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For the same reason
infusion of Latinity into his diction. (and, without such aids, he would have had no proper element in which to move his wings) he enriched his diction with Hellenisms and with Hebraisms;* but never,
*The diction of Milton is a case absolutely unique in literature: of many writers it has been said, but of him only with truth, that he created a peculiar language. The value must be tried by the result, not by inferences from à priori principles: such inferences might lead us to anticipate an unfortunate result: whereas, in fact, the diction of Milton is such that no other could have supported his majestic style of thinking. The final result is a transcendent answer to all adverse criticism; but still it is to be lamented that no man, properly qualified, has undertaken the examination of the Miltonic diction as a separate problem. Listen to a popular author of this day, (Mr. Bulwer.) He, speaking on this subject, asserts, (England and the English, p. 329,) that 'There is scarcely an English idiom which Milton has not violated, or a foreign one which he has not borrowed.' Now, in answer to this extravagant assertion, I will venture to say that the two following are the sole cases of questionable idiom throughout Milton:- 1st,' Yet virgin of Proserpine from Jove ;' and, in this case, the same thing might be urged in apology which Aristotle urges in another argument, viz., that arovvμov Tо Talos, the case is unprovided with any suitable expression. How would it be possible to convey in good English the circumstances here indicted viz., that Ceres was yet in those days of maiden innocence, when she had borne no daughter to Jove? 2d, I will cite a case which, so far as I remember, has been noticed by no commentator; and, probably, because they have failed to understand it. The case occurs in the 'Paradise Regained;' but where I do not at this moment remember. Will they transact with God?' This is the passage; and a most flagrant instance it offers of pure Latinism. Transigere, in the language of the civil law, means to make a compromise; and the word transact is here used in that sense a sense utterly unknown to the English language. This is the worst case in Milton; and I do not know that it has been ever noticed. Yet even here it may be doubted whether Milton is not defensible; asking if they proposed to terminate their difference with God after the fashion in use amongst courts of law, he points properly enough to these worldly settlements by the technical term which designated them. Thus, might a divine say - Will he arrest the judgments of God by a demurrer? Thus, again, Hamlet apostrophizes the lawyer's skull by the technical terms used in actions for assault, &c. Besides, what proper term is there in English for express
as could be easy to show, without a full justification in the result. Two things may be asserted of all his exotic idioms - 1st, That they express what could not have been expressed by any native idiom; 2d, That they harmonize with the English language, and give a coloring of the antique, but not any sense of strangeness to the diction. Thus, in the double negative-Nor did they not perceive,' &c., which is classed as a Hebraism—if any man fancy that it expresses no more than the simple affirmative, he shows that he does not understand its force; and, at the same time, it is a form of thought so natural and universal, that I have heard English people, under corresponding circumstances, spontaneously fall into it. In short, whether a man differ from others by greater profundity or by greater sublimity, and whether he write as a poet or as a philosopher, in any case, he feels, in due proportion to the necessities of his intellect, an increasing dependence upon the Latin section of the English language; and the true reason why Lord Brougham failed to perceive this, or found the Saxon equal to his wants, is one which I shall not scruple to assign, inasmuch as it does not reflect personally on Lord Brougham, or, at least, on him exclusively, but on the whole body to which he belongs. That thing which he and they call by the pompous name of statesmanship, but which is, in fact, statescraft — the art of political intrigue - deals (like the opera) with ideas so few in number and so little adapted to associate themselves with other ideas, that, possibly, in the one case equally as in the other, six hundred words are sufficient to meet all their demands.
ing a compromise? Edmund Burke, and other much older authors, express the idea by the word temperament; but that word, though a good one, was at one time considered an exotic term - equally a Galheism and a Latinism.
I have used my privilege of discursiveness to step aside from Demosthenes to another subject, no otherwise connected with the attic orator than, first, by the common reference of both subjects to rhetoric; but, secondly, by the accident of having been jointly discussed by Lord Brougham, in a paper, which (though now forgotten) obtained, at the moment, most undue celebrity. For it is one of the infirmities of the public mind with us — that whatever is said or done by a public man, any opinion given by a member of Parliament, however much out of his own proper jurisdiction and range of inquiry, commands an attention not conceded even to those who speak under the known privilege of professional knowledge. Thus, Cowper was not discovered to be a poet worthy of any general notice, until Charles Fox slender critic had vouchsafed to quote a few lines, and that, not so much with a view to the poetry, as to its party application. But now, returning to Demosthenes, I affirm that his case is the case of nearly all the classical writers, at least of all the prose writers. It is, I admit, an extreme that is, it is the general case in a more intense degree. Raised almost to divine honors, never mentioned but with affected rapture, the classics of Greece and Rome are seldom read most of them never; are they, indeed, the closet companions of any man? Surely it is time that these follies were at an end; that our practice were made to square a little better with our professions; and that our pleasures were sincerely drawn from those sources in which we pretend that they lie.
The Greek language, mastered in any eminent degree, is the very rarest of all acomplishments, and precisely because it is unspeakably the most difficult. Let not the reader dupe himself by popular cant. To be an accomplished Grecian, demands a very peculiar quality of
talent; and it is almost inevitable, that one who is such should be vain of a distinction which represents so much labor and difficulty overcome. For myself, having, as a schoolboy, attained to a very unusual mastery over this language, and (though as yet little familiar with the elaborate science of Greek metre) moving through all the obstacles and resistances of a Greek book with the same celerity and ease as through those of the French and Latin, I had, in vanquishing the difficulties of the language, lost the main stimulus to its cultivation. Still, I read Greek daily; but any slight vanity which I might connect with a power so rarely attained, and which, under ordinary circumstances, so readily transmutes itself into a disproportionate admiration of the author, in me was absolutely swallowed up in the tremendous hold taken of my entire sensibilities at this time by our own literature. With what fury would I often exclaim - He who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen? You, Mr. A, L, M, O, you who care not for Milton, and value not the dark sublimities which rest ultimately (as we all feel) upon dread realities, how can you seriously thrill in sympathy with the spurious and fanciful sublimities of the classical poetry with the nod of the Olympian Jove, or the seven-league strides of Neptune? Flying Childers had the most prodigious stride of any horse on record; and at Newmarket that is justly held to be a great merit; but it is hardly a qualification for a Pantheon. The parting of Hector and Andromache that is tender, doubtless; but how many passages of far deeper, far diviner tenderness are to be found in Chaucer! Yet, in these cases, we give our antagonist the benefit of an appeal to what is really best and most effective in the ancient literature. For, if we should go to Pindar, and some other great names, what a
revelation of hypocrisy as respects the fade enthusiasts for the Greek poetry!
Still, in the Greek tragedy, however otherwise embittered against ancient literature by the dismal affectations current in the scenical poetry, at least, I felt the presence of a great and original power. It might be a power inferior, upon the whole, to that which presides in the English tragedy; I believed that it was; but it was equally genuine, and appealed equally to real and deep sensibilities in our nature. Yet, also, I felt that the two powers at work, in the two forms of the drama, were essentially different; and without having read a line of German at that time, or knowing of any such controversy, I began to meditate on the elementary grounds of difference between the Pagan and the Christian forms of poetry. The dispute has since been carried on extensively in France, not less than in Germany, as between the classical and the romantic. But I will venture to assert that not one step in advance has been made, up to this day. The shape into which I threw the question, it may be well to state; because I am persuaded that out of that one idea, properly pursued, might be evolved the whole separate characteristics of the Christian and the antique : Why is it, I asked, that the Christian idea of sin is an idea utterly unknown to the Pagan mind? The Greeks and Romans had a clear conception of a moral ideal, as we have; but this they estimated by a reference to the will; and they called it virtue, and the antithesis they called vice. The lacheté or relaxed energy of the will, by which it yielded to the seductions of sensual pleasure, that was vice and the braced-up tone by which it resisted these seductions, was virtue. But the idea of holiness and the antithetic idea of sin, as a violation of this awful and unimaginable sanctity, was so utterly undeveloped in