Page images
[blocks in formation]


OF Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, heavenly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the Heavens and Earth
Rose out of Chaos! Or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook, that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my advent'rous song,


Lines 1–9. Of man's first disobe- 6. On the secret top of Oreb, &c.] dience.] The natural order of these Sonne have proposed to read “sacred" lines is “Heavenly Muse, sing of instead of "secret ;" but no one can man's first disobedience, &c.” There study carefully the account of the has been some dispute among gram- giving of the law in Exodus, without marians as to what part of speech of being persuaded of the superior pro. (the first word of the poem) ought to priety of the former epithet. be considered. I incline to call it a pre- 7. Oreb or Horeb, and Sinai are position; but it certainly may be consi- two peaks of the same mountain range dered an adverb, being used to qualify between the Gulfs of Suez and Akaba. the verb “sing” in 1. 6. The good of It is about two miles from north to the inversion is that it enables the Poet south, and about one fourth of a mile to state at once the object of his song. in width. Horeb is at the northern

2. Whose mortai taste brought end of the range, and Sinai at the death, fc.] The word “mortal” is southern, nearly 100 miles from the here used in the sense of “causing top of the Gulf of Suez. death,” not“ subject to death ;” and it 8. Who first taught.] “First” is may be allowed that there is some- here an adjective, not an adverb. It thing pleonastic in the phrase. But means that he “ before any one else" the blemish is very slight, if it is taught &c., not that he taught them one at all. Too many such pleonasms first, and then did something else. would indicate conscious weakness, but 10. Rose out of Chaos.] Milton here the occasional use of one may spring uses a classical word, but with a strictly from the exuberance of strength. scriptural idea attached to it. See

5. Restore us, and regain the blissful Gen. i. 1 & 2. Chaos, the “rudis in. seat.] What part of the verb are restore digestaque moles” of Ovid, means the and regain here? Why does Milton rude and shapeless mass of matter which ose the definite article the blissful seat? existed before the formation of the world.

That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly Thou, O Spirit! that dost prefer
Before all temples th' upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread, 20
Dove-like, sat'st brooding on the vast abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant: What in me is dark,
14. That with no middle flight, &c.]

Then was the Almighty angry; " As Virgil rivalled Homer, so Milton The Highest Ruler of Heaven

Hurled him from the lofty seat." was the emulator of both. He found llomer possessed of the province of To bring a charge of plagiarism on Morality; Virgil of Politics ; and no- such a slender foundation is contrary thing left for him but that of Religion. to all the rules of literary criticism. This he seized, as ambitious to share From the lines I refer to, I see no with them in the Government of the reason to think that Milton ever saw poetic world : and by the means o" the them; and it is quite certain that in superior dignity of his subject, hath FAIRFAX's Translation of Tasso, and gotten to the head of that Triumvirate still more in SPENSER's Faërie Queene, which took so many ages in forming." we meet with lines by the dozen that

WARBURTON'S Divine Legation of more resemble Milton, and that yet arc Moses.

quite different. It would have been easy 15. The Aonian mount was Helicon for the objectors to put two or three in Boeotia. It was sacred to Apollo and lines, out of the cento or hundred that the Muses. Milton here intimates with- they talk about, into parallel columns ; out reserve that he purposes to produce but this they have not done. Milton a nobler poem than any transmitted to was undoubtedly a great borrower and us by the Greeks or Romans.

debtor both to Jew and Gentile, but 16. Things unattempted yet in prose whatever he took he fused in the fire or rhyme.] Mr. Conybeare, speaking of his own imagination. There is no of the metrical paraphrase of parts of mistaking his thunder. See also note Scripture, ascribed to a second Cæd- on Book I. l. 351-5. mon, alleges that the fall of man is 17. And chiefly Thou, 0 Spirit that considered, ushered in by an account dost prefer, &c.] Coleridge remarks, of the pride, rebellion, and punishment in his Table Talk, that “ John Milton of Satan and his powers, “ with a re- himself is in every line of the Paradise semblance to Milton so remarkable, Lost.” We certainly see him here in that much of this portion might be his ardent piety and in his puritanic almost literally translated by a cento contempt for splendid temples. of lines from that great poet." Mr. fore all temples," i. e. any possible Turner, too, in his most excellent His- temple that could be built by the tory of the Anglo-Saxons, brings the hand of man. In his prose works we same accusation against our author; find a similar reference to the Holy and, if these assertions could be esta- Spirit, and get also an insight into the blished, they would show that Milton training of his mind for the production of was doing anything rather than pur- some great work. Milton took to poetry suing “ things unattempted yet in prose

as the business of his life, and certainly or rhyme." But out of about 150 lines he was not “ slothful in the business." given in the Pictorial History of Eng- “ Neither do I think it shame to coland, vol. i. p. 294–296., I find nothirg venant with any knowing reader, that more nearly resembling Milton's lines for some few years yet I may go on than these :-

trust with him toward the payment of

6 Be



Illumine ; what is low, raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

Say first, for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of Hell ; say first, what cause
Moved our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will,
For one restraint, lords of the world besides ?
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived

The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven with all his host
Of rebel Angels; by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the Most High,

40 If he opposed; and, with ambitious aim

Against the throne and monarchy of God, what I am now indebted, as being a able to do justice to the difficult subwork not to be raised from the heat of ject he has taken in hand, and conyouth or the vapours of wine ; like vince men of the great truth that this that which flows at waste from the pen world is not under the dominion of of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher chance, but is really governed by God. fury of a rhyming parasite ; nor to be 26. And justify, fc.] Pope has obtained by the invocation of Dame adopted this line with the change of Memory and her siren daughters, but one word—vindicate for justify. There by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit is not much to choose between them. who can enrich with all utterance and “Vindicate” is, perhaps, slightly more knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, classical, and “justify” more scriptural. with the hallowed fire of his altar, to See Rom. iii. 4. touch and purify the lips of whom he 28. Tract of Hell.] e. region of pleases ; to this must be added in- hell. We still speak of a tract of land. dustrious and select reading, steady 30. Favoured of Heaven. ] What does observation, insight into all seemly and "favoured"apply to ;“ parents” or state? generous arts and affairs ; till which 32. For one restraint, lords of the in some measure be compassed, at mine world besides.] Except for one reown peril and cost, I refuse not to sus- straint, lords of all the world. See tain this expectation from as many as Gen. ii. 16 & 17. are not loth to hazard so much credu- 34. The infernal Serpent.] What lity upon the best pledges that I can case is serpent in here, and why? give them.” Reason of Church Go- 36. What time.] A Latinism for vernment, gc.

when or after. 23. What is low raise and support.] 40. He trusted to have equ i. e. raise up, and keep up when raised, Most High.] There is a slight grammawhat in me is low,

tical blemish here. It ought to be," He 24. The height of this great argu- trusted to equal the Most High.” — See ment.] Milton prays that he may be Connoy's English Grammar, p. 162.

[ocr errors]



Breaking the horrid silence, thus began.

“ If thou beest he; but O, how fallen! how changed From him who in the happy realms of light,

85 Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine Myriads though bright! If he whom mutual league, United thoughts and counsels, equal hope And hazard in the glorious enterprise, Joined with me once, now misery hath joined In equal ruin ; into what pit thou seest, From what height fallen; so much the stronger proved He with his thunder : and till then who knew The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those, Nor what the potent victor in his rage Can else inflict, do I repent, or change, Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed mind, And high disdain, from sense of injured merit, That with the Mightiest raised me to contend, And to the fierce contention brought along Innumerable force of Spirits armed, That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring, His utmost power with adverse power opposed In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,

And shook his throne. What though the field be lost ? 105 sary.” Hence the noun denotes an ad- understand “ If thou beest” he “whom versary or opposer. He is known mutual league;" but then the verb under many names, but Satan and “ hath joined" is without an object. Devil are the chief. We have the 93. He with his thunder. ] “There latter appellation in all the European is great beauty in this expression. tongues, probably coming from a Satan disdains to utter the name of Greek word signifying to traduce or God, though he cannot but acknowledge calumniate, and thus the Devil is em- his superiority.”—NEWTON. This way phatically “the father of lies.” The of indicating a subject which you do not term Satan occurs in the Scriptures wish to name, is known by rhetoricians about forty tiines, and that of Devil fifty. as a Euphemism.

84–86. If thou beest he, fc.] 101. Innumerable force.] “ Force” There is considerable confusion in the in the sense of multitude, not as in l. 94., construction of these lines. “Didst out- where it signifies might or power. shine," 1. 86., cannot, I conceive, be le

103 - - 104. His utmost power.] gitimately accounted for. The relative A remark of Campbell's in his Esrefers to “him," and consequently ought say on English Poetry, may be worth to have the verb in the third person, transcribing here. “Although Satan not the second.

speaks of having 'put to proof his 87. If he whom, &c.] More con- (Maker's) high supremacy, in dubiou s tusion. He ought to be him, as being battle, on the plains of Heaven,' the exunder the regimen of “ hath joined," pression, though finely characteristic of 1. 90. The natural order is, “ If misery his blasphemous pride, does not prevent hath now joined in equal ruin him us from feeling that the battle cannot whom mutual league, &c. joined for a moment be dubious.” with me once." We might, to be sure, 105. What though the field be lost ? 110

All is not lost; th' unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome ;
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power,
Who from the terror of this arm so late
Doubted his empire ; that were low indeed !
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall! since by fate the strength of Gods
And this empyreal substance cannot fail ;
Since, through experience of this great event,
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,

may with more successful hope resolve
To wage, by force or guile, eternal war,
Irreconcileable to our grand foe,
Who now triumphs, and in th’ excess of joy,
Sole reigning, holds the tyranny of Heaven."



All is not lost.] Compare Tasso's 80 (as he thinks) indestructible. The Recovery of Jerusalem, by Fairfax, reasoning seems to be much the same book iv., stanza xv.

as Bishop Butler brings forward in "I grant we fell on the Phlegrean green,

his “Analogy” at considerable length: Yet good our cause was, though our fortune

“ All presumption of death's being the nought ; For chance assisteth oft the ignobler part,

destruction of living beings must go We lost the field, yet lost we not our heart."

upon supposition that they are com109. And what is else not to be over- pounded ; and so discerptible. But since, come.] i.e. and if there is anything else &c.” In fact, Satan relies, as so many besides“ unconquerable will, &c.” which have done since, on the immateriality is not to be overcome. After enumerat- of the soul, as we call the “empyreal ing four special things, he takes care to substance,” as proof positive that "it add a general clause that shall include cannot fail;" but it is difficult to conany other quality. The Richardsonsceive that anything called into existence read the line with a mark of interroga- by the fiat of omnipotence could not be tion, “And what is else not to be over- annihilated by the same fiat. Whether come ?” and add this explanation, "If it will be so, is quite another questhis is not to be unsubdued, what is?” tion. I think the former explanation prefer- 120. With more successful hope.] i.e. able; but let the judicious reader choose with hope of more success. for himself.

124. Tyranny of Heaven.] Some 113. From the terror of this arm, idea of the hatred and contempt meant Pc.] i.e. terror inspired by it, not felt by to be embodied in this phrase may be it. The use of this is more vivid and formed by the following account of the emphatic than my. Vain boasting, of character of ancient tyrannies: “ The course; but not the less suitable to the Greeks had no abhorrence of kings; the character of Satan on that account. descendant of a hero-race, ruling over a

117. This empyreal substance.] i.e. people whom his fathers had ruled from substance not gross like our bodies, but time immemorial, was no subject of obformed of the purest fire or light, and loquy, either with the people or with the

« PreviousContinue »