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commonwealth, but he thought not of the rivers of milk and honey which flowed along it, so that the beautiful temple which he anxiously prayed to build for the spirit of liberty had been completed. He would not have repined, even though he had been compelled to sit a blind and desolate beggar at the portal.
It was our intention to have examined rather minutely the peculiar style and character of Milton's prose works, but we have neither time nor space for such an inquiry at present. The majority of our readers are, we trust, too well acquainted with those treasures to need either information or criticism respecting them. Although principally of a polemical nature, and confessedly written with "the left hand" of the author's genius, they contain passages of splendour and majesty, which it would be difficult to parallel in the whole range of our literature. Sometimes, indeed, the controversialist speaks with a tongue of fire, and scatters forth his invectives like burning coals upon the heads of his opponents; but far more frequently the rich harmonies of the poet's lyre swell upon the ear. The tempest of his anger and indignation would be black and terrible, if along the deep gloom the delicately coloured bow of his fancy were not continually appearing. The Areopagitica is one of the noblest efforts in the language. We know nothing in any book of ancient or modern days, more exquisite than the following:
"Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them, to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they doe preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively and as vigorously productive as those fabulous dragons' teeth, and being sown up and down may chance to spring up armed men. * * * * A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”
We cannot trust ourselves longer with the prose works of Milton. Perhaps at a more convenient season we may return to them. Meanwhile let us take a hasty glance at his poetical cha
We do not by any means join in the regret expressed by many that Milton failed to effect his early intention of making the history of Britain the subject of a lofty epic. The singer of the "loves of Angelica, and the exploits of Arthur," might have been a mighty and illustrious poet, but he would not have been the boast of his country. From his childhood the mind of Milton seems to have been undergoing a course of tuition the most proper to fit him for the sacred office he was to occupy. He makes an interesting allusion to this circumstance in the introduction to the Treatise on Christian Doctrine.
"I entered upon a course of assiduous study in my youth, beginning with the books of the Old and New Testament, and going diligently through a few of the shorter systems of divines, in imitation of whom I was in the habit of classing under certain heads whatever passages of Scripture occurred for extraction, to be made use of hereafter as occasion might require."
This was an earnest of the Paradise Lost. We question much if a poet so deeply imbued with the spirit of the Hebrew world will ever again arise among us. Milton may be said, without profanity, to connect the age of the prophets with the present. He seems to have sojourned during the long period in which his divine poem was being created in the Holy Land, and to have imbibed that patriarchal atmosphere. The very colours of the East live in his verse.
It is impossible to cast our eyes over a page of Milton's poetry, crowded with parallel passages from Greek, Latin, and Italian writers, without perceiving the assistance he derived from the works of others. Not a few of his most delightful images and felicitous phrases are literal translations. The Paradise Lost has been quaintly, but not inaptly, styled a temple constructed to his immortal fame of the cedar of Lebanon, the gold of Ophir, and the marble of Paros. His imagination was continually haunted by the beautiful and enchanting forms of the antique mythology. One of the most interesting features of the present edition of the poems of Milton is the number of original notes contributed by the editor. In these days of hack writing, we should have said rather compilation, it is absolutely refreshing to meet with an author who evidently renders us the fruits of patient and careful study. Mr. Mitford has collected many of his notes from books frequently scarce and very rarely consulted by the general reader. It appears, however, to be the opinion of poetical editors, that of the treasures of their note-books nothing is to be lost, and accordingly they frequently spill whole pages of miscalled parallel passages over a single line. Mr. Mitford has not entirely avoided the seductive error of his predecessors, and we cannot but consider several of his quotations as evidences of the editor's ingenuity and research, rather than illustrations of the text of the poet. We have been so sincere in our praise of Mr. Mitford's book, that we feel the less reluctance in pointing out an example of what appears to us irrelevant and unnecessary commentary. Milton says, Par. Lost, lib. i. v. 742, describing the fall of the angel from heaven,
" and how he fell
Now we should have supposed battlement sufficiently plain and intelligible; but Mr. Mitford thinks otherwise, and, by way of glossary, presents us with the following verse from Beaumont's Psyche:
"Much higher than the proudest battlements of the old heavens." and concludes by referring us to Don Quixote for further information. Sancho Panza illustrating Paradise Lost!
We could add to this, but we will not. We would recommend to any future editor of Milton to direct his investigation particularly to the stores of rabbinical learning with which the author of the Paradise Lost was so intimately familiar. This is an unexplored field of research, for we are not aware that Mr. Todd, or any other editor, has drawn anything from it. Before we dismiss the notes, we ought to mention that for "a few" Mr. Mitford acknowledges himself indebted to the Reverend Alexande Dyce, the able editor of Peele, and other excellent, though neglected, dramatists.
Here then we bid farewell to Milton and his biographers. Of the poetry of the noble bard we have said little where our heart inclined us to say much. Some of the most beautiful remembrances of our youth. are connected with his divine poetry, when we dwelt, as under the influence of enchantment, within the flowery walks of his undecaying Paradise, and the shadows of those trees" which wept odorous gums and balm" slept upon our eyes, and the amber streams rolled over the Elysian flowers at our feet! Then, indeed, we might almost say with the enthusiast Cowper, that the perusal of his L'Allegro or Comus made us "dance with joy." Years have only deepened our love into veneration. He possesses sublimity enough to command our fear, and gentleness enough to awaken our affection. He unites the fancy of Spenser to the majesty of Eschylus, and the delicate finish and grace of Canova to the bold and sweeping outlines of Michael Angelo. Hazlit said eloquently of Dante, that he stood unappalled upon that dark shore which separates the ancient from the modern world, and beheld the glories of antiquity dawning through the abyss of time. The observation may be applied with equal propriety to Milton. He did indeed, so to speak, throw a bridge over that vast gulf which the river of time has worn between the past and the present. He was at once a Hebrew and a Greek, an Italian and a Briton. He gathered his treasures from every region of the earth, On every shore the tide of ages had left something worthy of preservation. Compared with Shakespeare he was not naturally learned. But whatever he touched, be it before never so worthless, started into life
beneath the potency of his Promethean pencil. The corruptible might then be said to put on incorruption, and the mortal immortality. A block of marble from Pentelicus became a prize worthy of contention by princes after it had been fashioned into beauty by the chisel of Praxiteles, and the humblest thought, subjected to the alchemy of Milton's genius, became transmuted into something precious and costly. He was an enchanter who changed all the earthen edifices of the imagination into pure gold.
We thank Mr. Mitford heartily for his delightful volumes, which have been the instruments of "lapping our souls in Elysium," for so short a period.
MR. SHARON TURNER is a person of whom it is impossible to speak without the most sincere respect both for his learning and his piety. His historical writings, notwithstanding their obvious defects, are distinguished by the extent of his inquiries into paths but little known, by his patient investigation of truth, and the souudness of his moral and religious principles--qualities in which we are constrained to say that the generality of our English historians, especially those who are most read and admired, have been lamentably deficient. The present work, designed to show the perfect harmony that subsists between the word and the works of God, gives him an additional claim to the approbation of all good men; and even where he fails, as in some important points he appears to have failed, in elucidating the exact correspondence between the discoveries of modern science and the brief and obscure enunciations of the Mosaic records of the creation, we cannot but esteem the motives by which he was influenced, in preparing what he hoped would prove an antidote to the prevailing scepticism of the present age.
As God is, past all controversy, the author of the universe, it is certain, that the discoveries of a true philosophy respecting the nature of that universe can never, by any possibility, be really at variance with a true divine revelation; and, consequently, wherever they seem to be at variance, it must be either because the philosophy is erroneous, or the revelation is not rightly understood. In a defective state of science, those who are convinced of the truth of the Mosaic cosmogony will, of course, interpret that inspired record in correspondency with their mistaken notions; and thus the blunders of an ignorant astronomer have so
ART. III.-The Sacred History of the World, &c. &c.
far been adopted as articles of faith by an infallible church that it has been accounted heresy to question them. Whilst all are partakers of this common ignorance no great injury is done by it to the cause of practical piety; but as the boundaries of knowledge are increased, and the views of physical science are corrected and enlarged, men are too apt to revenge themselves on their religion, which has been made to serve as the support of such a mass of error, and to exchange their former irrational credulity for a still more irrational spirit of universal scepticism. The heavens might declare the glory of God, and the firmament show his handy-work, as clearly to the philosopher of the fourteenth century, and the proofs of His omnipotency, drawn from the energies of his creative power, might be as conclusive then as they are now to us, whose views of the immensity of the universe and of its astonishing mechanism are carried to a height to which the wildest darings of imagination could not formerly have aspired, and based on principles of certainty to which the science of former ages could not attain. No man then was shocked at the absurdity of supposing that the sun revolved round the earth in every four-and-twenty hours, and that all the host of heaventhe stars in their courses-moved about her as their fixed and common centre. The magnitudes and distances of the celestial bodies were wholly unknown; and those who thought the sun was a great red-hot stone, about the size of the Peloponnesus, would find it much easier to believe that he moved round the earth, as he seems to do, than that the earth, which appears at perfect rest, should revolve round him. But when the telescope unfolded to the eye of man the mysteries of the firmament, and exposed the errors of the Ptolemaic system, no small injury was done to the cause of religion by the injudicious attempt that was made to bring in revelation to its support, and to check the progress of philosophical inquiry. It ought never to have been doubted, and even now should never be forgotten, that the path of an exact and scientific investigation of the phenomena of nature is the only way in which we can hope to acquire an insight into the true meaning of those sacred records which tell us of the method and order pursued by the Creator in the formation of the material universe. It would be the height of folly and inconsiderateness to assert that the discoveries of modern astronomy, geology, and chemistry, have so far enlarged our views of the operations of nature as to enable us to construct a perfect system of natural theology, and to prove, from facts already ascertained, the entire truth of the Mosaic history of the creation. But we affirm with confidence that the discoveries of modern science have been so far from throwing any discredit on that portion of the sacred NO. XXIII.—JULY, 1832.