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THE subject proposed. Invocation of the Holy Spirit. The poem opens with John baptizing at the river Jordan. Jesus coming there is baptized; and is attested by the descent of the Holy Ghost, and by a voice from heaven, to be the Son of God. Satan, who is present, upon this immediately flies up into the regions of the air: where, summoning his Infernal Council, he acquaints them with his apprehensions that Jesus is that seed of the woman, destined to destroy all their power, and points out to them the immediate necessity of bringing the matter to proof, and of attempting by snares and fraud to counteract and defeat the person, from whom they have so much to dread. This office he offers himself to undertake, and, his offer being accepted, sets out on his enterprize. In the mean time God, in the assembly of holy angels, declares that he has given up his Son to be tempted by Satan; but foretels that the Tempter shall be completely defeated by him: upon which the angels sing a hymn of triumph. Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, while he is meditating on the commencement of his great office of Saviour of mankind. Pursuing his meditations he narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and philanthropic impulses he had felt from his early youth, and how his mother Mary, on perceiving these dispositions in him, had acquainted him with the circumstances of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a person than the Son of God; to which he adds what his own enquiries and reflections had supplied in confirmation of this great truth, and particularly dwells on the recent attestation of it at the river Jordan. Our Lord passes forty days, fasting, in the wilderness; where the wild beasts become mild and harmless in his presence. Satan now appears under the form of an old peasant; and enters into discourse with our Lord, wondering what could have brought him alone into so dangerous a place, and at the same time professing to recognize him for the person lately acknowledged by John, at the river Jordan, to be the Son of God. Jesus briefly replies. Satan rejoins with a description of the difficulty of supporting life in the wilderness; and entreats Jesus, if he be
really the Son of God, to manifest his divine power, by changing some of the stones into bread. Jesus reproves him, and at the same time tells him that he knows who he is. Satan instantly avows himself, and offers an artful apology for himself and his conduct. Our blessed Lord severely reprimands him, and refutes every part of his justification. Satan, with much semblance of humility, still endeavours to justify himself; and professing his admiration of Jesus and his regard for virtue, requests to be permitted at a future time to hear more of his conversation; but is answered that this must be as he shall find permission from above. Satan then disappears, and the book closes with a short description of night coming on in the desert. Dunster.
I WHO ere while the happy garden sung,
Milton's Paradise Regained has not met with the approbation that it deserves. It has not the harmony of numbers, the sublimity of thought, and the beauties of diction, which are in Paradise Lost. It is composed in a lower and less striking style, a style suited to the subject. Artful sophistry, false reasoning, set off in the most specious manner, and refuted by the Son of God with strong unaffected eloquence, is the peculiar excellence of this poem. Satan there defends a bad cause with great skill and subtlety, as one thoroughly versed in that craft;
Qui facere assuerat
His character is well drawn. Jortin.
Of Paradise Regained the general judgment seems now to be right, that it is in many parts elegant, and every where instructive. It was not to be supposed that the writer of Paradise
Lost could ever write without great effusions of fancy, and exalted precepts of wisdom. The basis of Paradise Regained is narrow; a dialogue without action can never please like an union of the narrative and dramatic powers. Had this poem been written not by Milton, but by some imitator, it would have claimed and received universal praise. Johnson.
But surely this poem has merits far superior to occasional elegance" and "general instruction;" and indeed that this is really the case is sufficiently implied in the succeeding sentence of Dr. Johnson's critique.
That "the basis of Paradise Regained is narrow" has been the remark of several of the critics. See Bentley's note on Par. Lost, x. 182, who observes upon this work, that Milton "has amplified his scanty materials to a surprising dignity; but yet, being cramped down by a wrong