A Poet of less Judgment and Invention than this great Author, would have found it very difficult to have filled [these ] tender Parts of the Poem with Sentiments proper for a State of Innocence; to have described the Warmth of Love, and the Professions of it, without Artifice or Hyperbole: to have made the Man speak the most endearing things, without descending from his natural Dignity, and the Woman receiving them without departing from the Modesty of her Character; in a Word, to adjust the Prerogatives of Wisdom and Beauty, and make each appear to the other in its proper Force and Loveliness. This mutual Subordination of the two Sexes is wonderfully kept up in the whole Poem, as particularly in the Speech of Eve I have before mentioned, and upon the Conclusion of it in the following Lines.
So spake our general Mother, and with
Of Conjugal attraction unreproved,
And meek surrender, half embracing lean’d
On our first father; half her swelling breast
Naked met his under the flowing Gold
Of her loose tresses hid: he in delight
Both of her beauty and submissive charms
Smil’d with superior Love.—
The Poet adds, that the Devil turned away with Envy at the sight of so much Happiness.
We have another View of our first Parents in their Evening Discourses, which is full of pleasing Images and Sentiments suitable to their Condition and Characters. The Speech of Eve, in particular, is dressed up in such a soft and natural Turn of Words and Sentiments, as cannot be sufficiently admired.
I shall close my Reflections upon this Book, with observing the Masterly Transition which the Poet makes to their Evening Worship in the following Lines.
Thus at their shady Lodge arriv’d,
Both turn’d, and under open Sky, ador’d
The God that made both [Sky,] Air, Earth and Heaven,
Which they beheld, the Moons resplendent Globe,
And Starry Pole: Thou also madst the Night,
Maker Omnipotent, and thou the Day, &c.
Most of the Modern Heroick Poets have imitated the Ancients, in beginning a Speech without premising, that the Person said thus or thus; but as it is easie to imitate the Ancients in the Omission of two or three Words, it requires Judgment to do it in such a manner as they shall not be missed, and that the Speech may begin naturally without them. There is a fine Instance of this Kind out of Homer, in the Twenty Third Chapter of Longinus.
[Footnote 1: From this date to the end of the series the Saturday papers upon Milton exceed the usual length of a Spectator essay. That they may not occupy more than the single leaf of the original issue, they are printed in smaller type; the columns also, when necessary, encroach on the bottom margin of the paper, and there are few advertisements inserted.]
[Footnote 2: At the end of the third Book of the Poetics.