Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

By spiritual, to themselves appropriating
The Spirit of God, promised alike, and given
To all believers; and, from that pretence,
Spiritual laws by carnal power shall force
On every conscience; laws which none shall find a
Left them inroll'd, or what the Spirit within
Shall on the heart engrave. What will they then
But force the Spirit of grace itself, and bind
His consort Liberty? what but unbuild
His living temples, built by faith to stand,
Their own faith, not another's? for on earth
Who against faith and conscience can be heard
Infallible? yet many will presume:
Whence heavy persecution shall arise
On all who in the worship persevere
Of spirit and truth; the rest, far greater part,
Will deem in outward rites and specious forms
Religion satisfied; truth shall retire

Bestuck with slanderous darts, and works of faith
Rarely be found: so shall the world go on,
To good malignant, to bad men benign;
Under her own weight groaning; till the day
Appear of respiration to the just,
And vengeance to the wicked, at return
Of him so lately promised to thy aid,

The woman's seed; obscurely then foretold,
Now amplier known thy Saviour and thy Lord:
Last, in the clouds," from heaven to be reveal'd
In glory of the Father, to dissolve

Satan with his perverted world; then raise
From the conflagrant mass purged and refined,
New heavens, new earth, ages of endless date,

520

b His consort liberty.

"For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," 2 Cor. iii. 17.-NEWTON.

525

530

535

540

545

but by bolstering and supporting their inward rottenness by a carnal and outward strength."-TODD.

a Laws which none shall find.

Laws, as Hume and Dr. Newton observe, neither agreeable to revealed or natural religion; neither to be found in Holy Scripture, or written on their hearts by the Spirit! of God; laws contrary to his promise, who has said, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts," Jer. xxxi. 33.-TODD.

e His living temples.

Christians are called "the temples of God," 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17; and vi. 19.-NEWTON. See also Milton's Prose Works, vol. i. p. 231, ed. 1698 :-"As if the touch of a lay Christian, who is nevertheless God's living temple, could profane dead Judaisms."TODD.

d Last, in the clouds.

"Coming in the clouds of Heaven," Matt. xxvi. 64.-"The Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father," Matt. xvi. 27.-GILLIES.

[ocr errors]

e New heavens, new earth.

The very words of St. Peter, 2 Pet. iii. 13:-"Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.' This notion of the heavens and earth being renewed after the conflagration, and made the

""

Founded in righteousness, and peace, and love;
To bring forth fruits, joy and eternal bliss.

He ended; and thus Adam last replied:
How soon hath thy prediction, seer blest,
Measured this transient world, the race of time,
Till time stand fix'd! Beyond is all abyss,
Eternity, whose end no eye can reach.
Greatly instructed I shall hence depart,
Greatly in peace of thought, and have my fill
Of knowledge, what this vessel can contain;
Beyond which was my folly to aspire.
Henceforth I learn that to obey is best,
And love with fear the only God; to walk
As in his presence, ever to observe
His providence, and on him sole depend,
Merciful over all his works, with good
Still overcoming evil, and by small
Accomplishing great things, by things deem'd weak
Subverting worldly strong, and worldly wise

By simply meek: that suffering for truth's sake
Is fortitude to highest victory;
And, to the faithful, death the gate of life;
Taught this by his example, whom I now
Acknowledge my Redeemer ever blest.

To whom thus also the angel last replied:
This having learn'd, thou hast attain'd the sum
Of wisdom: hope no higher, though all the stars
Thou knew'st by name, and all the ethereal powers.
All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works,
Or works of God in heaven, air, earth, or sea,
And all the riches of this world enjoy'dst,

550

555

560

565

570

575

580

habitation of angels and just men made perfect, was very pleasing to Milton, as it was to Dr. Burnet; and must be to every one of a fine and exalted imagination: and Milton has enlarged upon it in several parts of his works, and particularly in this poem, b. iii. 333, &c.; b. x. 638; b. xi. 65, 900: b. xii. 462.-NEWTON.

Compare with this poetic passage Milton's animated description in prose of Christ's "universal and mild monarchy through heaven and earth; where they undoubtedly, that, by their labours, counsels, and prayers, have been earnest for the common good of religion and their country, shall receive, above the inferior orders of the blessed, the regal addition of principalities, legions, and thrones, into their glorious titles; and in supereminence of beatific vision progressing the dateless and irrevoluble circle of eternity, shall clasp inseparable hands with joy and bliss in over-measure for ever." See the end of his Reformation in England.'-TODD.

Subverting worldly strong.

"God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." 1 Cor. i. 27. And so in the rest there is the sense of Scripture if not the very words: as, to obey is best:-"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice," 1 Sam. xv. 22. And, on him sole depend:-"Casting your care upon him, for he careth for you," 1 Pet. v. 7. And merciful over all his works:-"His mercies are over all his works," Psalm cxlv. 9.— NEWTON.

Though all the stars.

The turn of the sentence resembles, as Mr. Stillingfleet observes, when St. Paul says, 1 Cor. xiii. 2:-" And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowlege, and have not charity, I am nothing."-TODD.

[ocr errors]

And all the rule, one empire: only add
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable; add faith,
Add virtue, patience, temperance; add love,
By name to come call'd charity, the soul
Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loth
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A paradise within thee, happier far.
Let us descend now therefore from this top
Of speculation;" for the hour precise
Exacts our parting hence; and, see! the guards,
By me encamp'd on yonder hill, expect
Their motion; at whose front a flaming sword,
In signal of remove, waves fiercely round.
We may no longer stay: go, waken Eve;
Her also I with gentle dreams have calm'd,
Portending good, and all her spirits composed
To meek submission: thou, at season fit,
Let her with thee partake what thou hast heard;
Chiefly, what may concern her faith to know,
The great deliverance by her seed to come
(For by the woman's seed) on all mankind;
That ye may live, which will be many days,
Both in one faith unanimous, though sad,
With cause, for evils past; yet much more cheer'd
With meditation on the happy end.

He ended, and they both descend the hill:
Descended, Adam to the bower, where Eve
Lay sleeping, ran before; but found her waked;
And thus with words not sad she him received:

Whence thou return'st, and whither went'st, I know;
For God is also in sleep; and dreams advise,
Which he hath sent propitious, some great good
Presaging, since with sorrow and heart's distress
Wearied I fell asleep: but now lead on;
In me is no delay; with thee to go,
Is to stay here; without thee here to stay,
Is to go hence unwilling: thou to me
Art all things under heaven, all places thou,
Who for my wilful crime art banish'd hence.
This farther consolation yet secure

h From this top

585

590

595

600

605

610

615

620

Of speculation.

From this hill of prophecy and prediction. Speculation, a watching on a tower or high place; thence a discovery, and therefore applied to the prophets in the sacred page, who are called "seers" and "watchmen," speculators, of specula, Latin, a "watchtower." See Ezekiel, iii. 17; and also chap. xxxiii. 3-7.-HUME.

i For God is also in sleep.

See Numb. xii. 6:-"If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and I will speak unto him in a dream." And thus Homer, Il. i. 63 :-Καὶ γάρ τ' ὄναρ ἐκ Διός ἐστιν. ̓And the application is very elegant in this place, as Adam's was a vision, and Eve's a dream; and God was in the one as well as in the other.-NEWTON.

[ocr errors]

I carry hence; though all by me is lost,
Such favour I unworthy am vouchsafed,
By me the promised Seed shall all restore.

So spake our mother Eve, and Adam heard
Well pleased, but answer'd not: for now, too nigh
The archangel stood; and from the other hill
To their fix'd station, all in bright array
The cherubim descended; on the ground
Gliding meteorous, as evening mist
Risen from a river o'er the marish glides,
And gathers ground fast at the labourer's heel
Homeward returning. High in front advanced,
The brandish'd sword of God before them blazed,
Fierce as a comet; which, with torrid heat,
And vapour as the Libyan air adust,
Began to parch that temperate clime: whereat
In either hand the hastening angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain; then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces throng'd, and fiery arms.*
Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon:
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

630

635

640

645

Waved over by that flaming brand.

Of brand for sword take the following explanation from Hickes:-"In the second part of the Edda Islandica,' among other appellations, a 'sword' is denominated 'brand;" and 'glad,' or 'glod,' that is, 'titio, torris, pruna ignita;' and the hall of Odin is said to be illuminated by drawn swords only. A writer of no less learning than penetration, N. Salanus Westmannus, in his dissertation, entitled, Gladius Scythicus,' p. 6, 7, observes, that the ancients formed their swords in imitation of a flaming fire; and thus from 'brand,' a 'sword,' came our English phrase, to 'brandish a sword,' 'gladium strictum vibrando coruscare facere.'"-T. WARTON.

The poetical imagery of this passage is splendid, sublime, and at the same time pathetic; and of a majestic conciseness.

[ocr errors]

The eleventh and twelfth books are built upon the single circumstance of the removal of our first parents from Paradise; but though this is not in itself so great a subject as that in most of the foregoing books, it is extended and diversified with so many surprising incidents and pleasing episodes, that these last two books can by no means be looked upon as unequal parts of this divine poem.

Milton, after having represented in vision the history of mankind to the first great period of nature, despatches the remaining part of it in narration.

In some places the author has been so attentive to his divinity that he has neglected his poetry: the narrative, however, rises very happily on several occasions, where the subject is capable of poetical ornaments; as particularly in the confusion which he | describes among the builders of Babel, and in his short sketch of the plagues of Egypt. -The storm of hail and fire, and the darkness that overspread the land for three days, are described with great strength: the beautiful passage which follows is raised upon noble hints in Scripture:

[ocr errors]

Thus with ten wounds

The river-dragon tamed, at length submits
To let his sojourners depart, &c.

The river-dragon is an allusion to the crocodile, which inhabits the Nile, from whence Egypt derives her plenty. This allusion is taken from that sublime passage in Ezekiel: Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great dragon that lyeth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is my own, and I have made it for myself." Milton has given us another very noble and poetical image in the same description, which is copied almost word for word out of the history of Moses :

All night he will pursue, but his approach
Darkness defends between, till morning watch.

As the principal design of this episode was to give Adam an idea of the Holy Person who was to reinstate human nature in that happiness and perfection from which it had fallen, the poet confines himself to the line of Abraham, from whence the Messiah was to descend. The angel is described as seeing the patriarch actually travelling towards the Land of Promise, which gives a particular liveliness to this part of the description, from ver. 128 to ver. 140.

The poet has very finely represented the joy and gladness of heart which rises in Adam upon his discovery of the Messiah. As he sees his day at a distance through types and shadows, he rejoices in it; but when he finds the redemption of man completed and Paradise again renewed, he breaks forth in rapture and transport:

O goodness infinite, goodness immense !
That all this good of evil shall produce, &c.

Milton's poem ends very nobly. The last speeches of Adam and the archangel are full of moral and instructive sentiments. The sleep that fell upon Eve, and the effects it had in quieting the disorders of her mind, produce the same kind of consolation in the reader; who cannot peruse the last beautiful speech which is ascribed to the mother of mankind, without a secret pleasure and satisfaction. The following lines, which conclude the poem, rise in a most glorious blaze of poetical images,and expressions.— ADDISON.

It is difficult to add anything to Addison's Essays on the Paradise Lost;' but still I must extract a few additional encomiums from other critics, and first from Beattie:

In the concluding passage of the poem there is brought together, with uncommon strength of fancy, and rapidity of narrative, a number of circumstances wonderfully adapted to the purpose of filling the mind with ideas of terrific grandeur:-the descent of the cherubim; the flaming sword; the archangel leading in haste our first parents down from the heights of Paradise, and then disappearing; and, above all, the scene that presents itself on their looking behind them:

They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces throng'd, and fiery arms:

to which the remaining verses form the most striking contrast that can be imagined. The final couplet renews our sorrow; by exhibiting, with picturesque accuracy, the most mournful scene in nature; which yet is so prepared, as to raise comfort, and dispose to resignation. And thus, while we are at once melting in tenderness, elevated with pious hope, and overwhelmed with the grandeur of description, the divine poem concludes.-BEATTIE.

If ever any poem was truly poetical, if ever any abounded with poetry, it is 'Paradise Lost.' What an expansion of facts from a small seed of history! What worlds are invented, what embellishments of nature upon what our senses present us with! Divine things are more nobly, more divinely represented to the imagination, than by any other poem; a more beautiful idea is given of nature than any poet has pretended to:nature, as just come out of the hand of God, in all its virgin loveliness, glory, and purity; and the human race is shown, not, as Homer's, more gigantic, more robust, more valiant: but without comparison more truly amiable, more so than by the pictures and statues of the greatest masters; and all these sublime ideas are conveyed to us in the most effectual and engaging manner. The mind of the reader is tempered and prepared by pleasure; it is drawn and allured; it is awakened and invigorated, to receive such impressions as the poet intended to give it. The poem opens the fountains of knowledge, piety, and virtue; and pours along full streams of peace, comfort, and joy, to such as can penetrate the true sense of the writer, and obediently listen to his song. In reading the Iliad or Eneis we treasure up a collection of fine imaginative pictures, as when we read 'Paradise Lost;' only that from thence we have (to speak like a connoisseur) more Rafaelles, Correggios, Guidos, &c. Milton's pictures are more sublime

« AnteriorContinua »