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on trust with him toward the payment of what I am now indebted, as being a work not to be raised from the heat of youth or the vapours of wine like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite, nor to be obtained by the invocation of Dame Memory and her Siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out His Seraphim with the hallowed fire of His altar to touch and purify the lips of whom He pleases: to this must be added industrious and select reading, steady observation, and insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs. Although it nothing content me to have disclosed thus much beforehand; but that I trust hereby to make it manifest with what small willingness I endure to interrupt the pursuit of no less hopes than these, and leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes, from beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies.'

So that of Spenser,

'The noble heart that harbours virtuous thought,
And is with child of glorious great intent,

Can never rest until it forth have brought
The eternal brood of glory excellent.'

Milton, therefore, did not write from casual impulse, but after a severe examination of his own strength, and with a resolution to leave nothing undone which it was in his power to do. He always labours, and almost always succeeds. He strives hard to say the finest things in the world, and he does say them. He adorns and dignifies his subject to the utmost; he surrounds it with every possible association of beauty or grandeur, whether moral, intellectual, or physical. He refines on his descriptions of beauty, loading sweets on sweets till the sense aches at them, and raises his images of terror to a gigantic elevation that makes Ossa like a wart.' In Milton there is always an appearance of effort; in Shakspeare, scarcely


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Milton has borrowed more than any other writer, and exhausted every source of imitation, sacred or profane; yet he is perfectly distinct from every other writer. He is a writer of centos, and yet in originality scarcely inferior to Homer. The power of his mind is stamped on every line. The fervour of his imagination melts down and renders malleable, as in a furnace, the most contradictory materials. In

reading his works, we feel ourselves under the influence of a mighty intellect that, the nearer it approaches to others, becomes more distinct from them. The quantity of art in him shows the strength of his genius; the weight of his intellectual obligations would have oppressed any other writer. Milton's learning has the effect of intuition. He describes objects, of which he could only have read in books, with the vividness of actual observation. His imagination has the force of Nature. He makes words tell as pictures,

'Him followed Rimmon, whose delightful seat

Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks

Of Abbana and Pharphar, lucid streams.'

The word 'lucid' here gives to the idea all the sparkling effect of the most perfect landscape. And again,

'As when a vulture on Imaus bred,

Whose snowy ridge the roving Tartar bounds,
Dislodging from a region scarce of prey,

To gorge the flesh of lambs or yeanling kids

On hills where flocks are fed, flies toward the springs

Of Ganges or Hydaspes, Indian streams;

But in his way lights on the barren plains

Of Sericana, where Chineses drive

With sails and wind their cany wagons light.'

If Milton had taken a journey for the express purpose, he could not have described this scenery and mode of life better. Such passages are like demonstrations of natural history. Instances might be multiplied without end.


We might be tempted to suppose that the vividness with which he describes visible objects was owing to their having acquired an unusual degree of strength in his mind after the privation of his sight; but we find the same palpableness and truth in the descriptions which occur in his early poems. In Lycidas,' he speaks of the great vision of the guarded mount,' with that preternatural weight of impression with which it would present itself suddenly to the pilot of some small nightfoundered skiff;' and the lines in the Penseroso' describing the wandering moon,

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'Riding near her highest noon,

Like one that had been led astray

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Through the heavens' wide pathless way,'

are as if he had gazed himself blind in looking at her. There is also the same depth of impression in his descriptions of the objects of all the different senses, whether colours, or sounds, or smells, the same absorption of his mind in whatever engaged his attention at the

time. It has been indeed objected to Milton by a common perversity of criticism that his ideas were musical rather than picturesque, as if because they were in the highest degree musical, they must be (to keep the sage critical balance even, and to allow no one man to possess two qualities at the same time) proportionably deficient in other respects. But Milton's poetry is not cast in any such narrow, commonplace mould; it is not so barren of resources; his worship of the Muse was not so simple or confined. A sound arises 'like a steam of rich distilled perfumes; we hear the pealing organ, but the incense on the altars is also there, and the statues of the gods are ranged around! The ear indeed predominates over the eye, because it is more immediately affected, and because the language of music blends more immediately with, and forms a more natural accompaniment to, the variable and indefinite associations of ideas conveyed by words. But where the associations of the imagination are not the principal thing, the individual object is given by Milton with equal force and beauty. The strongest and best proof of this, as a characteristic power of his mind, is that the persons of Adam and Eve, of Satan, etc., are always accompanied, in our imagination, with the gran

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