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prising accidents in the sequel of the poem. There follows one,
at the very end of the first book, which is what the French critics call marvellous, but at the same time probable by reason of the passage last mentioned. As soon as the infernal palace is finished, we are told the multitude and rabble of spirits immediately shrunk themselves into a small compass, that there might be room for such a numberless assembly in this capacious hall. But it is the poet's refinement upon this thought which I most admire, and which is indeed very noble in itself. For he tells us, that notwithstanding the vulgar among the fallen spirits contracted their forms, those of the first rank and dignity still preserved their natural dimensions:
Thus incorporeal spirits to smallest forms
Frequent and full The character of Mammon, and the description of the Pandæmonium, are full of beauties.
There are several other strokes in the first book wonderfully poetical, and instances of that sublime genius so peculiar to the author. Such is the description of Azazel's stature, and the infernal standard which he unfurls; as also of that ghastly light by which the fiends appear to one another in their place of torments:
The seat of desolation, void of light,
The shout of the whole host of fallen angels when drawn up in battle array:
The universal host up sent
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night. The review, which the leader makes of his infernal army:
He through the armed files
The flash of light which appeared upon the drawing of their swords :
He spake; and confirm his words out flew
The sudden production of the Pandæmonium :
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
The artificial illuminations made in it:
From the arch'd roof
* Cresset, i. e. a blazing light set on a beacon, in French, croissete, because beacons formerly had crosses on their tops.
There are also several noble similes and allusions in the first book of Paradise Lost. And here I must observe, that when Milton alludes either to things or persons, he never quits his simile until it rises to some very great idea, which is often foreign to the occasion that gave birth to it. The resemblance does not, perhaps, last above a line or two, but the poet runs on with the hint until he has raised out of it some glorious image or sentiment, proper to inflame the mind of the reader, and to give it that sublime kind of entertainment which is suitable to the nature of an heroic poem. Those who are acquainted with Homer's and Virgil's way of writing, cannot but be pleased with this kind of structure in Milton's similitudes. I am the more particular on this head, because ignorant readers, who have formed their taste upon the quaint similes and little turns of wit, which are so much in vogue among modern poets, cannot relish these beauties which are of a much higher nature, and are therefore apt to censure Milton's comparisons, in which they do not see any surprising points of likeness, Monsieur Perrault was a man of this vitiated relish, and for that very reason has endeavoured to turn into ridicule several of Homer's similitudes, which he calls . comparaisons à longue queue,' long-tailed comparisons. I shall conclude this paper on the first book of Miltou with the answer which Monsieur Boileau makes to Perrault on this occasion: • Comparisons,' says he, in odes and epic poems, are not introduced only to illustrate and embellish the discourse, but to amuse and relax the mind of the reader, by frequently disengaging him from too painful an attention to the principal subject, and by leading him into other agreeable images. Homer says he, excelled in this particular, whose compan
risons abound with such images of nature as are proper to relieve and diversify his subjects. He continually instructs the reader, and makes him take notice even in objects which are every day before his eyes, of such circumstances as he should not otherwise have observed. To this he adds, as a maxim universally acknowledged, that it is not necessary in poetry for the points of the comparison to correspond with one another exactly, but that a general resemblance is sufficient, and that too much nicety in this particular savours of the rhetorician and epigrammatist.'
In short, if we look into the conduct of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, as the great fable is the soul of each poem, so to give their works an agreeable variety, their episodes are so many short fables, and their similes so many short episodes; to which you may add, if you please, that their metaphors are so many short similes. If the reader considers the comparisons in the first book of Milton, of the sun in an eclipse, of the sleeping leviathan, of the bees swarming about their hive, of the fairy dance, in the view wherein I have here placed them, he will easily discover the great beauties that are in each of those passages,
N° 304. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 1712-12.
Vulnus alit venis et cæco carpitur igni.
VIRG. Æn. iv. 2.
A latent fire preys on his feverish veins.
The circumstances of my correspondent, whose letter I now insert, are so frequent, that I cannot want compassion so much as to forbear laying it before the town. There is something so mean and inhuman in a direct Smithfield bargain for children, that if this lover carries his point, and observes the rules he pretends to follow, I do not only wish him success, but also that it may animate others to follow his example. I know not one motive relating to this life which could produce so many honourable and worthy actions, as the hopes of obtaining a woman of merit. There would ten thousand ways of industry and honest ambition be pursued by young men, who believed that the persons admired had value enough for their passion, to attend the event of their good fortune in all their applications, in order to make their circumstances fall in with the duties they owe to themselves, their families, and their country. All these relations a man should think of who intends to go into the state of marriage, and expects to make it a state of pleasure and satisfaction. 'MR. SPECTATOR,
* I HAVE for some years indulged a passion for a young lady of age and quality suitable to my own, but very much superior in fortune. It is the