Page images
PDF
EPUB

595

600

605

610

All her original brightness, nor appear'd
Less than archangel ruin'd, and the excess
Of glory obscured : as when the sun new-risen m
Looks through the horizontal misty air,
Shorn of his beams; or from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs : darken'd so, yet shone
Above them all the archangel : but his face
Deep scars of thunder had intrench’d, and care
Sat on his faded cheek; but under brows
Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride
Waiting revenge: cruel his eye, but cast
Signs of remorse and passion, to behold
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather,
(Far other once beheld in bliss) condemn'd
For ever now to have their lot in pain ;
Millions of spirits for his fault amerced n
Of heaven, and from eternal splendours flung
For his revolt; yet faithful how they stood,
Their glory wither'd. As when heaven's fire
Hath scathedo the forest oaks or mountain pines,

m As when the sun new-risen. Few poetical images can be finer than this, or more beautifully expressed. The precision with which the image is delineated is incomparable.

* Millions of spirits for his fault amerced. I must not here omit that beautiful circumstance of Satan's bursting into tears upon his survey of those innumerable spirits whom he had involved in the same guilt and ruin with himself.

There is no single passage in the whole poem worked up to a greater sublimity than that wherein his person is described, ver. 589, &c.

His sentiments are every way answerable to his character, and suitable to a created being of the most exalted and most depraved nature. Such is that in which he takes possession of the place of torments, ver. 250, &c., and afterwards, ver. 258, &c.

The catalogue of evil spirits has abundance of learning in it, and a very agreeable turn of poetry ; which rises in a great measure from its describing the places where they were worshipped, by those beautiful marks of rivers so frequent among the ancient poets. The author had doubtless in this place Homer's catalogue of ships, and Virgil's list of warriors, in his view. The characters of Moloch and Belial prepare the reader's mind for their respective speeches and behaviour in the second and sixth books. The account of Thammuz is finely romantic, and suitable to what we read among the ancients of the worship which was paid to that idol.

The description of Azazel's stature, and the infernal standard which he unfurls, as also of that ghastly light by which the fiends appear to one another in their places of torments, are wonderfully poetical. Such are the shout of the whole host of fallen angels when drawn up in battle array; the review which the leader makes of his infernal army; the flash of light which appeared upon the drawing of their swords ; the sudden production of the Pandæmonium ; the artificial illumination made in it. ADDISON.

As when heaven's fire

Hath scathed. This is a very beautiful and close simile : it represents the majestic stature and withered glory of the angels; and the last with great propriety, since their lustre was impaired by thunder, as well as that of the trees in the simile : and besides, the blasted heath gives us some idea of that singed, burning soil on which the angels were

615

620

623

630

With singed top their stately growth, though bare,
Stands on the blasted heath. He now prepared
To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half inclose him round
With all his peers : attention held them mute.
Thrice he assay'd, and thrice, in spite of scorn,
Tears, such as angels weep, burst forth P; at last
Words interwove with sighs found out their way.

O myriads of immortal spirits ! O powers
Matchless, but with the Almighty ; and that strife
Was not inglorious, though the event was dire,
As this place testifies, and this dire change
Hateful to utter : but what power of mind,
Foreseeing or presaging, from the depth
Of knowledge past or present, could have fear'd,
How such united force of gods, how such
As stood like these, could ever know repulse ?
For who can yet believe, though after loss,
That all these puissant legions, whose exile
Hath emptied heaven 9, shall fail to reascend
Self-raised, and repossess their native seat ?
For me, be witness all the host of heaven,
If counsels different or dangers shunn'd
By me have lost our hopes : but he, who reigns
Monarch in heaven, till then as one secure
Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute,
Consent, or custom; and his regal state
Put forth at full; but still his strength conceal'd,
Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall.
Henceforth his might we know, and know our own ;
So as not either to provoke, or dread
New war, provoked: our better part remains
To work in close design, by fraud or guile,
What force effected not; that he no less

635

640

645

standing. Homer and Virgil frequently use comparisons from trees, to express the stature or falling of a hero; but none of them are applied with such variety and propriety of circumstances as this of Milton. See “ An Essay upon Milton's Imitation of the Ancients,” p. 24.-NEWTON.

P Thrice he assay'd, and thrice, in spite of scorn,

Tears, such as angels weep, burst forth. He had Ovid in his thought, Met. xi. 419 :

Ter conata loqui, ter fletibus ora rigavit. BENTLEY. The turn of the words bears a near resemblance to Spenser, Faer. Qu. 1. xi. 41 :

Thrice he assaid it from his foote to draw,

And thrice in vain to draw it did assay.
As also to Sackville, "Induction, Mirror for Magistrates,” st. last :-

Thryse he began to tell his doleful tale,
And thryse the sighs did swallow

up

BOWLE. 9 Hath emptied heaven. It is conceived that a third part of the angels fell with Satan, according to Rev. xii. 4. -NEWTON.

his voyce.

650

655

660

665

At length from us may find, Who overcomes
By force, hath overcome but half his foe.
Space may produce new worlds, whereof so rife
There went a fame in heaven”, that he ere long
Intended to create, and therein plant
A generation, whom his choice regard
Should favour equal to the sons of heaven.
Thither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps
Our first eruption; thither or elsewhere :
For this infernal pit shall never hold
Celestial spirits in bondage, nor the abyss
Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts
Full counsel must mature: peace is despair’d;
For who can think submission ? war then, war,
Open or understood, must be resolved.

He spake; and, to confirm his words, outflew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Of mighty cherubim ; the sudden blaze
Far round illumined hells: highly they raged
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms
Clash'd on their sounding shields the din of war,
Hurling defiance toward the vault of heaven.

There stood a hill not far, whose grisly top
Belch'd fire and rolling smoke; the rest entire
Shone with a glossy scurf; undoubted sign
That in his womb was hid metallic ore,
The work of sulphur. Thither, wing'd with speed,
A numerous brigad hasten'd; as when bands
Of pioneers, with spade and pickaxe arm'd,
Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field,
Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them ont;
Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell
From heaven; for ev’n in heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent : admiring more
The riches of heaven's pavement, trodden gold,

670

675

680

r There went a fame in heaven. There is something wonderfully beautiful, and very apt to affect the reader's imagination, in this ancient prophecy or report in heaven concerning the creation of man. Nothing could show more the dignity of the species than this tradition, which ran of them before their existence : they are represented to have been the talk of heaven before they were created. Virgil, in compliment to the Roman commonwealth, makes the heroes of it appear in their state of pre-existence; but Milton does a far greater honour to mankind in general, as he gives us a glimpse of them even before they are in being.–ADDISON.

s The sudden blaze

Far round illumined hell. Another true Miltonic picture.

t Mammon led them on. This name is Syriac, and signifies riches. “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon," Matth. vi. 24. Mammon is by some supposed to be the God of riches, and is accordingly personified by Milton, and had been before by Spenser ; whose description of Mammon and his cave, Milton seems to have had his eye upon in several places.—Newton.

635

690

695

700

705

Than aught divine or holy else enjoy'd
In vision beatific: by him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught,
Ransack'd the centre, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother earth
For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew
Open'd into the hill a spacious wound,
And digg'd out ribs of gold. Let none admire
That riches grow in hell; that soil may

best
Deserve the precious bane. And here let those
Who boast in mortal things, and wondering tell
Of Babel, and the works of Memphian kings,
Learn how their greatest monuments of fame,
And strength, and art, are easily outdone
By spirits reprobate ; and in an hour
What in an age they with incessant toil
And hands innumerable scarce perform u.
Nigh on the plain, in many cells prepared,
That underneath had veins of liquid fire
Sluiced from the lake, a second multitude
With wondrous art founded the massy ore,
Severing each kind, and scumm’d the bullion dross :
A third as soon had form’d within the ground
A various mould, and from the boiling cells
By strange conveyance fill'd each hollow nook :
As in an organ V, from one blast of wind,
To many a row of pipes the sound-board breathes.
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
Rose, like an exhalation w, with the sound
Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet ;
Built like a temple, where pilasters round
Were set, and Doric pillars overlaid
With golden architrave: nor did there want
Cornice or frieze with bossy sculptures graven ;
The roof was fretted gold. Not Babylon,
Nor great Alcairo such magnificence
Equal'd in all their glories, to inshrine
Belus or Serapis, their gods; or seat
Their kings, when Ægypt with Assyria strove
In wealth and luxury. The ascending pile

u And hands innumerable scarce perform. There were 360,000 men employed for near twenty years upon one of the Pyramids, according to Diodorus Siculus, lib. i., and Pliny, lib. xxxvi. 12.-NEWTON.

v As in an organ. This simile is as exact as it is new : and we may observe, that Milton frequently fetches his images from music, more than any other English poet; as he was very fond of it, and was himself a performer upon the organ and other instruments.—Newton.

w Rose, like an exhalation. Peck supposes that this hint is taken from some of the moving scenes and machines invented by Inigo Jones, for Charles the First's masques.

710

715

720 725

730

735

740

Stood fix'd her stately highth : and straight the doors,
Opening their brazen folds, discover wide
Within her ample spaces o'er the smooth
And level pavement: from the arched roof,
Pendent by subtle magic, many a row
Of starry lamps and blazing cressets, fed
With naphtha and asphaltus, yielded light
As from a sky. The hasty multitude
Admiring enter'd, and the work some praise,
And some the architect: his hand was known
In heaven by many a tower'd structure high,
Where sceptred angels held their residence,
And sat as princes; whom the supreme King
Exalted to such power, and gave to rule,
Each in his hierarchy, the orders bright.
Nor was his name unheard or unadored
In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land
Men called him Mulciber; and how he fell
From heaven * they fabled, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer o'er the crystal battlements : from morn
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
A summer's day; and with the setting sun
Dropp'd from the zenith like a falling star,
On Lemnos, the Ægean isle ; thus they relate,
Erring ; for he with this rebellious rout
Fell long before ; nor aught avail'd him now
To have built in heaven high towers; nor did he 'scape
By all his engines ; but was headlong sent
With his industrious crew to build in hell.

Meanwhile the winged heralds, by command
Of sovran power, with awful ceremony
And trumpet's sound, throughout the host proclaim
A solemn council forthwith to be held
At Pandæmonium, the high capital
Of Satan and his peers: their summons callid
From every band and squared regiment
By place or choice the worthiest; they anon
With hundreds and with thousands trooping came
Attended : all access was throng'd; the gates
And porches wide, but chief the spacious hall,
(Though like a cover'd field, where champions bold
Wont ride in arm’d, and at the soldan's chair
Defied the best of Panim chivalry

745

750

755

760

765

1 And how he fell

From heaven, &c. Alluding to Homer, Il. i. 590, &c. It is worth observing how Milton lengthens out the time of Vulcan's fall. He not only says with Homer, that it was all day long; but we are led through the parts of the day, from morn to noon, from noon to evening, and this a summer's day. See also Odyss. vii. 288.-—-Newton.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »