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He was the founder of the school of different countries and ages of the painting both at Rome and Florence world, that they never can concur --that great school which, disdaining through a course of centuries in one the representation of still life, and all opinion, if it is not founded in truth the subordinate appliances of the art, and justice. The vox populi is often devoted itself to the representation of little more than the vox diaboli; but the grand and the beautiful; to the the voice of ages is the voice of God. expression of passion in all its vehe- It is of more moment to consider mence-of emotion in all its intensity. in what the greatness of these illusHis incomparable delineation of bones trious men really consists—to what it and muscles was but a means to an has probably been owing—and in what end; it was the human heart, the particulars they bear an analogy to throes of human passion, that his each other. master-hand laid bare. Raphael con- They are all three distinguished by gratulated himself, and thanked God one peculiarity, which doubtless enthat he had given him life in the tered largely into their transcendent same age with that painter; and Sir merit—they wrote in the infancy of Joshua Reynolds, in his last address civilization. Homer, as all the world to the Academy, " reflected, not with knows, is the oldest profane author in out vanity, that his Discourses bore existence. Dante flourished about testimony to his admiration of that the year 1300: he lived at a time truly divine man, and desired that the when the English barons lived in last words he pronounced in that aca- rooms strewed with rushes, and demy, and from that chair, might be few of them could sign their names. the name of Michael Angelo." * The long life of Michael Angelo, ex

The fame of these illustrious men tending from 1474 to 1564, over has long been placed beyond the reach ninety years, if not passed in the of cavil. Criticism cannot reach, envy infancy of civilization, was at least cannot detract from, emulation cannot passed in the childhood of the arts : equal them. Great present celebrity, before his time, painting was in its indeed, is no guarantee for future and cradle. Cimabue had merely unenduring fame ; in many cases, it is folded the first dawn of beauty at the reverse ; but there is a wide dif- Florence; and the stiff figures of ference between the judgment of the Pietro Perugino, which may be traced present and that of future ages. The in the first works of his pupil Raphael, favour of the great, the passions of still attest the backward state of the the multitude, the efforts of reviewers, arts at Rome. This peculiarity, apthe interest of booksellers, a clique of plicable alike to all these three great anthors, a coterie of ladies, accidental men, is very remarkable, and beyond events, degrading propensities, often all question had a powerful influence, enter largely into the composition of both in forming their peculiar characpresent reputation. But opinion is ter, and elevating them to the astofreed from all these disturbing in- . nishing greatness which they speedily fluences by the lapse of time. The attained. grave is the greatest of all purifiers. It gave them—what Johnson has Literary jealousy, interested partiali- justly termed the first requisite to ty, vulgar applause, exclusive favour, human greatness — self-confidence. alike disappear before the hand of They were the first—at least the first death. We never can be sufficiently known to themselves and their condistrustful of present opinion, so large- temporaries—who adventured on their ly is it directed by passion or interest. several arts; and thus they proceeded But we may rely with confidence on fearlessly in their great career. They the judgment of successive genera- had neither critics to fear, nor lords tions on departed eminence ; for it is to flatter, nor former excellence to detached from the chief cause of pre- imitate. They portrayed with the sent aberration. So various are the pencil, or in verse, what they severalprejudices, so contradictory the par- ly felt, undisturbed by fear, unswayed tialities and predilections of men, in by example, unsolicitous about fame,

* Reynolds' Discourses, No. 16, ad finem.

unconscious of excellence. They did grievous impediment to genius in so for the first time. Thence the later, or, as we term them, more civifreshness and originality, the vigour lized times, from which, in earlier and truth, the simplicity and raciness ages, it is wholly exempt. Criticism, by which they are distinguished. public opinion, the dread of ridiculeShakspeare owed much of his great- then too often crush the strongest ness to the same cause; and thence minds. The weight of former examhis similarity, in many respects, to ples, the influence of early habits, the these great masters of his own or the halo of long-established reputation, sister arts. When Pope asked Bent force original genius from the untrodley what he thought of his translation den path of invention into the beaten of the Iliad, the scholar replied, “ You one of imitation. Early talent feels have written a pretty book, Mr Pope; itself overawed by the colossus which but you must not call it Homer.' all the world adores; it falls down Bentley was right. With all its pomp and worships, instead of conceiving. of language and melody of versifica- The dread of ridicule extinguishes tion, its richness of imagery and mag- originality in its birth. Immense is nificence of diction, Pope's Homer is the incubus thus laid upon the efforts widely different from the original. of genius. It is the chief cause of the He could not avoid it. The “ awful degradation of taste, the artificial simplicity of the Grecian bard, his style, the want of original conception, artless grandeur and unaffected ma- by which the literature of old nations jesty,” will be sought for in vain in is invariably distinguished. The early the translation ; but if they had ap- poet or painter who portrays what peared there, it would have been un- he feels or has seen, with no anxiety readable in that age. Michael An- but to do so powerfully and truly, is gelo, in his bold conceptions, ener- relieved of a load which crushes his getic will, and rapid execution, bears subsequent compeers to the earth. a close resemblance to the father of Mediocrity is ever envious of genius– poetry. In both, the same faults, as ordinary capacity of original thought. we esteem them, are conspicuous, Such envy in early times is innocuous arising from a too close imitation of or does not exist, at least to the exnature, and a carelessness in reject- tent which is felt as so baneful in ing images or objects which are of an subsequent periods. But in a refined ordinary or homely description. Dante and enlightened age, its influence bewas incomparably more learned than comes incalculable. Whoever strikes either : he followed Virgil in his de- out a new region of thought or comscent to the infernal regions; and position, whoever opens a fresh vein exhibits an intimate acquaintance of imagery or excellence, is persewith ancient history, as well as that cuted by the critics. He disturbs setof the modern Italian states, in the tled ideas, endangers established repuaccount of the characters he meets in tations, brings forward rivals to domithat scene of torment. But in his nant fame. That is sufficient to renown line he was entirely original. der him the enemy of all the existing Homer and Virgil had, in episodes of rulers in the world of taste. Even their poems, introduced a picture of the Jeffrey seriously lamented, in one of his infernal regions ; but nothing on the first reviews of Scott's poems, that he plan of Dante's Inferno had before been should have identified himself with the thought of in the world. With much of unpicturesque and expiring images of the machinery of the ancients, it bears feudality, which no effort could renthe stamp of the spiritual faith of der poetical. Racine's tragedies were modern times. It lays bare the heart received with such a storm of critiin a way unknown even to Homer cism as wellnigh cost the sensitive and Euripides. It reveals the inmost author his life; and Rousseau was so man in a way which bespeaks the rudely handled by contemporary wricenturies of self-reflection in the ters on his first appearance, that it cloister which had preceded it. It is confirmed him in his morbid hatred of the basis of all the spiritual poetry of civilization. The vigour of these modern, as the Iliad is of all the ex- great men, indeed, overcame the obternal imagery of ancient, times. stacles created by contemporary en

In this respect there is a most vy; but how seldom, especially in a


refined age, can genius effect such a he makes them utter; he pierces, by prodigy? how often is it crushed in the single expression, at once to the outset of its career, or turned aside into heart. the humble and unobtrusive path of Milton strove to raise earth to heaimitation, to shun the danger with ven : Homer brought down heaven to which that of originality is beset ! earth. The latter attempt was a much

Milton's Paradise Lost contains easier one than the former; it was many more lines of poetic beauty than more consonant to human frailty ; Homer's Iliad; and there is nothing and, therefore, it has met with more in the latter poem of equal length,

The gods and goddesses in which will bear any comparison with the Iliad are men and women, endowthe exquisite picture of the primeval ed with human passions, affections, innocence of our First Parents in his and desires, and distinguished only fourth book. Nevertheless, the Iliad from sublunary beings by superior is a more interesting poem than the power and the gift of immortality. Paradise Lost; and has produced and we are interested in them as we are will produce a much more exten- in the genii or magicians of an eastern sive impression on mankind. The romance. There is a sort of aerial reason is, that it is much fuller of epic poem going on between earth event, is more varicd, is more filled and heaven. They take sides in the with images familiar to all mankind, terrestrial combat, and engage in the and is less lost in metaphysical or actual strife with the heroes engaged philosophical abstractions. Homer, in it. Mars and Venus were woundthough the father of poets, was essen- ed by Diomede when combating in tially dramatic; he was an incom- the Trojan ranks ; their blood, or parable painter; and is his drama- rather the tic scenes, the moving panorama of “ Ichor which blest immortals shed," his pictures, which fascinates the world. He often speaks to the heart, to the palaces of heaven. Enlightened

flowed profusely; they fed howling and is admirable in the delineation of by a spiritual faith, fraught with sucharacter; but he is so, not by con

blime ideas of the divine nature and vering the inward feeling, but by painting with matchless fidelity its

government, Milton was incomparexternal symptoms, or putting into

ably more just in his descriptions of

the Supreme Being, and more elevated the mouths of his characters the precise words they would have used in

in his picture of the angels and archsimilar circumstances in real life. angels who carried on the strife in Even his immortal parting of Hector heaven ; but he frequently falls into and Andromache is no exception to

metaphysical abstractions or theolo. this remark; he paints the scene at

gical controversies, which detract from

the interest of his poem. the Scæan gate exactly as it would have occurred in nature, and moves

Despite Milton's own opinion, the us as if we had seen the Trojan hero

concurring voice of all subsequent taking off his helmet to assuage the

ages and countries has assigned to the

Paradise Regained a much lower terrors of his infant son, and heard the lamentations of his mother at place than to the Paradise Lost. The

reason is, that it is less dramatic-it parting with her husband. But he

has less incident and action. Great does not lay bare the heart, with the terrible force of Dante, by'a line part of the poem is but an abstract theoor a word. There is nothing in Ho- logical debate between our Saviour and mer which conveys so piercing an idea

Satan. The speeches he makes them of misery as the line in the Inferno, close, the arguments cogent, the sen

utter are admirable, the reasoning is where the Florentine bard assigns the reason of the lamientations of the

timents elevated in the speakers, but spirits in Malebolge

dialectic too. In many of the speeches " Questi non hanno

of the angel Raphael, and in the speranza di morte."

council of heaven, in the Paradise Lost, " These have not the hope of death." there is too much of that species of There speaks the spiritual poet; he discussion for a poem which is to does not paint to the eye, he does not interest the generality of men. Dryeven convey character by the words den says, that Satan is Milton's real hero; and every reader of the der, is the theatre of their exploits. Paradise Lost must have felt, that in Jupiter, from the summit of Gargarus, the Prince of Darkness, and Adam could not have beheld the contending and Eve, the interest of the poem con- armies. The most ardent imaginasists. The reason is, that the vices tion, indeed, is satiated with his adof the first, and the weakness of the ventures, but the closest attention can two last, bring them nearer than any hardly follow their thread. Story after other characters in the poem to the story is told, the exploits of knight standard of mortality; and we are so after knight are recounted, till the mind constituted, that we cannot take any is fatigued, the memory perplexed, and great interest but in persons who all general interest in the poem lost. share in our failings.

Milton has admirably preserved the Perhaps the greatest cause of the unity of his poem; the grand and allsustained interest of the Iliad is the important object of the fall of man continued and vehement action which could hardly admit of subordinate or is maintained. The attention is sel- rival interests. But the great defect dom allowed to flag. Either in the in the Paradise Lost, arising from that council of the gods, the assembly of very unity, is want of variety. It is the Grecian or Trojan chiefs, or the strung throughout on too lofty a contest of the leaders on the field of key ; it does not come down suffibattle, an incessant interest is main- ciently to the wants and cravings of tained. Great events are always on mortality. The mind is awe-struck the wing: the issue of the contest is by the description of Satan careering perpetually hanging, often almost through the immensity of space, of the even, in the balance. It is the art battle of the angels, of the fall of with which this is done, and a state Lucifer, of the suffering, and yet unof anxious suspense, like the crisis subdued spirit of his fellow rebels, of of a great battle kept up, that the the adamantine gates, and pitchy great art of the poet consists. It is darkness, and burning lake of hell. done by making the whole drama- But after the first feeling of surprise tic_bringing the characters forward and admiration is over, it is felt by constantly to speak for themselves, all, that these lofty contemplations making the events succeed each other are not interesting to mortals like ourwith almost breathless rapidity, and selves. They are too much above real balancing success alternately from one life—too much out of the sphere of side to the other, without letting it ordinary event and interest. ever incline decisively to either. The fourth book is the real scene of Tasso has adopted the same plan in interest in the Paradise Lost; it is its his Jerusalem Delivered, and the con- ravishing scenes of primeval innotests of the Christian knights and Sa- cence and bliss which have given it racen leaders with the lance and the immortality. We are never tired of sword, closely resemble those of the recurring to the bower of Eve, to her Grecian and Trojan chiefs on the devotion to Adam, to the exquisite plain of Troy. Ariosto has carried it scenes of Paradise, its woods, its still further. The exploits of his Pa- waters, its flowers, its enchantments. ladins—their adventures on earth, in We are so, because we feel that it air, and water; their loves, their suf- paints the Elysium to which all asferings, their victories, their dangers- pire, which all have for a brief period keep the reader in a continual state of felt, but which none in this world can suspense. It is this sustained and

durably enjoy. varied interest which makes so many No one can doubt that Homer was readers prefer the Orlando Furioso endowed with the true poetic spirit, to the Jerusalem Delivered. But and yet there is very little of what we Ariosto has pushed it too far. In the now call poetry in his writings. There search of variety, he has lost sight of is neither sentiment nor declamation unity. His heroes are not congregat- -painting nor reflection. He is neied round the banners of two rival ther descriptive nor didactic. With potentates ; there is no one object or great powers for portraying nature, interest in his poem. No narrow plain, as the exquisite choice of his epilike that watered by the Scaman- thets, and the occasional force of his similes prove, he never makes any open his mouth without descanting on laboured attempt to delineate her fea- the adventures of his early years, and tares. He had the eye of a great the degenerate race of mortals who painter; but his pictorial talents are have succeeded the paladins of former employed, almost unconsciously, in days. He does not tell us that Achilles the fervour of narrating events, or the was wrathful and impetuous; but every animation of giving utterance to time he speaks, the anger of the son thoughts. He painted by an epithet of Peleus comes boiling over his lips. or a line. Even the celebrated de. He does not describe Agamemnonas scription of the fires in the plain of overbearing and haughty; but the pride Troy, likened to the moon in a serene of the king of men is continually apnight, is contained in seven lines. pearing in his words and actions, and His rosy-fingered morn-cloud-com- it is the evident moral of the Iliad to pelling Jupiter-Neptune, stiller of represent its pernicious effects on the the waves-Aurora rising from her affairs of the Helenic confederacy. crocus bed--Night drawing her veil Ulysses never utters a word in which over the heavens—the black keel the cautious and prudent counsellor, careering through the lashing waves sagacious in design but prompt in exe

-the shout of the far-sounding sea cution, wary in the council but decided -and the like, from which subse- in the field, far-seeing but yet persequent poets and dramatists have bor- vering, is not apparent. Diomede rowed so largely, are all brief allu- never falters ; alike in the field and sions, or epithets, which evidently did the council he is indomitable. When not form the main object of his strains. Hector was careering in his chariot He was a close observer of nature—its round their fortifications, and the king lights, its shades, its storms and calms, of men counselled retreat, he declarits animals, their migrations, their ed he would remain, were it only cries and habits; but he never sus- with Sthenelus and his friends. So pends his narrative to describe them. completely marked, so well defined We shall look in vain in the Iliad, are his characters, though they were and even the Odyssey, for the length- all rapacious chiefs at first sight, little ened pictures of scenery which are so differing from each other, that it has frequent in Virgil and Tasso, and ap- been observed with truth, that one pear in such rich profusion in Milton. well acquainted with the Iliad could He describes storms only as objects tell, upon hearing one of the speeches of terror, not to paint them to the eye. read out without a name, who was the Such things are to be found in the chief who uttered it. book of Job and in the Psalms, but The two authors, since his time, with the same brevity and magical who have most nearly approached force of emphatic expression. There him in this respect, are Shakspeare never was a greater painter of nature and Scott. Both seem to have rethan Homer; there never was a man ceived the pencil which paints the who aimed less at being so.

human heart from nature herself. The portraying of charaeterandevent Both had a keen and searching eye was the great and evident object of the for character in all grades and walks Grecian bard; and there his powers of life; and what is a general accommay almost be pronounced unrivalled. paniment of such a disposition, a He never tells you, unless it is some- strong sense of the ridiculous. Both times to be inferred from an epithet, seized the salient points in mental what the man's character that he in- disposition, and perceived at a glance, troduces is. He trusts to the charac- as it were, the ruling propensity. ter to delineate itself. He lets us get Both impressed this character 50 acquainted with his heroes, as we do strongly on their minds, that they with persons around us, by hearing threw themselves, as it were, into the them speak, and seeing them act. very souls of the persons whom they In preserving character, in this dra- delineated, and made them speak and matic way of representing it, he is act like nature herself. It is this extraunrivalled. He does not tell you ordinary faculty of identifying themthat Nestor bad the garrulity of age, selves with their characters, and and loved to recur to the events bringing out of their month the very of his youth ; but he never makes him words which, in real life, would have

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