Imatges de pàgina

introduced into the world, the origin of which was the main subject of the argument. But it does not therefore follow, that he is the hero of the“ Paradise Lost," any more than that Hector is the hero of the Iliad. Is the part of Achilles the longest in Homer's poem? But our poet had to contend with a very serious difficulty. We have seen how naturally, in the case of Prometheus, the peculiar attributes of each might be blended in one person; and there was great risk of the reader's preferring those of either, according to his individual propensities for good or evil. The reader will sympathize with the success of Satan, or the promise of Messiah's final conquest, according to his faith, and the impulses of his own will and wish. Adam is the central point, his nature is, as it were, the theatre, on which the great battle is fought-the stage on which the contention is tried. It has been said, that the poem is deficient in human interest; the fact is, that the interest is exclusively and peculiarly human. But it is only of the loftiest interests of humanity, that the poet is solicitous, to which the mind of the ordinary reader cannot be expected to ascend without difficulty and labour. All that is done in heaven, on earth, or in hell, and all that is prophesied of the consummation hereafter," when time shall be no more," has reference to human interests, and to human hopes. The Messiah himself, is but a personified idea of man, as existing in a state of divine perfection at the right hand of God; and Satan also is only a personified idea of man, cast out from the presence of his Creator, and surrendered to the mighty, but wicked energies of his own unfathomable nature. Milton does not describe him as the evil principle of the Manicheans, but simply as the author of evil.

“ Author of evil, unknown till thy revoli,
Unnamed in heaven, now plenteous as thou seest,
The acts of hateful strife, hateful to all,
Though heaviest by just measure on thyself,

And thy adherents." Milton indulges in no theory of the two principles, co-eternal and co-equal. He portrays no Lucifer participant of Deity, and disputing the goodness of the supreme will, even while asserting his own inherent energies, and rising in rebellion against the divine decree. The paternal Godhead maintains an unapproachable superiority, and an independent being, beyond participation and above comparison. Had he confined the manifestation of the Deity to the Son, according to the Scripture doctrine, our epic poet might have presented an idea overwhelmingly awful from its impenetrable obscurity, and excelling in sublimity, the most magnificent conception of created intellect. But he endeavoured to reduce the paternal Deity to the level of human understanding; yet, notwithstanding this error, he has made the subject so much his own, and such is its transcendent dignity, that any competitor with him, in this the highest region of imaginative daring, is scarcely to be expected. What he might have done, had he not committed this error, we dare not even imagine, but we feel that it would have been of surpassing power, and unexampled magnificence.

The mind of Milton appears at an early period of his life, to have luxuriated in day-dreams of poetical ambition; and he proposed to himself subjects, fitting for the exercise of those abilities, which, he says, “ wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God rarely bestowed, but yet to some (though most abuse) in every nation; and are of power, to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civility ; to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns, the throne and equipage of God's Almightiness, and what he works, and what he suffers to be wrought with high providence in his church; to sing victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations, doing valiantly through faith, against the enemies of Christ; to deplore the general relapses of kingdoms and states from justice and God's true worship; lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, in virtue, amiable or grave, whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that which is called fortune from without; or the wily subtleties and refluxes of man's thoughts from within ; all these things with a solid and treatable smoothness to paint out and describe.” *

These aspirations of his youth it was late in life ere Milton began to fulfil. No wonder, then, that he adopted subjects so decidedly symbolical, in which, by implication at least, he was enabled to treat the important subjects proposed in the foregoing extract. Had it been expedient for us to quote from the schoolmen and old theologians, we might have accumulated proof sufficient to set this matter beyond a doubt; and, at the same time, found abundant occasion to admire the skill and delicacy of the poet's taste in avoiding whatever was mystical or involved in scholastic subtleties. What we have been enabled to do, has sufficed to show that the errors of Milton in the conduct and execution of his principal poem, are not such as have been pretty generally censured, and lie much deeper than has been usually conjectured. His chief error appears to have been that he mistook an excellent poetical theory for a sound theological system.

For this style of symbolical writing, Milton may plead the example of the best poets of antiquity. Æschylus, in particular, was a mighty master in this branch of his art. A celebrated writer with reference to the tragedy of the Eumenides observes, that “ the furies are the dreadful powers of conscience, in so far as it rests on obscure feelings and forebodings, and yields to no principles of reason. The sleep of the furies in the temple is symbolical; for only in the holy place, in the bosom of religion, can the fugitive find rest from the stings of conscience. When at last a sanctuary is allotted to the softened furies in the Athenian territory, this is as much as to say that reason shall not every where assert her power against the instinctive impulse, that there are certain boundaries in the human mind which are not to be passed, and which every person possessed of a sentiment of reverence will beware of touching, if he wishes to preserve inward peace.” Many examples occur in Milton's prose of his preference and feeling for this manner of composition. Indeed, it is one of the peculiar offices of an elevated imagination to esteem of finite things as the shadows of infinite realities, and to invest the former with a greatness, as representative portions of the mighty whole, which, from their comparative insig. nificance, they would fail to claim for themselves as independent beings. It is in this way that the genius of Wordsworth is comparable with that of Milton; but their ends are different. Milton found himself in the land of ideas, which it was his great aim to express in intelligible symbols. Wordsworth refers from the type to the archetype, and by means of the visible creation endeavours to rise to the contemplation of pure intelligence. It is indicative of the spirit of the age that a man of undoubted genius, in order to fix his reader's thoughts on the mysteries of his own being, should feel it necessary to abstract his attention from all material distinctions.

• The Reason of Church Government, p. 73. vol, i. Burnett's edition.

4 M N. S.-VOL. I.

We have much yet to say, but our limits allow us to add no more. What has been written may suffice to instruct the youthful aspirant for the poetic laurel, that his pursuit is no idle amusement, and its aim of no trivial nature. Therefore, let it not be lightly adopted, and never employed but as a mode of tasking the faculties, and a motive for their cùltivation. The original human nature, after which the poet's transcripts are to be made, must be sought in his own bosom : let him not, however, neglect the opportunities of observation if he would enrich his memory, and enlarge his fancy. His studies, moreover, must be general, and his application unintermitted, who would produce works of enduring excellence. He must drink deeply at the ancient wells of inspiration, and, in an especial manner, at the living fountain of revealed truth. Exanimated of enthusiasm, he will neither accomplish nor design any undertaking of power or promise, yet may he be warned by the example of Milton to keep it in subjection to the superior law of his reason. This caution, however, is not much wanted—a few enthusiasts exist, but in general, the failing is now upon the other side. Bacon found it necessary, in his time, to draw off men from the contemplation of visionary schemes to the inductions of experiment. The philosophy of the present age is in danger of becoming too external, and threatens to grow so intent on observation as to leave consciousness altogether out of the question. The plays of Shakspere were written in the very spirit of Bacon's philosophy; the drama of our day has degenerated into a lifeless copy from experience and descriptions of inanimate nature ; while our general poetry is more solicitous to describe local customs and temporary costume, than to express the humanity which is common to every clime under heaven and has existed in every period of the world. The example of Milton, thus timely exhibited, may tend to redeemn the incipient poet from this error; the prevailing tone of the public taste will prevent him from falling into the other extreme. Above all things, he will do well practically to remember what Milton has no less truly than finely said-

“He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well here. after in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem; that is, a composition and pattern of the best and honourablest things; not presuming to sing of high praises of heroic men, or famous cities, unless he have in himself the experience and the practice of all that which is praise-worthy."


“O! what is like me ?" said the laurel-tree,

“I constant verdure boast :
Ever green I appear in the noon of the year--

Ever green in the winter's frost.
The brightest hues that the rose suffuse

Know but a summer's reign;
But when its bloom hath found a tomb,

Mine fadeless doth remain.”
“I do not sigh that I early die,”

Meekly the rose replied ;
“ Though its glow be brief, yet doth my leaf

Boast incense far and wide.
On the sick man's brow, on pillow low,

My grateful sweets I shed;
And the moisten'd air I perfume where

Rests the pure infant's head."
O blessed flower! a nobler dower.

Hath heaven vouchsafed to thee,
Than laurels own, though they alone

In ceaseless verdure be.
In thy brief life, with fragrance rife,

More holiness hath birth
Than in what lives for years, but gives

No perfume to the earth I


THERE is hope for Art in England, while such an annual exhibition as the present is possible. More than two hundred years were required for the fine arts to reach mediocrity in Italy, while the northern schools of Europe had to travail long before were thrown up with great labour, a Rubens, a Vandyke, and a Rembrandt. Little more than half a century has sufficed to win for England a glorious name. We are told by Count Pepoli, with that love of country which is so creditable, that his mother Italy is beautiful, though fallen, because of her union with art, science,

and literature.* Our Britain shall also be called The Beautiful, even as he admits, found as the attribute may be in Shakspere and Milton. “ If I feel it not in them,” he exclaims, " how can I in Dante, in Raffaelle, or any other ? The presence of the Beautiful, like that of the sun, illuminates all, and claims the admiration of all!”

Our native school of art cannot be said to have commenced until the time of Reynolds, Hudson, and Hogarth. “ In Queen Anne's reign, there were three good native artists, the two Olivers and Cooper; in Queen Victoria's reign, there are most probably three thousand artists, most of whom can paint well, many of them are men of very superior talent." + Here is progress, indeed!

The Father of the fine arts in England was George the Third, who had a taste and judgment for them. What he had projected, George the Fourth was inclined to accomplish. During his regency, the Parthenon marbles were brought to England. “ In 1824," says Mr. Sarsfield Taylor, “ the National Gallery of pictures was commenced, by the purchase of the fine collection made by J. Julius Angerstein, Esq. This circumstance marks quite a new era of art in Britain. George IV. had magnificent ideas relative to the arts; but coming into power late in life, and being annoyed by factions and domestic embarrassments, his good intentions for promoting art were unavoidably neutralized.” King William was kind to the professors, and Queen Victoria has some experience in the practice of the art itself.

There is then, we repeat, hope for art in Britain, which, dear Count Pepoli, like your beloved Italy, may yet be destined to be called the Pantheon, and become the spot where men of learning and taste may devoutly assemble, as it were, from all parts of the world, and study with enthusiastic ardour her language, her literature, and the arts. Yes, Count, we can admire socialism as much as you, though we think we see, that individualism is the basis even of the socialism that is recommended. But we like so much what you say of the influence of the arts on history and philosophy, that we must let you discourse as you will on a theme so pregnant.

Count Pepoli. Two grand systems have for many ages divided the world. And the contemplation of the struggle, the action and reaction between the man and society, between the individual and species, will give rise to various secondary questions, conducting gradually from speculation to fact, from theory to practice. It will not be difficult to see that, through the influence of prejudices diametrically opposed to each other, want of moderation has precipitated antagonist writers into the same abyss of error. In the analysis of some works, for instance, it will not be difficult to trace the progress of the abstract love of the principle

* On the language and literature of Italy, an inaugural Lecture delivered in University College, London, on the 6th November, 1838. By Professor Carlo Pepoli, M. A. D. Ph. of the University of Bologna. London: Taylor and Walton, 1838.

† " The art of painting in oil, and in Fresco: being a history of the va. rious processes and materials employed, from its discovery, by Hubert and John Van Eyck, to the present time: translated from the original French treatise of M. J.F. L. Méremée, Secretary to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, in Paris. With original observations on the rise and progress of British Art, the French and English chromatic scales, and theories of Coloring, By W. B. Sarsfield Taylor, Senior Curate of the Living Model Academy, &c. &c. London: Whitaker and Co. 1839.

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