Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Charleston Book: A Miscellany in Prose and Verse >> The Greek Language >> Page 292

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Page 292

Miscellany | The Reprint Company; Samuel Hart, Sen. | 1845, 1983
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exalted class to which it belongs.* What was the history
of this immortal poem, and of its great fellow ? Was it a
single individual, and who was he, that composed them ?
Had he any master or model ? What had been his
education, and what was the state of society in which he
lived ? These questions are full of interest to a philoso-
phic inquirer into the intellectual history of the species,
but they are especially important with a view to the sub-
ject of the present discussion. Whatever causes for the
matchless excellence of these primitive poems, and for that
of the language in which they are written, will go far to
explain the extraordinary circumstance, that the same
favored people left nothing unattempted in philosophy,
in letters and in arts, and attempted nothing without
signal, and in some cases, unrivalled success. Winkel-
* Milton is, perhaps, more sublime than Homer, and, indeed, than all other poets, with the exception, as we incline to think, of Dante. But if we adopt his own division of poetry into three classes, viz., the Epic, the Dramatic, and the Lyrical, the Paradise Lost, like the Divina Commedia, is more remarkable for lyrical (and sometimes for dramatic), than for epic beauties ; for splendid details, than an interesting whole ; for prophetic raptures bursting forth at intervals, than for the animation, the fire, the engrossing and rapid narrative of a metrical romance. Who cares anything about the story or the plot, or feels any sympathy with the dramatis person, not even excepting Adam and Eve, whose insipid faultlessness reminds one of the Italian proverb, " tanto buon cite val niente." Besides, are not the preposterous vauntings and menaces of the Devil against the Omnipotent, like the swaggering insolence of a slave behind his master's back ; or his conspiracy like that of Caliban with Trinculo and Stephano, against the magic powers of Prospero ? Devoted, as we are proud to avow ourselves, to Milton, we have always felt there was something even savoring of the comic in his Rabbinical plot.