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and what else he may defend himself with, as that the lady is too old or too young, of a suitable humour, or the quite contrary, and that it is impossible they can ever do other than wrangle from June to January, every body tells him all this is spleen, and he must have a wife; while all the members of the Inquisition are unanimous in a certain woman for him, and they think they all together are better able to judge than he or any other private person whatsoever. OSIR,
Temple, March 3, 1712. Your speculation this day on the subject of idleness (See Nos. 316, 54) has employed me, ever since I read it, in sorrowful reflections on my having loitered away the term (or rather the vacation) of ten years in this place, and unhappily suffered a good chamber and study to lie idle as long. My books (except those I have taken to sleep upon) have been totally neglected, and my lord Coke and other venerable authors were never so slighted in their lives. I spend most of the day at a neighbouring coffee-house, where we have what I may call a lazy club. We generally come in night-gowns with our stockings about our heels, and sometimes but one on. Our salutation at entrance is a yawn and a stretch, and then without more ceremony we take our place at the lolling-table, where our discourse is, what I fear you would not read out, therefore shall not insert. But I assure you, sir, I heartily lament this loss of time, and I am now resolved (if possible, with double diligence) to retrieve it, being effectually awakened by the arguments of Mr. Slack out of the senseless stupidity that has
so long possessed me. And to demonstrate that penitence accompanies my confession, and constancy my resolutions, I have locked my door for a year, and desire you would let my companions know I am not within. I am, with great respect, sir, 6 Your most obedient servant, N. B.'
No. 321. SATURDAY, MARCH 8.
Nec satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto. HOR. "Tis not enough a poem's finely writ; It must affect and captivate the soul. ROSCOMMON.
THOSE who know how many volumes have been written on the poems of Homer and Virgil, will easily pardon the length of my discourse upon Milton. The Paradise Lost is looked upon by the best judges as the greatest production, or at least, the noblest work of genius, in our language, and therefore deserves to be set before an English reader in its full beauty. For this reason, though I have endeavoured to give a general idea of its graces and imperfections in my first six papers, I thought myself obliged to bestow one upon every book in particular. The first three books I have already despatched, and am now entering upon the fourth. I need not acquaint my reader that there are multitudes of beauties in this great author, especially in the descriptive parts of this poem, which I have not touched upon, it being my intention to point out
those only which appear to me the most exquisite, or those which are not so obvious to ordinary readers. Every one that has read the critics who have written upon the Odyssey, the Iliad, and the Æneid, knows very well, that though they agree in their opinions of the great beauties in those poems, they have nevertheless each of them discovered several master-strokes which have escaped the observation of the rest. In the same manner, I question not but any writer, who shall treat of this subject after me, may find several beauties in Milton which I have not taken notice of. I must likewise observe, that as the greatest masters of critical learning differ among one another as to some particular points in an epic poem, I have not bound myself scrupulously to the rules which any one of them has laid down upon that art, but have taken the liberty sometimes to join with one and sometimes with another, and sometimes to differ from all of them, when I have thought that the reason of the thing was on my
side. We may consider the beauties of the fourth book under three heads. In the first are those pictures of still life which we meet with in the description of Eden, Paradise, Adam's bower,&c. In the next are the machines, which comprehend the speeches and behaviour of the good and bad angels. In the last is the conduct of Adam and Eve, who are the principal actors in the poem.
In the description of Paradise, the poet has observed Aristotle's rule of lavishing all the ornaments of diction on the weak unactive parts of the fable, which are not supported by the beauty of sentiments and characters. Accordingly the
reader may observe, that the expressions are more florid and elaborate in these descriptions, than in most other parts of the poem. I must further add, that though the drawings of gardens, rivers, rainbows, and the like dead pieces of nature, are justly censured in a heroic poem, when they run out into an unnecessary length, the description of Paradise would have been faulty, had not the poet been very particular in it; not only as it is the scene of the principal action, but as it is requisite to give us an idea of that happiness from which our first parents fell. The plan of it is wonderfully beautiful, and formed upon the short sketch which we have of it in holy writ. Milton's exuberance of imagination has poured forth such a redundancy of ornaments on this seat of happiness and innocence, that it would be endless to point out each particular.
I must not quit this head, without further observing, that there is scarce a speech of Adam or Eve in the whole poem, wherein the sentiments and allusions are not taken from this their delightful habitation. The reader, during their whole course of action, always finds himself in the walks of Paradise. In short, as the critics have remarked, that in those poems, wherein shepherds are actors, the thoughts ought always to take a tincture from the woods, fields and rivers; so we may observe, that our first parents seldom lose sight of their happy station in any. thing they speak or do; and if the reader will give me leave to use the expression, that their thoughts are always paradisaical.
We are, in the next place, to consider the machines of the fourth book. Satan being now with:
in prospect of Eden, and looking round upon the
O thou that with surpassing glory crown'd,
The evil spirit afterwards proceeds to make his discoveries concerning our first parents, and to learn after what manner they may be best attacked. His bounding over the walls of Paradise; his sitting in the shape of a cormorant upon the tree of life, which stood in the centre of it; and overtopped all the other trees of the garden; his alighting among the herd of animals, which are so beautifully represented as playing about Adam and Eve, together with his transforming himself into different shapes, in order to hear their conversation; are circumstances that give an agreeable