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No. 315 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 315
Saturday, March 1, 1712. Addison.

Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus



Horace advises a Poet to consider thoroughly the Nature and Force of his Genius. [1] Milton seems to have known perfectly well, wherein his Strength lay, and has therefore chosen a Subject entirely conformable to those Talents, of which he was Master. As his Genius was wonderfully turned to the Sublime, his Subject is the noblest that could have entered into the Thoughts of Man. Every thing that is truly great and astonishing, has a place in it. The whole System of the intellectual World; the Chaos, and the Creation; Heaven, Earth and Hell; enter into the Constitution of his Poem.

Having in the First and Second Books represented the Infernal World with all its Horrors, the Thread of his Fable naturally leads him into the opposite Regions of Bliss and Glory.

If Milton’s Majesty forsakes him any where, it is in those Parts of his Poem, where the Divine Persons are introduced as Speakers. One may, I think, observe that the Author proceeds with a kind of Fear and Trembling, whilst he describes the Sentiments of the Almighty. He dares not give his Imagination its full Play, but chuses to confine himself to such Thoughts as are drawn from the Books of the most Orthodox Divines, and to such Expressions as may be met with in Scripture. The Beauties, therefore, which we are to look for in these Speeches, are not of a Poetical Nature, nor so proper to fill the Mind with Sentiments of Grandeur, as with Thoughts of Devotion. The Passions, which they are designed to raise, are a Divine Love and Religious Fear. The Particular Beauty of the Speeches in the Third Book, consists in that Shortness and Perspicuity of Style, in which the Poet has couched the greatest Mysteries of Christianity, and drawn together, in a regular Scheme, the whole Dispensation of Providence, with respect to Man. He has represented all the abstruse Doctrines of Predestination, Free-Will and Grace, as also the great Points of Incarnation and Redemption, (which naturally grow up in a Poem that treats of the Fall of Man) with great Energy of Expression, and in a clearer and stronger Light than I ever met with in any other Writer. As these Points are dry in themselves to the generality of Readers, the concise and clear manner in which he has treated them, is very much to be admired, as is likewise that particular Art which he has made use of in the interspersing of all those Graces of Poetry, which the Subject was capable of receiving.

The Survey of the whole Creation, and of every thing that is transacted in it, is a Prospect worthy of Omniscience; and as much above that, in which Virgil has drawn his Jupiter, as the Christian Idea of the Supreme Being is more Rational and Sublime than that of the Heathens. The particular Objects on which he is described to have cast his Eye, are represented in the most beautiful and lively Manner.

Now had th’ Almighty Father from above,
(From the pure Empyrean where he sits
High thron’d above all height) bent down his Eye,
His own Works and their Works at once to view.
About him all the Sanctities of Heavn
Stood thick as Stars, and from his Sight received
Beatitude past uttrance: On his right
The radiant Image of his Glory sat,
His only Son. On earth he first beheld
Our two first Parents, yet the only two
Of Mankind, in the happy garden plac’d,
Reaping immortal fruits of Joy and Love;
Uninterrupted Joy, unrival’d Love
In blissful Solitude. He then surveyed
Hell and the Gulph between, and Satan there
Coasting the Wall of Heaven on this side Night,
In the dun air sublime; and ready now
To stoop with wearied wings, and willing feel
On the bare outside of this world, that seem’d
Firm land imbosom’d without firmament;
Uncertain which, in Ocean or in Air.
Him God beholding from his prospect high,
Wherein past, present, future he beholds,
Thus to his only Son foreseeing spake.