« AnteriorContinuar »
Sublime thoughts are no where to be found in fuch plenty, nor perhaps fo well decorated, as in the facred books of the Old and New Teftament.-The Almighty's decking himself with light as with a garment, Spreading out the heavens like a curtain, making the clouds his chariot, and riding upon the wings of the wind, are thoughts amazingly majestic.
Homer alfo abounds with thefe ftrains of fublimity. The passages wherein he describes Jupiter fhaking the heavens with a nod, and Neptune enraged at the deftruction of the Grecians, are nobly conceived, but they fall fhort of the preceding.
He spoke, and awful bends his fable brows,
Shakes his ambrofial curls, and gives the nod,
The ftamp of fate, and fanction of the God:
High heav'n with trembling the dread fignal took,
And all Olympus to the centre fhook.
Mean time the monarch of the watry main
Obferv'd the Thund'rer, nor obferv'd in vain :
In Samothracia, on a mountain's brow,
Whofe waving woods o'er-hung the deeps below,
He fate; and round him cast his azure eyes,
Where Ida's mifly tops confus'dly rife;
Below, fair lion's glitt'ring fpires were feen;
The crouded fhips, and fable feas between.
There, from the cryftal chambers of the main
Emerg'd, he fate; and mourn'd his Argives slain.
At Jove incens'd, with grief and fury itung,
Prone down the rocky fleep he rush'd along,
Fierce as he paft; the lofty mountains nod,
The forefts fhake! earth trembled as he trod,
And felt the footfteeps of th' immortal Göd.
From realm to realm three ample ftrides he took,
And at the fourth,, the diftant Ega fhook.
The thought with which he has defcribed the speed of the celeftial courfers is altogether as magnificent. He difdains all comparifons drawn from the wind, hail, whirlwinds and torrents, which he had before apply'd to express the fwiftnels and impetuofity of his combatants, and to give us an idea of the rapidity of these immortal horses, he measures their ftrokes, as Longinus obferves, by the whole breadth of the horizon.
Far as a shepherd from fome point on high
O'er the wide main extends his boundless eye,
Through fuch a space of air, with thund'ring found,
At every leap th' immortal courfers bound.
Milton's Paradife Loft is replete with thefe fublime thoughts; among which, the feveral descriptions he has given us of Satan are admirably adapted to raise terror in the imagination of the reader.
Thus Satan talking to his nearest mate,
With head up-lift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed, his other parts befide
Prone on the flood, extending long and large,
Lay floating many a rood-
His fpear, to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills to be the mast
Of fome great Admiral, were but a wand
He walk'd with to support uneasy steps.
And in another place:
-he, above the reft
In shape and gefture proudly eminent,
Stood like a tower: his form not yet had loft
All her original brightnefs, nor appear'd
Lefs than arch-angel ruin'd, and th' excess
Of glory obfcur'd: As when the fun new-ris'n
Looks thro' the horizontal mifty air,
Shorn of his beams; or from behind the moon,
In dim eclipfe difaft'rous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs; darken'd fo, yet shone
Above them all the arch-angel.-
As Homer has defcribed Difcord, and Virgil Fame, with their feet standing upon the earth, and their heads extended above the clouds, Milton, in imitation of them, has thus defcribed Satan;
On th' other fide, Satan alarm'd,
Collecting all his might dilated ftood
Like Teneriff or Atlas unremov'd:
His ftature reach'd the sky, and on his creft
at horror plum'd
The breaking up of this infernal affembly is alfo well .defcribed.
Their rifing all at once was as the found
Of thunder heard remote-
The following speech of Satan to the Sun is very beautiful, and, as Mr. Addifon obferves, has fome tranfient touches of remorfe and felf-accufation.
O thou that, with furpaffing glory crown'd,
Look'ft from thy fole dominion like the god
Of this new world, at whofe fight all the stars
Hide their diminish'd heads, to thee I call,
But with no friendly voice, and add thy name,
O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams,
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere.
We cannot leave Milton, without pointing out other paffages that are as fublime as those we have already quoted: for fuch are his undrawn chariots that inove by instinct; his everlasting gates of heaven, that felf-open'd wide on golden hinges moving; and the Meffiah attended by angels, looking down into Chaos, calming its confufion, and drawing the first out-lines of the creation; which is thus happily described.
On heav'nly ground they stood, and from the fhore
They view'd the vast immeasurable abyfs,
Outrageous as a fea, dark, wafteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turn'd by furious winds
And furging wavés, as mountains to affault
Heav'n's height, and with the centre mix the pole.
Silence ye troubled waves, and thou deep, peace,
Said then th' omnific word, your discord end:
Nor ftaid, but on the wings of cherubim
Up-lifted, in paternal glory rode
Far into Chaos, and the world unborn;
For Chaos heard his voice: him all his train
Followed in bright proceffion to behold
Creation, and the wonders of his might.
Then ftaid the fervid wheels, and in his hand
He took the golden compaffes, prepar'd
In God's eternal ftore, to circumfcribe
This univerfe, and all created things:
One foot he center'd, and the other turn'd
Round through the vast profundity obscure,
And faid, thus far extend, thus far thy bounds,
This be thy juft circumference, O World.
The defcription he has given us of the angel Raphael is likewife nobly conceived, and finely delineated.
Six wings he wore, to shade
His lineaments divine; the pair that clad
Each fhoulder broad, came mantling o'er his breast
With regal ornament; the middle pair
Girt like a ftarry zone his waist, and round
Skirted his loins and thighs with downy gold
And colours dipp'd in heav'n; the third his feet
Shadow'd from either heel with feather'd mail,
Sky-tin&tur'd grain! Like Maia's fon he flood,
And fhook his plumes, that heav'nly fragrance fill'd
The circuit wide
There is fomething fingularly fublime and beautiful in the following paffage, tranfcribed from a poem, entituled, The Omnifcience of the divine Being, by Mr. Smart.
When Philomela, ere the cold domain
Of crippled winter 'gins t' advance, prepares
Her annual flight, and in fome poplar shade
Takes her melodious leave, who then's her pilot?
Who points her paffage thro' the pathless void
To realms from us remote, to us unknown?
Her fcience is the fcience of her God.
Not the magnetic index to the north
E'er afcertains her courfe, nor buoy, nor beacon.
She, heav'n-taught voyager, that fails in air,
Courts nor coy weft nor eaft, but instant knows
What NEWTON or not fought, or fought in vain *.
Illuftrious name, irrefragable proof
Of man's vaft genius, and the foaring foul!
Yet what wert thou to him, who knew his works,
Before creation form'd them, long before
He meafur'd in the hollow of his hand
Th' exulting ocean, and the highest heav'ns
* The Longitude.
He comprehended with a span, and weigh'd
The mighty mountains in his golden fcales:
Who fhone fupreme, who was himself the light,
E'er yet refraction learn'd her skill to paint,
And bend athwart the clouds her beauteous bow.
It would here be unpardonable to pass over all thofe fublime and animated defcriptions we have of the Morning; which the writers of heroic and tragic poetry have labour'd fo much to heighten and variegate, that one would think they had exerted their utmost skill and genius, to see who could render that feafon the most endearing.
Homer leads the way, and by a beautiful and well-conceived fiction, describes the morning as a goddess arrayed in a faffron robe, flying in the air, and with her rofy fingers unbarring the gates of light. She leaves the bed of Tithon her lover, arifes from the fea in a golden throne to usher in the fun, or in a chariot drawn by celeftial horses, bearing with her the day, and is preceded by a ftar, which is her harbinger, and gives fignal of her approach.
Virgil follows Homer, and never lofes fight of him, as will appear by the following defcriptions.
Aurora now had left her faffron bed,
And beams of early light the Heav'ns o'erfpread.
The morn began from Ida to display
Her rofy cheeks, and phofphor led the day.
And now the rofy morn began to rise,
And wav'd her faffron ftreamer thro' the skies.
Now rofe the ruddy morn from Tithon's bed,
And with the dawn of day the skies o'erspread;
Nor long the fun his daily courfe with-held,
But added colours to the world reveal'd.
The morn enfuing from the mountain's height
Had fcarcely spread the fkies with rofy light;
Th' ethereal courfers, bounding from the fea,
From out their flaming noftrils breath'd the day.
Taffo had moft probably Homer or Virgil in view when he wrote the following lines: