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MORACE advises a poet to consider thoroughly the nature and force of his genius. Milton seems to have known perfectly well wherein his strength lay, and has therefore chosen a subject entirely conformable to those talents, of which he was master. As his genius was wonderfully turned to the sublime, his subject is the noblest that could have entered into the thoughts of man. Every thing that is truly great and astonishing has a place in it. The whole system of the intellectual world ; the Chaos and the Creation ; Heaven, Earth, and Hell, enter into the constitution of his poem. Having in the first and second books represented the infernal world with all its horrors, the thread of his fable naturally leads him into the opposite regions of bliss and glory. Adciison.
1. Hail bolý Light, &c.] Our author's address to Light, and lamentation of his own blindness, may perhaps be censured as an excrescence or digression not agreeable to the rules of epic poetry; but yet this is so charming a part of the poem, that the most critical reader, I imagine, cannot wish it were omitted. 3.
-since God is light, And in unapproached light Dweli] From i john i. 5.
The rising world of waters dark and deep,] For the world was only in a state of Auidity, when the light was created ; as Moses says, Gen. i. 2, 3.
Won from the void and formless infinite.] Void must not here be understood as empriness, for Chaos is described full of matter; but void, as destitute of any formed being, void as the carth was when first created Richardson.
17. With other notes than to tb Orphéan lyre, &c.] Orpreus made a hymn to Night, which is still extant; he also wrote of the creation out of Chaos. See Apoll. Rhodius i. 493.
25 So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veild.] Drop serene or gutta serena. It was formerly thought that that sort of blindness was an incurable extinction or quenching of sight by a transparent, watery, cold humour distilling upon the optic nerve, though making very little change in the eye to appearance, if any; it is now known to be most commonly an obstruction in the capillary vessels of that nerve, and curable in some
-the flowry brooks beneath,] Kedron and Siloah. He still was pleased to study the beauties of the ancient poets, but his highest delight was in the songs of Sion, in the holy Scriptures.
35. Blind Thamyris and blind Meonides.] Mæonides is Homer, so called from the name of his father Mæon : and no wonder our poet desires to equal him in renown, whose writings he so much studied, admired, and imitated. The character of Thamyris is not so weil known and esrablished: but Homer mentions him in the Iliad, ii. 595; and Eustathius ranks him with Orpheus and Musæus, the most celebrated poets and musicians. That lustful challenge of his to the nine Muses was probably nothing more than a fable invented to express his violent love and affection for poetry. Plato mentions his hymns with honour in the beginning of his eighth book of Laws, and towards the conclusion of the last book of his Republic feigns upon the principles of trans. migration, that the soul of Thamyris passed into a nightingale. He was a Thracian by birth, and invented the Doric mood or measure, according to Pliny, l. vii. c. 57. Plutarch in his treatise of Music says that he had the finest voice of any of his time, and wrote a poem of the war of the Titans with the Gods: and from Suidas we learn that he composed likewise a poem of the generation of the world, which being subjects near of kin to Milton's might probably occasion tne mention of him in this place.
36. And Tiresias and Phineus prophets old.] The one a
Theban, the other a king of Arcadia, famous blind prophets and poets of antiquity, for the word prophet sometimes comprehends both characters, as vates does in Latin.
37.-bat voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; &c.] The reader will observe the flow. ing of the numbers here with all the ease and harmony of the finest voluntary: and this harmony appears to greater advantage from the roughness of some of the preceding verses, which is an artifice frequently practised by Milton, to be careless of his numbers in some places, the better to set off the musical flow of those which immediately follow.
-ras'd,] Of the Latin radere; the Romans, who writ on waxed tables with iron stiles, when they struck out a word, did tabulam radere rase.it out. Light and the blessings of it were never drawn in more lively colours and finer strokes; nor was the sad loss of it and them ever so passionately and so patiently lamented. Homer bemoan. ing the same misfortune, falls short of this.
56. Now bad thalmighty Father, &c.] The survey of the whole creation, and of every thing that is transacted in it, is a prospect worthy of Omniscience; and as much above that, in which Virgil has drawn his Jupiter, as the Chris. tian idea of the Supreme Being is more rational and sublime than that of the Heathens. The particular objects, on which he is described to have cast his eye, are represented in the most beautiful and lively manner. Addison.
62. -on bis right
75. Firm land imbosom’d, without firmament, &c.] The universe appeared to Satan to be a solid globe, incompassed on all sides, but uncertain whether with water or air, but without firmament, without any sphere or fixed stars over it, as over the earth.
79. Thus to his only Son foreseeing spake.] If Milton's majesty forsakes him any where, it is in those parts of his poim, where the divine. Persons are introduced as speakers. We may observe, that the author proceeds with fear and trembling, whilst he describes the sentiments of the Al. mighty. He dares not give his imagination its full play,
þut chooses to confine himself to thoughts drawn from the tooks of the most orthodox divines, and to expressions in Scripture. The beauties, therefore, which we are to look for in these speeches, are not of a poetical nature, nor sa proper to fill the mind with sentiments of grandeur, as with thoughts of devotion. The passions, which they are designed to raise, are a divine love and religious fear. The particular beauty of the speeches in the third book consists in that shortness and perspicuity of stile, in which the poet has couched the greatest mysteries of Christianity, and drawn together in a regular scheme the whole dipensation of Providence with respect to Man. He has represented all the abstruse doctrines of predestination, free-will and grace, as also the great points of incarnation and redemption, in a clearer and stronger light than I ever met with in any other writer. Addison. 108
-(reason also is choice)] The author had expressed the same sentiment before in prose. “ Many there be that complain of divine Providence for suffering Adam to transgress. Foolish tongues ! When God gave him reason he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing: he had been else a mere artificial Adam, &c. Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, p. 149, and 150.
135. Thus while God stake, &c. Milton here shows, that he was no servile imitator of the Ancients. It is very weil known that Homer, and all who followed him, where they are representing the Deity speaking, describe a scene of terror and awiul consternation. The Heavens, Seas, and Earth freinble, &c. and this was consistent enough with their natural notions of the Supreme Being : but it would not have been so agreeable to the mild, merciful, and benevolent idea of the Deity upon the Christian scieme, and therefore Our author has very judiciously made the words of the Al. mighty diffusing delight to all around him.
140. Subs:a7:1.3"ly cxpress's;} According to Heb. i.
153 --bar be from trce far, &c.] An initation of Genesis, xviii. 25.
168. O 301, &c.] The Son is here addressed hy several titles and appellations borrowed from Scripture. iviatt. iii. 37: joia i. 18. Rev. xix. 13. 1. Cor. i. 24.
183. Scme I bave chosen of peculiar grace, &c.] Our author did not hold the doctrine of rigid predestination ; he was of the sentiments of the more moderate Calvinists, and thought that some indeed were elected of peculiar grace, the rest might be saved, complying with the terms and conditior.s of the Gospel.
215.-- and just ib' unjust to save?] That is which of ye will be so just as to save the unjust? Which of ye will be righteous enough to supply the detects of others righteousness? It is plainly an allus.on to 1 Pet. iii. 18.
217.-siood inute,] I need not point out the beauty of that circumstance, wherein the whole host of Angels are represented as standing mute, nor show how proper the occasion was to produce such a silence in Heaven.
Addison, This beautiful circumstance is raised upon Rev. viii. 1. where upon a certain occasion it is said, “ There was silence in Heaven.” And so, as there was silence in Hill, when it was proposed who should be sent on the dangerous expedition to destroy mankind, there is likewise silence in Heaven, when it is asked who would be willing to pay the price of their redempt.on. Satan alone was fit to undertake the one, as the Son of God the other. But though the silence is the same in both places, the difference of the expression is remarkable. In Hell it is said all sat mute, ii. 420, as there the infernal peers were sitting in council; but here it is said they stood mute, as the good Angels were standing round about the throne of God.
219.---intercessor none] Isaiah lix. 16.
249.------with corruption there to devell ;] According to Psal. xvi. 10; applied io our Saviour's resurrection by St. Peter, Acts ii. 20, 21, &c.
254. I through the tempie air in triumph high, &c.] Ac. cording to Psal. xviii. 18. and Col. ii. 15.
259. Deatb last,] According to 1 Cor. XV. 26. 206. His words here ended, but his reek aspekt
Silent yet spake, &c.] What a lovely picture has Milton given us of Christ considered as our Saviour, not in the least inferior to that grander one in the sixth book, where he de