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Now seas and earth were in confusion lost;
-Sea cover'd sea,
MILTON. In Milton the former part of the description does not forestall the latter. How much more great and solemn on this occasion is that which follows in our English poet:
-And in their palaces,
And stabled than that in Ovid, where we are told that the seacalves lay in those places where the goats were used to browse? The reader may find several other parallel passages in the Latin and English description of the deluge, wherein our poet has visibly the advantage. The sky's being overcharged with clouds, the descending of the rains, the rising of the seas, and the appearance of the rainbow, are such descriptions as every one must take notice of. The circumstance relating to Paradise is so finely imagined, and suitable to the opinions of many learned authors, that I can not forbear giving it a place in this paper:
Then shall this mount
The haunt of seals, and orcs and sea-mews clang. The transition which the poet makes from the vision of the deluge, to the concern it occasioned
in Adam, is exquisitely graceful, and copied after Virgil, though the first thought it introduces is rather in the spirit of Ovid:
How didst thou grieve then, Adam, to behold The end of all thy offspring, end so sad, Depopulation! thee another flood Of tears and sorrow; a flood thee also drown'd, And sunk thee as thy sons: till gently rear'd By th' angel, on thy feet thou stood'st at last, Though comfortless, as when a father mourns His children, all in view destroy'd at once. I have been the more particular in my quotations out of the eleventh book of Paradise Lost, because it is not generally reckoned among
the most shining books of this poem; for which reason the reader might be apt to overlook those many passages in it which deserve our admiration. The eleventh and twelfth are indeed built upon that single circumstance of the removal of our first parents from Paradise; but though this is not in itself so great a subject as that in most of the foregoing books, it is extended and diversified with so many surprising incidents and pleasing episodes, that these two last books can by no means be looked upon as unequal parts of this divine poem. I must further add, that had not Milton represented our first parents as driven out of Paradise, his Fall of Man would not have been complete, and consequently his action would have been imperfect. ADDISON.
No. 364. MONDAY, APRIL 28.
- Navibus atque
• A LADY of my acquaintance, for whom I have too much respect to be easy while she is doing an indiscreet action, has given occasion to this trouble: she is a widow, to whom the indulgence of a tender husband has intrusted the management of a very great fortune, and a son about sixteen, both which she is extremely fond of. The boy has parts of the middle size, neither shining nor despicable, and has passed the common exercises of his years with tolerable advantage, but is withal what you would call a forward youth; by the help of this last qualification, which serves as a varnish to all the rest, he is enabled to make the best use of his learning, and display it at full length upon all occasions. Last summer he distinguished himself two or three times very remarkably, by puzzling the vicar before an assembly of most of the ladies in the neighbourhood: and from such weighty considerations as these, as it too often unfortunately falls out, the mother is become invincibly persuaded that her son is a great scholar; and that to chain him down to the ordinary methods of education with others of his age, would be to cramp his faculties, and do an irreparable injury to his wonderful capacity.
I happened to visit at the house last week, and missing the young gentleman at the tea-table,
where he seldom fails to officiate, could not upon so extraordinary a circumstance avoid inquiring after him. My lady told me, he was gone out with her woman in order to make some preparations for their equipage; for that she intended very speedily to carry him to travel. The oddness of the expression shocked me a little; however, I soon recovered myself enough to let her know, that all I was willing to understand by it was, that she designed this summer to show her son his estate in a distant county, in which he had never yet been. But she soon took care to rob me of that agreeable mistake, and let me into the whole affair. She enlarged upon young master's prodigious improvements, and his comprehensive knowledge of all book-learning; concluding that it was now high time that he should be made acquainted with men and things; that she had resolved he should make the tour of France and Italy; but could not bear to have him out of her sight, and therefore intended to go along with him.
I was going to rally her for so extravagant a resolution, but found myself not in a fit humour to meddle with a subject that demanded the most soft and delicate touch imaginable. I was afraid of dropping something that might seem to bear hard either upon the son's abilities or the mother's discretion, being sensible that in both these cases, though supported with all the powers of reason, I should, instead of gaining her ladyship over to my opinion, only expose myself to her disesteem: I therefore immediately determined to refer the whole matter to the Spectator.
• When I came to reflect at night, as my cusa VOL. VII.
tom is, upon the occurrences of the day, I could not bút believe that this humour of carrying a boy to travel in his mother's lap, and that upon pretence of learning men and things, is a case of an extraordinary nature, and carries on it a particular stamp of folly. I did not remember to have met with its parallel within the compass of my observation, though I could call to mind some not extremely unlike it; from hence my thoughts took occasion to ramble into the general notion of travelling, as it is now made a part of education. Nothing is more frequent than to take a lad from grammar and taw, and under the tuition of some poor scholar, who is willing to be banished for thirty pounds a year and a little victuals, send him crying and snivelling into foreign countries. Thus he spends his time as children do at puppet-shows, and with much the same advantage, in staring and gaping at an amazing variety of strange things; strange indeed to one who is not prepared to comprehend the reasons and meaning of them; whilst he should be laying the solid foundations of knowledge in his mind, and furnishing it with just rules to direct his future progress in life under some skilful master of the art of instruction.
•Can there be a more astonishing thought in nature, than to consider how men should fall into so palpable a mistake! It is a large field, and may very well exercise a sprightly genius, but I do not remember you have yet taken a turn in it. I wish, sir, you would make people understand that travel is really the last step to be taken in the institution of youth; and to set out with it is to begin where they should end.