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Comus, to borrow the language of a sister art, possesses an Ionic simplicity, and a Doric sweetness that is truly enchanting; the celebrated Horace Walpole observes well, that Milton's tenderness always imprints ideas as graceful as Guido's Madonnas, and the L'Allegro, II Penseroso, and Comus, maybe personified by the three Graces. As a drama, it is, however, certainly deficient; the dialogue is too much extended, and excites too little interest; and to be known to advantage, it must be read rather than exhibited. If the Paradise Lost resembles the ocean infuriate by a storm, and the Paradise Regained, a smooth and gentle river, that brings both health and happiness, Comus is like a rill, that sometimes bubbles over pebbles, and sometimes creeping under the mossy rock, charms every listener to repose with its pleasing murmurs. The first partakes of the wild sublimity of Angelo, the next of the mild and tender Raphael, while Comus blends the romantic scenery of a Claude with the exquisite polish and splendour of a Titian.
The outline of this poem was taken from "The pleasant Comedie of the old Wives' Tale," written by George Peele. It. seems as if Milton designed it as a vehicle, by which he could inculcate the most exquisite morality, and the most enchanting, yet visionary sentiments; he may be styled with Virgil, the *Plato poetarum, and he seems willing to exclaim with Cicero, "Errare mehercule malo cum Platone, quam cum istis vera sentire."
An ardent love of traditionary fables and legendary lore, had filled his youthful mind with all the enthusiasm that marked the pensive genius of Tasso and Collins, Ariosto and Spenser; his Sabrina is a lady, whom tradition informs us, was the daughter of Locrine, the son of Brutus, who, flying from the rage of her stepmother Guendolen, consigned herself to the flood; the water nymphs, in pity of her misfortunes, bore her to the " hall of Nereus," who, in each sense, dropping in ambrosial oils, made her the goddess of the Severn. In this fable»we find the invention of Ovid mixed with the more chaste and elegant expression of Horace-; the song of the spirit is most beautiful, and such an assemblage of enchanting images, as we find in the sister's song to the echo, perhaps, cannot be found in so small a compass, in the whole range of English poetry. The moral inculcated in this piece is chastity. Milton was himself a man of the nicest delicacy; his wives were all virgins, and he seemed to think chastity and modesty the two most alluring qualifications of the sex. What an exquisite passage is that * jElius Lampridius, Alex. 'Severus, p. 349.
upon this subject, beginning 1. 425! He seemed to consider that modesty excelled as much as the Ionic surpasses all the other orders of architecture, in neatness, simplicity, and elegance.
His imagination in this piece, evidently was on the wing; the most sportive genius, the same varied and beautiful excursions of fancy that decorates his L'Allegro, sports in his Comus; he peoples the colours^ of the rainbow, as he does afterwards the ideal waste and gloomy kingdom of chaos.
His general descriptions are extremely wild and beautiful :. I quote the following, to explain, in the words of Dr. Warton, a singular, concise, and enchanting expression. ,. I know each lane, and every alley, green, Dingle, or bushy dell, in this wild wood, And every bosky bourn, from side to side. A bourn is a deep, winding, and narrow valley, with a rivulet in the midst.
His compound epithets are equally happy, as "Sea-girt"—(to add Isles, by the bye, is a pleonasm which I suppose he copied from a fine one in Ovid)—" Pure-eyed faith"—" White-handed hope"— "Smooth-dittied song"—" Flowery-kirtled Naiades." &c.
Milton's mind was fraught with every finer feeling, which led him to indulge in the various and delightful paths of music, poetry, and philosophy; in these he paticularly excelled, and he delighted in celebrating their influence over the mind and the heart. The effects of music are such, as to take the prisoned soul, and lap it in Elysium; philosoply is
Musical as is Apollo's lute, And a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets, Where no crude surfeit reigns. He makes his poem subservient to the claims of friendship; his Thirsis,
Who, with his soft pipe and smooth-dittied song, Knows how to still the wild winds when they roar, is his musical and excellent friend, Henry Lawes, to whom he addressed an elegant sonnet. v- *"
It is impossible to read Comus, without partaking, in some measure, of the Vaticinatio furentis animi of the poet: he astonishes, delights, and enchants us; there is such an elegance of expression, such compression of sentiment, such vivid colouring, and such picturesque scenery, as are truly transporting; his individual beauties arc diamonds among pearls, and to search for them, is to dig for gold in the mines of Peru.
Mortimer. t L. 300.
AN HISTORICAL EULOGIUM,
The Marshall Duke of Berwick. From Montesquieu's Posthumous Works.
After the death of Charles II. of Spain, King James sent the Duke of Berwick to Rome to compliment the pope on his election, and offer himself to take the command of the army which France pressed him to levy for maintaining the neutrality of Italy. The court of St. Germain even offered to send Irish troops there, but the pope thought the undertaking too arduous, and the Duke returned.
In 1701 he lost the king his father, and in 1702 he served in Flanders under the Duke of Burgundy and Marshall Bouffleurs. In 1703, on returning from the campaign, he had himself naturalized a Frenchman, with the consent of the court of Saint Germain.
In 1704, the king sent him into Spain with eighteen batallions and nineteen squadrons, of which he was to have the command, and on his arrival the King of Spain declared him captain-general of his armies, and made him a grandee.
The court of Spain was infested with intrigue. The government went on badly, because every one was desirous of governing. Every thing degenerated into artifice, and one of the principal objects of his mission was to remove them. All parties wished to gain him; but he would connect himself with none of them. He attached himself solely to the success of affairs; he did not regard private interests but as private interests; he never thought of Madame des Ursino, nor Orry, nor the Abbe D'Estrees, nor the taste of the queen, nor the inclination of the king: he thought only of the monarchy.
The Duke of Berwick was ordered to use his endeavours to have Madame des Ursino sent away from court. The king wrote to him—" Tell my grandson that he owes this act of complaisance. Employ all the reasons that you can suggest to yourself to persuade him to it: but do not say that I shall abandon him, for he never would believe you." The King of Spain consented to dismiss her. In that year, 1704, the Duke of Berwick saved Spain, and pre- x—VOL. XYI.
vented the Portuguese army from advancing to Madrid. His own army was weaker by two thirds : orders came crowding on him from the court to retreat, and put nothing to the hazard. The Duke, who saw that Spain must be lost if he obeyed, constantly took the risk, and disputed every inch. The Portuguese army at length retired, and the Duke of Berwick did the same. At the end of the campaign he was ordered to return to France. It was a court intrigue; and he experienced what so many others had done before him, that to please the court is the greatest service that can be rendered to it, without which all others, to use the language of theologists, are no better»than dead works.
In 1705 the Duke of Berwick was sent to command in Languedoc; and in the same year he laid siege to, and made himself master of, Nice.
In 1706 he was made a Marshall of France, and sent into Spain, to command the army against Portugal. The King of Spain had raised the siege of Barcelona, and been obliged to repass by way of France, to enter his own dominions through Navarre.
I have already said that before he quitted Spain, the first time he served there, he had saved it: he saved it again on this occasion. I shall rapidly pass over these transactions which it is the province of history to recount, only observing that all was lost at the commencement, and all was recovered at the close of the campaign. We may see in the letters of Madame de Maintenon to the Princess des Ursino what both courts thought of the matter at that time. They indeed formed wishes, but could not entertain even hopes. Marshall de Berwick was desirous that the Queen should retire to her army; but timid councils defeated his intentions. It was proposed that she should withdraw to Pampeluna, but such a conduct would be fatal, as the Castilians would then conceive themselves to be abandoned. The queen then retired with the councils to Burgos, and the king himself repaired to the little army. The Portuguese got possession of Madrid, and the Marshall, by his wisdom, without fighting a single battle, freed Castile from the enemy, and shut up their army in the kingdom of Valencia and Arragon, leading them step by step as a shepherd conducts his flocks. That campaign might be said to redound more to his glory than any he had made, as the advantages, being derived from no battle, afforded the greater proof of his capacity. He made upwards of ten thousand prisoners, and by that campaign prepared the second, more celebrated still for the victory of Almanza, the conquest of the kingdom of Valencia, and the capture of Lerida.
In was in the year 1707 that the King of Spain conferred on Marshall Berwick the towns of Liria and Xerica, with the rank of grandee of the first class, which procured him a still greater establishment for his eldest son, by his marriage with Donna Catherina of Portugal, and heiress of the house of Veraguas. The Marshall gave up to him all that he possessed in Spain.
Louis XIV. at the same time conferred on him the government of Limensin, of his own spontaneous will, and without any application made for it.
It is necessary now that I should speak of M. the Duke of Orleans, and I do it with the more pleasure, as what I have to say will serve only to reflect glory upon both.
The Duke of Orleans set off to take the command of the army, and his unlucky stars suggested to him that he should have time to pass through Madrid. Marshall Berwick dispatched courier after courier to inform him that he should soon be forbid to come to a battle. The Duke of Orleans set out with all expedition, but did not arrive in time. There were not wanting courtiers who wished to persuade that prmce that the marshall was delighted at giving battle before he came, and thus deprive him of the glory with which the victory was crowned: but no one knew better than that prince how to do justice to a rival, and all he complained of was that he was unfortunate.
The Duke of Orleans, in affliction and despair at the thought of returning without having accomplished any thing, proposed the siege of Lerida. The Marshall, who disapproved of it, expressed his reason with energy, and even wished that the court should be previously consulted. The siege however was resolved upon, and from that moment the Marshall saw no farther obstacles, well knowing that if prudence be the first of virtues before an enterprise is undertaken, it is but the second when once it is engaged in. Perhaps had he himself determined on that siege he would have been less afraid of being obliged to raise it. The Duke of Orleans concluded the campaign with glory; and that which would infallibly have embroiled two common persons, served only to unite these two great men more closely. I recollect hearing the Marshall say that the campaign of 1707 was the origin of that favour in which he was held by the Duke of Orleans.
. .[To be continued.]
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