Page:Studies of a Biographer 4.djvu/135

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121
NEW LIGHTS ON MILTON

They are but highly generalised types. Milton has 'no deep sense of mystery.' His figures are of superhuman proportions, but vagueness and dim visions of remote perspectives take the place of the properly mystic. There is always a firm and definite outline behind the shadowy figure; Death has a head and a crown, though they are such as become a phantom. Milton's weakness in metaphysics, and his undoubting acceptance of rigid dogmas, naturally go with the conviction that he is dealing with history and fact; and, so to speak, prevent the poetry from evaporating in the thin air of philosophical concepts. Hence we have one aspect of the extraordinary power in which Milton is unrivalled. 'His natural port,' as Johnson puts it, 'is gigantic loftiness'; and every critic has to say the same and illustrate it by the same famous passages. The famous 'Far off his coming shone' is enough to recall his special power of concentrating the most majestic effects in a single image. It would be idle to insist upon this specially Miltonic magic, which, besides informing particular passages, animates the whole poem and gives a fainter glory even; where we cannot deny the flagging power.

How, precisely, is this effect produced? Critics