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The poet adds, that the devil turned away with envy at the sight of so much happiness.
We have another view of our first parents in their evening discourses, which is full of pleasing images and sentiments suitable to their condition and characters. The speech of Eve in particular is dressed up in such a soft and natural turn of words and sentiments, as cannot be sufficiently admired. I shall close
this book, with observing the masterly transition which the poet makes to their evening worship in the following lines :
"Thus at their shady lodge arriv'd, both stood,
Maker Omnipotent, and Thou the day,” &c. Most of the modern heroic poets have imitated the ancients in beginning a speech without premising that the person said thus or thus; but as it is easy to imitate the ancients in the omission of two or three words, it requires judgment to do it in such a manner as they shall not be missed, and that the speech may begin naturally without them.
CRITICISM ON “PARADISE LOST."
In the seventh book, which gives us an account of the six days' works, the poet received but very few assistances from heathen writers, who were strangers to the wonders of creation. But as there are many glorious strokes of poetry upon this subject in Holy Writ, the author has numberless allusions to them through the whole course of this
book. A great critic, though an heathen, has taken notice of the sublime manner in which the lawgiver of the Jews has described the creation in the first chapter of Genesis; and there are many other passages in Scripture, which rise up to the same majesty, where this subject is touched upon. Milton has shown his judgment very remarkably, in making use of such of these as were proper for his poem, and in duly qualifying those high strains of Eastern poetry, which were suited to readers whose imaginations were set to a higher pitch than those of colder climates.
Adam's speech to the angel, wherein he desires an account of what had passed within the regions of nature before the creation, is very great and solemn. The following lines, in which he tells him that the day is not too far spent for him to enter upon such a subject, are exquisite in their kind :
“And the great light of day yet wants to run
His generation," &c. The angel's encouraging our first parents in a modest pursuit after knowledge, with the causes which he assigns for the creation of the world, are very just and beautiful. The Messiah, by whom, as we are told in Scripture, the worlds were made, comes forth in the power of His Father, surrounded with a host of angels, and clothed with such a majesty as becomes His entering upon a work, which, according to our conceptions, appears the utmost exertion of omnipotence. What a beautiful description has our author raised upon that hint in one of the prophets : " And behold there came four chariots out from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of brass "!
" About his chariot numberless were pour'd
Cherub and seraph, potentates and thrones,
Myriads between two brazen mountains lodg'd
On golden hinges moving.” I do not know anything in the whole poem more sublime than the description which follows, where the Messiah is represented at the head of his angels, as looking down into the Chaos, calming its confusion, riding into the midst of it, and drawing the first outline of the creation.
“On heavenly ground they stood, and from the shore
Silence, ye troubled waves, and thou deep, peace !
Nor staid ; but, on the wings of cherubim
The thought of the golden compasses is conceived altogether in Homer's spirit, and is a very noble incident in this wonderful description. Let the reader only peruse the description of Minerva's ægis, or buckler, in the fifth book, with her spear, which would overturn whole squadrons, and her helmet, that was sufficient to cover an army drawn out of a hundred cities : the golden compasses in the above-mentioned passage appear a very natural instrument in the hand of Him, whom Plato somewhere calls the Divine Geometrician.
As poetry delights in clothing abstracted ideas in allegories and sensible images, we find a magnificent description of the creation form’d after the same manner in one of the prophets, wherein he describes the Almighty Architect as measuring the waters in the hollow of His hand, meting out the heavens with His span, comprehending the dust of the earth in a measure, weighing the mountains in scales, and the hills iu a balance. Another of them, describing the Supreme Being in this great work of creation, represents Him as laying the foundations of the earth, and stretching a line upon it; and in another place as garnishing the heavens, stretching out the north over the empty place, and hanging the earth upon nothing. This last noble thought Milton has expressed in the following verse :
"And earth self-balanc'd on her centre hung."
The beauties of description in this book lie so very thick, that it is impossible to enumerate them in this paper. The poet has employed on them the whole energy of our tongue. The several great scenes of the creation rise up to view one after another, in such a manner, that the reader seems present at this wonderful work, and to assist among the choirs of angels, who are the spectators of it. How glorious is the conclusion of the first day !-
“ Thus was the first day ev'n and morn :
We have the same elevation of thought in the third day, when the mountains were brought forth, and the deep was made
“ Immediately the mountains huge appear
We have also the rising of the whole vegetable world described in this day's work, which is filled with all the graces that other poets have lavish'd on their descriptions of the spring, and leads the reader's imagination into a theatre equally surprising and beautiful.
The several glories of the heavens make their appearance on the fourth day :
“ First in his east the glorious lamp was seen,
One would wonder how the poet could be so concise in his description of the six days' works, as to comprehend them within the bounds of an episode, and at the same time so particular, as to give us a lively idea of them. This is still more remarkable in his account of the fifth and sixth days, in which he has drawn out to our view the whole animal creation, from the reptile to the behemoth. As the lion and the leviathar are two of the noblest productions in the world of living creatures, the reader will find a most exquisite spirit of poetry in the account which our author gives us of them.