Page images
[blocks in formation]

This first book proposes, first in brief, the whole sub

ject, Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was placed: Then touches the prime cause of his fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his fide many legions of Angels, was by the command of God driven out of Heaven with all his crew into the great deep. Which action pass'd over,


haites into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell, describ'd here, not in the center (for Heaven and Earth

may be suppos'd as yet not made, certainly not yet accurs’d) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest callid Chaos: Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonish'd, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him ; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded; They rise, their numbers, array of battel, their chief leaders nam'd, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an antient prophecy or report in Heaven; for that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determin thereon, he refers to a full council. - What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium the palace of Satan rises, suddenly built out of the deep : The infernal peers there sit in council.





F Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste


1. Of Man's forft disobedience, &c.] numbers confifts chiefly in the pause Milton has proposed the fu je&t of being so artfully varied, that it falls his poem in the following verses. upon a different fyllable in almost These lines are perhaps as plain, every line, as it may easily be perfimple, and unadorned as any of the ceived by distinguishing the verses whole poem, in which particular thus : the author has conformed himself to the example of Homer and the Of Man's first disobedience, and precept of Horace. His invoca the fruit tion to a work, which curns in a Of that forbidden tree, / whose great measure upon the creation of mortal taste the world, is very properly made Brought death into the world, and to the Mufe who inspired Mofes in

all our woe, those books from whence our au

With loss of Eden, till one greater thor drew his subject, and to the Man Holy Spirit who is therein repre Restore us, and regain the blissfented as operating after a particu

ful feat, lar manner in the first production Sing heav'nly Muse, of nature. This whole exordium rises very happily into noble lan. Mr. Pope, in a letter to Mr. Walsh guage and sentiment, as I think containing some critical observathe tranfition to the fable is exqui. tions on English versification, refitely beautiful and natural. Ad- marks that in any smooth English dijon.

verse of ten fyllables, there is naBesides the plainness and fimpli- turally a pause at the fourth, fifth, city of these lines, there is a lar- or fixth syllable, and upon the ju. ther beauty in the variety of the dicious change and management of numbers, which of themselves these depends the variety of versicharm every reader without any fication. But Milton varies the fublimity of thought or pomp of pause according to the sense, and expression: and this variety of the varies it through all the ten fyl

B 2


lables, by which means he is a master of greater harmony than any other English poet: and he is continually varying the pause, and scarce ever suffers it to reft upon the same syllable in more than two, and seldom in so many as two, verses together. Here it is upon the first syllable of the verse,

IV. 35

others on the grass Couch'd | and now fil'd with pasture gazing fat.

. - such as in their souls infix'd Plagues ; | they astonish'd all re

liftance lost. VI. 838. Upon the second,

- these to their nefts Were sunk, | all but the wakeful

nightingale; IV. 602.

Down thither prone in flight He speeds, and through the vast

ethereal sky V. 267. Upon the third,

what in me is dark Illumin, / what is low raise and support; 1. 23.

as the wakeful bird Sings darkling, 1 and in shadiest

covert hid III. 39. Upon the fourth,

on he led his radiant files, Dazling the moon; | these to the

bow'r direct IV. 798. - at his right hand victory Sat eagle-wing'a; beside him

hung his bow, 'VI. 763. Upon the fifth,

- bears, tigers, ounces, pards, Gambol'd before them; 1 ih’un

wieldy elephant IV. 34.5.

and in the air Made horrid circles ; | two broad

suns their shields VI. 305. Upon the sixth, His ftature reach'd the sky, / and

on his crest IV.988. Girt with omnipotence, with ra

diance crown'd. VII. 194. Upon the seventh, Majestic though in ruin : 1 fage he

stood 11. 305. Birds on the branches warbling ; |

all things smil'd VII. 265. Upon the eighth, Hung on his houlders like the

moon, | whose orb 1. 287. A fairer person loit not Heav'n; |

he seem'd 11. 110. Upon the ninth, Jehovah thundring out of Sion,

thron'd Between the Cherubim I. 386. And bush with frizled hair im.

plicit ; | last Rose as in dance the itately trees,

vil. 323

And here


the end,

thou that day Thy Father's dreadful thunder

didft not spare III. 393. Attended with ten thousand thoufand saints

VI. 767. And sometimes to give the greater variety to the verse, there are two or more pauses in the same line : as

on the ground Outstretch'd he lay, | on the cold

ground, I and oft Curs'd his creation X. 851.


II. 950;

[ocr errors]


And swins, or finks or wades, of two short fyllables", as in or creeps, | or fiies :

ver. 64. Exhausted, I spiritlets, afflicted, fallin. 1 VI. 852.

Serv'd onlý tò discover fights of

woe. But besides this variety of the Sometimes the Dactyle or foot of pauses, there are other excellencies one long and two hort syllables in Milton's versification. The Eng


in ver. 45 lith heroic verse approaches nearest to the lambic of the Ancients, of Hurl'd headlong haming from th':which it wants only a foot; but thčrcal sky. then it is to be measur’d by the tone and accent, as well as by the time Sometimes the Anapæft or foot of and quantity. An lambic foot is two short and one long syilable one short and one long fyllable,

as in ver. 87 and fix such feet conititute an Iam

Mýriāds though bright! If he bic verse: but the Ancients seldom

whom mutual league made use of the pure Iambic, efpecially in works of any confiderable length, but ostner of the mix'd

Sometimes the Tribrachus or foot Iambic, that is with a proper


of three short syllables

in ver. 709. termixture of other measures ; and of these perhaps Milton has ex To månỹa row of pipes the soundpress'd as happy a variety as any

board breathes. poet whatever, or indeed as the nature of a verse will admit, that And sometimes there is variety of confifts only of five feet, and ten these measures in the fame verse, fyllables for the most part. Some- and seldom or never the same meatimes he gives us almost pure Iam- sures in two verses together. And bics, as in I. 314.

these changes are not only rung for

the fake of the greater varicty, but Hě căll'd so loud, thăt all thč hõl. are so contriv'd as to make the low acep

sound more expressive of the sense. ÒF H.ll răsounded.

And this is another great art of ver

fification, the adapting of the very Sometimes he intermixes the Tro- sounds, as well as words, to the chee or foot of one long and one subject matter, the stile of sound, short syllable as in ver. 49.

as Mr. Pope calls it: and in this

Milton is excellent as in all the Who durit defy th’Omnipotent to rest, and we thall give leveral in

stances of it in the course of these

So that he has abun. Sometimes the Spondee or foot of remarks. two long fyllables

as in ver, 21.

dantly exemplified in his own

practice the rules laid down by Dove-like fitft brooding on the himself in his pref.ce, his verfifivast abyss.

cation having all the requisites of

true musical deligbi, which as he Sometimes the Pyrrichius or foot says confifts only in apt numbers, fit

в 3



« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »