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“Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
There is a fine spirit of poetry in the lines which follow, wherein they are described as sitting on a bed of flowers
side of a fountain, amidst a mixed assembly of
animals. The speeches of these two first lovers flow equally from
and sincerity. The professions they make to one are full of warmth; but at the same time founded
on truth. In a word, they are the gallantries of Paradise :
When Adam first of men
To whom thus Eve replied: O thou for whom,
And from whom, I was form'd, flesh of thy flesh,
The remaining part of Eve's speech, in which she gives an account of herself upon her first creation, and the manner in which she was brought to Adam, is, I think, as beautiful a passage as any in Milton, or perhaps in any other poet whatsoever. These passages are all worked off with so much art, that they are capable of pleasing the most delicate reader, without offending the most severe:
“That day I oft remember, when from sleep,” &c.
A poet of less judgment and invention than this great author would have found it very difficult to have filled these tender parts of the poem with sentiments proper for a state of innocence; to have described the warmth of love, and the professions of it, without artifice or hyperbole; to have made the man speak the most endearing things without descending from his natural dignity, and the woman receiving them without departing from the modesty of her character: in a word, to adjust the prerogatives of wisdom and beauty, and make each appear to the other in its proper force and loveliness. This mutual subordination of the two sexes is wonderfully kept up in the whole poem, as particularly in the speech of Eve I have before mentioned, and upon the conclusion of it in the following lines:
“So spake our general mother, and with eyes
The poet adds, that the devil turned away with envy at the sight of so much happiness. We have another view of our first parents in their evening discourses, which is full of pleasing images, and sentiments suitable to their condition and characters. The speech of Eve, in particular, is dressed up in such a soft and natural turn of words and sentiments as cannot be sufficiently admired. I shall close my reflections upon this book with observing WOL. II. Q
the masterly transition which the poet makes to their evening worship in the following lines:
“Thus, at their shady lodge arrived, both stood,
Most of the modern heroic poets have imitated the ancients in beginning a speech without premising that the person said thus or thus; but as it is easy to imitate the ancients in the omission of two or three words, it requires judgment to do it in such a manner as they shall not be missed, and that the speech may begin naturally without them. There is a fine instance of this kind out of Homer, in the twenty-third chapter of Longinus. ADDISON.
CRITIQUE ON MILTON'S PARADISE LOST. (No. 327).
WE were told in the foregoing book how the evil spirit practised upon Eve as she lay asleep, in order to inspire her with thoughts of vanity, pride, and ambition. The author, who shows a wonderful art throughout his whole poem in preparing the reader for the several occurrences that arise in it, founds upon the above-mentioned circumstance the first part of the fifth book. Adam upon his awaking finds Eve still asleep, with an unusual discomposure in her looks. The posture in which he regards her is described with a tenderness not to be expressed, as the whisper with which he awakens her is the softest that ever was conveyed to a lover's ear:
“His wonder was, to find unwaken'd Eve
Shot forth peculiar graces: then, with voice
Thy face, and morn return’d 25
I cannot but take notice that Milton, in the conferences between Adam and Eve, had his eye very frequently upon the book of Canticles, in which there is a noble spirit of eastern poetry, and very often not unlike what we meet with in Homer, who is generally placed near the age of Solomon. I think there is no question but the poet in the preceding speech remembered those two passages, which are spoken on the like occasion, and filled with the same pleasing images of nature.
“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair-one, and come away; for lo the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair-one, and come away.
“Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field, let us get up early to the vineyards, let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grapes appear, and the pomegranates bud forth.”
His preferring the garden of Eden to that
shows that the poet had this delightful scene in his mind. Eve's dream is full of those high conceits engendering
pride, which, we are told, the devil endeavoured to instil into her. Of this kind is that part of it where she fancies herself awakened by Adam in the following beautiful lines: “Why sleep'st thou, Eve? Now is the pleasant time, The cool, the silent, save where silence yields To the night-warbling bird, that now awake Tunes sweetest his love-labour’d song; now reigns Full orb’d the moon, and with more pleasing light Shadowy sets off the face of things. In vain, If none regard. Heaven wakes with all his eyes, Whom to behold but thee, nature's desire, In whose sight all things joy, with ravishment Attracted by thy beauty still to gaze"
An injudicious poet would have made Adam talk through the whole work in such sentiments as these: but flattery and falsehood are not the courtship of Milton's Adam, and could not be heard by Eve in her state of innocence, excepting only in a dream produced on purpose to taint her imagination. Other vain sentiments of the same kind, in this relation of her dream, will be obvious to every reader. Though the catastrophe of the poem is finely presaged on this occasion, the particulars of it are so artfully shadowed, that they do not anticipate the story which follows in the ninth book. I shall only add, that though the vision itself is founded upon truth, the circumstances of it are full of that wildness and inconsistency which are natural to a dream. Adam, conformable to his superior character for wisdom, instructs and comforts Eve upon this occasion:
“So cheer'd he his fair spouse, and she was cheer'd;
The morning hymn is written in imitation of one of those psalms where, in the overflowings of gratitude and praise, the psalmist calls not only upon the angels, but upon the most conspicuous parts of the inanimate creation,