Изображения страниц

His next sentiment, when upon his first going to sleep, he fancies himself losing his existence, and falling away into nothing, can never be sufficiently admired.' His dream, in which he still preserves the consciousness of his existence, together with his removal into the garden which was prepared for his reception, are also circumstances finely imaged, and grounded upon what is delivered in sacred story.

These and the like wonderful incidents in this part of the work, have in them all the beauties of novelty, at the same time that they have all the graces of nature. They are such as none but a great genius could have thought of, though, upon the perusal of them, they seem to rise of themselves from the subject of which he treats. In a word, though they are natural they are not obvious, which is the true character of all fine writing.

The impression which the interdiction of the tree of life left in the mind of our first parent, is described with great strength and judgment; as the image of the several beasts and birds passing in review before him is very beautiful and lively.

-Each bird and beast behold
Approaching two and two, these cow'ring low
With blandishment; each bird stoop'd on his wing:
I nam'd them as they pass’d-

Adam, in the next place, describes a conference which he held with his Maker upon the subject of solitude. The poet here represents the Supreme Being, as making an essay of his own work, and putting to the trial that reasoning faculty with which he had endued his creature. Adam urges, in this divine colloquy, the impossibility of his being happy, though he was the inhabitant of Paradise, and Lord of the whole creation, without the conversa

"The beauty of these lines did not escape the elegant and judicious Addison ; but that author does not assign the reason of his approbation." -V. Bealtie on Truth, part i. ch. ii. 6. text and note.—G.

VOL. VI.-6*

tion and society of some rational creature, who should partake those blessings with him. This dialogue, which is supported chiefly by the beauty of the thoughts, without other poetical ornaments, is as fine a part as any in the whole poem : the more the reader examines the justness and delicacy of its sentiments, the more he will find himself pleased with it. The poet has wonderfully preserved the character of majesty and condescension in the Creator, and at the same time that of humility and adoration in the creature, as particularly in the following lines,

Thus I presumptuous; and the vision bright,
As with a smile more brightned, thus reply'd, &c.

-I with leave of speech implor'd
And humble deprecation thus reply'd.
Let not my words offend thee, heavenly power,

My Maker, be propitious while I speak, &c. Adam then proceeds to give an account of his second sleep, and of the dream in which he beheld the formation of Eve. The new passion that was awakened in him at the sight of her is touched very finely.

Under his forming hands a creature grew,
Manlike, but different sex; so lovely fair,
That what seem'd fair in all the world, seem'd now
Mean, or in her summ'd up, in her contain'd,
And in her looks, which from that time infus'd
Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before,
And into all things from her air inspira
The spirit of love and amorous delight.

Adam's distress upon losing sight of this beautiful phantom, with his exclamations of joy and gratitude at the discovery of a real creature, who resembled the apparition which had been presented to him in his dream; the approaches he makes to her, and his manner of courtship, are all laid together in a most exquisite propriety of sentiments.

Though this part of the poem is worked up with great warmth

and spirit, the love which is described in it is every way suitable to a state of innocence. If the reader compares the description which Adam here gives of his leading Eve to the nuptial bower, with that which Mr. Dryden bas made on the same occasion in a scene of his Fall of Man, be will be sensible of the great care which Milton took to avoid all thoughts on so delicate a subject, that might be offensive to religion or good manners. The sentiments are chaste, but not cold, and convey to the mind ideas of the most transporting passion, and of the greatest purity. What a noble mixture of rapture and innocence has the author joined together, in the reflection which Adam makes on the pleasures of love, compared to those of sense.

Thus have I told thee all my state, and brought
My story to the sum of earthly bliss
Which I enjoy, and must confess to find
In all things else delight indeed, but such
As us’d or not, works in the mind no change,
Nor chenient desire, these delicacies
I mean of taste, sight, smell, herbs, fruits and flowers,
Walks, and the melody of birds; but here
Far otherwise, transported I behold,
Transported touch, here passion first I felt,
Commotion strange; in all enjoyments else
Superior and unmov’d, here only weak
Against the charm of beauty's powerful glance.
Or nature fail'd in me, and left some part
Not proof enough such object to sustain,
Or from my side subducting, took perhaps
More than enough; at least on her bestow'd
Too much of ornament, in outward shew
Elaborate, of inward less exact.

-When I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems
And in herself compleat, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best;
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded: wisdom in discourse with her
Loses discountenanc'd, and like folly shewB;

Authority and reason on her wait,
As one intended first, not after made
Occasionally; and to consummate all,
Greatness of mind, and nobleness their seat
Build in her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, as a guard angelic plac'd.

These sentiments of love in our first parent, gave the angel such an insight into human nature, that he seems apprehensive of the evils which might befal the species in general, as well as Adam in particular, from the excess of this passion. He therefore fortifies him against it by timely admonitions; which very artfully prepare

the mind of the reader for the occurrences of the next book, where the weakness of which Adam here gives such distant discoveries, brings about that fatal event which is the subject of

His discourse, which follows the gentle rebuke he received from the angel, shews that his love, however violent it might appear, was still founded in reason, and consequently not improper for Paradise.

the poem.

Neither her outside form so fair, nor ought
In procreation common to all kinds
(Though higher of the genial bed by far,
And with mysterious reverence I deem)
So much delights me as those graceful acts,
Those thousand decencies that daily flow
From all her words and actions mixt with love
And sweet compliance, which declare unfeign'd
Union of mind, or in us both one soul;
Harmony to behold in wedded pair.

Adam's speech, at parting with the angel, has in it a deference and gratitude agreeable to an inferior nature, and at the same time a certain dignity and greatness suitable to the father of mankind in his state of innocence.


No. 351. SATURDAY, APRIL 12.

-In te omnis domus inclinata recumbit.

VIRG. Æn, xii. 59.
On thee the fortunes of our house depend.

If we look into the three great heroic poems

which have appeared in the world, we may observe that they are built upon very slight foundations. Homer lived near 300 years after the Trojan war; and, as the writing of history was not then in use among the Greeks, we may very well suppose, that the tradition of Achilles and Ulysses had brought down but very few particulars to his knowledge; though there is no question but he has wrought into his two poems such of their remarkable adventures as were still talked of among his contemporaries.

The story of Æneas, on which Virgil founded his poem, was likewise very bare of circumstances, and by that means afforded him an opportunity of embellishing it with fiction, and giving a full range to his own invention. We find, however, that he has interwoven, in the course of his fable, the principal particulars, which were generally believed among the Romans, of Æneas's voyage and settlement in Italy.

The reader may find an abridgment of the whole story, as collected out of the ancient historians, and as it was received among the Romans, in Dionysius Halicarnasseus.

Since none of the critics have considered Virgil's fable with relation to this history of Æneas, it may not, perhaps, be amiss to examine it in this light, so far as it regards my present purpose. Whoever looks into the abridgment above-mentioned, will find that the character of Æneas is filled with piety to the gods, and a superstitious observation of prodigies, oracles, and prediotions. Virgil has not only preserved this character in the per

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »