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" Pallas untouched, and curse the day on which he so dressed himself in these spoils.” As the great event of the Æneid, and the death of Turnus, whom Æneas flew because he saw him adorned with the spoils of Pallas, turns upon this incident, Virgil went out of his way to make this reflexion upon it, without which so small a circumstance might possibly have flipt out of his reader's memory. Lucan, who was an injudicious poet, lets drop his story very frequently for the fake of his unnecessary digressions, or his Diverticula, as Scaliger calls them. If he gives us an account of the prodigies which preceded the civil war, he declaims upon the occasion, and thews how much happier it would be for man, if he did not feel his evil fortune before it comes to pass; and suffer nct only by its real weight, but by the apprehenfion of it. Milton's complaint for his blindness, his panegyric on marriage, his reflexions on Adam and Eve's going naked, of the angels eating, and several other passages in his poem, are liable to the fame exception, though I must confess there is so great a beauty in these very digressions, that I would not wish them out of his poem.
I have, in a former paper, spoken of the characters of Milton's Paradise Loft, and declared iny opinion, as to the allegorical persons who are introduced in it.
If we look into the sentiments, I think they are sometimes defertive under the following heads; firit, as there are several of them too much pointed, and some that degenerate even into puns. Of this last kind I am afraid that in the first book, where, speaking of the pygmies, he calls them,
The small infantry Warr'd on by cranes Another blemish that appears in some of his thoughts, is his frequent allusion to heathen fables, which are not certainly of a piece with the divine subject of which he treats. I do not find fault with these allusions, where the poet himself represents them as fabulous, as he does in some places, but where he mentions them as truths and matters of fact. The limits of my paper will not give me leave to be particular in instances of this kind; the reader will easily remark them in his perasal of the poem.
A third fault in his sentiments, is an unnecessary oftentation of learning, which likewise occurs very frequently. It is certain that both Homer and Virgil were masters of all the learning of their times, but it shews itself in their works after an indirect and concealed manner. Milton feems ambitious of letting us know, by his excursions on free will and predestination, and his many glances upon history, astronomy, geography, and the like, as well as by the terms and phrases he fometimes makes use of, that he was acquainted with the whole circle of arts and sciences.
If in the last place we consider the language of this great poet, we must allow what I have hinted at in a former paper, that it is often too much laboured, and sometimes obscured by old words, transpositions, and foreign idioms. Sencca’s objection to the stile of a great author, Riget ejus oratio, nihil in eâ placidum, ni bil lene, is what many criticsmake 10 Milton: as I cannot wholly refute it, so I have already apologized for it in another paper: to which I may further add, that Milton's sentiments and ideas were fo wonderfully fublime, that it would have been impofsible for him to have represented them in their full Rrength and beauty, without having recourse to these foreign asistances. Our language funk under him, and Was unequal to that greatness of foul, which furnished him with such glorious conceptions.
A second fault in his language is that he often affects a kind of jingle in his words, as in the following paftages, and many others:
And brought into the World a World of woe.
-Begirt th’ Almighty throne
I know there are figures for this kind of speech, that fome of the greatest ancients have been guilty of it, and that Aristotle himself has given it a place in his rhetoric among the beauties of that art. But as it is in itself poor and trifling, it is I think at present universally exploded by all the masters of polite writing.
The last fault which I shall take notice of in Milton's stile, is the frequent use of what the learned call Technical Words, or terms of art. It is one of the greatest beauties of poetry, to make hand things intelligible, and to deliver what is abstruse of itself in such easy language as may be understood by ordinary readers : besides, that the knowledge of a poet fhould rather seem born with him, or inspired, than drawn from books and systems. I have often wondered how M:. Dryden could translate a passage out of Virgil after the following
“ Tack to the larboard, and itand off to sea,
Milton makes use of larboard in the same manner. When he is upon building he mentions “ Doric pillars, " pilasters, cornice, freeze, architrave.” When he talks of heavenly bodies, you meet with “ ecliptic, and eccen“ tric, the trepidation, tars dropping from the zenith, “ rays culminating from the equator" to which might be added many instances of the like kind in several other arts and sciences.
I shall in my next papers give an account of the many particular beauties in Milton, which would have been too long to insert under those general heads I have already treated of, and with which I intend to conclude this piece of criticism.
Monday, February 11.
Nufquam tuta fides ---
Virg. Æn. 4. v. 373.
• Mr. Spectator,
London, Feb. 9, 1711-12. I Am a virgin, and in no case despicable ; but yet
such as I am I must remain, or else become, it is to . be feared, less happy; for I find not the least good effect < from the juít correction you some time since gave that
too free, that looser part of cur sex which spoils the
men ; the same connivance at the vices, the same casy • admittance of addresses, the same vitiated relish of the • conversation of the greatest of rakes, or, in a more fa< fhionable
way of expressing one's self, of such as have * seen the world most, still abounds, increases, multiplics.
• The humble petition therefore of many of the most ftrictly virtuous, and of myself, is, that you will once
more exert your authority, and that according to your • late promise, your full, your impartial authority, on this
fillier branch of our kind: for why should they be the ' uncontroulable mistresies of our fate? Why should they • with impunity indulge the males in licentiousness whilst
single, and we have the dismal hazard and plague of
reforming them when married ? Strike home, Sir, then, • and spare not, or all our maiden hopes, our gilded
hopes of nuptial felicity are frustrated, are vanished, and you yourself, as well as Mr. Courtly, will, by smooth
ing over immodeft practices with the glofs of foft and • harmless names, for ever forfeit our esteem. Nor o think that I am herein more severe than need be: if I • have not reason more than enough, do you and the ' world judge from this ensuing account, which, I think, o will prove
the evil to be universal. You must know then, that since your reprehension of • this female degeneracy came out, I have had a tender of
refpects from no less than five perfons, of tolerable figure too as times go: but the misfortune is, that four of the five are professed followers of the mode. They would face me down, that all women of good sense ever were, and ever will be, latitudinarians in wedlock; and always did, and will give and take what they profanely term conjugal liberty of conscience.
• The two first of them, a captain and a merchant, to • ftrengthen their argument, pretend to repeat after a • couple of ladies of quality and wit, that Venus was • always kind to Mars; and what soul, that has the least
spark of generosity, can deny a man of bravery any
things and how pitiful a trader that, whom no woman « but his own wife will have correspondence and dealings
with ? Thus these ; whilst the third, the country 'squire, ' confessed, that indeed he was surprised into good-breed
ing, and entered into the knowledge of the world una' wares; that dining the other day at a gentleman's house,
the person who entertained was obliged to leave him « with his wife and nieces; where they spoke with so much
contempt of an absent gentleman for being so flow at a « hint, that he resolved never to be drowsy, unmannerly,
or stupid for the future at a friend's house; and on a • hunting morning, not to pursue the game either with
the husband abroad, or with the wife at home. · The next that came was a tradesman, no less full of the age than the former; for he had the gallantry to tell me, that at a late junket which he was invited to, the motion being made, and the question being put, it was
by maid, wife and widow resolved, nemine contradicente, " that a young sprightly journeyman is absolutely necessary in their
way of business : to which they had the • affent and concurrence of their husbands present. I • dropped him a courtesy, and gave him to underftand • that was his audience of leave.
• I am reckoned pretty, and have had very many advances besides thele; but have been very averse to hear
any of them, from my observation on these above-men* tioned, until I hoped some good from the charac:er of
my present admirer, a clergyman. But I find even amongst them there are indirect practices in relation to