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Omnia, quae, Phoebo quondain meditante; beatas
Virgilü Bucolica, Ecl. vi. 82.
Whatevor songs beside, the Delphian God
E now come to the last Book of Paradise Regained, and to the conclusion of these speculations upon this fine Poem. I am perfectly aware that the succession of these essays, although the continuity of the subject itselt seemed to require it, is tedious to the general reader. This is the last.
It has been remarked by critics generally of Paradise Regained, that the Pjetry rises in grandeur and beauty, and does not arrivo at its utmost elevation until the last book ; whereas it has been complained that Paradise Lost falls off in the concluding books. The different principle and structure of the two poems have not been sufficiently attended to. Mr. Mitford, one of our Poet's must judicious admirers, is of opinion that these poems are so dissing can be
milar in their structure and purpose that no comparison usefully or justly instituted between them."*
There is, however, ihe same analogy in the structure of the two Poems, and the comparative pluinness and elevation of the poetry, as, I have attempted to shew, subsists between the Old and the New Testament in bigher respects. The Fall of man being wrought hy the Evil Spirit, the diction, as well as the action of the first books of Paradise Lost, in which the power of that Spirit predominates, is, with a beautiful propriety, most inspiring and splendid. The very ruin of Salan “ with all his host of rebel Angels," was the proximate cause “ of Man's first disobedience." It is iberefore made most prominent in the poem.
We almost sbe “ Sa. tan fall like lightning from heaven."
The action is at its beight in the ninth book, where the act of disobedience is committed, and the fall of wan accomplished. The tenth book is of a mixed character, which gradually and beautifully prepares the mind for the more qniet and coniemplative character of the two last books, in which is the germ of Paradise Regained. That Poem properly takes up :he subject, both in the spirit and stvle of the concluding books of Paradise Lost; and the style of this second and perfect poem, gradually rises with cach book into loftier regions, until, in the fourth and last book, the poet's diction and imagery ascend with
" A fiery globe
P. R. B. ir. 581. of my quotations from this splendid book, which blazes from beginning to end!, I must be sparirg; entreating the reader to consult the poem itself. The book begins in the Homeric style with a series of similes. But unlike Homer, whose most familiar sinzile is generally the last, Milton's rise in beauty and grandeur one above the other. Rome is theri presented by the Tempter to the eyes of the Saviour.
“ On each side an imperial city stnod,
P: R, B. iv. 33–38.
I cannot follow the Poet's gorgeouis description of "
Mitford's Life of Milton po lxxxiii. Aldine Edition. In a previous essay I omitted the mention of this accomplished writer, --who has done such em. ple justice to our greatest Lyric Poet, Grey,-as one of the best modern biographers, along with Sir Egerton Brydges, of onr great Epic Poet. I lament that iny limits do not allow me to subjoin in this note bis just and Sindly written criticism of Paradiso Regained.
gloriaus, Rome, queen of the earth." Two lines, however, I must Select, as connected with the island in which these essays are yrillen, under the aucient name of Taprobane ; and because the last line has been noticed, with great iruth of taste and feeling, to be one of the most picturesque lines to be met with in poetry, every word conveying a distinci* idea, and generally one of great effect. * Among ihe “ embassies from regions tar remote in vac rivus babits" to Rome, were those “ from India" and the golden Chersonese,
And utmost Indian Isle TAPROBANE,
Dusk faces with white silken turbans wreath'd."
B. IV. 75. Athens is next described :
“On the Ægean shore & city stands, Built nobly, pure the air, and light the soil, Athens, the eye of Greece."
B. IV. 238-240. I must request the reader to consult the poem for this exquisite picture.
There is a noble passage, in which our Lord opposes to the philosophy and poetry of ancient Greece the divine truth and subfime and lovely poesy of the Hebrew Scriptures.
“If I would delight my private hours
That pleased so well our victor's ear, declare
B. IV. 331-338. One splendid burst of poetic inspiration I must give entire. This is ibe storm in the desery, which is raịsed by Salan as his last act of violence to our meek and blessed Saviour, before he sets him on the pinnacle of the temple, (which has been cited in a previous essay) with wbich the poem concludes.
« Darkness now, rose,
As daylight sunk, and brought in low'ring night,
Spe a pote, in Todd's edition, on the place.
After his aery jannt, though borried soro,
B. IV. 397-438. In all extant poetry, except the Sacred Oracles, there is nothing, in my opinion, so sublime as this description of the storm raised by the “ hellish furies” of Satan, and vainly, raised, against the " patient Son of God," who wouly stood uusbaken" amid this elemental convulsion; He only
« SAT ONAPPALL'D IN CALM AND BINLESS PEACHI".
While nothing - was ever conceived, of described, perbaps, with such exquisite and touching beauty as the “ coming forth of Morn. ing fair with pilgrim steps in amice gray,
After a night of storm so ruinous," In Paradise Lost there is no single passage, comparable in sublime conception, condensed, and at the same time magnificent des cription, perfect rhythm and melody of verse, and exquisite beauty. In a few lines every perfection of the art is combined. It is this marvellous combinatiov of powers which makes Milton preeminent, in whole and in part, alove his mighty compeers, Huiner and Virgil
. Every classical reader is familiar with the parallel passages. Milton had all these in his mind; bụt how greally he has excelled, yet he can scarcely be said to have imitated them. I place the references in the lower margin, and would recommend the Enz glish reader to consult the several translations. In the original, Homer's description is greatly superior to that of Virgil, who indeed very closely imitaçes his master. Pope's translation is very finely done, but is excelled in fidelity, as is almost always the case, by that of Cowper, which is very close to the original. Milton's description of the storm alone fai excels those of Homer and Virgil.*
Milton's melancholy lapse from the Catholic faith of the ever blessed Trinity, which had been long suspected, t is, alas, now too well known, since the discovery of the manuscript treatise, De Doctrina Christiana, some years ago, in the State Paper Office. This has been printed in the original Latin, and edited, and an English translation made by Bishop Cbarles Sumner. The errors in these high matters of such minds as those of Milton and Newton, while they should warn us of the peril of lofty intellect in fipite beings, should at the same time makė us lay our mouths in the dust: for when such men so fearfully fall, it becomes us to take especial heed lest, while “ think we stand," we fall into some of the various lemptations to siu and error wbich þeset us in this state of þeing,
But, I own, I am at a loss to understand how, in orber respects, Milton's theology should be brought into question, with regard to the title aud the subject of his second Poem of Paradise Regained, It is alleged that he has made the resistance of the temptation of Satan by the Messiab the completion of the Redemption of man, kind, and the efficient cause of the recovery of Paradise; and that he has done this that he might place the Disobedience of Adam in contrast with the Obedieuce of Chriș. Poetically, he bas cer. tainly made the perfect obedience of the second Adam to do away With the 'effects of the disubedience of the first. But it does by
• Homeri Odyss: , 291• Cowpers Translation B. V. 350. Soythogó Edition. Virgilü Æneid : Lib. I. 81.
+ Various passages of the Paradise Lost, especially B. V. 604, gave the critica just suspicion of his Arian, or Semi. Arian opinions. But in bis early works, ar pros and verse, be avow. bia faith in the Trinits.