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No. 333 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

There is nothing in the first and last Days Engagement which does not appear natural, and agreeable enough to the Ideas most Readers would conceive of a Fight between two Armies of Angels.

The second Days Engagement is apt to startle an Imagination, which has not been raised and qualify’d for such a Description, by the reading of the ancient Poets, and of Homer in particular. It was certainly a very bold Thought in our Author, to ascribe the first Use of Artillery to the Rebel Angels. But as such a pernicious Invention may be well supposed to have proceeded from such Authors, so it entered very properly into the Thoughts of that Being, who is all along describ’d as aspiring to the Majesty of his Maker. Such Engines were the only Instruments he could have made use of to imitate those Thunders, that in all Poetry, both sacred and profane, are represented as the Arms of the Almighty. The tearing up the Hills, was not altogether so daring a Thought as the former. We are, in some measure, prepared for such an Incident by the Description of the Giants War, which we meet with among the Ancient Poets. What still made this Circumstance the more proper for the Poets Use, is the Opinion of many learned Men, that the Fable of the Giants War, which makes so great a noise in Antiquity, [and gave birth to the sublimest Description in Hesiod’s Works was [l]] an Allegory founded upon this very Tradition of a Fight between the good and bad Angels.

It may, perhaps, be worth while to consider with what Judgment Milton, in this Narration, has avoided every thing that is mean and trivial in the Descriptions of the Latin and Greek Poets; and at the same time improved every great Hint which he met with in their Works upon this Subject. Homer in that Passage, which Longinus has celebrated for its Sublimeness, and which Virgil and Ovid have copy’d after him, tells us, that the Giants threw Ossa upon Olympus, and Pelion upon Ossa. He adds an Epithet to Pelion ([Greek: einosiphullon]) which very much swells the Idea, by bringing up to the Readers Imagination all the Woods that grew upon it. There is further a great Beauty in his singling out by Name these three remarkable Mountains, so well known to the Greeks. This last is such a Beauty as the Scene of Milton’s War could not possibly furnish him with. Claudian, in his Fragment upon the Giants War, has given full scope to that Wildness of Imagination which was natural to him. He tells us, that the Giants tore up whole Islands by the Roots, and threw them at the Gods. He describes one of them in particular taking up Lemnos in his Arms, and whirling it to the Skies, with all Vulcan’s Shop in the midst of it. Another tears up Mount Ida, with the River Enipeus, which ran down the Sides of it; but the Poet, not content to describe him with this Mountain upon his Shoulders, tells us that the River flow’d down his Back, as he held it up in that Posture. It is visible to every judicious Reader, that such Ideas savour more of Burlesque, than of the Sublime. They proceed from a Wantonness of Imagination, and rather divert the Mind than astonish it. Milton has taken every thing that is sublime in these several Passages, and composes out of them the following great Image.

From their Foundations loosning to and fro,
They pluck’d the seated Hills, with all their Land,
Rocks, Waters, Woods; and by the shaggy Tops
Up-lifting bore them in their Hands–

We have the full Majesty of Homer in this short Description, improv’d by the Imagination of Claudian, without its Puerilities. I need not point out the Description of the fallen Angels seeing the Promontories hanging over their Heads in such a dreadful manner, with the other numberless Beauties in this Book, which are so conspicuous, that they cannot escape the Notice of the most ordinary Reader.