No. 303. Saturday, February 16, 1712. Addison.

--volet hæc sub luce videri, Judicis argulum quæ non formidat acumen.

I have seen in the Works of a Modern Philosopher, a Map of the Spots in the Sun. My last Paper of the Faults and Blemishes in Milton's Paradise Lost, may be considered as a Piece of the same Nature. To pursue the Allusion: As it is observed, that among the bright Parts of the Luminous Body above mentioned, there are some which glow more intensely, and dart a stronger Light than others; so, notwithstanding I have already shewn Milton's Poem to be very beautiful in general, I shall now proceed to take Notice of such Beauties as appear to me more exquisite than the rest. Milton has proposed the Subject of his Poem in the following Verses.

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste Brought Death into the World and all our woe, With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blisful Seat, Sing Heavenly Muse--

These Lines are perhaps as plain, simple and unadorned as any of the whole Poem, in which Particular the Author has conformed himself to the Example of Homer and the Precept of Horace.

His Invocation to a Work which turns in a great measure upon the Creation of the World, is very properly made to the Muse who inspired Moses in those Books from whence our Author drew his Subject, and to the Holy Spirit who is therein represented as operating after a particular manner in the first Production of Nature. This whole Exordium rises very happily into noble Language and Sentiment, as I think the Transition to the Fable is exquisitely beautiful and natural.

The Nine Days Astonishment, in which the Angels lay entranced after their dreadful Overthrow and Fall from Heaven, before they could recover either the use of Thought or Speech, is a noble Circumstance, and very finely imagined. The Division of Hell into Seas of Fire, and into firm Ground impregnated with the same furious Element, with that particular Circumstance of the Exclusion of Hope from those Infernal Regions, are Instances of the same great and fruitful Invention.

The Thoughts in the first Speech and Description of Satan, who is one of the Principal Actors in this Poem, are wonderfully proper to give us a full Idea of him. His Pride, Envy and Revenge, Obstinacy, Despair and Impenitence, are all of them very artfully interwoven. In short, his first Speech is a Complication of all those Passions which discover themselves separately in several other of his Speeches in the Poem. The whole part of this great Enemy of Mankind is filled with such Incidents as are very apt to raise and terrifie the Readers Imagination. Of this nature, in the Book now before us, is his being the first that awakens out of the general Trance, with his Posture on the burning Lake, his rising from it, and the Description of his Shield and Spear.

Thus Satan talking to his nearest Mate, With head up-lift above the wave, and eyes That sparkling blazed, his other parts beside Prone on the Flood, extended long and large, Lay floating many a rood--

Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool His mighty Stature; on each hand the flames Drivn backward slope their pointing Spires, and roared In Billows, leave i'th midst a horrid vale. Then with expanded wings he steers his flight Aloft, incumbent on the dusky Air That felt unusual weight--

--His pondrous Shield Ethereal temper, massie, large and round, Behind him cast; the broad circumference Hung on his Shoulders like the Moon, whose orb Thro Optick Glass the Tuscan Artist views At Evning, from the top of Fesole, Or in Valdarno, to descry new Lands, Rivers, or Mountains, on her spotted Globe. His Spear (to equal which the tallest pine Hewn on Norwegian Hills to be the Mast Of some great Admiral, were but a wand) He walk'd with, to support uneasie Steps Over the burning Marl--

To which we may add his Call to the fallen Angels that lay plunged and stupified in the Sea of Fire.

He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep Of Hell resounded--

But there is no single Passage in the whole Poem worked up to a greater Sublimity, than that wherein his Person is described in those celebrated Lines:

--He, above the rest In shape and gesture proudly eminent Stood like a Tower, &c.

His Sentiments are every way answerable to his Character, and suitable to a created Being of the most exalted and most depraved Nature. Such is that in which he takes Possession of his Place of Torments.

--Hail Horrors! hail Infernal World! and thou profoundest Hell Receive thy new Possessor, one who brings A mind not to be changed by place or time.

And Afterwards,

--Here at least We shall be free; th'Almighty hath not built Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure; and in my choice To reign is worth Ambition, tho in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heavn.

Amidst those Impieties which this Enraged Spirit utters in other places of the Poem, the Author has taken care to introduce none that is not big with absurdity, and incapable of shocking a Religious Reader; his Words, as the Poet himself describes them, bearing only a Semblance of Worth, not Substance. He is likewise with great Art described as owning his Adversary to be Almighty. Whatever perverse Interpretation he puts on the Justice, Mercy, and other Attributes of the Supreme Being, he frequently confesses his Omnipotence, that being the Perfection he was forced to allow him, and the only Consideration which could support his Pride under the Shame of his Defeat.

Nor must I here omit that beautiful Circumstance of his bursting out in Tears, upon his Survey of those innumerable Spirits whom he had involved in the same Guilt and Ruin with himself.

--He now prepared To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend From wing to wing, and half enclose him round With all his Peers: Attention held them mute. Thrice he assayed, and thrice in spite of Scorn Tears such as Angels weep, burst forth--

The Catalogue of Evil Spirits has abundance of Learning in it, and a very agreeable turn of Poetry, which rises in a great measure from [its [1]] describing the Places where they were worshipped, by those beautiful Marks of Rivers so frequent among the Ancient Poets. The Author had doubtless in this place Homers Catalogue of Ships, and Virgil's List of Warriors, in his View. The Characters of Moloch and Belial prepare the Readers Mind for their respective Speeches and Behaviour in the second and sixth Book. The Account of Thammuz is finely Romantick, and suitable to what we read among the Ancients of the Worship which was paid to that Idol.

--Thammuz came next behind. Whose annual Wound in Lebanon allured The Syrian Damsels to lament his fate, In amorous Ditties all a Summers day, While smooth Adonis from his native Rock Ran purple to the Sea, supposed with Blood Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the Love tale Infected Zion's Daughters with like Heat, Whose wanton Passions in the sacred Porch Ezekiel saw, when by the Vision led His Eye survey'd the dark Idolatries Of alienated Judah.--

The Reader will pardon me if I insert as a Note on this beautiful Passage, the Account given us by the late ingenious Mr. Maundrell [2] of this Ancient Piece of Worship, and probably the first Occasion of such a Superstition.

We came to a fair large River--doubtless the Ancient River Adonis, so famous for the Idolatrous Rites performed here in Lamentation of Adonis. We had the Fortune to see what may be supposed to be the Occasion of that Opinion which Lucian relates, concerning this River, viz. That this Stream, at certain Seasons of the Year, especially about the Feast of Adonis, is of a bloody Colour; which the Heathens looked upon as proceeding from a kind of Sympathy in the River for the Death of Adonis, who was killed by a wild Boar in the Mountains, out of which this Stream rises. Something like this we saw actually come to pass; for the Water was stain'd to a surprizing Redness; and, as we observ'd in Travelling, had discolour'd the Sea a great way into a reddish Hue, occasion'd doubtless by a sort of Minium, or red Earth, washed into the River by the Violence of the Rain, and not by any Stain from Adonis's Blood.

The Passage in the Catalogue, explaining the manner how Spirits transform themselves by Contractions or Enlargement of their Dimensions, is introduced with great Judgment, to make way for several surprizing Accidents in the Sequel of the Poem. There follows one, at the very End of the first Book, which is what the French Criticks call Marvellous, but at the same time probable by reason of the Passage last mentioned. As soon as the Infernal Palace is finished, we are told the Multitude and Rabble of Spirits immediately shrunk themselves into a small Compass, that there might be Room for such a numberless Assembly in this capacious Hall. But it is the Poets Refinement upon this Thought which I most admire, and which is indeed very noble in its self. For he tells us, that notwithstanding the vulgar, among the fallen Spirits, contracted their Forms, those of the first Rank and Dignity still preserved their natural Dimensions.

Thus incorporeal Spirits to smallest Forms Reduced their Shapes immense, and were at large, Though without Number, still amidst the Hall Of that Infernal Court. But far within, And in their own Dimensions like themselves, The great Seraphick Lords and Cherubim, In close recess and secret conclave sate, A thousand Demy-Gods on Golden Seats, Frequent and full--

The Character of Mammon and the Description of the Pandæmonium, are full of Beauties.

There are several other Strokes in the first Book wonderfully poetical, and Instances of that Sublime Genius so peculiar to the Author. Such is the Description of Azazel's Stature, and of the Infernal Standard, which he unfurls; as also of that ghastly Light, by which the Fiends appear to one another in their Place of Torments.

The Seat of Desolation, void of Light, Save what the glimmring of those livid Flames Casts pale and dreadful--

The Shout of the whole Host of fallen Angels when drawn up in Battel Array:

--The universal Host up sent A Shout that tore Hells Concave, and beyond Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.

The Review, which the Leader makes of his Infernal Army:

--He thro the armed files Darts his experienc'd eye, and soon traverse The whole Battalion mews, their Order due, Their Visages and Stature as of Gods. Their Number last he sums; and now his Heart Distends with Pride, and hardning in his strength Glories--

The Flash of Light which appear'd upon the drawing of their Swords:

He spake: and to confirm his words outflew Millions of flaming Swords, drawn from the thighs Of mighty Cherubim; the sudden Blaze Far round illumin'd Hell--

The sudden Production of the Pandæmonium;

Anon out of the Earth a Fabrick huge Rose like an Exhalation, with the Sound Of dulcet Symphonies and Voices sweet.

The Artificial Illuminations made in it:

--From the arched Roof Pendent by subtle Magick, many a Row Of Starry Lamps and blazing Crescets, fed With Naphtha and Asphaltus, yielded Light As from a Sky--

There are also several noble Similes and Allusions in the First Book of Paradise Lost. And here I must observe, that when Milton alludes either to Things or Persons, he never quits his Simile till it rises to some very great Idea, which is often foreign to the Occasion that gave Birth to it. The Resemblance does not, perhaps, last above a Line or two, but the Poet runs on with the Hint till he has raised out of it some glorious Image or Sentiment, proper to inflame the Mind of the Reader, and to give it that sublime kind of Entertainment, which is suitable to the Nature of an Heroick Poem. Those who are acquainted with Homers and Virgil's way of Writing, cannot but be pleased with this kind of Structure in Milton's Similitudes. I am the more particular on this Head, because ignorant Readers, who have formed their Taste upon the quaint Similes, and little Turns of Wit, which are so much in Vogue among Modern Poets, cannot relish these Beauties which are of a much higher Nature, and are therefore apt to censure Milton's Comparisons in which they do not see any surprizing Points of Likeness. Monsieur Perrault was a Man of this viciated Relish, and for that very Reason has endeavoured to turn into Ridicule several of Homers Similitudes, which he calls Comparisons a longue queue, Long-tail's Comparisons. [3] I shall conclude this Paper on the First Book of Milton with the Answer which Monsieur Boileau makes to Perrault on this Occasion;

Comparisons, says he, in Odes and Epic Poems, are not introduced only to illustrate and embellish the Discourse, but to amuse and relax the Mind of the Reader, by frequently disengaging him from too painful an Attention to the Principal Subject, and by leading him into other agreeable Images. Homer, says he, excelled in this Particular, whose Comparisons abound with such Images of Nature as are proper to relieve and diversifie his Subjects. He continually instructs the Reader, and makes him take notice, even in Objects which are every Day before our Eyes, of such Circumstances as we should not otherwise have observed.

To this he adds, as a Maxim universally acknowledged,

That it is not necessary in Poetry for the Points of the Comparison to correspond with one another exactly, but that a general Resemblance is sufficient, and that too much Nicety in this Particular favours of the Rhetorician and Epigrammatist.

In short, if we look into the Conduct of Homer, Virgil and Milton, as the great Fable is the Soul of each Poem, so to give their Works an agreeable Variety, their Episodes are so many short Fables, and their Similes so many short Episodes; to which you may add, if you please, that their Metaphors are so many short Similes. If the Reader considers the Comparisons in the first Book of Milton, of the Sun in an Eclipse, of the Sleeping Leviathan, of the Bees swarming about their Hive, of the Fairy Dance, in the view wherein I have here placed them, he will easily discover the great Beauties that are in each of those Passages.


[Footnote 1: [his]]

[Footnote 2: A journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, A.D. 1697. By Henry Maundrell, M.A. It was published at Oxford in 1703, and was in a new edition in 1707. It reached a seventh edition in 1749. Maundrell was a Fellow of Exter College, which he left to take the appointment of chaplain to the English factory at Aleppo. The brief account of his journey is in the form of a diary, and the passage quoted is under the date, March 15, when they were two days journey from Tripoli. The stream he identifies with the Adonis was called, he says, by Turks Ibrahim Pasha. It is near Gibyle, called by the Greeks Byblus, a place once famous for the birth and temple of Adonis. The extract from Paradise Lost and the passage from Maundrell were interpolated in the first reprint of the Spectator.]

[Footnote 3: See note to No. 279. Charles Perrault made himself a lasting name by his Fairy Tales, a charming embodiment of French nursery traditions. The four volumes of his Paralièle des Anciens et des Modernes 1692-6, included the good general idea of human progress, but worked it out badly, dealing irreverently with Plato as well as Homer and Pindar, and exalting among the moderns not only Molière and Corneille, but also Chapelain, Scuderi, and Quinault, whom he called the greatest lyrical and dramatic poet that France ever had. The battle had begun with a debate in the Academy: Racine having ironically complimented Perrault on the ingenuity with which he had elevated little men above the ancients in his poem (published 1687), le Siècle de Louis le Grand. Fontenelle touched the matter lightly, as Perraults ally, in his Digression sur les Anciens et les Modernes but afterwards drew back, saying, I do not belong to the party which claims me for its chief. The leaders on the respective sides, unequally matched, were Perrault and Boileau.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. Ars Poet. ver. 363.
'--Some choose the clearest light,
And boldly challenge the most piercing eye.'