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exquisite torments, she possessed her mind with so wonderful a patience, that one may
she ceased to breathe, than she died at that hour. You, who had not the happiness to be personally known to this lady, have nothing but to rejoice in the honour you had of being related to so great merit ; but we, who have lost her conversation, cannot so easily resign our own happiness by reflection upon hers.
• I am, SIR,
There hardly can be a greater instance of an heroic mind than the unprejudiced manner in which this lady weighed this misfortune. The regard of life could not make her overlook the contrition of the unhappy man, whose more than ordinary concern for her was all his guilt. It would certainly be of singular use to human society to have an exact account of this lady's ordinary conduct, which was crowned by so uncommon magnanimity. Such greatness was not to be acquired in the last article; nor is it to be doubted but it was a constant practice of all that is praise-worthy, which made her capable of beholding death, not as the dissolution, but consummation of her life.
N° 369. SATURDAY, MAY 3, 1712.
Segnius irritunt animos demissa per aures,
HOR. Ars Poet, 180.
Milton, after having represented in vision the history of mankind to the first great period of nature, dispatches the remaining part of it in narration. He has devised a very handsome reason for the angel's proceeding with Adam after this manner; though doubtless the true reason was the difficulty which the poet would have found to have shadowed out so mixed and complicated a story in visible objects. I could wish, however, that the author had done it, whatever pains it might have cost him. To give my opinion freely, I think that the exhibiting part of the history of mankind in vision, and part in narrative, is as if an history-painter shall put in colours one half of his subject, and write down the remaining part of it. If Milton's poem flags any where, it is in this narration, where in some places the author has been so attentive to his divinity that he has neglected his poetry. The narration, however, rises very happily on several occasions, where the subject is capable of poetical ornaments, as particularly in the confusion which he describes among the builders of Babel, and in his short sketch of the plagues of Egypt. The storm of half and fire, with the darkness that overspread the land for three days, are described with great strength. The beautiful passage which follows is raised upon noble hints in scripture :
Thus with ten wounds
The river-dragon is an allusion to the crocodile, which inhabits the Nile, from whence Egypt derives her plenty. This allusion is taken from that sublime passage in Ezekiel : “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own,
and have made it for myself. Milton has given us another very noble and poetical image in the same description, which is copied almost word for word out of the history of Moses :
© All night he will pursue, but his approach
As the principal design of this episode was to give Adam an idea of the holy person who was to reinstate human nature in that happiness and perfection from which it had fallen, the poet confines himself to the line of Abraham, from whence the Messiah was to descend. The angel is described as seeing the patriarch actually travelling towards the land of promise, which gives a particular liveliness to this part of the narration :
• 1 see him, but thou canst not, with what faith
As Virgil's vision in the sixth Æneid probably gave Milton the hint of this whole episode, the last line is a translation of that verse where Anchises mentions the names of places, which they were to bear hereafter:
- Hec tum nomina erunt, nunc sunt sine nomine terra.'
The poet has very finely represented the joy and gladness of heart which arises in Adam upon his discovery of the Messiah. As he sees his day at a distance through types and shadows, he rejoices in it; but when he finds the redemption of man completed, and Paradise again renewed, he breaks forth in rapture and transport:
• O goodness infinite, goodness immense ! That all this good of evil shall produce,' &c. I have hinted in my sixth paper on Milton, that an heroic poem, according to the opinion of the best critics, ought to end happily, and leave the mind the reader, after having conducted it through many doubts and fears, sorrows and disquietudes, in a state of tranquillity and satisfaction. Milton's fable, which had so many other qualifications to recommend it, was deficient in this particular. It is here therefore that the poet has shewn a most exquisite judgment,
well as the finest invention, by finding out a method
to supply this natural defect in his subject. Accordingly he leaves the adversary of mankind, in the last view which he gives of him, under the lowest state of mortification and disappointment. We see him chewing ashes, groveling in the dust, and loaden with supernumerary pains and torments. On the contrary, our two first parents are comforted by dreams and visions, cheered with promises of salvation, and in a manner raised to a greater happiness than that which they had forfeited. In short, Satan is represented miserable in the height of his triumphs, and Adam triumphant in the height of misery.
Milton's poem ends very nobly. The last speeches of Adam and the archangel are full of moral and instructive sentiments. The sleep that fell upon Eve, and the effects it had in quieting the disorders of her mind, produces the same kind of consolation in the reader, who cannot peruse the last beautiful speech, which is ascribed to the mother of mankind, without a secret pleasure and satisfaction: • Whence thon return'st, and whither went'st, I know; For God is also in sleep, and dreams advise, Which he hath sent propitious, some great good Presaging, since with sorrow and heart's distress Wearied I fell asleep; but now lead on; In me is no delay : with thee to go, Is to stay here ; without thee here to stay, Is to go hence unwilling : thou to me Art all things under heav'n, all places thou, Who for my wilful crime art banish'd hence. This farther consolation yet secure I carry hence; though all by me is lost, Such favour 1 unworthy am vouchsaf'd, By me the promis'd seed shall all restore.'
The following lines, which conclude the poem, rise in a most glorious blaze of poetical images and expressions.