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are woven with great beauty into the body of this fable. Oi this kind is that passage in the present book, where describing Sin and Death as marching through the works of nature, he adds,
-Behind her Death
On his pale horse! 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 the 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 in. habitants. 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, is conceived with that sublime imagination which was so peculiar to this great author.
Some say he bid his angels turn askance
Oblique the centric globe, 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 an 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 voyage through the Chaos, and entering into his own infernal dominions.
His first appearance in the assembly of fallen angels, is worked up with circumstances which give a delightful surprise to the reader ; but there is no incident in the whole poem
which does this more than the transformation of the whole audience, that follows the account their leader gives them of his expedition. The gradual change of Satan himself is described after Ovid's manner, and may vie with any of those celebrated transformations which are looked upon as the most beautiful parts in that poet's works. Milton never fails of improving his own hints, and bestowing the last finishing touches to every incident which is admitted into his poem. The unexpected hiss which rises in this episode, the dimensions and bulk of Satan, so much superior to those of the infernal spirits who lay under the same transformation, with the annual change which they are supposed to suffer, are instances of this kind. The beauty of the diction is very remarkable in this whole episode, as I have observed in the sixth paper of these remarks the great judgment with which it was contrived.
The parts of Adam and Eve, or the human persons, come next under our consideration. Milton's art is nowhere more shown than in his conducting the parts of these our first parents. The representation he gives of them, without falsifying the story, is wonderfully contrived to influence the reader with pity and compassion towards them. Though Adam involves the whole species in misery, his crime proceeds from a weakness which every man is inclined to pardon and commiserate, as it seems rather the frailty of human nature, than of the person who offended. Every one is apt to excuse a fault wbich he himself might have fallen into. It was the excess of love for Eve that ruined Adam and his posterity. I need not add, that the author is justified in this particular by many of the Fathers, and the most orthodox writers. Milton has by this means filled a great part of his poem with that kind of writing which the French critics call the tender, and which is in a particular manner engaging to all sorts of readers.
' Influence the reader with—] The expression is hard, and scarce allowable. When we use influence as a verb, we use it absolutely; as “such considerations influenced him," that is, had an effect or influence upon him ; without specifying the effect produced. He had expressed himself better, if he had said, to fill the reader's mind with—or, to engage the reader's pity, &c.
Adam and Eve, in the book we are now considering, are likewise drawn with such sentiments as do not only interest the reader in their afflictions, but raise in him the most melting passions of humanity and commiseration. When Adam sees the several changes in nature produced about him, he appears in a disorder of mind suitable to one who had forfeited both his innocence and happiness: he is filled with horror, remorse, despair ; in the anguish of his heart he expostulates with his Creator for having given him an unasked existence.
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
All I received — He immediately after recovers from his presumption, owns his doom to be just, and begs that the death which is threatened may be inflicted on him.
- Why delays
With cruel expectation.This whole speech is full of the like emotion, and varied with all those sentiments which we may suppose natural to a inind so broken and disturbed. I must not omit that generous concern which our first father shows in it for his posterity, and which is so proper to affect the reader.
-Hide me from the face
Of happiness: yet well if here would end
In me all
But all corruptWho can afterwards behold the father of mankind extended upon the earth, uttering his midnight complaints, bewail. ing his existence, and wishing for death, without sympathizing with him in his distress ?
T'hus Adam to himself lamented loud
Of tardy execution.The part of Eve in this book is no less passionate, and apt to sway the reader in her favour. She is represented with great tenderness as approaching Adam, but is spurned from him with a spirit of upbraiding and indignation conformable to the nature of man, whose passions had now gained the dominion over him. The following passage, wherein she is described as renewing her addresses to him, with the whole speech that follows it, have something in them exquisitely moving and pathetic.
He added not, and from her turned; but Eve
Forsake me not thus, Adam ; witness, heaven,
I beg, and clasp thy knees; bereave me not,
Between us two let there be peace, &c. Adam's reconcilement to her is worked up in the same spirit of tenderness. Eve afterwards proposes to her husband, in the blindness of her despair, that to prevent their guilt from descending upon posterity, they should resolve to live childless; or, if that could not be done, they should seek their own deaths by violent methods. As those sentiments naturally engage the reader to regard the mother of mankind with more than ordinary commiseration, they likewise contain a very fine moral. The resolution of dying, to end our miseries, does not show such a degree of magnanimity as a resolution to bear them, and submit to the dispensations of Providence. Our author has therefore, with great delicacy, represented Eve as entertaining this thought, and Adam as disapproving it. We are, in the last place, to consider the imaginary per
, sons, or Death and Sin, who act a large part in this book. Such beautiful extended allegories are certainly some of the finest compositions of genius; but, as I have before observed, are not agreeable to the nature of an heroic
This of Sin and Death is very exquisite in its kind, if not considered as a part of such a work. The truths contained in it are so clear and open, that I shall not lose time in explaining them; but shall only observe, that a reader who knows the strength of the English tongue, will be amazed to think how the poet could find such apt words and phrases to describe the actions of those two imaginary persons, and particularly in that part where Death is exhibited as forming a bridge over the Chaos; a work suitable to the genius of Milton.
Since the subject I am upon gives me an opportunity of speaking more at large of such shadowy and imaginary persons as may be introduced in heroic ems, I shall beg leave to explain myself in a matter which is curious in its kind, and which none of the critics have treated of. It is certain Homer and Virgil are full of imaginary persons who are very beautiful in poetry when they are just shown without being engaged in any series of action. Homer, indeed, represents