His miscellanies contain a collection of short compositions, written some as they were dictated by a mind at leisure, and some as they were called forth by different occasions; with great variety of style and sentiment, from burlesque levity to awful grandeur. The dress of Gabriel deserves attention: He took for skin a cloud most soft and bright, That e'er the mid-day sun pierc'd through with light; Upon his cheeks a lively blush he spread, Wash'd from the morning beauties' deepest red; An harmless flatt'ring meteor shone for hair, And fell adown his shoulders with loose care; He cuts out a silk mantle from the skies, Where the most sprightly azure pleas'd the eyes; This he with starry vapours sprinkles all, Took in their prime ere they grow ripe and fall; Of a new rainbow, ere it fret or fade, The choicest piece cut out, a scarf is made. Johnson's antipathies as a Tory and a churchman to Milton are easily understood. Cowley adopted it, and excelled his predecessors, having as much sentiment, and more musick. The metaphysical poets used the conceits to serve their purpose. Next, the chorus, showing the reason of his coming to keep his watch in Paradise, after Lucifer's rebellion, by command from God; and withal expressing his desire to see and know more concerning this excellent new creature, man. Each leaf did learned notions give, And th' apples were demonstrative: So clear their colour and divine, The very shade they cast did other lights outshine.
Criticism The criticism in the Lives is central in most considerations of Johnson as a critic, so works like Hagstrum's, Keast's, and Hinnant's are good places to start. These mysteries consist of allegorical persons; such as Justice, Mercy, Faith. He did not sell literature to all comers, at an open shop; he was a chamber milliner, and measured his commodities only to his friends. It was about this time that he composed his scriptural epic on the history of , one book of which still exists in the Latin original, the rest being superseded in favour of an English version in four books, called the Davideis, which were published after his death. After Denham, Orrery, in one of his prologues, Poets are sultans, if they had their will; For ev'ry author would his brother kill.
The earl of Bridgewater, being president of Wales, in the year 1634, had his residence at Ludlow castle, in Shropshire, at which time lord Brackly and Mr. I abandoned it for a couple of weeks before completing my reading. If their greatness seldom elevates, their acuteness often surprises; if the imagination is not always gratified, at least the powers of reflection and comparison are employed; and, in the mass of materials which ingenious absurdity has thrown together, genuine wit and useful knowledge may be sometimes found buried, perhaps, in grossness of expression, but useful to those who know their value; and such as, when they are expanded to perspicuity, and polished to elegance, may give lustre to works which have more propriety, though less copiousness of sentiment. Selections also appear in many , which focus especially on Savage and the critical sections from a few major lives Cowley, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Addison, and sometimes Swift. Their attempts were always analytick: they broke every image into fragments, and could no more represent by their slender conceits and laboured particularities the prospects of nature or the scenes of life, than he who dissects a sun-beam with a prism can exhibit the wide effulgence of a summer noon. Later in life he expressed a high regard for Walpole.
On that which has cost him much labour he sets a high value, because he is unwilling to think that he has been diligent in vain; what has been produced without toilsome efforts, is considered with delight, as a proof of vigorous faculties and fertile invention; and the last work, whatever it be, has, necessarily, most of the grace of novelty. One of them was ninety-two at the time of her death. Johnson's assertion, that the fiction is derived from Homer's Circe, it may be conjectured, that it was rather taken from the Comus of Erycius Puteanus, in which, under the fiction of a dream, the characters of Comus and his attendants are delineated, and the delights of sensualists exposed and reprobated. His wisdom such, at once, it did appear Three kingdoms' wonder, and three kingdoms' fear. Yet let a race untam'd, and haughty foes, His peaceful entrance with dire arms oppose, Oppress'd with numbers in th' unequal field, His men discourag'd and himself expell'd: Let him for succour sue from place to place, Torn from his subjects and his son's embrace.
William Shakespeare, Spenser, and Swift are some of those personalities to which English literature owes a lot. Johnson is fairly liberal in his praise of Denham, and includes passages from several of his poems. The action is not probable. He was fretful and easily displeased, and allowed himself to be capriciously resentful. So wide was his province of intelligence, that, for several years, it filled all his days and two or three nights in the week.
Johnson, plainly, from party motives, is, on many occasions, industrious to depress both the moral, and poetical reputation of Milton. The tears of lovers are always of great poetical account; but Donne has extended them into worlds. His submission to the seasons was, at least, more reasonable than his dread of decaying nature, or a frigid zone; for general causes must operate uniformly in a general abatement of mental power; if less could be performed by the writer, less, likewise, would content the judges of his work. John, the poet, was born in his father's house, at the Spread-eagle, in Bread street, Dec. Abrahamus Cowleius, Anglorum Pindarus, Flaccus, Maro, Deliciae, Decus, Desiderium, Aevi sui, Hic juxta situs est. The other chiefs of the celestial rebellion are very judiciously discriminated in the first and second books; and the ferocious character of Moloch appears, both in the battle and the council, with exact consistency. We cannot refrain from denouncing, as unfeeling and ungenerous, Johnson's sarcasms at Milton's distempered imagination, when old age, disease, and darkness had come upon him.
By this abruption posterity lost more instruction than delight. As a young widower, Waller courted Lady Dorothea Sidney with verse, but she rejected him and married someone else. Beginning as a Grub Street journalist, he made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, novelist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. He seems to have been, at least among us, the author of a species of composition that may be denominated local poetry, of which the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, to be poetically described with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection, or incidental meditation. In some cases, a writer may be able to achieve both and that is no mean achievement by any standard.
The same year were printed Paradise Regained; and Sampson Agonistes, a tragedy written in imitation of the ancients, and never designed by the author for the stage. He gave his reasons — the artificiality of the pastoral convention, the confusion of the allegory with actual fact and sacred truth, and the absence of the feeling of real sorrow. Prayer certainly was not thought superfluous by him, who represents our first parents as praying acceptably in the state of innocence, and efficaciously after their fall. But you, of learning and religion, And virtue and such ingredients, have made A mithridate, whose operation Keeps off, or cures what can be done or said. His levity never leaves his learning behind it; the moralist, the politician, and the critick, mingle their influence even in this airy frolick of genius.
Denham saw the better way, but has not pursued it with great success. Language is the dress of thought: and, as the noblest mien, or most graceful action, would be degraded and obscured by a garb appropriated to the gross employments of rusticks or mechanicks; so the most heroick sentiments will lose their efficacy, and the most splendid ideas drop their magnificence, if they are conveyed by words used commonly upon low and trivial occasions, debased by vulgar mouths, and contaminated by inelegant applications. But original deficience cannot be supplied. The person that wants this wit may indeed be scorned, but the scorn shows the honour which the contemner has for wit. He published in 1663 Verses upon several occasions, in which The Complaint is included.