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Hetis etiam mensas confumimus inquit Iulius t
Such an Observation, which is beautisul in the mouth of a Boy, would have been ridiculous from any other of the Company. I am apt to think that the changing of the Trojan Fleet into Water-Nymphs, which is the most violent Machine of the whole Eneid, and has given Offence to several Critics, may be accounted for the same way. Virgil himself, before he begins that Relation, premises that what he was going to tell appeared incredible, but that it was justified by Tradition. What surther confirms me that this change of the Fleet was a celebrated Circumstance in the History of Æneas, is, that Ovid has given a place to the fame Metamorphosis in his account of the Heathen Mythology.
None of the Criticks, I have met with, having considered the Fable of the Æneid in this Light, and taken notice how the Tradition, on which it was founded, authorizes those Parts in it which appear the most Exceptionable; I hope the Length of this Reflection will not make it unacceptable to the curious Part of my Readers.
The History, which was the Basis of Milton's Poem, is still shorter than either that of the Iliad or Æneid. The Poet has likewise taken care to insert every Circumstance of it in the Body of his Fable. The Ninth Book, which we are here to consider, is raised upon that brief Account in Scripture, wherein we are told that the Serpent was more subtile than any Beast of the Field, that he tempted the Woman to eat of the Forbidden Fruit, that she was overcome by this Temptation, and that Adam followed her Example. From these few Particulars Milton has formed one of the most Entertaining Fables that Invention ever produced. He has disposed of these several Circumstances among so many beautisul and natural Fictions of his own, that his whole Story looks only like a Comment upon sacred Writ, or rather seems to be a full and compleat Relation of what the other is only an Epitome. I have insisted the longer on this Consideration, as I look upon the Disposition and Contrivance of the Fable to be the Principal Beauty of the Ninth Book, which has more Story in it, and is suller of Incidents, than any other in the whole Poem. Satan's traversing the Globe, and still keeping within the Shadow of the Night, as searing to be discovered by the Angel of the Sun, who had before detected him, is one of those beautisul Imaginations [with] which [he] introduces this his second Series of Adventures. Having examined the Nature of every Creature, and found out one which was the most proper for his Purpose, he again returns to Paradise; and, to avoid Discovery, sinks by Night with a River that ran under the Garden, and rises up again through a Fountain that issued from it by the Tree of Lise. The Poet, who, as we have before taken notice, speaks as little as possible in his own Person, and, after the example of Homer, fills every Part of his Work with Manners and Characters, introduces a Soliloquy of this Infernal Agent, who was thus restless in the Destruction of Man. He is then describ'd as gliding through the Garden under the resemblance of a Mist, in order to find out that Creature in which he design'd to tempt our first Parents. This Description has something in it very Poetical and Surprizing.
vvJ? ^ So saying, through each thicket Dank or Dry t\\1^'Cu^t Ziife a black Mill, low creeping, he held on "Midnight Search, where soonest he might find
The Serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found ^<f^A^\/VJ,W-t*~ In Labyrinth of many a routuLfdf-roll'd, (\v\£i>J* His head the midst, wellsto?d with subtle wiles.
(if* The Author afterwards gives us a Description of
the Morning, which is wondersully suitable to a Divine Poem, and peculiar to that first Season of Nature; he represents the Earth before it was curst, as a great Altar breathing out its Incense from all parts, and sending up a pleasant Savour to the Nostrils of its Creator; to which he adds a noble Idea of Adam and Eve, as offering their Morning Worship, and filling up the universal Consort of Praise and Adoration.
Now when as sacred light began to dawn
The Dispute which follows between our two first Parents is represented with great Art: It arises [proceeds] from a difference of Judgment, not of Passion, and is managed with Reason, not with Heat; it is such a Dispute as we may suppose might have happened in Paradise, had Man continued Happy and Innocent. There is a great Delicacy in the Moralities which are interspersed in Adam's Discourse, and which the most ordinary Reader cannot but take notice of. That force of Love which the Father of Mankind so finely describes in the Eighth Book, and which I inserted in my last Saturday's Paper, shews it self here in many beautisul Instances: As in those fond Regards he casts towards Eve at her parting from him.
Her long with ardent look his eye pursued
In his impatience and amusement during hei Absence.
Adam the while
Waiting desirous her return, had wore
But particularly in that passionate Speech, where seeing her irrecoverably lost, he resolves to perish with her, rather than to live without her.
Or enemy hath beguil'd thee, yet unknown.
The beginning of this Speech, and the Preparation to it, are animated with the fame Spirit as the Conclusion, which I have here quoted.
The several Wiles which are put in Practice by the Tempter, when he found Eve separated from hei Husband, the many pleasing Images of Nature, which are intermixt in this part of the Story, with its gradual and regular Progress to the fatal Catastrophe, are so very remarkable, that it would be superfluous to point out their several [respective] Beauties.
I have avoided mentioning any particular Similitudes in my Remarks on this great Work, because I have given a general account of them in my Paper. on the First Book. There is one, however, in this part of the Poem which I shall here quote, as it is not only very beautisul, but the closest of any in the whole Poem; I mean that where the Serpent is describ'd as rolling forward in all his Pride, animated by the evil Spirit, aud conducting Eve to her Destruction, while Adam was at too great a distance from her, to give her his Assistance. These several Particulars are all of them wrought into the following Similitude.
Hope elevates, and Joy
Brighten's his Crest, as when a wand'ring fire
That secret Intoxication of Pleasure, with all those transient flushings of Guilt and Joy which the Poet represents in our first Parents upon their eating the forbidden Fruit, to those flaggings of Spirit, damps of Sorrow and mutual Accufations which succeed it, are conceiv'd with a wondersul Imagination, and described in very natural Sentiments.
When Dido in the Fourth Æneid yielded to that fatal Temptation which ruin'd her, Virgil tells us, the I£arth trembled, the Heavens were filled with flashes of Lightning, and the Nymphs howl'd upon the Mountain Tops. Milton, in the fame Poetical Spirit, has describ'd all Nature as disturbed upon Eve'% eating the forbidden Fruit .
So faying, her rash hand in evil hour
Upon Adam's falling into the fame Guilt, the whole Creation appears a second time in Convulsions.
He fcrupl'd not to eat
Against his better knowledge; not deceiv'd.