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however, you may see an Instance or two [meet with some Instances, as] in the following Passages.
Embrio's and Idiots, Eremites and Fryars
Sere Pilgrims roam
• Awhile Difcourfe they hold,
No fear lest Dinner cool; when thus began
Who of all Ages to fucceed, but feeling
The great Masters in Composition know very well that many an elegant Phrase becomes improper for a Poet or an Orator, when it has been debased by common use. For this reason the Works of Ancien: Authors, which are written in dead Languages, have 2 great Advantage over those which are written in Lan guages that are now spoken. Were there any mean Phrases or Idioms in Virgil and Homer, they would no: shock the Ear of the most delicate Modern Reader, so much as they would have done that of an old Grea or Roman, because we never hear them pronouncec in our Streets, or in ordinary Converfation.
It is not therefore sufficient, that the Language 0! an Epic Poem be Perspicuous, unless it be also Sublime. To this end it ought to deviate from the common Forms and ordinary Phrases of Speech. The Judgment of a Poet very much discovers it self in shunning the common Roads of Expression, withoul falling into such ways of Speech as may seem stiff and unnatural; he must not swell into a false Sublime, by endeavouring to avoid the other Extream. Among the Greeks, Efchylus, and sometimes Sophocles, wen guilty of this Fault; among the Latins, Claudian and Statius; and among our own Countrymen, Shakejpa) and Lee. In these Authors the Affectation of Greatness often hurts the Perspicuity of the Stile, as it USING METAPHORS, FOREIGN IDIOMS, ETC. 35
many others the Endeavour after Perspicuity prejudices its Greatness.
Aristotle has observed, that the Idiomatick Stile may be avoided, and the Sublime formed, by the following Methods. First, by the use of Metaphors, like those of Milton.
Imparadis'd in one anothers Arms,
And in his Hand a Reed
Stood waving tipt with Fire;
The gratye Clods now calved.
In these and several [innumerable] other Instances, the Metaphors are very bold but beautisul; I must however observe, that the Metaphors are not thick sown in Milton, which always favours too much of Wit; that they never clash with one another, which as Aristotle observes, turns a Sentence into a kind of an Enigma or Riddle; and that he seldom makes use of them where the proper and natural Words will do as well.
Another way of raising the Language, and giving it a Poetical Turn, is to make use of the Idioms of other Tongues. Virgil is sull of the Greek Forms of Speech, which the Criticks call Hellenifms, as Horace in his Odes abounds with them much more than Virgil. I need not mention the several Dialects which Homer has made use of for this end. MUfyn, in conformity ,with the Practice of the Ancient Poets, and with Aristotle's Rule has insused a great many Latinifms, as ■well as Grœcifms, [and sometimes Hebraisms^ into the Language of his Poem; as towards the Beginning of it.
Nor did they not perceive the evil plight
In which they were, or the fierce Pains not feel.
[ Yet to their Gen'ral's Voice they foon obey'd.]
Who shall tempt with wandring Feet
The dark unbottom'd Infinite Abyss,
And through the palpable Obscure find out his way,
Mis uncouth way, or spread his airy Flight
[ So both afcend
In the Vifons of God B. 2.]
Under this Head may be reckoned the placing the Adjective after the Substantive, the transposition of Words, the turning the Adjective into a Substantive, with several other Foreign Modes of Speech, which this Poet has naturalized to give his Verse the greater Sound, and throw it out of Prose.
The third Methodmentioned by AriJlotle,\% that which [what] agrees with the Genius of the Greek Language more than with thatof any other Tongue, and is therefore more used by Homer than by any other Poet. I mean the lengthning of a Phrase by the Addition of Words, which may either be inserted or omitted, as also by the extending or contracting of particular Words by the Insertion or Omission of certain Syllables. Milton has put in practice this Method of raising his Language, as far as the nature of our Tongue will permit, as in the Pasfage above-mentioned, Eremite, [for] what is Hermit[e], in common Discourse. If you observe the Measure of his Verse, he has with great Judgment suppressed a Syllable in several Words, and shortned those of two Syllables into one, by which Method, besides the abovementioned Advantage, he has given a greater Variety to' his Numbers. But this Practice is more particularly remarkable in the Names of Persons and of Countries, as Beelzebub Æ^A?#, andinrnany other Particulars, wherein he has either changed the Name, or made use of that which is not the most commonly known, that he might the better deviate from the Language of the Vulgar.
The fame Reason recommended to him several old Words, which also makes his Poem appear the more venerable, and gives it a greater Air of Antiquity.
I must likewise take notice, that there are in Milton OR LENGTHENING PHRASES. MILTON COINS WORDS. 37
several Words of his own Coining, as Cerberean, miscreated, Hell-doom'd, Embryon Atoms, and many others. It the Reader is offended at this Liberty in owe English Poet, I would recommend him to a Discourse in Plutarch, which shews us how frequently Homer has made use of the same Liberty.
Milton, by the above-mentioned Helps, and by the choice of the noblest Words and Phrases which our Tongue wou'd afford him, has carried our Language to a greater height than any of the English Poets have ever done before or after him, and made the Sublimity of his Stile equal to that of his Sentiments.
I have been the more particular in these Observations of Milton's Stile, because it is that part of him in which he appears the most singular. The Remarks I have here made upon the Practice of other Poets, with my Observations out of Aristotle, will perhaps alleviate the Prejudice which some have taken to his Poem upon this Account; tho' after all, I must consess, that I think his Stile, tho' admirable in general, is in some places too much stifsened and obscured by the frequent use of those Methods, which Aristotle has prescribed for the raising of it.
This Redundancy of those several ways of Speech which Aristotle calls foreign Language, and with which Milton has so very much enriched, and in some places darkned the Language of his Poem, is [was] the more proper for his use, because his Poem is written in Blank Verse. Rhyme, without any other Assistance, :hrows the Language off from Prose, and very often nakes an indifferent Phrase pass unregarded; but vhere the Verse is not built upon Rhymes, there Pomp of Sound, and Energy of Expression, are indislensably necessary to support the Stile, and keep it rom salling into the Flatness of Prose.
Those who have not a Taste for this Elevation of itile, and are apt to ridicule a Poet when he departs rom the common Forms of Expression, would do well o see how Aristotle has treated an ancient Author, called Euclid, for his insipid Mirth upon this Occasion. Mr. Dryden used to call this fort of Men his ProseCri ticks.
I should, under this Head of the Language, consider Milton's Numbers, in which he has made use of several Elisions, that are not customary among other Englijh Poets, as may be particularly observed in his cutting off the Letter Y, when it precedes a Vowel. This, and some other Innovations in the Measure of his Verse, has varied his Numbers in such a manner, as makes them incapable of fatiating the Ear and cloying the Reader, which the fame uniform Measure would certainly have done, and which the perpetual Returns of Rhyme never fail to do in long Narrative Poems. I shall close these Reflections upon the Language of Paradife Lost, with observing that Milton has copied after Homer, rather than Virgil, in the length of his Periods, the Copiousness of his Phrases, and the running of his Verses into one another.