« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
poetry, but as it expresses that enmity which was now produced in the animal creation. The poet, to shew the like changes in nature, as well as to grace his fable with a noble prodigy, represents the sun in an eclipse. This particular incident has likewise a fine effect upon the imagination of the reader, in regard to what follows; for at the same time that the sun is under an eclipse, & bright cloud descends in the western quarter of the heavens, filled with an host of angels, and more luminous than the sun itself. The whole theatre of nature is darkened, that this glorious machine may appear in all its lustre and magnificence.
-Why in the east
He err'd not, for by this the heav'nly bands
I need not observe how properly this author, who always suits his parts to the actors whom he introduces, has employed Michael in the expulsion of our first parents from Paradise. The archangel on this occasion neither appears in his proper shape, nor in that familiar manner with which Raphael the sociable spirit entertained the father of mankind before the fall. his port, and behaviour, are suitable to a spirit of the highest rank, and exquisitely described in the following passage.
-Th' archangel soon drew nigh,
His starry helm, unbuckler, shew'd him prime
Eve's complaint upon hearing that she was to be removed from the garden of Paradise is wonderfully beautiful : the sentiments are not only proper to the subject, but have something in them particularly soft and womanish.
Must I then leave thee, Paradise ? thus leave
Less pure, accustom'd to immortal fruits ! Adam's speech abounds with thoughts which are equally moving, and of a more masculine and elevated turn. Nothing can be conceived more sublime and poetical than the following passage in it.
This most afflicts me, that departing hence
So many grateful altars I would rear
The angel afterwards leads Adam to the highest mount of Paradise, and lays before him a whole hemisphere, as a proper stage for those visions which were to be represented on it. I have before observed how the plan of Milton's poem is in many particulars greater than that of the Iliad or Æneid. Virgil's hero, in the last of these poems, is entertained with a sight of all those who are to descend from him; but though that episode is justly admired as one of the noblest designs in the whole Æneid, every one must allow that this of Milton is of a much higher nature. Adam's vision is not confined to any particular tribe of mankind, but extends to the whole species.
In this great review which Adam takes of all his sons and daughters, the first objects he is presented with exhibit to him the story of Cain and Abel, which is drawn together with much closeness and propriety of expression. That curiosity and natural horror which arises in Adam at the sight of the first dying man, is touched with great beauty.
But have I now seen death? is this the way
The second vision sets before him the image of death in a great variety of appearances. The angel, to give bim a general idea of those effects which his guilt had brought upon his posterity, places before him a large hospital, or lazar-house, fill?d with persons lying under all kinds of mortal diseases. How finely has the poet told us that the sick persons languished under lingering and incurable distempers, by an apt and judicious use of such imaginary beings as those I mentioned in my last paper.
Dire was the tossing, deep the groans, Despair
With vows as their chief good and final hope. The passion which likewise rises in Adam on this occasion is very natural.
Sight so deform what heart of rock could long
His best of man, and gave him up in tears. The discourse between the angel and Adam which follows, abounds with noble morals.
As there is nothing more delightful in poetry than a contrast and opposition of incidents, the author, after his melancholy pros. pect of death and sickness, raises up a scene of mirth, love, and jollity. The secret pleasure that steals into Adam's heart as he is intent upon this vision, is imagined with great delicacy. I must not omit the description of the loose female troop, who seduced the sons of God, as they are called in scripture.
For that fair female troop thou saw'st that seem'd
Shall yield up all their virtuc, all their fame,
The next vision is of a quite contrary nature, and filled with the horrors of war. Adam at the sight of it melts into tears, and breaks out in that passionate speech,
- what are these
Milton, to keep up an agreeable variety in his visions, after having raised in the mind of his reader the several ideas of terror which are conformable to the description of war: passes on to those softer images of triumphs and festivals, in that vision of lewdness and luxury which ushers in the flood.
As it is visible that the poet had his eye upon Ovid's account of the universal deluge, the reader may observe with how much judgment he has avoided everything that is redundant or puerile in the Latin poet. We do not here see the wolf swimming among the sheep, nor any of those wanton imaginations which Seneca found fault with, as unbecoming the great catastrophe of nature. If our poet has imitated that verse in which Ovid tells us that there was nothing but sea, and that this sea had no shore to it, he has not set the thought in such a light as to incur the censure which critics have passed upon it. The latter part of that verse in Ovid is idle and superfluous, but just and beautiful in Milton.
Jamque mare et tellus nullum discrimen habebant,