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The scythe lies glittering in the dewy wreath
But, chiefly man the day of rest enjoys;
As in the tiny dew-bent flowers that bloom
GENIUS OF MILTON.
In speaking of the intellectual qualities of Milton, we may begin with observing, that the very splendour of his poetic fame, has tended to obscure or conceal the extent of his mind, and the variety of its energies and attainments. To many, he seems only a poet, when, in truth, he was a profound scholar, a man of vast compass of thought, imbued thoroughly with all ancient and modern learning, and able to master, to mould, to impregnate with his own intellectual power, his great and various acquisitions. He had not learned the superficial doctrine of a later day, that poetry flourishes most in an uncultivated soil, and that imagination shapes its brightest visions from the mists of a superstitious age; and he had no dread of accumulating knowledge, lest it should
oppress and smother his genius. He was conscious of that within him, which could quicken all knowledge, and wield it with ease and might; which could give freshness to old truths, and harmony to discordant thoughts; which could bind together by living ties and mysterious affinities, the most remote discoveries; and rear fabrics of glory and beauty, from the rude materials which other minds had collected. Milton had that universality which marks the highest order of intellect. Though accustomed almost from infancy, to drink at the fountains of classical literature, he had nothing of the pedantry and fastidiousness which disdain all other draughts. His healthy mind delighted in genius, on whatever soil, or in whatever age, it burst forth and poured out
its fulness. He understood too well the rights, and dignity, and pride of creative imagination, to lay on it the laws of the Greek or Roman school. Parnassus was not to him the only holy ground of genius. He felt, that poetry was as a universal presence. Great minds were every where his kindred. He felt the enchantment of Oriental fiction, surrendered himself to the strange creations of “ Araby the Blest,” and delighted still more in the romantic spirit of chivalry, and in the tales of wonder in which it was embodied. ACcordingly, his poetry reminds us of the ocean, which adds to its own boundlessness, contributions from all regions under heaven. Nor was it only in the department of imagination, that his acquisitions were vast. He travelled over the whole field of knowledge, as far as it had then been explored. His various philological attainments, were used to put him in possession of the wisdom stored in all countries, where the intellect had been cultivated. The natural philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, history, theology, and political science of his own and former times, were familiar to him. Never was there a more unconfined mind; and we would cite Milton, as a practical example of the benefits of that universal culture of intellect, which forms one distinction of our times, but which some dread as unfriendly to original thought. Let such remember, that mind is in its own nature diffusive. Its object is the universe, which is strictly one, or bound together by infinite connections and correspondences; and, accordingly, its natural progress is from one to another field of thought; and wherever original power-creative geniusexists, the mind, far from being distracted or oppressed by the variety of its acquisitions, will see more and more common bearings and hidden and beautiful analogies in all the objects of knowledge—will see mutual light shed from truth to truth, and will compel, as with a kingly power, whatever it understands, to yield some tribute of proof, or illustration, or splendour, to whatever topic it would unfold.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
Roll on, thou deep and dark-blue ocean-roll!
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin'd, and unknown!
His steps are not upon thy paths,—thy fields
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Their clay creator the vain title take
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee-
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
upon thy mane-as I do here.