I just finished Book 9 of Paradise Lost, and I’m astonished at the dramatic power of the story. It’s more like a play, or a novel, than a poem. For the first time, I'm getting a sense of the lives andfeelings of the individual characters,especially, in Book 9, Adam and Eve. I feel like I'm reading a Tolstoy novel rather than a 17th century epic poem.
I’m also about half way through a re-reading of Middlemarch, and I came upon this quote in yesterday’s reading of Chapter 29. The narrator is speaking about Mr. Casaubon:
" For my part I am very sorry for him. It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self -- never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardour of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted. Becoming a dean or even a bishop would make little difference, I fear, to Mr Casaubon's uneasiness. Doubtless some ancient Greek has observed that behind the big mask and the speaking-trumpet, there must always be our poor little eyes peeping as usual and our timorous lips more or less under anxious control."