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Milton in Holland

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blank verse was considered by the Journal Literaire inferior to Fénélon's prose would hardly tend to increase the Dutch appreciation of blank verse. All this throws light on the fact that the first Dutch translation of Milton's Paradise Lost, which was in blank verse, was so soon followed by a rhymed version, which immediately supplanted its predecessor. *

The reviewer summarizes the argument of Paradise Lost in some six pages. Several passages are praised, such as Adam's description of the first sensations after his creation, his first sight of Eve. The critic finds fault with the graphic way in which Milton describes the change that has come about in Adam's and Eve's love after their sin. The description, he thinks, tends more to exite similar desires in the hearts of readers than to instill horror of sin.

Of more importance to us is what the author says of the subject of the poem generally and especially of Milton's peculiar theological opinions in Paradise Lost. As to the first he is very explicit. It seems rather the choice of a madman! "Quand on y considere d'abord le choix du sujet, on croiroit plu tót que cette piéce vient des petites maisons, que du cabinet d'un bon sens admirable." But he admits that he is carried away by the grand way in which the poet has executed his task. "Mais dès qu'on appercoit la maniere dont il est traité, on est obligé de revenir de eet étonnement injurieux a 1'Auteur, & de ne s'étonner plus que de la maniere heureuse dont il a executé un dessein si temeraire, & si inconcevable. Ce sujet est le Paradise perdu, dont PEcriture Sainte nous dit si peu de chose, qu'on court risque de le falsifier en voulant le relever par des ornemens Poëtiques. Et c'est-la un inconvenient terrible qui doit influer sur tout 1'Ouvrage. Cependant on a de la peine a le sentir, tant le raisonnement est étourdi par des beautez continuelles qui 1'occupent trop pour lui permettre aucune autre attention." 2

Thus we see from the very beginning that critics are unable to judge Paradise Lost as a work of art only. The poem is too much 'the precious lifeblood of a master spirit', dealing with the most fundamental problems of life, to allow of a purely aesthetic attitude. To one the subject is too holy to admit of poetical embellishment, to another the story is a mere fable, not worth taking seriously. In the case of Paradise Lost there is more as we have seen. It is not

1 see Chapter VII —

• Journal Literaire, IX, p. 178-9.