Imágenes de páginas

nature are introduced, are such short allegories as are not designed to be taken in the literal sense, but only to convey particular circumstances to the reader, after an unusual and entertaining manner. But when such persons are introduced as principal actors, and engaged in a series of adventures, they take too much upon them, and are by no means proper for a heroic poem, which ought to appear credible in its principal parts. I cannot forbear therefore thinking that Sin and Death are as improper agents in a work of this nature, as Strength and Necessity in one of the tragedies of AEschylus, who represented those two persons nailing down Prometheus to a rock, for which he has been justly censured by the greatest critics. I do not know any imaginary person made use of in a more sublime manner of thinking than that in one of the prophets, who, describing God as descending from heaven, and visiting the sins of mankind, adds that dreadful circumstance, “Before him went the Pestilence.” It is certain this imaginary person might have been described in all her purple spots. The Fever might have marched before her, Pain might have stood at her right hand, Phrenzy on her left, and Death in her rear. She might have been introduced as gliding down from the tail of a comet, or darted from the earth in a flash of lightning. She might have tainted the atmosphere with her breath; the very glaring of her eyes might have scat. tered infection. But I believe every reader will think, that in such sublime writings the mentioning of her, as it is done in Scripture, has something in it more just, as well as great, than all that the most fanciful poet could have bestowed upon her in the richness of his imagination. ADDISON.


MILTON has shown a wonderful art in describing that Variety of passions which arise in our first parents upon the breach of the commandment that had been given them. We see them gradually passing from the triumph of their guilt, through remorse, shame, despair, contrition, prayer, and hope, to a perfect and complete repentance. At the end of the tenth book they are represented as prostrating themselves upon the ground, and watering the earth with their tears: to which the poet joins this beautiful circumstance, that they offered up their penitential prayers on the very place where their judge appeared to them when he pronounced their sentence:

“—They, forthwith to the place
Repairing where he judged them, prostrate fell
Before him reverent, and both confess'd
Humbly their faults, and pardon begg'd, with tears
Watering the ground .”

There is a beauty of the same kind in a tragedy of Sophocles, where CEdipus, after having put out his own eyes, instead of breaking his neck from the palace battlements (which furnishes so elegant an entertainment for our English audience), desires that he may be conducted to Mount Cithaeron, in order to end his life in that very place where he was exposed in his infancy, and where he should then have died had the will of his parents been executed.

As the author never fails to give a poetical turn to his sentiments, he describes in the beginning of this book the acceptance which these their prayers met with, in a short allegory, formed upon that beautiful passage in holy writ: “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne: and the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God.”

44 To heaven their prayers
Flew up, nor miss'd the way, by envious winds
Blown vagabond or frustrate: in they pass'd
Dimensionless through heavenly doors, then clad
With incense, where the golden altar fumed,
By their great Intercessor, came in sight
Before the Father's throne .”

We have the same thought expressed a second time in the intercession of the Messiah, which is conceived in very emphatical sentiments and expressions. Among the poetical parts of Scripture which Milton has so finely wrought into this part of his narration, I must not omit that wherein Ezekiel, speaking of the angels who appeared to him in a vision, adds, that every one had four faces, and that their whole bodies, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, were full of eyes round about:

[ocr errors][merged small]

The assembling of all the angels of heaven to hear the solemn decree passed upon man, is represented in very lively ideas. The Almighty is here described as remembering mercy in the midst of judgment, and commanding Michael to deliver his message in the mildest terms; lest the spirit of man, which was already broken with the sense of his guilt and misery, should fail before him:

“—Yet, lest they faint
At the sad sentence rigorously urged,
For I behold them soften’d, and with tears
Bewailing their excess, all terror hide.”

The conference of Adam and Eve is full of moving sentiments. Upon their going abroad after the melancholy might which they had passed together, they discover the lion and the eaglé, each of them pursuing their prey towards the eastern gates of Paradise. There is a double beauty in this incident, not only as it presents great and just omens, which are always agreeable in poetry, but as it expresses that enmity which was now produced in the animal creation. The poet, to show the like changes in nature, as well as to grace his fable with a noble prodigy, represents the sun in an eclipse. This particular incident has likewise a fine effect upon the imagination of the reader in regard to what follows: for, at the same time that the sun is under an eclipse, a bright cloud descends in the western quarter of the heavens, filled with a host of angels, and more lumimous than the sun itself. The whole theatre of nature is darkened, that this glorious machine may appear in all its lustre and magnificence:

“‘—Why in the east
Darkness, ere day’s mid-course P and morning light
More orient in that western cloud that draws
O'er the blue firmament a radiant white,
And slow descends with something heavenly fraught?”

He err'd not; for by this the heavenly bands

Down from a sky of jasper lighted now
In Paradise, and on a hill made halt;
A glorious apparition .”

I need not observe how properly this author, who always ..suits his parts to the actors whom he introduces, has employed Michael in the expulsion of our first parents from Paradise. The archangel on this occasion neither appears in his proper shape, nor in the familiar manner with which Raphael, the sociable spirit, entertained the father of mankind before the fall. His person, his port, and behaviour, are suitable to a spirit of the highest rank, and exquisitely described in the following passage: 44 The archangel soon drew nigh, Not in his shape celestial; but as man Clad to meet man : over his lucid arms A military vest of purple flow’d, Livelier than Meliboean, or the grain Of Sarra, worn by kings and heroes old, In time of truce : Iris had dipt the woof: His starry helm, unbuckled, show’d him prime In manhood where youth ended; by his side, As in a glistering zodiac, hung the sword, Satan’s dire dread, and in his hand the spear. Adam bow’d low : he kingly from his state Inclined not, but his coming thus declared.”

Eve's complaint, upon hearing that she was to be removed from the garden of Paradise, is wonderfully beautiful. The sentiments are not only proper to the subject, but have something in them particularly soft and womanish:

“Must I thus leave thee, Paradise? thus leave
Thee, native soil these happy walks and shades,
Fit haunt of gods? where I had hope to spend,
Quiet though sad, the respite of that day

That must be mortal to us both ! O flowers,
That never will in other climate grow,
My early visitation, and my last
At even, which I bred up with tender hand
From the first opening bud, and gave ye names;
Who now shall rear ye to the sun, or rank
Your tribes, and water from the ambrosial fount?
Thee, lastly, nuptial bower, by me adorn’d
With what to sight or smell was sweet—from thee
How shall I part, and whither wander down
Into a lower world; to this obscure
And wild P. How shall we breathe in other air
Less pure, accustom'd to inmortal fruits P”

Adam's speech abounds with thoughts which are equally moving, but of a more masculine and elevated turn. Nothing can be conceived more sublime and poetical than the " following passage in it:

“This most afflicts me, that, departing hence,
As from His face I shall be hid, deprived
His blessed countenance: here I could frequent,
With worship, place by place where He vouchsafed
Presence divine ; and to my sons relate,
‘On this mount He appeard, under this tree
Stood visible, among these pines His voice
I heard; here with Him at this fountain talk'd :”
So many grateful altars I would rear
Of grassy turf, and pile up every stone
Of lustre from the brook, in memory,
Or monument to ages, and thereon
Offer sweet-smelling gums and fruits and flowers.
In yonder nether world where shall I seek
His bright appearances, or footstep trace?
For though I fled him angry, yet recall’d
To life prolong’d and promised race, I now
Gladly behold though but His utmost skirts
Of glory, and far off His steps adore.”

The angel afterwards leads Adam to the highest mount of Paradise, and lays before him a whole hemisphere, as a proper stage for those visions which were represented to be on it. I have before observed how the plan of Milton's poem is in many particulars greater than that of the Iliad or AEneid. Virgil's hero, in the last of these poems, is entertained with a sight of all those who are to descend from him; but though that episode is justly admired, as


« AnteriorContinuar »