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than the rest. Milton has proposed the subject of his

the following verses.

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe
With loss of Eden, 'till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, heav'nly muse-

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These lines are perhaps as plain, simple, and unadorned, as any of the whole poem, in which particular the author has conformed himself to the example of Homer, and the precept of Horace.

His invocation to a work which turns in a great measure upon the creation of the world, is very properly made to the muse who inspired Moses in those books from whence our author drew his subject, and to the holy spirit who is therein represented as operating after a particular manner in the first production of nature. This whole exordium rises very happily into noble language and sentiment, as I think the transition to the fable is exquisitely beautiful and natural.

The nine-days astonishment, in which the angels lay entranced after their dreadful overthrow," and fall from heaven, before they could recover either the use of thought or speech, is a noble circumstance, and very finely imagined. The division of hell into seas of fire, and into firm ground impregnated with the same furious element, with that particular circumstance of the exclusion

From whence. From, is included in whence, and is, therefore, redundant; but is, sometimes, as here, inserted on account of the rhythm, those -books-whence, that is, three long syllables coming together would have dragged heavily, if the short syllable from had not intervened. It may seem that he might, in this place, with equal convenience, have said, "from which;" but he had just before said work, which—and therefore said, from whence to avoid the monotony.-H.

66

Vid. Hesiod.-H.

of Hope from those infernal regions, are instances of the same great and fruitful invention.

The thoughts in the first speech and description of Satan, who is one of the principal actors in this poem, are wonderfully proper to give us a full idea of him. His pride, envy, and revenge, obstinacy, despair, and impenitence, are all of them very artfully interwoven. In short, his first speech is a complication of all those passions which discover themselves separately in several other of his speeches in the poem. The whole part of this great enemy of mankind is filled with such incidents as are very apt to raise and terrify the reader's imagination. Of this nature, in the book now before us, is his being the first that awakens out of the general trance, with his posture on the burning lake, his rising from it, and the description of his shield and spear.

Thus Satan talking to his nearest mate,
With head up-lift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blaz'd, his other parts beside
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood-

Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames

Driv'n backward slope their pointing spires, and roll'd

In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale.

Then with expanded wings he steers his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight-

-His pond'rous shield,

Ethereal temper, massy, large and round,
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Thro' optic glass the Tuscan artists view
At ev'ning from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine,
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great admiral, were but a wand,
He walk'd with to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marl-

To which we may add his call to the fallen angels, that lay plunged and stupified in the sea of fire.

He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of hell resounded-

But there is no single passage in the whole poem worked up to a greater sublimity, than that wherein his person is described in those celebrated lines:

-He, above the rest,

In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
Stood like a tow'r, &c.

His sentiments are every way answerable to his character, and suitable to a created being of the most exalted and depraved nature. Such is that in which he takes possession of his place of

torments.

-Hail horrors, hail

Infernal world! and thou profoundest hell
Receive thy new possessor: one who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by place or time.

And afterwards,

Here at least

We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy; will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition, tho' in h 11:
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.

Amidst those impieties which this enraged spirit utters in other places of the poem, the author has taken care to introduce none that is not big with absurdity, and incapable of shocking a religious reader; his words, as the poet describes them, bearing only a "semblance of worth, not substance." He is likewise with great art described as owning his adversary to be almighty. Whatever perverse interpretation he puts on the justice, mercy,

and other attributes of the Supreme Being, he frequently confesses his omnipotence, that being the perfection he was forced to allow him, and the only consideration which could support his pride under the shame of his defeat.

Nor must I here omit that beautiful circumstance of his bursting out in tears, upon his survey of those innumerable spirits whom he had involved in the same guilt and ruin with himself.

He now prepar'd

To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half enclose him round
With all his peers: attention held them mute.
Thrice he assay'd, and thrice in spite of scorn
Tears, such as angels weep, burst forth

The catalogue of evil spirits has abundance of learning in it, and a very agreeable turn of poetry, which rises in a great measure from its describing the places where they were worshipped, by those beautiful marks of rivers, so frequent among the ancient poets. The author had doubtless in this place Homer's catalogue of ships, and Virgil's list of warriors in his view. The characters of Moloch lial prepare the reader's mind for their respective speeches and behaviour in the second and sixth book. The account of Thammuz is finely romantic, and suitable to what we read among the ancients of the worship which was paid to that idol.

-Thammuz came next behind,
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allur'd
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In am'rous ditties all a summer's day,
While smooth Adonis from his native rock
Ran purple to the sea, suppos'd with blood
Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale
Infected Sion's daughters with like heat,
Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch
Ezekiel saw, when by the vision led

His eyes survey'd the dark idolatries
Of alienated Judah-

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The reader will pardon me if I insert as a note on this beau tiful passage, the account given us by the late ingenious Mr. Maundrell of this ancient piece of worship, and probably the first occasion of such a superstition. "We came to a fair large river, doubtless the ancient river Adonis, so famous for the idolatrous rites performed here in lamentation of Adonis. We had the fortune to see what may be supposed to be the occasion of that opinion which Lucian relates concerning this river, viz. that this stream, at certain seasons of the year, especially about the feast of Adonis, is of a bloody colour; which the heathens looked upon as proceeding from a kind of sympathy in the river for the death of Adonis, who was killed by a wild boar in the mountains, out of which this stream rises. Something like this we saw actually come to pass; for the water was stained to a surprising redness; and, as we observed in travelling, had discoloured the sea a great way into a reddish hue, occasioned doubtless by a sort of minium, or red earth, washed into the river by the violence of the rain, and not by any stain from Adonis's blood."

The passage in the catalogue, explaining the manner how spirits transform themselves by contraction, or enlargement of their dimensions, is introduced with great judgment, to make way for several surprising accidents in the sequel of the poem. There follows one, at the very end of the first book, which is what the French critics call marvellous, but at the same time probable, by reason of the passage last mentioned. As soon as the infernal palace is finished, we are told the multitude and rabble of spirits immediately shrunk themselves into a small compass, that there might be room for such a numberless assembly in this capacious

This quotation from Milton and the paragraph immediately following it, were not in the first publication of this paper in folio.-G.

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