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in amplifying, with wonderful plenitude, exactness, beauty, and magnificence of description, the First Chapter in the Book of Genesis. In other words the Seventh Book of Paradise Lost describes the Week of Creation—the six days of God's working, and the seventh of His rest.
Milton moulds, at the height of poetical power, into poetical form thoughts that are universal to the Spirit of Man. What then, we must ask, are the two Thoughts that rise in the Spirit of Man, looking with its awakened and instructed faculties upon the Universe of God? Assuredly one is, wonder at the adaptation of Means to Ends — that fitness of which all human Science is nothing but the progressive, inexhaustible revelation. This is that Eternal Wisdom, whom the Poet daringly finds a distinct inhabitant of the Empyrean. The other thought, insuppressibly arising upon the same contemplation, is, wonder of the overwhelming beauty that overflows the visible creation. This is the Heavenly Muse, Urania. The purpose of the Divine Mind to create the Useful Order of Things is impersonated as Eternal Wisdom. The purpose of the Divine Mind to create the Beauty of Things is impersonated under a name which the Poet boldly and reverently supplies. Milton's description of the six days completely displays the two notions : it impresses the notion of Useful Order and Beauty.
These verses, which introduce the Creation of Man on the sixth day, impress the two distinctly
“ Now Heaven in all her glory shone ;" --that is, for the Beautiful :
“ and rollid
First wheel'd their course ;" --that is, for Useful Order.
“Earth in her rich attire
Consummate lovely smiled ;” --that is, for Beauty.
“ Air, water, earth,
Here is again the Adaptation, the Useful Order,
“Of all yet done ; "namely, Man ;-again Design, Order, Wisdom.
And when the whole work is finished, the two characters are set side by side, as answering, in the Mind of the Creator, to His antecedent purpose.
“ Here finished He, and all that he had made
View'd,-and behold all was intensely good;
Answering his great Idea."
The Heavenly Muse descended upon Earth is then the God-given Intelligence, in the Human bosom, of The Beautiful. It is the Faculty, as we are more accustomed to speak, of the Sublime and Beautiful ;-a human ability, raised in the sacred writers by divine communions-Milton desires, but can
hardly be thought in that first Invocation, or in this, (Book VII.) directly to pray, that the powers of his mortal genius may receive similar exaltation.
NORTH. Speak boldly.
SEWARD. I do.
TALBOYS. The Heavenly Muse, in Heaven, is God's thought of the Beauty which shall be in the Universe to be created. The heavenly Muse, upon Earth, is the Thought or the Faculty of Beauty, as originally given to the soul of man, as nourished by all human ways, and specifically and finally as attempered and exalted by expressly religious contemplations and communions-in Moses by converse with God face to face, as a man with his friend. You remember Jeremy Taylor, sir
NORTH. I do.
TALBOYS. In Milton, by reading the Scriptures, by prayer and meditation, by the holiest consciousnesses, in which he seems to have apprehended even for himself some afflux vouchsafed of spiritual help, light, and support more than ordinarily has been understood in the Protestant Church, if less than enthusiasts have claimed. In a word, the Heavenly Muse upon Earth is the Human Sense of Beauty fashioned to the uttermost, hallowed by the nearest approaches to the Deity that are permitted to the individual human person who happens to be in question, but who must be understood as one living under the revelation of the true God. In strictness of speech, Heavenly Muse upon Earth is at last, as I said, Scriptural Muse opposed to Classical Muse.
NORTH. Well said, my excellent Talboys.
TALBOYS. Upon our thoughts, my dear sir, the distinctions, Heavenly Muse in Heaven, upon Earth, visiting Moses, visiting Milton, four different aspects of one thing force themselves. Are they all well comprehended under one Impersonation ?
NORTH. Yes—from the bold nature of Impersonation, which comprehends always a variable thought. For Imagination blends and comprehends rather than it severs and excludes. It delights in conceiving that as another manner of acting in some imaginary being which the analytical understanding would class as a distinct metaphysical faculty. It delights in unity of creation; and, having created, in bestowing power, and in accumulating power on its creature. I have heard people say that Collins, in speaking of Danger
“Who throws himself on the ridgy steep
Of some low-hanging rock to sleep "confounds the Power, Danger, and the endangered Man. But I say he was right in such poetical confusion of one with the other.
TALBOYS. Might one word, my dear sir, be dropped in, purporting or reminding, that the Beautiful, or Beauty, is here used, with its most capacious meaning, to comprehend many other qualities distinct from the Beautiful taken in its narrowest acceptation among critics. For example, the solemn, the sublime, and many other qualities are included, that are distinct from the Beautiful, taken in the mere sense that critics have attached to it; all such qualities agreeing in this, that they affect the mind suddenly, and without time given for reflection, and that they appear as a glory poured over objects as over the natural universe. The large sense of the term Beauty belongs to a perfectly legitimate use of language-a use at once high and popular; as every one feels that the beauty of creation includes whatever affects us with irreflective
admiration-appears as a glory-stupendous forests-mountains-rivers—the solemn, boundless munificence of the starry firmament. Milton says there is terror in Beauty-and we may say there is a beauty in terror.
NORTH. The holy Mind of the Poet has been represented from his life ; the holy aspirations of his Genius have been shown from the record of his literary purposes ; the holy meaning of the Paradise Lost from the Two Invocations. You may go on to examining the Poem well prepared; for you now know in what Spirit of thought it was entered upon and composed, and in what Spirit of thought you must engage in, and carry through, the examination of the Poem. You can understand that Milton, sanctified in Will by a dedicated life - intellectually armed and accomplished by the highest mere human learning, as a Scholar, as a Thinker, as a Master of his own sublime and beautiful Art-enriched by more solemn studies, whether of God's written word or of its devout and powerful expounders, with all the knowledge, especially claimed by his task, which a Mind, capacious, profound, retentive, indefatigable, could bring to the celebration of this most stupendous theme ;-finally, led—as he, in all reverence, believed himself, — upheld, and enlightened by the Spirit of supernal grace, prayed for and vonchsafed ;-that He, coming,—by nature and by nurture such and so fitted, -to relate anew and at large--and as if He, the Poet, were himself enfolded with the garb of a Prophet, -as if He were himself commissioned from on High, and charged with a second, a more explicit and copious, au ampler and more unbosoming revelation,-that History, full of creating Love and provoked Wrath,-full of zeal and loyal truth, in pure angelical creatures, and of hateful revolt-full, in the lower creature, Man, at first of gracious and ineffable glory and bliss, and native immortality, then of lamentable dishonour, sin and misery, and death-You can readily conceive that Milton approaching to begin this Work, to which alone the desires, to which alone the labours, to which alone the consecration of his genius looked—that he, indeed, felt in his now near, in his now reached undertaking, a burthen overwhelming to his mortal strength; and that his prayer, put up for support, rose indeed from his lips as men pray who are overtaken with some sharp fear and sore constraint.
TALBOYS. Yet, sir, irreverence has been felt, and will be felt, by those who take low and narrow views, in the treating of sacred subjects, as themes of poetry.
NORTH. Shall we stand back awed into silence, and leave the Scriptures alone, to speak of the things which the Scriptures declare? This is a restraint which the Human Spirit has never felt called upon to impose upon itself. On the contrary, the most religious Minds have always felt themselves required in duty to dedicate their best faculties of reason to the service of religionby inquiring into, and expounding, the truths of religion. But Reason is not the sole intellectual power that God has given to Man, nor the sole faculty by the use of which he will be glorified. Another power native to the same spirit, granted to it now in more scant and now in overflowing measure, is the faculty of verse and of poetical creation ; and it is no more conceivable that we are bound to withhold the efforts of this power from its highest avocations, than that we are under obligation to forbear from carrying our powers of rational investigation to the searching of the Scriptures.
SEWARD. The sanctity of spirit in which Milton wrote hallows the work of Milton. He was driven back by no scruple from applying the best strength of his mind to the highest matters. Holding him justified for attempting the most elevated subjects in verse, we must bear in mind what is the nature of Poetry, and beware that we do not suffer ourselves to be unnecessarily alarmed or offended when we find the Poet, upon the highest occasions, fearlessly but reverently using the manner of representation inseparable from his Art.
NORTH. What is this Manner of Representation ?
TALBOYS. It may be said in a word. Poetry represents the Inward and the Invisible by means of the Outward and the Visible.
The First great law of poetical Creation is this: that the Kingdom of Matter and of the bodily senses, transformed by the divine energy of genius, shadows forth and images out the Kingdom of the Mind and of Spirit.
Accordingly, in this great poem, the name Heaven continually meets us as designating the blissful abode where the Omnipresent God is imagined as from eternity locally dwelling in light uncreated—the unapproachable splendour of his own effulgence. There, the Assessor of his throne, the Divine Son, sits "in bliss embosomed." And there, created inhabitants, are the innumerable host of happy Angels. At first, all-whilst all stand upright-and until the sin of Satan casts out one-third part of the number. The Imagination of the poet supposes a resemblance to Earth; for beauty and delighthills, rocks, vales, rivers and fountains, trees and Elysian flowers. Although he endeavours to dilate the fancy of his reader in speaking of Heaven with conceptions of immense extent, it is a limited, not a boundless, Heaven; for it is conceived as resting upon a base or firmament, and as being enclosed with crystalline walls. Palaces and towers, which the angels have built, are spoken of in Heaven.
The course of the Poem sometimes leads us into Chaos. We are to imagine an infinite abyss of darkness, in which the formless embryons and elements of things toss and war in everlasting uproar. A Ruler and other spirits of darkness will be found dwelling there. Here height, breadth, and time and place are lost. But the tremendous gulf is permeable to the wings of angels. A more important seat of the transaction to which we shall be in. troduced is, " the place of evil," made, after the rebellion of the Angels, their habitation and place of punishment - "the house of wo and pain 5-HELL. It is described as having various regions—fiery and frozen ; hideous mountains, valleys, and caves. Five rivers, named and characterised from those that flow through the Hell of classical antiquity-and, in particular, a boiling Ocean, into which the rebel Angels are supposed to fall
. Notwithstanding the flames, a heavy gloom prevails throughout. It is immensely extended, but has a solid ground"a dungeon horrible," walled and overvaulted. The whole of the Fallen Angels are at first imprisoned in Hell. But they escape. Hell has Gates kept by Sin and her Son Death. The Fallen Angels build in Hell a palace and city called Pandemonium. Hell is situated in the lowest depth of Chaos, out of which it has been taken.
This Visible Universe is represented as built subsequently to, and consequently upon, the Fall of the Angels. You are to imagine this Earth of ours, the Moon, the Sun, the planets, the fixed stars, and the Milky Way-all that sight can reach-as enclosed in a hollow sphere: that is, firmly compacted. Satan alights upon its outside, and walks about it: and it serves to defend this enclosed visible Universe from the inroads of Chaos and primeval darkness. On the Earth, created in all the variety that we behold in it, excepting that the climates are all happy, our Two first Parents live in the Garden of Paradise, planted by God. The unimaginably vast enclosing Sphere hangs by a golden chain from the battlements of Heaven.
SEWARD. Yes, sir, Poetry represents :
Things of the Mind by Things of the Body-the Spiritual Kingdom by the Kingdom of Matter, or of the Senses.
So the world of metaphors, which express the powers and acts of the mind by organs and actions of the body, or by images from nature. So, expressly, Allegory.
NORTH. So, here, Spirits are clothed in visible human form. They walk, they fly
with wings. Their disagreeing becomes a War waged with violent weapons. High and Low in space have a moral meaning. So ocular light and darkness. Even the omnipresent God appears as having a local divine residence, and speaks with a voice. The Eternal Eye sees, the Eternal Ear hears. He sits, invisible through brightness, on a Throne.
These modes of thinking, or of representing rather, follow our minds. We may, by a great effort of abstraction, throw them off. It is for a moment. They return, and hold habitual dominion in our thoughts.
TALBOY8. Milton has boldly given such determinate Shape, as to constitute a seeming reality, without which he would be without power over us —
- who know by our senses, feel by our senses - i.e. habitually attach feelings moved by things inward to things outward ; as our love, moved by a soul, to a face.
NORTH. It is remarkable that Poetry, which above all human discourse calls out into our Consciousness the Divinity that stirs within us, at the same time casts itself with delight into the Corporeal Senses, as if the two Extremes met, or that either balanced the others. We see a reason in this. Passion cleaves to the perceptions of the Senses. Upon these impressions Imagination still feeds and lives.
SEWARD. Moreover, Nature herself shows us Man, now half as the Child, now half as the victim, now half as the victor—of his place.
TALBOYS. Therefore, great Poetry, that will most potentially represent Man's innermost spirit, sets out, often, from his uttermost circumstances.
In the Philoctetes, and Edipus at Colonus, what pains to delineate place! What pains to make you present in the forest of Arden,—and in the Island!
NORTH. This outward Picturesque, embosoming the Human Pathetic and Sympathetic, is known to the great Father of Poetry. Homer paints for eye and ear; but usually with brief touches.
TALBOYS. The predominance given in Verse to the Music over the Sense—the conspicuous power of the Music, perhaps calls the Soul into the Senses.
NORTH. But there is a more comprehensive view. The Mind in the treatment of its Knowledge ranges between two Extremes. It receives the original givings of Experience, at the utmost particularised and individualised, determined under conditions of time, Place, Individuals. It reduces individuals into Kinds, actions into Laws, finds Principles, unveils Essences. These are the ultimate findings of Reason. The Philosophical Mind tends to these-dwells in these—is at home in these—is impatient of its knowledge whilst unreduced. This is the completed victory of Intelligence over its data. It is by Comprehension and Resolution the Reduction of Multitude into Unity. At the same time, the Mind leaves the turbulent element of Sense, and passes into a serene air, a steadfast and bright and cold sky. Now, then, Poetry dwells or makes a show of dwelling at the other extreme-in the forms as they were given. What semblance, what deception, may be in this, is another question. But this is her ostentation. She imitates to a deception, if she does not copy these original givings. She represents Experience, and this she does for the sake of the Power of Affection which attends the forms of Experience. For the most part these original givings are involved in sensible perceptions, Eye, Ear, Hand, and beating heart. How will you escape from them ? Eye, above all, the reigning faculty of communing with Earth and Sky. So as that he who is shut out from the world of sight, seems to us to be shut out from the world; but he who is shut out from the world of Sound : not equally so. Nevertheless, that which Poetry requires is not