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"Did I request Thee, Maker, from my clay
He immediately after recovers from his presumption, owns his doom to be just, and begs that the death which is threatened him may be inflicted on him
This wbole speech is full of the like emotion, and varied with all those sentiments which we may suppose natural to a mind so broken and disturbed. I must not omit that generous concern which our first father shows in it for His posterity, and which is so proper to affect the reader
“ Hide me from the face
In me all
Who can afterwards behold the father of mankind extended upon the earth, uttering his midnight complaints, bewailing his existence, and wishing for death, without sympathising with him in his distress ?
“Thus Adam to himself lamented loud,
Thro' the still night; not now (as ere man fell)
The part of Eve in this book is no less passionate, and apt bo sway the reader in her favour. She is represented with great tenderness as approaching Adam, but is spurned from him with a spirit of upbraiding and indignation, conformable to the nature of man, whose passions had now gained the dominion over him. The following passages, wherein she is described as renewing her addresses to him, with the whole speech that follows it, have something in them exquisitely moving and pathetic :
"He added not, and from her turn'd: but Eve,
Forsake me not thus, Adam! Witness heav'n
Adam's reconcilement to her is worked up in the same spirit of tenderness. Eve afterwards proposes to her husband, in the blindness of her despair, that to prevent their guilt from descending upon posterity, they should resolve to live childless; or, if that could not be done, they should seek their own deaths by violent methods. As those sentiments naturally engage the reader to regard the mother of mankind with more than ordinary commiseration, they likewise contain a very fine moral.
The resolution of dying to end our miseries, does not show such a degree of magnanimity as a resolution to bear them, and submit to the dispensations of Providence. Our author has therefore, with great delicacy, represented Eve as entertaining this thought, and Adam as disapproving it.
We are, in the last place, to consider the imaginary persons, or Death and Sin, who act a large part in this book. Such beautiful extended allegories are certainly some of the finest compositions of genius : but, as I have before observed, are not agreeable to the nature of an heroic poem. This of Sin and Death is very exquisite in its kind, if not considered as a part of such a work. The truths contained in it are so clear and open, that I shall not lose time in explaining them ; but shall only observe, that a reader who knows the strength of the English tongue, will be amazed to think how the poet could find such apt words and phrases to describe the actions
of those two imaginary persons, and particularly in that part where Death is exhibited as forming a bridge over the Chaos : a work suitable to the genius of Milton.
CRITICISM ON « PARADISE LOST."
Milton has shown a wonderful art in describing that variety of passions which arise in our first parents upon the breach of the commandment that had been given them. We see them gradually passing from the triumph of their guilt through remorse, shame, despair, contrition, prayer, and hope, to a perfect and complete repentance. At the end of the tenth book they are represented as prostrating themselves upon the ground, and watering the earth with their tears : to which the poet joins this beautiful circumstance, that they offered up their penitential prayers, on the very place where their Judge appeared to them when He pronounced their sentence
“They forthwith, to the place
As the author never fails to give a poetical turn to his sentiments, he describes in the beginning of this book the acceptance which these their prayers met with, in a short allegory, formed upon that beautiful passage in Holy Writ: “ And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God.”
- To heav'n their prayers
We have the same thought expressed a second time in the intercession of the Messiah, which is conceived in very emphatic sentiments and expressions.
Among the poetical parts of Scripture, which Milton has so finely wrought into this part of his narration, I must not omit that wherein Ezekiel, speaking of the angels who appeared to him in a vision, adds, that “every one had four faces," and that “their whole bodies, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, were full of eyes round about.”
« The cohort bright
The assembling of all the angels of heaven to hear the solemn decree passed upon man, is represented in very lively ideas. The Almighty is here described as remembering mercy in the midst of judgment, and commanding Michael to deliver his message in the mildest terms, lest the spirit of man, which was already broken with the sense of his guilt and misery, should fail before him
“Yet lest they faint
The conference of Adam and Eve is full of moving sentiments. Upon their going abroad after the melancholy night