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With lowliness majestic from her seat,
The Angel's returning a doubtful answer to Adam's inquiries, was not only proper for the moral reason which the poet assigns, but because it would have been highly absurd to have given the sanction of an arch-angel to any particular system of philosophy. The chief points in the Ptolemaic and Copernican hypothesis are described with great conciseness and perspicuity, and at the same time dressed in very pleasing and poetical images.
Adam, to detain the angel, enters afterwards upon his own history, and relates to him the circumstances in which he found himself upon his creation; as also his conversation with his Maker, and his first meeting with Eve. There is no part of the poem more apt to raise the attention of the reader, than this discourse of our great ancestor; as nothing can be more surprising and delightful to us, than to hear the sentiments that arose in the first man while he was yet new and fresh from the hands of his Creator. The poet has interwoven every thing which is delivered upon this subject in holy writ with so many beautiful imaginations of his own, that nothing can be conceived more just and natural than this whole episode. As our author knew this subject could not but be agreeable to his reader, he would not throw it into the relation of the six days' works, but reserved it for a distinct episode, that he might have an opportunity of expatiating upon it more at large. Before I enter on this part of the poem, I cannot but take notice of two shining passages in the dialogue between Adam and the angel The first is that wherein our ancestor gives an account of the pleasure he took in conversing with him, which contains a very noble moral
For while I sit with thee, I seem in heaven,
The other I shall mention is that in which the angel gives a reason why he should be glad to hear the story Adam was about to relate.
For I that day was absent, as befel,
There is no question but our poet drew the image in what follows from that in Virgil's sixth book, where Æneas and the Sibyl stand before the adamantine gates, which are there described as shut upon the place of torments, and listen to the groans, the clank of chains, and the noise of iron whips, that were heard in thosc regions of ruin and sorrow.
Fast we found, fast shut
But long ere our approaching, heard within
Adam then proceeds to give an account of his condition and sentiments immediately after his creation. How agreeably does he represent the posture in which he found himself, the delightful landskip that surrounded him, and the gladness of heart which grew up in him on that occasion.
-As new waked from soundest sleep,
Adam is afterwards described as surprised at his own existence, and taking a survey of himself, and of all the works of nature. He likewise is represented as discovering by the light of reason, that he and every thing about him must have been the effect of some Being infinitely good and powerful, and that this Being had a right to his worship and adoration. His first address to the sun, and to those parts of the creation, which made the most distinguished figure, is very natural and amusing to the imagination.
-Thou sun, said I, fair light,
His next sentiment, when upon his first going to sleep, he fancies himself losing his existence, and falling away into nothing, can never be sufficiently admired. His dream, in which he still preserves the consciousness of his existence, together with his removal into the garden which was prepared for his reception, are also circumstances finely imaged, and grounded upon what is delivered in sacred story.
These and the like wonderful incidents in this part of the work, have in them all the beauties of novelty, at the same time that they have all the graces of nature. They are such as none but a great genius could have thought of, though, upon the perusal of them, they seem to rise of themselves from the subject of which he treats. In a word, though they are natural they are not obvious, which is the true character of all fine writing.
The impression which the interdiction of the tree of life left in the mind of our first parent, is described with great strength and judgment; as the image of the several beasts and birds passing in review before him is very beautiful and lively.
Each bird and beast behold
Adam, in the next place, describes a conference which he held with his Maker upon the subject of solitude. The poet here represents the Supreme Being, as making an essay of his own work, and putting to the trial that reasoning faculty with which he had endued his creature. Adam
urges, in this divine colloquy, the impossibility of his being happy, though he was the inhabitant of Paradise, and Lord of the whole creation, without the conversa.
" The beauty of these lines did not escape the elegant and judicious Addison ; but that author does not assign the reason of his approbation.” -V. Beattie on Truth, part i. ch. ii. 6. text and note.-G.
tion and society of some rational creature, who should partake those blessings with him. This dialogue, which is supported chiefly by the beauty of the thoughts, without other poetical ornaments, is as fine a part as any in the whole poem : the more the reader examines the justness and delicacy of its sentiments, the more he will find himself pleased with it. The poet has wonderfully preserved the character of majesty and condescension in the Creator, and at the same time that of humility and adoration in the creature, as particularly in the following lines,
Thus I presumptuous; and the vision bright,
-I with leave of speech implor'd
Adam then proceeds to give an account of his second sleep, and of the dream in which he beheld the formation of Eve. The new passion that was awakened in him at the sight of her is touched very finely.
Under his forming hands a creature grew,
Adam's distress upon losing sight of this beautiful phantom, with his exclamations of joy and gratitude at the discovery of a real creature, who resembled the apparition which had been presented to him in his dream; the approaches he makes to her, and his manner of courtship, are all laid together in a most exquisite propriety of sentiments.
Though this part of the poem is worked up with great warmth