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Concern'd not man, ( since be no further knew)] This is badly expressed. The meaning is, as Man was not to be let into the mystery of the redemption at this time, it did not concern him to know that the serpent was but the instrument of the Devil.
175 Because thou hast done this, &c.] As near as may be to the very words of Gen. iii. 14, 15. This adherence to Scripture he has preserved in the five preceding and five following verses quoted by him of this chapter, although thereby he destroyed the harmony of his verse. He thought without doubt that to mix any thing of his own would be a violation of decency, and a profanation, like that of Uzzah's putting forth his hand to the ark of God. 182.
oracle, then verify'd When Jesus Son of Mary, &c.] Here is a manifest indica. tion, That, when Milton wrote this passage, he thought Paradise was chiefly regained at our Saviour's resurrection. This would have been a copious and sublime subject for a second poem. The wonders then to be described would have erected even an ordinary poet's genius; and in episodes he might have introduced his conception, birth, miracles, and all the history of his administration, while on earth. And I much grieve, that instead of this he should choose for the argument of his Paradis Regain’d the fourth chapter of St. Luke, “the temptation in the wilderness ;" a dry, barren, and narrow ground, to build an epic poem on.
In that work he has amplified his scanty materials to a surprizing dignity; but yet, being cramped down by a wrong choice, without the expected applause.
Bentley. 191. And to the Woman thus bis sentence turn'd. &c.] According to Gen. iii. 16.
197. On Adam last thus judgment be pronounc'd. &c.] He is equally exact in reporting the sentence pronounced upon Adam, Gen. iii. 17, 18, 19. 216.
be clad Their nakedness with skins of beasts,] Gen. iii. 21.
sat Sin and Deatb,] We are now to consider the imaginary persons, or Sin and Dearb, 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 be
fore observed, are not agreeable to the nature of an heroic poem. This of Sin and Death is very exquisite in it's 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. Since the subject I am upon gives me an opportunity of speaking more at large of such shadowy and imaginary persons as may be introduced into heroic poems, I shall beg leave to explain myself in a matter which is curious in its kind, and of which none of the critics have treated. It is certain that Homer and Virgil are full of imaginary persons, who are very beautiful in poctry, when they are just shown, without being engaged in any series of action. Homer indeed represents Sleep as a person, and ascribes a short part to him in his Iliad; but we must consider that tho we now regard such a person as entirely shadowy and unsubstan
tial, the Heathens made statues of him, placed him in their * temples, and looked upon him as a real deity. When Homer
makes use of other such allegorical persons, it is only in short expressions, which convey an ordinary thought to the mind in the most pleasing manner, and may be rather looked upon as poetical phrases than allegorical descriptions. Instead of telling us that men naturally fly when they are terrified, he introduces the persons of Flight and Fear, who, he tells us, are inseparable companions. Instead of saying that the time was come when Apollo ought to have received his recompence, he tells us, that the Hours brought him his reward. Instead of describing the effects which Minerva's Ægis produced in battle, he tells us that the brims of it were encompassed by Terror, Rout, Discord, Fury, Pursuit, Massacre, and Death. In the same figure of speaking, he represents Victory as following Diomedes; Discord as the mother of funerals and mourning ; Venus as dressed by the Graces ; Bellona as wearing Terror and consternation like a garment. It is plain that these I have mentioned, in which persons of an imaginary nature are introduced, are such short allegories as are not designed to be taken
in the literal sense, but only to convey particular circumstances to the reader after an unusual and entertaining manner.
But when such persons are introduced as principal actors, and engaged in a series of adventures, they take too much upon them, and are by no means proper for an heroic poem, which ought to appear credible in its principal parts. I cannot forbear therefore thinking that Sin and Death are as improper agents in a work of this nature, as Strength and Necessity in one of the tragedies of Æschylus, who represented those two persons nailing down Prometheus to a rock, for which he has been justly censured by the greatest critics. I do not know any imaginary person made use of in a more sublime manner of thinking than that in one of the prophets, who describing God as descending from Heaven, and visiting the sins of mankind, adds that dreadful circumstance, “Before him went the Pestilence.”
It is certain this imaginary person might have been described in all her purple spots. The Fever might have marched before her, Pain might have stood at her right hand, Phrenzy on her left, and Death in her rear. She might have been introduced as gliding down from the tail of a comet, or darted upon the earth in a flash of lightning: she might have tainted the atmosphere with her breath; the very glaring of her eyes might have scattered infection. But I believe every reader will think, that in such sublime writings the mentioning of her, as it is done in Scripture, has something in it more just, as well as great, than all that the most fanciful poet could have bestowed upon her in the richness of his imagination.
- whatever draws me on, Or sympathy, or some connatural force,] The modern philosopher may perhaps take offence at this new exploded notion, but every friend to the Muses will, I doubt noi, pardon it for the sake of that fine strain of poetry, which it has given the poet an opportunity of introducing in the following description.
- for intercourse Or transmigration, as tbeir lot shall lead.]. Intercourse, passing frequently backward and forward ; transmigration, quitting Hell once for all to inhabit the new creation; they were uncertain which their lot should be.
-As when a flock of ravenous fowl, &c.] Of vultures particularly it is said by Pliny that they will fly three days before hand to places where there are future carcases. “ Triduo autem antea volare eos, ubi cadavera futura sunt." Lib. x. cap. vi.
280. His nostril wide into tbe murky air, ] “Et patulis captavit naribus auras." Virg. Georg. i. 376. “Murky air," black tainted air.
289. As when two Polar winds, &c.] Sin and Death Alying into different parts of Chaus, and driving all the matter they meet with there in shoals towards the mouth of hell, are compared to "two polar winds," north and south, “ blowing adverse upon the Cronian sea," the northern frozen sea, and « driving together mountains of "ice, that stop th' imagin'd way,” the north-east passage as it is called, which so many have attempted to discover, “ beyond Petsora eastward, the most north-eastern province of Muscovy, “to the rich Ca. thaian coast," Cathay or Catay, a country of Asia and the 'northern part of China.
296. As Delos floating once;] An island in the Archipelago said to have floated about in the sea, till it became the birth flace of Apollo. Callimachus in his hymn called Delos has given a lively description of this matter.
304. --from bence a passage broad. Smooth, easy, inoffensive down to Hell.] Virg. Æn. vi.
306. So Xerxes &c.] This simile is very exact and beautiful. As Sin and Death built a bridge over Chaus to subdue and enslave mankind : “So, if great things to small may be compar'd," Xerxes, the Persian monarch, to bring the free states of Greece under his yoke, "came from Susa," the residence of the Persian monarchs, called Memnonia by Herodotus, of Memnon, who built it and reigned there ; "and over Helle. spont bridging his way,” and building a bridge over Hellespont, the narrow sea by Constantinople, that divides Europe from Asia, to march his large army over it, “ Euro with Asia join'd, and scourg'a with many a.stroke th' indignant waves;" alluding particularly to Xerxes's madness in ordering the sea to be whipt for the loss of some of his ships; "indignant waves,' scorning and raging to be so confin'd.
312.by wondrous art
Pontifical.] By the strange art of raising bridges. Pontifex, the high priest of the Romans, had that name from pons a bridge, and facere to make : « Quia sublicius pons a Pontificio bus factus est primum, et restitutus sæpe, according to Varro."
Hume. « Art pontifical,” this is a very bad expression to signify the art of building bridges, and yet to suppose a pun would be worse, as if the Roman priesthood were as ready to make the way easy to Hell, as Sin and Death did.
Warburton. 322.-on tbe left band Hell] He places Hell on the left hand according to our Saviour's description of the day of Judgment,
Then shall he say unto them on the left hand,” Matt. XXV. 41. 345.
-with joy And tidings fraught, ] That is with joyful tidings. So Virgil, “ Munera lætitiamque Dei,". Æn. i. 636, for “munera læta. Squamis auroque,” Æn: vi'i. 436, for auries squamis.
348. Of this new wondrous pontifice,] The new bridge, the effect of is wondrous art pontifical," ver. 312.
368. Thou hast atchiev'd our liberty, confin'd
Within Hell gates till now, -] What, “ liberty confin'd in Hell?" a mere contradiction, says Dr. Bentley. Begging the Doctor's pardon, a most common Latin construction, the pos sessive pronoun for the primitive. See Eaton Grammar, page 88.
383. The Prince of darkness] Satan may well be so called, since his Angels are stiled in Scripture, “the rulers of darkness of this world,” Eph. vi. 12. 386.
--for I glory in the name, Antagonist, &c.] The name Satan signifies Antagonist or Adversary, as we observed before,
--prevail,] So it is in the first edition, in the second it is “ prevails."
409. No detriment need fear;] Here our author plainly alludes to the charge given by the Roman senate to the supreme 'magistrate in times of danger"providere nequid resp. detrimenti accipiat, Thyer.
409 go and be strong. ] Satan encourages Sin and Death in much the same words as Moses does Joshua. Deutą *xxi. 7, 8.
473. And planets planet-struck,] We say of a thing when it