Page images

The sixth day concludes with the formation of man, upon which the angel takes occasion, as he did after the battle in heaven, to remind Adam of his obedience, which was the principal design of this his visit.

The poet afterwards represents the Messiah returning into heaven, and taking a survey of His great work. There is something inexpressibly sublime in this part of the poem, where the author describes that great period of time, filled with so many glorious circumstances ; when the heavens and earth were finished; when the Messiah ascended up in triumph through the everlasting gates; when He looked down with pleasure upon His new creation; when every part of nature seemed to rejoice in its existence; when the morning stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.

“So ev'n and morn accomplish'd the sixth day :
Yet not till the Creator from His work
Desisting, tho' unwearied, up return'd,
Up to the heav'n of heavens, His high abode,
Thence to behold this new-created world,
Th' addition of His empire, how it show'd
In prospect from His throne, how good, how fair,
Answering His great idea : up He rode,
Follow'd with acclamation, and the sound
Symphonious of ten thousand harps, that tuned
Angelic harmonies; the earth, the air
Resounding (thou remember'st, for thou heard’st),
The heavens and all the constellations rung;
The planets in their station list’ning stood,
While the bright pomp ascended jubilant.
Open, ye everlasting gates, they sung,
Open, ye heav'ns, your living doors ; let in
The great Creator from His work return'd
Magnificent, His six days' work, a world ! "



The history, which was the basis of Milton's poem,


very short, and the poet has taken care to insert every circumstance of it in the body of his fable. The ninth book, which we are here to consider, is raised upon that brief account in Scripture, wherein we are told that the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, that he tempted the woman to eat of the forbidden fruit, that she was overcome by this temptation, and that Adam followed her example. From these few particulars, Milton has formed one of the most entertaining fables that invention ever produced. He has disposed of these several circumstances among so many beautiful and natural fictions of his own, that his whole story looks only like a comment upon Sacred Writ, or rather seems to be a full and complete relation of what the other is only an epitome.

I have insisted the longer on this consideration, as I look upon the disposition and contrivance of the fable to be the principal beauty of the ninth book, which has more story in it, and is fuller of incidents, than any other in the whole poem. Satan's traversing the globe, and still keeping within the shadow of the night, as fearing to be discovered by the angel of the sun, who had before detected him, is one of those beautiful imaginations with which he introduces this his second series of adventures. Having examined the nature of every creature, and found out one which was the most proper for his purpose, he again returns to Paradise; and, to avoid discovery, sinks by night with a river that ran under the garden, and rises up again through a fountain that issued from it by the tree of life. The poet who, speaks as little as possible in his own person, and fills every part of his work with manners and characters, introduces a soliloquy of this infernal agent, who was thus restless in the destruction of man. He is then described as gliding through the garden, under the resemblance of a mist, in order to find out that creature in which he designed to tempt our first parents. This description has something in it very poetical and surprising

“So saying, through each thicket dank or dry,
Like a black mist, low creeping, he held on
His midnight search, where soonest he might find
The serpent : him fast sleeping soon he found
In labyrinth of many a round self-roll’d,
His head the midst, well stor'd with subtle wiles.”

The author afterwards gives us a description of the morning, which is wonderfully suitable to a Divine poem, and peculiar to that first season of nature. He represents the earth, before it was cursed, as a great altar, breathing out its incense from all parts, and sending up a pleasant savour to the nostrils of its Creator ; to which he adds a noble idea of Adam and Eve, as offering their morning worship, and filling up the universal concert of praise and adoration.

“Now when as sacred light began to dawn
In Eden on the humid flowers, that breath'd
Their morning incense, when all things that breathe
From th' earth's great altar send up silent praise
To the Creator, and His nostrils fill
With grateful smell; forth came the human pair,
And join'd their vocal worship to the choir
Of creatures wanting voice.”

The dispute which follows between our two' first parents, is represented with great art: it proceeds from a difference of judgment, not of passion, and is managed with reason, not with heat : it is such a dispute as we may suppose might have happened in Paradise, had man continued happy and innocent. There is a great delicacy in the moralities which are interspersed in Adam's discourse, and which the most ordinary reader cannot but take notice of. That force of love which the father of mankind so finely describes in the eighth book, shows itself here in many fine instances : as in those fond regards he cast towards Eve at her parting from him

“Her long with ardent look his eye pursued
Delighted, but desiring more her stay :
Oft he to her his charge of quick return
Repeated ; she to him as oft engaged

To be return'd by noon amid the bower."
In his impatience and amusement during her absence-

6 Adam the while,
Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flowers a garland, to adorn
Her tresses, and her rural labours crown :
As reapers oft are wont their harvest queen.
Great joy he promised to his thoughts, and new

Solace in her return, so long delay'd.” But particularly in that passionate speech, where, seeing her irrecoverably lost, he resolves to perish with her rather than to live without her

“ Some carsed fraud
Or enemy hath beguild thee, yet unknown,
And me with thee hath ruin'd; for with thee
Certain my resolution is to die !
How can I live without thee? how forego
Thy sweet converse and love so dearly join'd,
To live again in these wild woods forlorn ?
Should God create another Eve, and I
Another rib afford, yet loss of thee
Would never from my heart ! no, no ! I feel
The link of nature draw me: flesh of flesh,
Bone of my bone thou art, and from thy state

Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe!” The beginning of this speech, and the preparation to it, are animated with the same spirit as the conclusion, which I have here quoted.

The several wiles which are put in practice by the tempter, when he found Eve separated from her husband, the

many pieasing images of nature which are intermixed in this part of the story, with its gradual and regular progress to the fatal catastrophe, are so very remarkable that it would be superfuous to point out their respective beauties.

I have avoided mentioning any particular similitudes in my remarks on this great work, because I have given a general account of them in my paper on the first book. There is one, however, in this part of the poem, which I shall here quote, as it is not only very beautiful, but the closest of any in the whole poem. I mean that where the serpent is described as rolling forward in all his pride, animated by the evil spirit, and conducting Eve to her destruction, while Adan was at too great a distance from her to give her his assistance. These several particulars are all of them wrought into the following similitude

“Hope elevates, and joy
Brightens his crest; as when a wand'ring fire,
Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night
Condenses, and the cold environs round,
Kindled through agitation to a flame
(Which oft, they say, some evil spirit attends),
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Misleads th' amaz'd night-wand'rer from his way
To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,

There swallow'd up and lost, from succour far.” That secret intoxication of pleasure, with all those transient flushings of guilt and joy, which the poet represents in our first parents upon their eating the forbidden fruit, to those flaggings of spirits, damps of sorrow, and mutual accusations which succeed it, are conceived with a wonderful imagination, and described in very natural sentiments.

Milton has described all nature as disturbed upon Eve's eating the forbidden fruit :

“So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck’d, she eat :
Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat
Sighing, through all her works gave signs of woe
That all was lost."

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »