« VorigeDoorgaan »
but speaking our language, and feel all, to seem imitators, drove back ing an interest in our great men-a others who would have pressed into man could hardly believe at first how that arena, if not already brilliantly perplexed he would feel how utterly filled. Butler failing, there would at a loss for any adequate answer to have been another Butler, either in this question, suddenly proposed the same or in some analogous form. " Who and what was Milton ? That But, with regard to Milton and the is to
say: what is the place which he Miltonic power, the case is far otherfills in his own vernacular literature ? wise. If the man had failed, the power what station does he hold in univer- would have failed. In that mode of sal literature ?
power which he wielded, the function We, if abruptly called upon in that was exhausted in the man-species summary fashion to convey a com. was identified with the individual-the mensurate idea of Milton, one which poetry was incarnated in the poet. might at once correspond to his pre- Let it be remembered, that, of all tensions, and yet be readily intelligible powers which act upon man through to the savage, should answer per- his intellectual nature, the very rarest haps thus :- Milton is not an author is that which we moderns call the amongst authors, not a poet amongst Sublime. The Grecians had apparentpoets, but a power amongst powers; ly no word for it, unless it were that and the Paradise Lost is not a book which they meant by to ofxwóss : for amongst books, not a poem among itos was a comprehensive expression poems, but a central force amongst for all qualities which gave a character of forces. Let us explain. There is grace or animation to the composition, this great distinction amongst books: such even as were philosophically opsome, though possibly the best in their posed to the sublime. In the Roman class, are still no more than books-pot poetry, and especially in Lucan, at times indispensable, not incapable of sup- also Juvenal, there is an exhibition of plementary representation by other a moral sublime, perfectly distinct from books. If they had never been—if any thing known to the Greek poetry. their place had continued for ages un
The delineations of republican granfilled—not the less, upon a sufficient deur, as expressing itself through the excitement arising, there would always principal leaders in the Roman camps, have been found the ability, either di- or the trampling under foot of ordinary rectly to fill up the vacancy, or at least superstitions, as given in the reasons to meet the same passion virtually, assigned to Labienus for passing the though by a work differing in form. oracle of the Lybian Jupiter uncon. Thus, supposing Butler to have died sulted, are in a style to which there is in youth, and the Hudibras to have nothing corresponding in the whole been intercepted by his premature Grecian literature, nor would they have death, still the ludicrous aspects of been comprehensible to an Athenian. the Parliamentary war, and its fight. The famous line—" Jupiter est quod. ing saints, were too striking to have cunque vides, quocunque moveris," perished. If not in a narrative form, and the brief review of such questions the case would have come forward in as might be worthy of an oracular god, the drama. Puritanical sanctity, in with the summary declaration, that collision with the ordinary interests of every one of those points we know life, and with its militant propensities, already by the light of nature, and offered too striking a field for the Sa- could not know them better though tiric Muse, in any case, to have passed Jupiter Ammon himself were to imin total neglect. The impulse was press them on our attention too strong for repression-it was a vol
Scimus, et hæc nobis non altius ingeret canic agency, that, by some opening or
Ammon :? other, must have worked a way for itself to the upper air. Yet Butler all this is truly Roman in its subli was a most original poet, and a crea- mity; and so exclusively Roman, that tor within his own province. But, like there, and not in poets like the Augusmany another original mind, there is tan, expressly modelling their poems on little doubt that he quelled and re- Grecian types, ought the Roman mind pressed, by his own excellence, other to be studied. minds of the same cast. Mere despair On the other hand, for that species of excelling him, so far as not, after of the sublime which does not rest purely and merely on moral energies, We will briefly state the objections, but on a synthesis between man and and then as briefly reply to them, by nature-for what may properly be call. exposing the true philosophy of Mil. ed the Ethico-physical Sublime-there ton's practice. For we are very sure is but one great model surviving in the that, in doing as he did, this mighty Greek poetry, viz. the gigantic drama poet was governed by no carelessof the Prometheus crucified on Mount ness or oversight, (as is imagined,) but Elborus. And this drama differs so by a most refined theory of poetic much from every thing else, even in effects. the poetry of (Eschylus, as the mythus itself differs so much from all the rest 1. The first of these two charges reof the Grecian mythology (belong. spects a supposed pedantry, or too ambiing apparently to an age and a people tious a display oferudition. It is surprising more gloomy, austere, and nearer to the to us that such an objection should have incunabula mundi, than those which occurred to any man; both because, bred the gay and sunny superstitions after all, the quantity of learning cannot of Greece,) that much curiosity and be great for which any poem can find speculation have naturally gathered an opening; and because, in any poem round the subject of late years. Lay- burning with concentrated fire, like the ing this one insulated case apart, and Miltonic, the passion becomes a law to considering that the Hebrew poetry of itself, and will not receive into conIsaiah and Ezekiel, as having the be nexion with itself any parts so deficient nefit of inspiration, does not lie within in harmony, as a cold ostentation of the just limits of competition, we may learned illustrations must always have afiirm that there is no human compo. been found. Still, it is alleged that such sition which can be challenged as con- words as frieze, architrave, cornice, stitutionally sublime--sublime equally zenith, &c., are words of art, out of by its conception and by its execution, place amongst the primitive simplicior as uniformly sublime from first to ties of Paradise, and at war with Mil. last, excepting the Paradise Lost. In ton's purpose of exhibiting the ParaMilton only, first and last, is the power disaical state. of the sublime revealed. In Milton Now, here is displayed broadly the only does this great agency blaze and very perfection of ignorance, as mea. glow as a furnace kept up to a white sured against the very perfection of heat-without intermission and with. what may be called poetic science. We out collapse.
will lay open the true purpose of MilIf, therefore, Milton occupies this ton, by a single illustration. In deunique position—and let the reader scribing impressivescenery, as occurring question himself closely whether he in a hilly or a woody country, every can cite any other book than the body must have noticed the habit Paradise Lost, as continuously su- which young ladies have of using the blime, or sublime even by its prevail. word amphitheatre: “ amphitheatre of ing character-in that case there is a woods"_" amphitheatre of hills,' peculiarity of importance investing these are their constant expressions. ihat one book which belongs to no Why? Is it because the word amphiother ; and it must be important to
theatre is a Grecian word? We quesdissipate any erroneous notions which tion if one young lady in twenty knows affect the integrity of that book’s esti- that it is ; and very certain we are mation. Now, there are two notions that no word would recommend itself countenanced by Addison and by Dr to her use by that origin, if she hap. Johnson, which tend greatly to dis- pened to be aware of it. The reason parage the character of its composi. Turks here:--in the word theatre, is tion. If the two critics, one friendly, contained an evanescent image of a the other very malignant, but both great audience of a populous multimeaning to be just, have in reality tude. Now, this image-half withbuilt upon sound principles, or at least drawn, half flashed upon the eye—and upon a sound appreciation of Milton's combined with the word hills or forests, principles in that case there is a is thrown into powerful collision with mortal taint diffused over the whole of the silence of hills—with the solithe Paradise Lost: for not a single tude of forests ; each image, from reci. book is clear of one or other of the two procal contradiction, brightens and vi. errors which they charge upon him. vifies the other. The two images act, and react, by strong repulsion and an- one chapter. And yet, from the tagonism.
blindness or inconsiderate examinaThis principle we might exemplify, tion of his critics, this latent wisdom and explain at great length; but we --this cryptical science of poetic efimpose a law of severe brevity upon fects in the mighty poet, has been ourselves. And we have said enough. misinterpreted, and set down to the Out of this one principle of subtle and account of defective skill, or even of lurking antagonism, may be explained puerile ostentation. every thing which has been denounced under the idea of pedantry in Milton. II. The second great charge against It is the key to all that lavish pomp of Milton is, primâ facie, even more diffiart and knowledge which is sometimes cult to meet. It is the charge of haput forward by Milton in situations of in- ving blended the Pagan and Christian tense solitude, and in the bosom of pri- forms. The great realities of angels mitive nature—as, for example, in the and archangels are continually comEden of his great poem, and in the Wil- bined into the same groups with the derness of his Paradise Regained. The fabulous impersonations of the Greek shadowy exhibition of a regal banquet mythology. Eve is interlinked in in the desert, draws out and stimulates comparisons with Pandora; sometimes the sense of its utter solitude and re- again with Eurynome. Those impermotion from men or cities. The ima- sonations, however, may be thought ges of architectural splendour, sud- to have something of allegoric meandenly raised in the very centre of Pa. ing in their conceptions, which in a radise, as vanishing shows by the wand measure corrects this Paganism of the of a magician, bring into powerful re- idea. But Eve is also compared with lief the depth of silence, and the un- Ceres, with Hebe, and other fixed populous solitude which possess this forms of Pagan superstition. Other sanctuary of man whilst yet happy and allusions to the Greek mythologic innocent. Paradise could not, in any forms, or direct combination of them other way, or by any artifice less pro- with the real existences of the Chrisfound, have been made to give up its tian heavens, might be produced by essential and differential characteristics scores, were it not that we decline to in a form palpable to the imagination, swell our paper beyond the necessity As a place of rest, it was necessary of the case. Now, surely this at least that it should be placed in close colli- is an error. Can there be any answer sion with the unresting strife of cities; to this ? as a place of solitude, with the image At one time we were ourselves in. of tumultuous crowds; as the centre clined to fear that Milton had been of mere natural beauty in its gorgeous · here caught tripping. In this instance, prime, with the images of elaborate at least, he seems to be in error. But architecture and of human workman, there is no trusting to appearances. ship; as a place of perfect innocence In meditating upon the question, we in seclusion, that it should be exhibited happened to remember that the most as the antagonist pole to the sin and colossal and Miltonic of painters had misery of social man.
fallen into the very same fault, if fault Such is the covert philosophy which
In his Last Judgment, governs Milton's practice, and which Michael Angelo has introduced the might be illustrated by many scores of Pagan deities in connexion with the passages from both the Paradise Lost hierarchy of the Christian heavens. and the Paradise Regained.* In fact, Now, it is very true that one great a volume might be composed on this man cannot palliate the error of an
* For instance, this is the key to that image in the Paradise Regained, where Satan, on first emerging into sight, is compared to an old man gathering sticks“ to warm him on a winter's day.” This image, at first sight, seems little in harmony with the wild and awful character of the supreme fiend. No: it is not in harmony; nor is it meant to be in harmony. On the contrary, it is meant to be in antagonism and intense repulsion. The household image of old age, of human infirmity, and of domestic hearths, are all meant as a machinery for provoking and soliciting the fearful idea to which they are placed in collision, and as so many repelling poles. NO. CCXC, VOL. XLVI.
other great man, by committing the of such fabulous beings in the same same error himself. But, though it groups with glorified saints and an. cannot avail as an excuse, such a con- gels, as there is to the combination, formity of ideas serves as a summons by a painter or a sculptor, of real fleshto a much more vigilant examination and blood creatures with allegoric abof the case than might else be insti. stractions. tuted. One man might err from in- This is the objection to such comadvertency; but that two, and both bination in all other poets. But this men trained to habits of constant me objection does not apply to Milton : ditation, should fall into the same it glances past him ; and for the folerror — makes the marvel tenfold lowing reason: Milton has himself laid greater.
an early foundation for his introduc Now we confess that, as to Michael tion of the Pagan pantheon into ChrisAngelo, we do not pretend to assign tian groups :--the false gods of the the precise key to the practice which heathen world were, according to Milhe adopted. And to our feelings, after ton, the fallen angels. They are not all that might be said in apology, there false, therefore, in the sense of being still remains an impression of incon. unreal, baseless, and having a merely gruity in the visual exhibition and fantastical existence, like our European direci juxtaposition of the two orders fairies, but as having drawn aside of sipernatural existence so potently mankind from a pure worship. As repelling each other. But, as regards ruined angels under other names, they Milton, the justification is complete; are no less real than the faithful and it rests upon the following principle: loyal angels of the Christian heavens.
In all other parts of Christianity, And in that one difference of the Milthe two orders of superior beings, the tonic creed, which the poet has brought Christian heaven and the Pagan pan. pointedly and elaborately under his theon, are felt to be incongruous reader's notice by his matchless catanot as the pure opposed to the impure, logue of the rebellious angels, and of (for, if that were the reason, then the their Pagan transformations in the very Christian fiends should be incongruous first book of the Paradise Lost, is laid with the angels, which they are not,) beforehand the amplest foundation for but as the unreal opposed to the real. his subsequent practice; and at the In all the hands of other poets, we feel same time, therefore, the amplest anthat Jupiter, Mercury, Apollo, Diana, swer to the charge preferred against are not merely impure conceptions, him by Dr Johnson, and by so many but that they are baseless conceptions, other critics who had not sufficiently phantoms of air, nonentities; and penetrated the latent theory on which there is much the same objection, in he acted. point of just taste, to the combination
MATHEWS THE COMEDIAN.
Some time has now passed since the sentimentality, to the contempt of publication of the former volumes of money, in the midst of as eager a this ingenious and amusing perform- pursuit of it as ever happen er's life. The two volumes now be- to have seen recorded ; and to the fore us bring it to the close, and thus lamentation over calamities which enable his countrymen to have a full were encountered in spite of weekly of his career.
experience, and which an offer from a Mathews was certainly a man of manager at the Scilly Isles, or at the very remarkable ingenuity. Compa- North Pole, would evidently have rison is the only standard which we wiped clean from the complainant's can adopt in matters of this kind, and brain, though it might have left the he is immeasurably above the Dib. story among the treasures of his medins, Stevenses, and the crowd of re- morandum-book. citers and givers of imitations during Soon after Mathews's partial rethe last fifty years.
These volumes tirement from his engagement with are often laudatory beyond all bounds; Arnold, he set out on a tour of the for some of his performances were country towns,-a tour which, notintolerably trainant, and the more he withstanding all his deprecation, he laboured the less the audience smiled. volunteered to the last hour of his But it must be acknowledged that this life. One of his letters from Liver. was the fault much more of the com- pool in 1818, gives an account, in his pilers of the recitations, clever as they whimsical style, of the difficulties alsometimes were, than of the reciter. ways thrown by fate or fortune in his His imitations deserved a higher name way. than mimicry; they were always dex
“ We drove on to Coventry that night terous, often happy, and sometimes
-got up early, to be ready for the Livereven refined.
pool mail-at eight it arrived. In 1818, Mathews commenced his
to know if there was a place. Man reprovincial ramblings once more. It
turned - Yes, sir, one place outside. is curious, that though his biographer Sent my portmanteau-gobbled breaksighs profusely, and he groans perpe- fast-presently saw man return with my tually, over those travels, which they portmanteau. Smelt a misery-bookboth pronounce the hardship of hard. keeper had just discovered that the place ships, he was, somehow or other, con- had been promised to a gentleman the stantly on the road. It is good phi- night before. No other coach to Liverlosophy to believe, that there are no pool that day. Set off on a mere scent effects without causes; and the un- of a coach to Birmingham, per gig-tired questionable cause of this effect was, horse-eighteen miles-drove very fast to that the actor liked to be on the road, get there by twelve. Heard there was no and the biographer had no possible coach till four-obliged to make up my objection to his being on it as much
mind to go by that. Gobbled up my dinas he liked. We cannot discover a
ner to be ready. Went to the coach
office at four-told London coach was not single instance in which the love of a
come in, and the other could not start till quiet life prevailed over the charms of
Went at a country trip, or in which the plea- half an hour after its arrival. sant sufferer was not permitted to run
mised to arrive at nine next morning. Did round half the empire for a couple
not believe that-saw two hours fast addof nights," wherever he could be called ing to that-anticipated alarm of Liverpool by a speculating manager, or had a
managers—rehearsal dismissed. At last hope of swelling his banker's book by coach arrived, and at half-past six I was an additional guinea. In this we do turned off. not make the slightest objection to the ' I was told the coach was later by two better half or the worse. It was the hours than ever known. Found it was business of both to make money when licensed to carry six inside, and travelled they could; we object only to the all night. Sawtwo women with a child
Memoirs of Charles Mathews, Comedian. By Mrs Mathews. Vols. 3 and 4,