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Upon Adam's falling into the same guilt, the whole creation appears a second time in convulsions :
“He scrupled not to eat
As we are told that all nature suffered by the guilt of our first parents, these symptoms of trouble and consternation are wonderfully imagined, not only as prodigies, but as marks of her sympathising in the fall of man.
CRITICISM ON " PARADISE LOST."
The tenth book of Paradise Lost has a greater variety of persons in it than any other in the whole poem. The author upon the winding up of his action introduces all those who had any concern in it, and shows with great beauty the influence which it had upon each of them. It is like the last act of a well-written tragedy, in which all who had a part in it are generally drawn up before the audience, and represented under those circumstances in which the determination of the action places them.
I shall therefore consider this book under four heads, in relation to the celestial, the infernal, the human, and the imaginary persons, who have their respective parts allotted in it.
To begin with the celestial persons: the guardian angels of Paradise are described as returning to heaven upon the fall of man, in order to approve their vigilance ; their arrival, their manner of reception, with the sorrow which appeared in themselves, and in those spirits who are said to rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, are very finely laid together in the following lines :
“Up into heav'n from Paradise in haste
The same Divine Person, who in the foregoing parts of this poem interceded for our first parents before their fall, overthrew the rebel angels, and created the world, is now reprosented as descending to Paradise, and pronouncing sentence upon the three offenders. The cool of the evening, being a circumstance with which Holy Writ introduces this great scene, it is poetically described by our author, who has also kept religiously to the form of words, in which the three several sentences were passed upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent. He has rather chosen to neglect the numerousness of his verse, than to deviate from those speeches which are recorded on this great occasion. The guilt and confusion of our first parents, standing naked before their Judge, is touched with great beauty. Upon the arrival of Sin and Death into the works of the creation, the Almighty is again introduced as speaking to His angels that surrounded Him
“See! with what heat these dogs of hell advance,
The following passage is formed upon that glorious image in Holy Writ, which compares the voice of an innumerable host of angels, uttering hallelujahs, to the voice of mighty thunderings, or of many waters—
“He ended, and the heavenly audience loud
Though the author, in the whole course of his poem, and particularly in the book we are now examining, has infinite allusions to places of Scripture, I have only taken notice in my remarks of such as are of a poetical nature, and which are woven with great beauty into the body of this fable. Of this kind is that passage in the present book where, describing Sin and Death as marching through the works of nature, he adds
" Behind her Death
On his pale horse." Which alludes to that passage in Scripture so wonderfully poetical, and terrifying to the imagination.
" And I looked, and behold, a pale horse : and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with sickness, and with the beasts of the earth.” Under this first head of celestial
persons we must likewise take notice of the command which the angels received, to produce the several changes in nature, and sully the beauty of the creation. Accordingly they are represented infecting the stars and planets with malignant influences, weakening the light of the sun, bringing down the winter into the milder regions of nature, planting winds and storms in several quarters of the sky, storing the clouds with thunder, and, in short, perverting the whole frame of the universe to the condition of its criminal inhabitants. As this is a noble incident in the poem, the following lines, in which we see the angels heaving up the earth, and placing it in a different posture to the sun from what it had before the fall of man, is conceived with that sublime imagination which was so peculiar to this great author
“Some say He bid His angels turn askance
Oblique the centric globe." We are, in the second place, to consider the infernal agents under the view which Milton has given us of them in this book. It is observed by those who would set forth the greatness of Virgil's plan, that he conducts his reader through all the parts of the earth which were discovered in his time. Asia, Africa, and Europe are the several scenes of his fable. The plan of Milton's poem is of an infinitely greater extent, and fills the mind with many more astonishing circumstances. Satan, having surrounded the earth seven times, departs at length from Paradise. We then see him steering his course among the constellations, and after having traversed the whole creation, pursuing his voyage through the Chaos, and entering into his own infernal dominions.
His first appearance in the assembly of fallen angels, is worked up with circumstances which give a delightful surprise to the reader ; but there is no incident in the whole poem which does this more than the transformation of the whole audience, that follows the account their leader gives them of his expedition. Milton never fails of improving his own hints, and bestowing the last finishing touches to every incident which is admitted into his poem. The unexpected hiss which rises in this episode, the dimensions and bulk of Satan, so much superior to those of the infernal spirits who lay under the same transformation, with the annual change which they are supposed to suffer, are instances of this kind. The beauty of the diction is very remarkable in this whole episode, and the great judgment with which it was contrived is very striking.
The parts of Adam and Eve, or the human persons, come next under our consideration. Milton's art is nowhere more shown than in his conducting the parts of these our first parents. The representation he gives of them, without falsifying the story, is wonderfully contrived to influence the reader with pity and compassion towards them. Though Adam involves the whole species in misery, his crime proceeds from a weakness which every man is inclined to pardon and commiserate, as it seems rather the frailty of human nature, than of the person who offended. Every one is apt to excuse a fault which he himself might have fallen into. It was the excess of love for Eve, that ruined Adam and his posterity. I need not add, that the author is justified in this particular by many of the Fathers, and the most orthodox writers. Milton has by this means filled a great part of his poem
with that kind of writing which the French critics call the tender, and which is in a particular manner engaging to all sorts of readers.
Adam and Eve, in the book we are now considering, are likewise drawn with such sentiments as do not only interest the reader in their afflictions, but raise in him the most melting passions of humanity and commiseration. When Adam sees the several changes in nature produced about him, he appears in a disorder of mind suitable to one who had forfeited both his innocence and his happiness ; he is filled with horror, remorse, despair ; in the anguish of his heart he expostulates with his Creator for haring given him an unasked existence