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Mr. Upton's Opinion, concerning several Passages
in this Poem, examined.
As that part of criticism which consists in rectifying the doubtful readings, and explaining the more obscure passages, of ancient authors, necessarily deals much in conjecture; and as those who are employed in this province are often tempted to deduce their determinations, not from what is, but what seems to be, the truth; no disquisition affords a greater diversity of sentiments concerning the same thing. It is here that we see the force of mere opinion, unsupported by demonstration, in its full extent; while the lucky corrections and illustrations of one commentator appear improbable and absurd to the more sagacious eyes of another. Under these considerations, I hope the mistakes I may have committed in departing from the sentiments of a learned and ingenious critic*, will be received with candour and indulgence.
B. i. c. i. s. xliii.
A fit false dream that can delude the sleepers'
Mr. Upton proposes to read sleepers shent, i. e. sleepers ill-treated or abused. But I rather think, that we should preserve the common reading, sent, which is the
and original spelling of scent. Sent, says Skinner, which we falsely write scent, is derived
* None of Mr. Upton's criticisms on our author, but such as occur in his Letter to G. West, &c. and Observations on Shakespeare, are here considered.
a sentiendo*. Thus the meaning of this verse is, “ A false dream that could deceive or impose upon the sleeper's perception," So that sent, if we consider its radix, sentio, is here plainly made to signify perception in general. Scent is often thus spelt in our author.
At sent of stranger-guest
4. 6. 41.
Through his perfect sent.
3. 7. 22.
Of sundry sent and hewe.
Scent is often thus written by Milton, in the genuine editions; and, as Dr. Newton observes, with great propriety.
* Thus E. K. in the Epistle prefixed to our author's Pastorals. 6s So Marot, Sanazzari, and also diverse other excellent both Italian and French poets, whose footing this author every where followeth : yet so as few, but they be well sented, can follow him."
sense : but what will not rhyme oblige the poet to say ?
B. i. c. ii. s. xix.
And at his haughtie helmet making mark,
Mr. Upton would alter alive, in the third verse, to bilive, i. e. immediately: for, says he, did he tumble down alive after his head was cleft asunder*?
* Paradise Lost, ix. 200.
Ibid. x. 267.
$ Ibid. ix. 587. $ Ibid. &. 277.
Without entering into an anatomical disquisition concerning the possibility of living after such a blow; we may remark, that the
himself intimates o us, that he fell down alive, and did not die till after his fall, in these lines,
His grudging ghost did strive
The same commentator would enforce and confirm the justness of this correction, by remarking, that the poet, in these verses, copied from Virgil,
Procubuit moriens, et kumum semel ore momordit.
* Such a question reminds one of Burmannus's note on the gemitu of the dying Turnus, in the last verse of the Æneid. “ Illustrat hunc gemitum R. Titius ; et de illo sono, et rauco murmure quod ex occlusa vocali arte. ria editur, explicat."