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the opinions of mankind that prevailed in the age of the poet, might possibly have been according to the letter. The persons are such as might have acted what is ascribed to them, as the circumstances in which they are represented might possibly have been truths and realities. This appearance of probability is so absolutely requisite in the greater kinds of poetry, that Aristotle observes the ancient tragic writers made use of the names of such great men as had actually lived in the world, though the tragedy proceeded upon adventures they were never engaged in, on purpose to make the subject more credible. In a word, besides the hidden meaning of an epic allegory, the plain literal sense ought to appear probable. The story should be such as an ordinary reader may acquiesce in, whatever natural, moral, or political ath may be discovered in it by men of greater penetration.

Satan, after having long wandered upon the surface, or outmost wall of the universe, discovers at last a wide gap in it, which led into the creation, and is described as the opening through which the angels pass to and fro into the lower world, upon their errands to mankind. His sitting upon the brink of this passage, and taking a survey of the whole face of nature, that appeared to him new and fresh in all its beauties, with the simile illustrating this circumstance, fills the mind of the reader with as surprising and glorious an idea as any that arises in the whole poem. He looks down into that vast hollow of the universe with the eye, or (as Milton calls it in his first book) with the ken of an angel. He surveys all the wonders in this immense amphitheatre that lie between both the poles of heaven, and takes in at one view the whole round of the creation.

His flight between the several worlds that shined on every side of him, with the particular description of the sun, are set forth in all the wantonness of a luxuriant imagination. His shape, speech, and behaviour upon his transforming himself into an angel of light, are touched with exquisite beauty. The poet's thought of directing Satan to the sun, which, in the vulgar opinion of mankind, is the most conspicuous part of the creation, and the placing in it an angel, is a circumstance very finely contrived, and the more adjusted to a poetical probability, as it was a received doctrine among the most famous philosophers, that every orb had its intelligence; and as an apostle in sacred writ is said to have seen such an angel in the sun. In the answer which this angel returns to the disguised evil spirit, there is such a becoming majesty as is altogether suitable, to a superior being. The part of it in which he represents himself as present at the creation, is very noble in itself, and not only proper where it is introduced, but requisite to prepare the reader for what follows in the seventh book:

'I saw when at his word the formless mass,
This world's material mould, came to a heap:
Confusion heard his voice, and wild Uproar
Stood rul'd, stood vast infinitude confin'd;
Till at his second bidding Darkness fled,
Light shone,' &c.

In the following part of the speech he points out the earth with such circumstances, that the reader can scarce forbear fancying himself employed on the same distant view of it:

'Look downward on that globe, whose hither side
With light from hence, though but reflected shines;
That place is earth, the seat of man, that light
His day,' &c.

the opinions of mankind that prevailed in the age of the poet, might possibly have been according to the letter. The persons are such as might have acted what is ascribed to them, as the circumstances in which they are represented might possibly have been truths and realities. This appearance of probability is so absolutely requisite in the greater kinds of poetry, that Aristotle observes the ancient tragic writers made use of the names of such great men as had actually lived in the world, though the tragedy proceeded upon adventures they were never engaged in, on purpose to make the subject more credible. In a word, besides the hidden meaning of an epic allegory, the plain literal sense ought to appear probable. The story should be such as an ordinary reader may acquiesce in, whatever natural, moral, or political truth may be discovered in it by men of greater penetration.

Satan, after having long wandered upon the surface, or outmost wall of the universe, discovers at last a wide gap in it, which led into the creation, and is described as the opening through which the angels pass to and fro into the lower world, upon their errands to mankind. His sitting upon the brink of this passage, and taking a survey of the whole face of nature, ed to him new and fresh in all its h the simile illustrating this circums mind of the reader with as surpr rious an idea as any that poem. He looks down in the universe with the

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I must not conclude my reflections upon this third book of Paradise Lost, without taking notice of that celebrated complaint of Milton with which it opens, and which certainly deserves all the praises that have been given it; though, as I have before hinted, it may rather be looked upon as an excrescence, than as an essential part of the poem. The same observation might be applied to that beautiful digression upon hypocrisy in the same book. L.

No. 316. MONDAY, MARCH 3, 1711-12.

Libertas; quæ sera tamen respexit inertem.
VIRG. Ecl. i. 28,
Freedom, which came at length, though slow to come.
DRYDEN.

6 MR. SPECTATOR,

IF you ever read a letter which is sent with the more pleasure for the reality of its complaints, this may have reason to hope for a favourable acceptance; and if time be the most irretrievable loss, the regrets which follow will be thought, I hope, the most justifiable. The regaining of my liberty from a long state of indolence and inactivity, and the desire of resisting the farther incroachments of idleness, make me apply to you; and the uneasiness with which I recollect the past years, and the apprehensions with which I expect the future, soon determined me to it. Idleness is so general a distemper, that I cannot but imagine a speculation on this subject will be of universal use. There is hardly any one per

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