« PreviousContinue »
Having satiated, and fatigued my eyes gentle reader, by too intent an observation of what is
passing on earth; and raising therefore my thoughts to higher contemplations, to the wonders diffused by the supreme Being, for the benefit of man, through the universe; I felt my heart penetrated by a certain christian compunction, in reflecting how his inexpressible goodness, though perpetually and grievously offended by us, still shews itself in the highest degree indulgent towards us in preserving those wonders with a continual influence to our advantage; and how on the first provocation to vengeance, Almighty power does not enlarge the ocean, to pass its immense boundary, does not obscure the light of the sun, does not impress sterility on the earth, to ingulph us, to blind us, and finally to destroy us. Softened and absorbed in these divine emotions, I felt myself transported and hurried by a delightful violence into a terrestrial paradise, where I seemed to behold the first man Adam, a creature dear to God, the friend of Angels, the heir of heaven, familiar with the stars, a compendium of all created things, the ornament of all, the miracle of nature, the lord of the animals, the only inhabitant of the universe, and enjoyer of a scene so wonderfully grand. Whence charmed
I resolved with the favour of the blessed God, to usher into the light of the world, what I bore in the darkness of my imagination; both to render it known in some measure, that, I know myself, and the infinite obligations, that I have to God, and that others, who do not know, may learn, the true nature of man, and from the low contemplation of earthly things, may raise their minds to things celestial and divine.
I remained however a considerable time in doubt if I ought, or of Iwere able to undertake a composition most difficult to me on many accounts, since in beginning the sacred subject from man's creation, to the point where he is driven from the terrestial paradise, a period of six years (as St.Augustin relates in his book on the city of God) I did not clearly perceive, how an action so brief, could be formed into five acts, especially allowing to every act the number of at least six or seven scenes, difficult from the dispute that the Devil maintained with Eve, first, that he might induce her to eat the apple, since we have only the
text, that mentions it in saying “ nequaquam moriemini et eritis sicut Dii scientes bonum et malum," difficult from the words of Eve in persuading Adam, (who had indeed the gift of knowledge infused) to taste the apple: but difficult above all, from my own infirmity, since the composition must remain deprived of those poetic ornaments, so dear to the muses : deprived of the power to draw comparisons from implements of art introduced in the course of years, since in the time of the first man there was no such thing, deprived also of naming (at least while Adam speaks or discourse is held with him) for example, bows, arrows, hatchets, urns, knives, swords, spears, trumpets. drums, trophies, banners, lists, hammers, torches, bellows, funeral piles, theatres, exchequers, infinite things of a like nature, introduced by the necessities of sin. And yet, as circumstances of affliction, and punishment, they ought not to pass through the mind, or through the lips of Adam, although he had knowledge infused into him, as one who lived most happy in a state of innocence: deprived moreover of introducing points of Hissory sacred or profane, of relating fictions of fabulous deities, of rehearsing loves, furies, sports of hunting, or fishing, triumphs, shipwrecks, conflagrations, inchantments, and things of a like nature, that are in truth the ornament and the soul of poetry, difficult from not knowing in what style Adam ought to speak, since in respect to his knowledge it might be proper to ass sign to him verses of a high majestic and flowing style; but considering him as'a shepherd and inhabitant of the woods, it appears, that he should be simple and sweet in his discourse, and I endeavoured on that account to render it such as much as I could by variety of versification. And here taking courage in my greatest doubt, I formed, I know not how, a beginning; I advanced, if I may say so, without any determinate plan: and arrived at the end, before I was aware. Whence I am inclined to believe, that the favour of God regarding rather my good intention, than my defects (for as he often withdraws the heart of Man, from evil so he conduets it insensibly to good) gave direction to my hand, and completed my
work. Wherefore to that alone I am indebted for the little grace that may perhaps be found in the present labour; knowing, that as Omnipotence is accustomed to produce wonders from the rude and unformed Chaos, so, from the still ruder Chaos of my mind, it may have called forth this production, if not for any other purpose, yet to be sacred and to make as it were a mútë speak in my person, in despite of poverty of genius, as on the other hand it is accustomed to strike mute the most eloquent tongues, when they employ themselves on subjects low' and profane. Let it be surveyed therefore, with an eye of indulgence, and blame not the poverty of style,