Imágenes de páginas
PDF

REMARKS ON BOOK III.

I Caxxor admit this book to be inferior in poetical merit to those which precede it: the argumentative parts give a pleasing variety. The unfavourable opinion bas arisen from a narrow view of the nature of poetry : from the theory of those who think that it ought to be confined to description and imagery. On the contrary, the highest poetry consists more of spirit than of matter. Matter is only good so far as it is imbued with spirit, or causes spiritual exaltation. Among the innumerable grand descriptions in Milton, I do not believe there is one which stands unconnected with complex intellectual considerations, and of which those considerations do not form a leading part of the attraction. The learned allusions may be too deep for the common reader; and so far the poet is above the reach of the multitude : but even then they create a certain vague stir in unprepared minds:names indistinctly heard ; visions dimly seen; constant recognitions of Scriptural passages, and sacred names, awfully impressed on the memory from childhood, awaken the sensitive understanding with sacred and mysterious movements,

We do not read Milton in the same light mood as we read any other poet: his is the imagination of a sublime instructor: we give our faith through duty, as well as will. If our fancy flags, we strain it, that we may apprehend: we know that there is something which our conception ought to reach. There is not an idle word in any of the delineations which the bard exhibits; nor is any picture merely addressed to the senses. Every thing therefore is invention ;- arising from novelty or complexity of combination: nothing is a mere reflection from the mirror of the fancy. Milton early broke loose from the narrow bounds of observation; and

ckless regions of air, and worlds of spirits,-the good and the bad. There his pregnant imagination imbodied new states of existence; and out of Chaos drew form, and life, and all that is grand, and beautiful, and godlike: and yet he so mingled them up with materials from the globe in which we are placed, that it is an unpardonable error to say that “Paradise Lost" contains little applicable to human interests. The human learning and wisdom contained in every page are inexhaustible.

On this account no other poem requires so many explanatory notes, drawn from all the most extensive stores of erudition.

of classical literature, and of the Italian poets, Milton was a perfect master: he often replenished his images and forms of expression from Homer and Virgil, and yet never was a servile borrower. There is an added pleasure to what in itself is beautiful, from the happiness of his adaptations.

I do not doubt that what he wrote was from a coniunction of genius. learning, art, and labour; but the grand source of all his poetical conceptions and language was the Scriptures. Sir EGERTON BRYDGES.

BOOK III.

THE ARGUMENT.

lop sitting on his throne sees Satan flying towards this world, then

reated; shows him to the Son, who sat at his right hand: foretells the success of Satan in perverting mankind: clears his own justice and wisdom from all inputation, having created man free, and able enough to have withstood his tempter; yet declares his purpose of grace towards bim, in regard he fell not of his own malice, as did Satan, but by him seduced. The Son of God renders praises to his Father for the manifestation of his gracious purpose towards man ; but God again declares, that grace cannot be extended towards mau without the satisfaction of divine justice; man hath offended the majesty of God by aspiring to Godhead, and therefore with all his progeny devoted to death must die, unless some one can be found sufficient to answer for his offence, and undergo his punishment. The Son of God freely offers himself a ransom for man; the Fatber accepts him, ordains his incarnation, pronounces his exaltation above all names in heaven and earth; commands all the angels to adore him; they obey, and, hymning to their harps in full quire, celebrate the Father and the Son. Meanwhile, Satan alights upon the bare convex of this world's outermost orb; where wandering he first finds a place, since called the Limbo of Vanity; what persons and things fly up thither; thence comes to the gate of heaven, described ascending by stairs, and the waters above the firmament that flow about it; his passage thence to the orb of the sun; he finds there Uriel, the regent of that orb; but first changes himself into the shape of a meaner angel; and, pretending a zealous desire to behold the new creation, and man whom God had placed here, inquires of him the place of his habitation, and is directed; alights first on Mount Niphates.

Hail, holy Light! offspring of heaven first-born,
Or of the Eternal co-eternal beam
May I express thee unblamed? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee,
Bright efluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear'st thou rather pure ethereal stream,
Whose fountain who shall tell? before the sun,
Before the heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I revisit now with bolder wing,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

1. Tail, holy Light! This celebrated thou rather hear this address-dost thou complaint, with which Milton opens the delight rather to be called pure ethereal tbird book, deserves all the praises which stream! have been given it.-ADDISON.

8. Whose fountain. Job xxxvii. 10. 7. Or hear'st thou rather, &c. Or dost

Escaped the Stygian pool, though long detain'd
In that obscure sojourn; while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
With other notes than to the Orphéan lyre,
I sung of Chaos and eternal Night;
Taught by the heavenly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to reascend,
Though hard and rare: thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital lamp; but thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil'd. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Clear spring, or shady grove, or sunny hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallow'd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit; nor sometimes forget
Those other two equall'd with me in fate,
So were I equall'd with them in renown,
Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides,
And Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old:
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine:
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of nature's works, to me expunged and rased,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou, celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate; there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

Now had the Almighty Father from above,

16. Through the utter darkness of Hell, | served for the hand of Milton: and for and the middle darkness of the great him, and him only, to find the bays of gulf between Hell and Heaven.

Mount Olivet equally verdant with those 30. The flowery brooks beneath. Head of Parnassus." ley (not the American dirine (?) who has 35. Blind Thamyris. Thamyris was a done so much by his writing to cultivate Thracian, and invented the Dorie inoo the war-spirit, but) the elegant and taste or measure: Mannides is Homer, so ful English poet and critic, beautifully called from his father Moon. Tiresias remarks, in a criticism on Quarles's poe- and Phineus, the one a Theban, the other try, that “to mix the waters of Jordan a king of Arcadia, (famous blind baris and Helicon in the same cup, was re- of antiquity.)

From the pure empyrean where he sits
High throned above all highth, bent down his eye,
His own works and their works at once to view.
About him all the sanctities of heaven
Stood thick as stars, and from his sight received
Beatitude past utterance; on his right
The radiant image of his glory sat,
His only Son: on earth he first beheld
Our two first parents, yet the only two
Of mankind, in the happy garden placed,
Reaping immortal fruits of joy and love,
Uninterrupted joy, unrivall’d love,
In blissful solitude: he then survey'd
Hell and the gulf between, and Satan there
Coasting the wall of heaven on this side night
In the dun air sublime, and ready now
To stoop with wearied wings, and willing feet,
On the bare outside of this world, that seem'd
Firm land imbosom’d, without firmament,
Uncertain which, in ocean or in air.
Him God beholding from his prospect high,
Wherein past, present, future, he beholds,
Thus to his only Son foreseeing spake:-

Only begotten Son, seest thou what rage
Transports our adversary? whom no bounds
Prescribed, no bars of hell, nor all the chains
Heap'd on him there, nor yet the main abyss
Wide interrupt, can hold: so bent he seems
On desperate revenge, that shall redound
Upon his own rebellious head. And now,
Through all restraint broke loose, he wings his way
Not far off heaven, in the precincts of light,
Directly towards the new-created world,
And man there placed; with purpose to assay
If him by force he can destroy, or, worse,
By some false guile pervert; and shall pervert:
For man will hearken to his glozing lies,
And easily transgress the sole command,
Sole pledge of his obedience: so will fall,
He and his faithless progeny. Whose fault?
Whose but his own?' Ingrate, he had of me
All he could have: I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all the ethereal powers
And spirits, both them who stood and them who fail'd:
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.
Not free, what proof could they have given sincere
Of true allegiance, constant faith, or love?
Where only, what they needs must do, appear'd, 105
Not what they would: what praise could they receive?

98. Just and right. Eccles. vii. 29.

110

115

120

125

What pleasure I from such obedience paid?
When will and reason, (reason also is choice)
Useless and vain, of freedom both despoil'd,
Made passive both, had served necessity,
Not me. They therefore, as to right belong'd,
So were created, nor can justly accuse
Their Maker, or their making, or their fate;
As if predestination over-ruled
Their will, disposed by absolute decree
Or high foreknowledge: they themselves decreed
Their own revolt, not I: if I foreknew,
Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault,
Which had no less proved certain unforeknown.
So without least impulse or shadow of fate,
Or aught by me immutably foreseen,
They trespass, authours to themselves in all,
Both what they judge and what they choose; for so
I form'd them free, and free they must remain,
Till they enthrall themselves; I else must change
Their nature, and revoke the high decree,
Unchangeable, eternal, which ordain'd
Their freedom: they themselves ordain'd their fall.
The first sort by their own suggestion fell,
Self-tempted, self-depraved: man falls deceived
By the other first: man therefore shall find grace,
The other none: in mercy and justice both,
Through heaven and earth, so shall my glory excel;
But mercy first and last shall brightest shine.

Thus while God spake, ambrosial fragrance fill'd
All heaven, and in the blessed spirits elect
Sense of new joy ineffable diffused.
Beyond compare the Son of God was seen
Most glorious; in him all his Father shone
Substantially express'd; and in his face
Divine compassion visibly appear'd,
Love without end, and without measure grace;
Which uttering, thus he to his Father spake:-

O Father, gracious was that word which closed
Thy sovran sentence, that man should find grace;
For which both heaven and earth shall high extol
Thy praises, with the innumerable sound
of hymns and sacred songs, wherewith thy throne
Encompass'd shall resound thee ever bless'd.
For should man finally be lost? should man,
Thy creature late so loved, thy youngest son,
Fall circumvented thus by fraud, though join'd
With his own folly? that be from thee far,

130

135

140

145

150

108. Reason also is choice. “Many there son is but choosing: he had been else a be that complain of Divine Providence, mere artificial Adam!"-MILTON'S Areopa. for suffering Adam to transgrers. Fool- gilica. Ish tongues! When God gave him reason, 140. Substantially erpress'd. Heb. i. 3 he gave him freedom to choose; for rea 153. From thee far. Gen. xviii. 25.

« AnteriorContinuar »