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of an epick poem with any determined number of years, days, or hours.
Having examined the ACTION of Paradise Lost, let us in the next place consider the ACTORS. This
fpent in Hell, and Satan's voyage from thence to Paradise; of which there is no account." • Dr. Newton further observes, that Satan fled from the Mef: Gah's presence when he came down to judge Adam and Eve, and returned by night, B. x. 341. In his return to Hell, he meets Sin and Death in the morning,
" while the sun in Aries rofe," B. X. 329. After Sin and Death had arrived in Paradise, the Angels are commanded to make several alterations in the heavens and elements: and Adam is represented as lamenting aloud to himself “through the still night,” B. x. 846. Adam is afterwards made to talk somewhat confusedly, in one place, as if it was still the day of the Fall, B. x. 962; and, in anuther place, as if it was some day after the Fall, B. X. 1050. And, having felt the cold damps of the night before, he is considering how they may provide themselves with some better warmth before another night comes, B. x, 1069. That other night must be supposed to be paft, since the morning appears again '“ to re-falute the world with facred light,” B. xi. 134.
So that, according to this addition in the calculation, the morning of the Poem, B. xi. 135, commences the eleventh day of the a&ion. “ Addison,” says doctor Newton, “reckons only ten days to the action of the Poem; that is, he supposes that our first Parents were expelled out' of Paradise the very next day after the Fall; and indeed at first fight it appears fo :” But the learned critick acutely adds, “ With what propriety then could the fun's rising in Aries, when Satan met Sin and Death at the brink of Chaos, be mentioned, B. x. 329? and, if it was still the night after the Fall, how could Adam say, as he is represented saying, ere this diurnal star leate cold the night, B. X. 1069? Dr. Newton however acknowledges, that Milton is not very exact in the computation of time; and that perhaps he affected fome obfcurity in this particular, not choofing to detine, as the Scripture itself has not defined, how soon after the Fall it was that our firii parents were driven out of Paradise. Todd.
is Aristotle's method of considering, first the FABLE, and secondly the MANNERS; or, as we generally call them in English, the FABLE and the chaRACTERS.
Hoiner has excelled all the heroick poets, that ever wrote, in the multitude and variety of his characters. Every god that is admitted into his poem, acts a part which would have been suitable to no other deity. His princes are as much diftinguished by their manners, as by their dominions; and even those among them, whose characters seem wholly made up of courage, differ from one another as to the particular kinds of courage in which they excel. In short, there is scarce a speech or action in the Iliad, which the reader may not ascribe to the person who speaks or acts, without seeing his name at the head of it
Homer does not only outshine all other poets in the variety, but also in the novelty, of his characters. He has introduced among his Grecian princes a person who had lived thrice the age of man, and conversed with Theseus, Hercules, Polyphemus, and the first race of heroes. cipal actor is the son of a goddess; not to mention the offspring of other deities, who have likewise a place in his poem, and the venerable Trojan prince, who was the father of so many kings and heroes. There is in these several characters of Homer, a certain dignity, as well as novelty, which adapts them in a more peculiar manner to the nature of an heroick poem. Though at the same time, to give them a greater variety, he has described a Vulcan,
His printhat is a buffoon among his gods, and a Therlites among his mortals.
Virgil falls infinitely short of Homer in the characters of his poem, both as to their variety and novelty. Æneas is, indeed, a perfect character; but as for Achates, though he is styled the hero's friend, he does nothing in the whole poem which may deserve that title. Gyas, Mnestheus, Sergeftus, and Cloanthus, are all of them men of the same ftanıp and character : “ Fortemque Gyan, fortémque Cloanthum.”
There are indeed several natural incidents in the Part of Afcanius; and that of Dido cannot be sufficienty admired. I do not see any thing new or particular in Turnus. Pallas and Evander are remote copies of Hector and Priam, as Lausus and Mezentius are almoft parallels to Pallas and Evander. The characters of Nisus and Euryalus are beautiful, but common.
We must not forget the parts of Sinon, Camilla, and some few others, which are fine improvements on the Greek poet. In short, there is neither that variety, nor novelty, in the persons of the Æneid, which we meet with in those of the Iliad.
If we look into the CHARACTERS of Milton, we fall find that he has introduced all the variety his fable was capable of receiving. The whole Species of mankind was in two persons at the time, to which the subject of his Poem is confined. We have, however, four distinct characters in these two persons. We fee Man and Woman in the highest innocence and perfection, and in the most abject state of guilt and infirmity. The two last characters are, indeed, very common and obvious; but the two first are not only more magnificent, but more new, than any characters either in Virgil or Homer, or indeed in the whole circle of nature.
Milton was so sensible of this defect in the subject of his Poem, and of the few characters it would afford him, that he has brought into it two actors of a thadowy and fictitious nature, in the persons of Sin and Death; by which means he has wrought into the body of his fable, a very beautiful and well-invented allegory. But, notwithstanding the fineness of this allegory may atone for it in some measure, I cannot think that persons of such a chimerical existence are proper actors in an epick poem; because there is not that measure of probability annexed to them, which is requisite in writings of this kind, as I shall how more at large hereafter.
Virgil has, indeed, admitted Fame as an actress in the Eneid; but the part the acts is very short, and none of the most admired circumstances in that divine work. We find in mock-heroick poems, particularly in the Dispensary and the Lutrin; several allegorical persons of this nature; which are very beautiful in those compofitions, and may perhaps be used as an argument, that the authors of them were of opinion, such characters might have a place in an epick work. For my own part, I Naould be glad the reader would think fo, for the sake of the Poem I ain now examining; and must further add, that, if such empty unsubftantial beings may be ever made use of on this occasion, never were any more nicely imagined, and employed in
more proper actions, than those of which I am now speaking
Another principal actor in this Poem is the great Enemy of mankind. The part of Ulysses in Homer's Odyley is very much admired by Aristotle, aş perplexing that fable with very agreeable plots and intricacies; not only by the many adventures in his voyage, and the subtilty of his behaviour, but by the various concealments and discoveries of his person, in several parts of that poem. But the crafty being, I have now mentioned, makes a much longer voyage than Ulysses; puts in practice many more wiles and stratagems, and hides himself under a greater variety of shapes and appearances; all of which are severally detected, to the great delight and surprise of the reader. We may
likewise observe with how much art the poet has varied several characters of the persons, that speak in his infernal assembly. On the contrary, how has he represented the whole Godhead exerting itself towards Man in its full benevolence under the three-fold distinction of a Creator, a Redeemer, and a Comforter !
Nor must we omit the person of Raphael, who, amidst his tenderness and friendship for Man, shows such a dignity and condescension in all his speech and behaviour, as are suitable to a superiour nature. The Angels are, indecd, as much diverfified in Milton, and distinguished by their proper parts, as the gods are in Homer or Virgil. The reader will find nothing afcribed to Uriel, Gabriel, Michael, or Raphael, which is not in a particular manner suitable to their respective characters.