Page images

which they had passed together, they discover the lion and the eagle pursuing each of them their prey towards the eastern gates of Paradise. There is a double beauty in this incident, not only as it presents great and just omens, which are always agreeable in poetry, but as it expresses that enmity which was now produced in the animal creation. The poet, to show the changes in nature, as well as to grace his fable with a noble prodigy, represents the sun in an eclipse. This particular incident has likewise a fine effect upon the imagination of the reader, in regard to what follows; for at the same time that the sun is under an eclipse, a bright cloud descends in the western quarter of the heavens, filled with an host of angels, and more luminous than the sun itself. The whole theatre of nature is darkened, that this glorious machine may appear in all its lustre and magnificence

" Why in the east
Darkness ere day's mid-course, and morning light
More orient in that western cloud that draws
O'er the blue firmament a radiant white,
And slow descends, with something heav'nly fraught?

He err'd not, for by this the heav'nly bands
Down from a sky of jasper lighted now
In Paradise, and on a hill made halt;

A glorious apparition." I need not observe how properly this author, who always suits his parts to the actors whom he introduces, has employed Michael in the expulsion of our first parents from Paradise. The archangel on this occasion appears neither in his proper shape, nor in that familiar manner with which Raphael the sociable spirit entertained the father of mankind before the fall. His person, his port, and behaviour, are suitable to a spirit of the highest rank, and exquisitely described in the following passage :

“Th’ archangel soon drew nigh,
Not in his shape celestial ; but as man
Clad to meet man : over his lucid arms
A military vest of purple Aow'd,

Livelier than Melibaan, or the grain
Of Sarra, worn by kings and heroes old,
In time of truce : Iris had dipp'd the woof;
His starry helm, unbuckled, showd him prime
In manhood where youth ended; by his side,
As in a glist'ring zodiac, hung the sword,
Satan's dire dread, and in his hand the spear.
Adam bow'd low, he kingly from his state

Inclined not, but his coming thus declared.” Eve's complaint upon hearing that she was to be removed from the garden of Paradise, is wonderfully beautiful : the sentiments are not only proper to the subject, but have something in them particularly soft and womanish

“Must I then leave thee, Paradise ? Thus leave

Thee, native soil, these happy walks and shades,
Fit haunt of gods ? Where I had hope to spend
Quiet, though sad, the respite of that day
That must be mortal to us both. O flow'rs,
That never will in other climate grow,
My early visitation, and my last
At even, which I bred up with tender hand
From the first opening bud, and gave you names ;
Who now shall rear you to the sun, or rank
Your tribes, and water from th' ambrosial fount?
Thee, lastly, nuptial bower, by me adorn'd
With what to sight or smell was sweet; from thee
How shall I part, and whither wander down
Into a lower world, to this obscure
And wild ? how shall we breathe in other air

Less pure, accustom'd to immortal fruits ?” Adam's speech abounds with thoughts which are equally moving, but of a more masculine and elevated turn. Nothing can be conceived more sublime and poetical than the following passage in it:

“ This most afflicts me, that departing hence
As from His face I shall be hid, deprived
His blessed count'nance; here I could frequent
With worship, place by place where He vouchsaf'd
Presence Divine; and to my sons relate,
On this mount He appear'd, under this tree
Stood visible, among these pines His voice

I heard, here with Him at this fountain talk'd ;
So many grateful altars I would rear
Of grassy turf, and pile up every stone
Of lustre from the brook, in memory
Or monument to ages, and thereon
Offer sweet-smelling gums and fruits and flowers.
In yonder nether world where shall I seek
His bright appearances, or footsteps trace ?
For though I fled Him angry, yet recall’d
To life prolong'd and promised race,

I now
Gladly behold though but His utmost skirts

Of glory, and far off His steps adore.”
The angel afterwards leads Adam to the highest mount of
Paradise, and lays before him a whole hemisphere, as a proper
stage for those visions which were to be represented on it.

In this great review which Adam takes of all his sons and daughters, the first objects he is presented with exhibit to him the story of Cain and Abel, which is drawn together with much closeness and propriety of expression. That curiosity and natural horror which arises in Adam at the sight of the first dying man, is touched with great beauty,

“But have I now seen death ? is this the way
I must return to native dust ? O sight
Of terror foul, and ugly to behold,

Horrid to think, how horrible to feel !” The second vision sets before him the image of death in a great variety of appearances. The angel, to give him a general idea of those effects which his guilt had brought upon his posterity, places before him a large hospital or lazar-house, filled with persons lying under all kinds of mortal diseases. How finely has the poet told us that the sick persons languished under lingering and incurable distempers, by an apt and judicious use of such imaginary beings as those I mentioned in my last paper

“ Dire was the tossing, deep the groans. Despair

Tended the sick, busy from couch to couch ;
And over them triumphant Death his dart
Shook, but delay'd to strike, though oft invoked
With vows, as their chief good and final hope.”

The passion which likewise rises in Adam on this occasion, is very

“Sight so deform, what heart of rock could long
Dry-ey'd behold ? Adam could not, but wept,
Tho' not of woman born; compassion quell'd

His best of man, and gave him up to tears." The discourse between the angel and Adam, which follows, abounds with noble morals.

As there is nothing more delightful in poetry than a contrast and opposition of incidents, the author, after this melancholy prospect of death and sickness, raises up a scene of mirth, love, and jollity. The secret pleasure that steals into Adam's heart as he is intent upon this vision, is imagined with great delicacy. I must not omit the description of the loose female troop, who seduced the sons of God, as they are called in Scripture

“For that fair female troop thou sav'st, that seem'd

Of goddesses, so blithe, so smooth, so gay,
Yet empty of all good wherein consists
Woman's domestic honour and chief praise ;
Bred only and completed to the taste
Of lustful appetence, to sing, to dance,
To dress, and troll the tongue, and roll the eye :
To these that sober race of men, whose lives
Religious titled them the sons of God,
Shall yield up all their virtue, all their fame
Ignobly, to the trains and to the smiles

Of those fair atheists." The next vision is of a quite contrary nature, and filled with the horrors of war. Adam at the sight of it melts into tears, and breaks out in that passionate speech

"O what are these !
Death's ministers, not men, who thus deal death
Inhumanly to men, and multiply
Ten thousandfold the sin of him who slew
His brother : for of whom such massacre

Make they but of their brethren, men of mea ?”
Milton, to keep up an agreeable variety in his visions, after

having raised in the mind of his reader the several ideas of terror which are conformable to the description of war, passes on to those softer images of triumphs and festivals, in that vision of lewdness and luxury which ushers in the Flood.

The transition which the poet makes from the vision of the Deluge, to the concern it occasioned in Adam, is exquisitely graceful —

“How didst thou grieve then, Adam, to behold

The end of all thy offspring, end so sad,
Depopulation ! thee another flood
Of tears and sorrow, a flood thee also drown'd,
And sunk thee as thy sons; till, gently rear'd
By th' angel, on thy feet thou stood'st at last,
Tho'comfortless, as when a father mourns
His children, all in view destroy'd at once.”

I have been the more particular in my quotations out of the eleventh book of Paradise Lost, because it is not generally reckoned among the most shining books of this poem; for which reason the reader might be apt to overlook those many passages in it which deserve our admiration. The eleventh and twelfth are indeed built upon that single circumstance of the removal of our first parents from Paradise ; but though this is not in itself so great a subject as that in most of the foregoing books, it is extended and diversified with so many surprising incidents and pleasing episodes, that these two last books can by no means be looked upon as unequal parts of this divine poem. I must further add, that had not Milton represented our first parents as driven out of Paradise, his Fall of Man would not have been complete, and consequently his action would have been imperfect.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »