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BOOK XI.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.

ADDISON observes, that this eleventh book of Paradise Lost' is not generally reckoned among the most shining books of the poem. How is it possible that every book where the splendour is so excessive, should blaze equally ? Probably there is less invention in this book; but the descriptive parts are not less powerful, nor less important, instructive, and awful in their topics. The Deluge was a trial of strength with the Ancients, since it forms so important a feature in Ovid's poems. So far as there is invention in this book, it lies in the selection of circumstances, in picturesque epithets, and in moral, political, and religious reflections : its intellectual compass is vast and stupendous. Such a view opened upon Adam of the fate of his posterity, could only be conceived and comprehended by the splendid force of the poetical eye of Milton. Wonderful as is the liveliness and truth of shape and tint of each part, still the greater wonder is in the united brilliance of the whole.

It is truly said, that Milton everywhere follows the great ancients, and improves upon them: he despises all the petty gildings and artifices, which are so much boasted in modern poetry. His object is, to convey images and ideas—not words; and the plainer the words, so that they do not disgrace the thought, the better! He would never sacrifice the force of the language to the metre. The mark of this is, that when he had occasion to use the terms of the Scripture, he would not derange them for the sake of the rhythm.

On that which pleases us individually, without consulting the feelings and opinions of others, we cannot rely: but when what delights us has made the same impression on gifted persons of all ages, and under all different circumstances, then we may be sure that its charms are intrinsic, and such as it is important to bring out, and render more impressive. Thus Milton is full of imagery, which makes the spell of Homer and Virgil.

There are those who think that poetry is not of the essence of intellectual cultivation: they think so because they have no idea of the nature of true poetry; without which there can be no due conception of the wonders and charms of the creation.

Smooth verses are indeed but childish amusements to the ear, which would be better fed by common and unpolished sounds conveying useful knowledge through the sense to the mind.

ARGUMENT. THE Son of God presents to his Father the prayers of our first parents now repenting, and

intercedes for them: God accepts them, but declares they must no longer abide in Paradise; sends Michael with a band of cherubim to dispossess them; but first to reveal to Adam future things : Michael's coming down. Adam shows to Eve certain ominous signs; he discerns Michael's approach; goes out to meet him; the angel denounces their departure; Eve's lamentation. Adam pleads, but submits: the angel leads him up to a high hill; sets before him in vision what shall happen till the flood.

Thus they, in lowliest plight, repentant stood,
Praying; for from the mercy-seat above
Prevenient grace descending had removed
The stony from their hearts, and made new flesh

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Regenerate grow instead; that sighs now breathed a
Unutterable; which the Spirit of prayer
Inspired, and wing'd for heaven with speedier flight
Than loudest oratory : yet their port!
Not of mean suitors; nor important less
Seem'd their petition, than when the ancient pair
In fables old, less ancient yet than these,
Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha, to restore
The race of mankind drown'd, before the shrine
Of Themis stood devout. To heaven their prayers
Flew up, nor miss'd the way, by envious winds
Blown vagabond or frustrate : in they pass'd
Dimensionless through heavenly doors; then clad
With incense C, where the golden altar fumed,
By their great Intercessour, came in sight
Before the Father's throne : them the glad Son
Presenting, thus to intercede began :

See, Father, what first-fruits on earth are sprung
From thy implanted grace in man; these sighs
And
prayers,

which in this golden censer, mix’d
With incense, I thy priest before thee bring;
Fruits of more pleasing savour, from thy seed
Sown with contrition in his heart, than those
Which, his own hand manuring, all the trees
Of Paradise could have produced, ere fallen
From innocence. Now therefore bend thine ear
To supplication ; hear his sighs, though mute :
Unskilful with what words to pray, let me
Interpret for him ; me, his Advocate
And propitiation ; all his works on me,
Good or not good, ingraft; my merit those
Shall perfect, and for these my death shall pay.
Accept me; and, in me, from these receive
The smell of peace toward mankind : let him live
Before thee reconciled, at least his days

Sighs now breathed. See Rom. viii. 26 :-"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities ; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”—HUME.

6 Yet their port. The poet could not have thought of a more apt similitude to illustrate his subject, (than that of Deucalion and Pyrrha,) and he has plainly fetched it from Ovid, Met. i. 318, &c. Milton has been often censured for his frequent allusions to the heathen mythology, and for mixing fables with sacred truths : but it may be observed in favour of him, that what he borrows from the heathen mythology, he commonly applies only by way of similitude; and a similitude from thence may illustrate his subject as well as from any thing else.—NEWTON.

Ovid, who was a favourite with Milton, might be so, among other reasons, from so many of his subjects being in a certain degree founded on Scripture, or at least having a palpable relation thereto; as the creation, deluge, foreshowing of the destruction of the world by fire, &c.-DUNSTER.

See Psalm cxli. 2 :-“Let my prayer be set before thee as incense.”—TODD.

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c With incense.

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Number'd, though sad ; till death, his doom, (which I
To mitigate thus plead, not to reverse)
To better life shall yield him ; where with me
All
my
redeem'd

may

dwell in joy and bliss ; Made one with me, as I with thee am one.

To whom the Father, without cloud, serene :
All thy request for man, accepted Son,
Obtain; all thy request was my decree :
But, longer in that Paradise to dwell,
The law I gave to nature him forbids :
Those pure immortal elements, that know
No gross, no unharmonious mixture foul,
Eject him, tainted now; and purge him off,
As a distemper gross, to air as gross,
And mortal food; as may dispose him best
For dissolution wrought by sin, that first
Distemper'd all things, and of incorrupt
Corrupted. I, at first, with two fair gifts
Created him endow'd ; with happiness,
And immortality: that fondly lost,
This other served but to eternize woe;
Till I provided death : so death becomes
His final remedy; and, after life,
Tried in sharp tribulation, and refined
By faith and faithful works, to second life,
Waked in the renovation of the just,
Resigns him

up

with heaven and earth renew'd.
But let us call to synod all the bless'd,
Through heaven's wide bounds: from them I will not hide
My judgments; how with mankind I proceed,
As how with peccant angels late they saw;
And in their state, though firm, stood more confirm’d.

He ended, and the Son gave signal high
To the bright minister that watch'd : he blew
His trumpet, heard in Oreb since perhaps
When God descended, and perhaps once more,
To sound at general doom. The angelic blast
Fill'd all the regions : from their blissful bowers
Of amaranthine shade, fountain or spring,
By the waters of life, where'er they sat
In fellowships of joy, the sons of light
Hasted, resorting to the summons high ;
And took their seats : till from his throne supreme
The Almighty thus pronounced his sovran will:

O sonsa, like one of us man is become,
To know both good and evil, since his taste
Of that defended fruit; but let him boast

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This whole speech is founded upon Gen. iii. 22—24.–Newton.

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His knowledge of good lost, and evil got ;
Happier, had it sufficed him to have known
Good by itself, and evil not at all.
He sorrows now, repents, and prays contrite,
My motions in him; longer than they move,
His heart I know how variable and vain,
Self-left. Lest therefore his now bolder hand
Reach also of the tree of life, and eat,
And live for ever, dream at least to live
For ever, to remove him I decree,
And send him from the garden forth to till
The ground whence he was taken, fitter soil.
Michael, this my behest have thou in charge:
Take to thee from among the cherubim
Thy choice of flaming warriours, lest the fiend,
Or in behalf of man, or to invade
Vacant possession, some new trouble raise :
Haste thee, and from the Paradise of God
Without remorse drive out the sinful pair ;
From hallow'd ground the unholy; and denounce
To them, and to their progeny, from thence
Perpetual banishment. Yet, lest they faint
At the sad sentence rigorously urged,
(For I behold them soften'd, and with tears
Bewailing their excess) all terrour hide.
If patiently thy bidding they obey,
Dismiss them not disconsolate; reveal
To Adam what shall come in future days,
As I shall thee enlighten; intermix
My covenant in the woman's seed renew'd;
So send them forth, though sorrowing, yet in peace :
And on the east side of the garden place,
Where entrance up from Eden easiest climbs,
Cherubic watch; and of a sword the flame
Wide-waving ; all approach far off to fright,
And guard all passage to the tree of life;
Lest Paradise a receptacle prove
To spirits foul, and all my trees their prey ;
With whose stolen fruit man once more to delude.

He ceased ; and the archangelic power prepared
For swift descent; with him the cohort bright
Of watchful cherubim : four faces each e
Had, like a double Janus; all their shape
Spangled with eyes more numerous than those
Of Argus, and more wakeful than to drowse,

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Four faces each, Ezekiel says that " every one had four faces,” x. 14; see also x. 12 :-"And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, were full of eyes round about."-NEWTON.

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