully estimate our title to selfcongratulation. He tells us, that the Novembers of America are more pleasant than the Junes of England; and he is constantly breaking into such expressions as, Here is a month of October!' • What a November for an Englishman to see!"
Another thing which disquieted our bard, was, a fearful suspicion, that his lot had been cast in an age too late for the acquisition of epic renown. This idea, again, Dr. Johnson had a right to ridicule; but he need not have treated it quite so gravely as all this: General causes,' says he, must operate uniformly in a general abatement of mental power; if less could be performed by the writer, less likewise would content the judges of his work. Among this lagging race of frosty grovellers, he might still have risen into eminence by producing something which they should not willingly let die. However, inferior to the heroes, who were born in better ages, he might still be great among his cotemporaries, with the hope of growing every day greater in the dwindle of posterity. He might still be great among the pigmies, the one-eyed monarch of the blind. This was certainly intended to be very consoling; but, if we could suppose Milton to have gone thus far, what should prevent him from taking another step, by reflecting, that, though his own littleness might seem great to his cotemporaries, the greatness of Homer must become colossal in the same eyes ? that, if his own age should look upon him as a giant, they must regard Homer as a god ? He must know, that, while the dwindle of posterity might every day increase his own stature, it would still leave antiquity as high as ever; and, when mankind should have shrunk into pigmies, would they not still behold, above himself, the only poet, who
would be entitled to hold the sceptre over the oneeyed monarchy of the blind?
Another notion seems to have taken possession of Milton's head, or rather the heads of his biographers, concerning the subserviency of his mind to the vicissitudes of the seasons. It was not enough, that, like ordinary mortals of other trades and callings, he should find times, when his hand was out. He must be subjected to superior influences. The mind of Milton could only be regulated by the same laws, which govern the equinoxes. Richardson talks of his sudden impetus or æstrum;' and Phillips says,
his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinoxial to the vernal."* Milton himself seems to have had a different opinion; and Toland was the first to remark, that, in his Ode to Spring, he unfortunately hails that very season, as the time, when his strength and genius returned. 'To this it is answered, says Johnson, that Phillips could hardly mistake time so well marked ; and it may be added, that Milton might find different times of the year favourable to different parts of life. The Doctor was determined to laugh at the thing, in his own way; and did not, therefore, observe, that Milton had precluded the supposition of his alluding to other parts of life, by inviting the return of strength expressly for the composition of verses.
Fallor? an et nobis redeunt ia carmina vires, .'
Perhaps the politics of Milton have been sufficiently developed in the course of this narrative. He was one of the first writers, who began to shake the belief of Christendom, in the divinity of regal power, and the infallibility of an established church. Bossuet, indeed, has given the credit to a different per.
son; and perhaps Englishmen, in these days of Legitimacy, are not generally aware, that, while they attribute the disturbance of their favourite doctrine to a modern Frenchman, it was long ago imputed, by Frenchmen themselves, to one of the most legitimate, because one of the most tyrannical, English monarchs, that ever sat upon a throne. The havoc made by Henry the eighth, in the religious and political establishments of his empire, is considered as the great cause of the divisions, which have since distracted both church and state. God was willing, says Bossuet, that mankind should, for once, be turned loose, in order to let them see, by the con. fusion and violencé which must ensue, how much better it had been, if they could only have remained quiet. , 'Il voulait découvrir par un grand example tout ce qui peut l'héresie, combien elle est natural. lement indocile et INDEPENDENT, combien fatale à la royauté, et tout antorité LEGETIME.
It was natural, that this spirit of independence, when first escaped from the cavern, should rush over the earth, with indiscriminate fury. The earlier advocates of free government had no distant views beyond the subversion of present establishments. The old edifices were first to be prostrated: and, without calculating what should be erected on their ruins, it was thought enough for one generation to pull down and lay waste. Indeed, so far as their object can be ascertained at all, perhaps the class of writers, to which Milton belongs, had little fear for mankind, if they were once set free from the present bondage of laws and authority. The insolence of despotism had brought the very name of government into discredit; and those, who resolved to bear the burthen no longer, could see no distinction between licentiousness and independence, and thought, that, to be free, it was only necessary to be lawless. This spirit, in all its excess, is still to be found among the visionaries of political philo
sophy; and we suppose, a certain fellow feeling with the genius of Milton may, in part, have induced Mr. Godwin to enter upon a literary undertaking, for which, we think, he has shown himself peculiarly unfitted.* It is certainly the leading tenet of this
Whatever may be his merits as a writer of romances or of political essays, we suspect, he will never succeed as a critic of poetry. We know, Mr. Godwin has a rigbt to be pleased with what gives us no pleasure at all; but there are certain subjects, upon which the decision of time has confirmed the preference of taste; and, when å man sets up his own judgment in opposition to such a sentence, he does not disagree with a single individual,-but contradicts the whole world. It was hardly to have been expected, at this time of day, that a man should deliberately tell the readers of poetry how vastly superior the Homer of Chapman is to that of Pope, and how infatuated they must be to prefer Dryden's Virgil to Phaer's. Yet all this is done by Mr. Godwin. He even places the parallel pas. sages by the side of each other; and calls upon the public to observe how the old translations rise above the new. We shall not forbid him this mode of appeal; and our readers are to understand, therefore, that the subjoined specimens are taken from passages, which Mr, Godwin repeatedly calls wonderful. The subversion of Troy is thus described by Phaer :
Then verily right abroad I saw whole Ilion castle sinke
In fires, and upside down all Troy from bottom turn'd to brinke. Virgil's description of Æneas’ lamentation is thus given :
That in my parlour fires
All sprawling slaine.
Then with a sound from deadly bowe
twain It grisly shake. We hear of the 'Trojan Fort;' and the Sud says to Ascanius, • that's my peerless lad.' But the cap-sheaf is still behind. How magnificent, exclaims Mr. Godwin, is the address of Ascanius to the Spring-old Euryalus!" But, as for thee, O Lad, to whom my years do creep, Thou reverent stately child, how deep in breast I thee receive Thou ever art my mate.