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texture of Roman polity; and Virgil, calling religion to his aid, gave it the highest finish*.
He divides his Hades, or place of ghosts, into different regions; and, to the gulf of deepest perditionf, consigns those monsters of iniquity who delighted in the destruction of mankind, betrayed! their country, or violated its religion and laws. There he excruciates them, in company with
"Gorgons and Hydras, and Chimeras dire"||— Vultures prey upon their vitals, or they are whirled eternally round with Ixion upon his wheel, or bound down with Tantalus,** whose burning lip hangs quivering over the elusive waters it cannot touch; or the fury Tisyphone, her hair entwined with serpents, her garments red with human gore, urges on their tortures with unrelenting hand!
The Poet having thus exhausted imagination as well as mythology, in the description of punishments For the disturbers of mankind, and foesto their country, raises his conclusion to a height of horror beyond the f each of expression—
* See more on the use and good Policy of Funeral Panegyrics, on the public virtue of great men deceased, from page 42, to 4,7, of Sermon III. antea.
t «' Full twice as deep the dungeon of the fiends,
J " This wretch his country to a tyrant sold,
|| Milton here borrows his monsters from Virgil,
—— '* jlammisque armata Chimecras
"Gorgones, HxTpiieque."—life. See Virgil, B. VI, from line 288, to line 627; or Pitt's excellent translation.
"Tantalus a labris, sitier.?, fngientia captat Flumina. Bar,
"Had I a hundred mouth's, a hundred tongues,
"A voice of brass, and adamantine lungs;
"Not half the mighty scene could I disclose,
"Repeat their crimes, or count their dreadful woes*.'*
Nor has Virgil strayed any farther through the fields of fancy or fable in this place, than to borrow strength of colouring for the garb of truth; and, I suspect, that he drank from a purer fountain than that of" Helicon, when he peopled his Tatarus with the ancient scourges of the human race. An authority, sacred among Christians, had, indeed, long before given an awful sanction to the truth of his doctrine.
A Prophet and Poet, indeed, whose inspiration was truly from heaven, the incomparably sublime Isaiah, foretelling the fall of Babylon, has an ode of triumph, wherein he exults over its haughty monarch in strains of wonderful irony and reproach. He reprobates him as a destroyer of mankind; who had "made the world a wilderness." He represents the whole earth as delivered from a curse by his fall! The trees of the forest rejoice, because he is laid low! The very grave refuses a covering to hia execrable corse! He is consign'd to the depths of misery; while the infernal mansions themselves are moved at his approach, and the ghosts of departed tyrants rise up, in horrid array and mockery of triumph, to bid him welcome to his final abode!
* Milton has taken the same method of raising his description, b/ leaving something to be conceived beyo:id the power of wolds to express
"Abominable, unutterable, and worse
"Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear c»nceiv'd.*—
VOL. I. B 4
The astonishing grandeur and spirit of this passage, and indeed of the whole ode, are unrivalled by any * poet of Greek or Roman name.
"How hath the oppressor ceased! The Lord "hath broken the staff of the wicked! He that smote "the people in wrath—that ruled the nations in "" anger—is persecuted and none hindereth! The "whole earth is at rest and is quiet—they break "forth into singing; yea the fir-trees rejoice at thee, "and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, since thou art "laid down, no feller is come up against us.
"Hell from beneath is moved for thee, to meet "tliee at thy coming. It stirreth up the dead-for thee "—even all the chief ones of the earth! They shall M say unto thee, art thou also become weak as we? 4 " Art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is "brought down to the grave—How art thou fallen "from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how
• Alcaras himself (saith Bishop Newton) so highly renowned for his hatred of tjrannv, and whose odes are alike animated by the spirit of Liberty and Poetry, has nothing that can be compared with the prophet in this place.
The excellent Prelate, above quoted, hath a farther remark on this pasfage, which it would be nnpardonable to omit.
"What a pleasure mast it afford all readers of an exalted taste and "generous sentiments, all true lovers of liberty, to hear the prophets thus "exulting over tyrants and oppressors? The scriptures, although often per•' verted to the purposes of tyranny, are yet in their ou-n nature calculated "to promote the evil and religious liberties of mankind. True religion, "virtue and liberty, are more intimately connected than men commonly
M art thou cut down to the ground, that didst weaken "the nations? That made the world as a wilderness, "destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the "house of the prisoners? All kings of the nations, "[meaning just and merciful kings] even all of "them, lie in glory, .every one in his own house "(or sepulchre); but thou art cast out of thy grave, "like an abominable branch;—thou shalt not be "joined with them in burial, because thou hast de"stroyed thy land and slain thy people*."
But although the reward of heroes, in the Christian's heaven, be our proper theme on this solemn day; yet the passing view which we have taken of the perdition decreed to the traitors of their country, in the Poet's hell, confirmed also by the voice of scripture, is not foreign to our main purpose.
I know your bosoms glow with so strong an aversion to all the foes of liberty in this life, that you will surely avoid every thought and action, whichi might doom you to their company in the life to come; and therefore, bidding adieu—and may it be an eternal adieu—to those dreary regions and their miserable inhabitants, let us now exalt our joyous view to those celestial mansions, where the benefactors of mankind reap immortal triumphs!
"Lo! the blest train advance along the meads, "And snowy wreaths adorn their glorious heads— "Patriots who perish'd for their country's right, "Or nobly triumph'd in the field of fight— "Worthies who life by useful arts refin'd, -v
*' With those who leave a deathless name behind, L <* Friends of the world, and patrons of mankind," &c.J
• Jsaiah, xir.
But here, ye Pagan poets, and thou prince of their choir, we leave you far behind; for your sublimest flights are now infinitely short of the theme! Your gloomy theology gave you tolerable aid in forming a hell, but the utmost efforts of natural genius could not make a heaven, worthy of a rational and immortal soul! The glory of giving some animating description of that bliss 14 which eye hath not seen, nor ear "before heard, nor could the unenlightened heart of "man otherwise conceive,*' was left for a more divine teacher. From him we learn, that a heart pure and detached from sordid pleasures, a soul panting after perfection, striving to imitate the goodness of heaven, anticipating its approving sentence, and devoted to the service of mankind, shall at last rise and mix in eternal fellowship with the beatified femilyofGod*S'
* A poet Hoto, as may appear from the following lines of Thomson, cai> give lis descriptions of elysian bliss, far superior to those of Virgil; " whose "ideas on this subject (as Mr. Spence observes) although preferable to "those of Homer and all the other ancient poets, are still so very low, that «* they seem little more than borrowed from holiday-sports.on the banks oQ 4' Tiber"-^
"In those bright regions of celestial day,
* Gf cities, nations, empires, and of worlds !.
* But snered be the veil that kindly clouds