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No. 339 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 339
Saturday, March 29, 1712. Addison
[–Ut his exordia primis
Omnia, et ipse tener Mundi concreverit orbis.
Tum durare solum et discludere Nerea ponto
Coeperit, et rerum pauliatim sumere formas.

Virg. [1]]

Longinus has observed, [2] that there may be a Loftiness in Sentiments, where there is no Passion, and brings Instances out of ancient Authors to support this his Opinion. The Pathetick, as that great Critick observes, may animate and inflame the Sublime, but is not essential to it. Accordingly, as he further remarks, we very often find that those who excel most in stirring up the Passions, very often want the Talent of writing in the great and sublime manner, and so on the contrary. Milton has shewn himself a Master in both these ways of Writing. The Seventh Book, which we are now entring upon, is an Instance of that Sublime which is not mixed and worked up with Passion. The Author appears in a kind of composed and sedate Majesty; and tho the Sentiments do not give so great an Emotion as those in the former Book, they abound with as magnificent Ideas. The Sixth Book, like a troubled Ocean, represents Greatness in Confusion; the seventh Affects the Imagination like the Ocean in a Calm, and fills the Mind of the Reader, without producing in it any thing like Tumult or Agitation.

The Critick above mentioned, among the Rules which he lays down for succeeding in the sublime way of writing, proposes to his Reader, that he should imitate the most celebrated Authors who have gone before him, and been engaged in Works of the same nature; [3] as in particular, that if he writes on a poetical Subject, he should consider how Homer would have spoken on such an Occasion. By this means one great Genius often catches the Flame from another, and writes in his Spirit, without copying servilely after him. There are a thousand shining Passages in Virgil, which have been lighted up by Homer.

Milton, tho his own natural Strength of Genius was capable of furnishing out a perfect Work, has doubtless very much raised and ennobled his Conceptions, by such an Imitation as that which Longinus has recommended.

In this Book, which gives us an Account of the six Days Works, the Poet received but very few Assistances from Heathen Writers, who were Strangers to the Wonders of Creation. But as there are many glorious strokes of Poetry upon this Subject in Holy Writ, the Author has numberless Allusions to them through the whole course of this Book. The great Critick I have before mentioned, though an Heathen, has taken notice of the sublime Manner in which the Lawgiver of the Jews has describ’d the Creation in the first Chapter of Genesis; [4] and there are many other Passages in Scripture, which rise up to the same Majesty, where this Subject is touched upon. Milton has shewn his Judgment very remarkably, in making use of such of these as were proper for his Poem, and in duly qualifying those high Strains of Eastern Poetry, which were suited to Readers whose Imaginations were set to an higher pitch than those of colder Climates.

Adams Speech to the Angel, wherein he desires an Account of what had passed within the Regions of Nature before the Creation, is very great and solemn. The following Lines, in which he tells him, that the Day is not too far spent for him to enter upon such a subject, are exquisite in their kind.

And the great Light of Day yet wants to run
Much of his Race, though steep, suspense in Heavn
Held by thy Voice; thy potent Voice he hears,
And longer will delay, to hear thee tell
His Generation, etc.

The Angels encouraging our first Parent[s] in a modest pursuit after Knowledge, with the Causes which he assigns for the Creation of the World, are very just and beautiful. The Messiah, by whom, as we are told in Scripture, the Worlds were made, comes forth in the Power of his Father, surrounded with an Host of Angels, and cloathed with such a Majesty as becomes his entring upon a Work, which, according to our Conceptions, [appears [5]] the utmost Exertion of Omnipotence. What a beautiful Description has our Author raised upon that Hint in one of the Prophets. And behold there came four Chariots out from between two Mountains, and the Mountains were Mountains of Brass. [6]