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and the Sibyl stand before the adamantine gates, which are there described as shut upon the place of torments, and listen to the groans, the clank of chains, and the noise of iron whips, that were heard in those regions of pain and SOrrow :
44 Fast we found, fast shut
Adam then proceeds to give an account of his condition and sentiments immediately after his creation. How agreeably does he represent the posture in which he found himself, the delightful landscape that surrounded him, and the gladness of heart which grew up in him on that occasion!
As new waked from soundest sleep,
Adam is afterwards described as surprised at his own existence, and taking a survey of himself and of all the works of nature. He likewise is represented as discovering, by the light of reason, that he and every thing about him must have been the effect of some Being infinitely good and powerful; and that this Being had a right to his worship and adoration. His first address to the sun, and to those parts of the creation which made the most distinguished figure, is very natural, and amusing to the imagination:
44 * Thou sun,” said I, ‘fair light, And thou enlighten’d earth, so fresh and gay,
Ye hills, and dales, ye rivers, woods, and plains,
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 imagined, 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
With blandishment; each bird stoop'd on his wing:
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 conversation 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 ornament, 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,
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,
Man-like, but different sex: so lovely fair,
And into all things from her air inspired
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 has made on the same occasion in a scene of his Fall of Man, he 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
These sentiments of love in our first parent gave the angel such an insight in 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 his 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 the poem. His discourse, which follows the gentle rebuke he received from the angel, shows that his love, however violent it might appear, was still founded in reason, and consequently not improper for Paradise:
“Neither her outside form’d so fair, nor aught
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. ADDISON.
CRITIQUE ON MILTON'S PARADISE LOST. (No. 351).
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 three hundred 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 AEneas, 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,