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The secret intoxication of pleasure, with all those transient flushings of guilt and joy, which the poet represents in our first parents upon their eating the forbidden fruit, to those flaggings of spirit, damps of sorrow, and mutual accusations which succeed it, are conceived with a wonderful imagination, and described in very natural sentiments.
When Dido, in the fourth AEneid, yielded to that fatal temptation which ruined her, Virgil tells us the earth trembled, the heavens were filled with flashes of lightning, and the nymphs howled upon the mountain tops. Milton, in the same poetical spirit, has described all nature as disturbed upon Eve's eating the forbidden fruit:
“So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Upon Adam's falling into the same guilt, the whole creation appears a second time in convulsions:
&g —He scrupled not to eat,
As all nature suffered by the guilt of our first parents, these symptoms of trouble and consternation are wonderfully imagined, not only as prodigies, but as marks of her sympathising in the fall of man.
Adam's converse with Eve, after having eaten the forbidden fruit, is an exact copy of that between Jupiter and Juno, in the fourteenth Iliad. Juno there approaches Jupiter with the girdle which she had received from Venus; upon which he tells her, that she appeared more charming and desirable than she had ever done before, even when their loves were at the highest. The poet afterwards describes them as reposing on a summit of Mount Ida, which produced under them a bed of flowers, the lotus, the
crocus, and the hyacinth ; and concludes his description with their falling asleep.
Let the reader compare this with the following passage in Milton, which begins with Adam's speech to Eve:
“For never did thy beauty, since the day
I saw thee first and wedded thee, adorn'd
As no poet seems ever to have studied Homer more, or to have more resembled him in the greatness of genius, than Milton, I think I should have given but a very imperfect account of its beauties, if I had not observed the most remarkable passages which look like parallels in these two great authors. I might, in the course of these criticisms, have taken notice of many particular lines and expressions which are translated from the Greek poet : but, as I thought this would have appeared too minute and over-curious, I have purposely omitted them. The greater incidents, however, are not only set off by being shown in the same light with several of the same nature in Homer, but by that means may be also guarded against the cavils of the tasteless or ignorant.
CRITIQUE ON MILTON'S PARADISE LOST. (No. 357).
THE tenth book of Paradise Lost has a greater variety of persons in it than any other in the whole poem. The author, upon the winding up of his action, introduces all those who had any concern in it, and shows with great beauty the influence which it had upon each of them. It is like the last act of a well-written tragedy, in which all who had part in it are generally drawn up before the audience, and represented under those circumstances in which the determination of the action places them.
I shall therefore consider this book under four heads, in relation to the celestial, the infernal, the human, and the imaginary persons, who have their respective parts allotted In 18.
To begin with the celestial persons. The guardian angels of Paradise are described as returning to heaven upon the fall of man, in order to approve their vigilance: their arrival, their manner of reception, with the sorrow which appeared in themselves, and in those spirits who are said to rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, are very finely laid together in the following lines:
“Up into Heaven from Paradise in haste
The same divine person, who in the foregoing parts of
this poem interceded for our first parents before their fall, overthrew the rebel angels, and created the world, is now represented as descending to Paradise, and pronouncing sentence upon
the three offenders. The cool of the evening being a circumstance with which Holy Writ introduces this great scene, it is poetically described by our author, who has also kept religiously to the form of words in which the three several sentences were passed upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent. He has rather chosen to neglect the numerousness of his verse, than to deviate from those speeches which are recorded on this great occasion. The guilt and confusion of our first parents, standing naked before their judge, is touched with great beauty. Upon the arrival of Sin and Death into the works of the creation, the Almighty is again introduced as speaking to his angels that surrounded him :
“ See! with what heat these dogs of hell advance,
To waste and havoc yonder world, which I
So fair and good created ;” &c. The following passage is formed upon that glorious image in Holy Writ which compares the voice of an innumerable host of angels, uttering hallelujahs, to the voice of mighty thunderings, or of many waters :
“ He ended, and the heavenly audience loud
Though the author in the whole course of his poem, and particularly in the book we are now examining, has infinite allusions to places of Scripture ; I have only taken notice in my remarks of such as are of a poetical nature, and which are woven with great beauty into the body of his fable. Of this kind is that passage in the present book, where, describing Sin as marching through the works of nature, he adds :
Behind her Death
Which alludes to that passage in Scripture so wonderfully poetical, and terrifying to the imagination: “And I looked and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him: and power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with sickness, and with the beasts of the earth.” Under this first head of celestial persons we must likewise take notice of the command which the angels received to produce the several changes in nature, and sully the beauty of the creation. Accordingly, they are represented as infecting the stars and planets with malignant influences, weakening the light of the sun, bringing down the winter into the milder regions of nature, planting winds and storms in several quarters of the sky, storing the clouds with thunder, and, in short, perverting the whole frame of the universe to the condition of its criminal inhabitants. As this is a noble incident in the poem, the following lines, in which we see the angels heaving up the earth, and placing it in a different posture to the sun from what it had before the fall of man, are conceived with that sublime imagination which was so peculiar to this great author:
“Some say he bid his angels turn askance
We are in the second place to consider the infernal agents under the view which Milton has given us of them in this book. It is observed by those who would set forth the greatness of Virgil's plan, that he conducts his reader through all the parts of the earth which were discovered in his time. Asia, Africa, and Europe, are the several scenes of his fable. The plan of Milton's poem is of infinitely greater extent, and fills the mind with many more astonishing circumstances. Satan, having surrounded the earth seven times, departs at length from Paradise. We then see him steering his course among the constellations, and, after having traversed the whole creation, pursuing his