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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.
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 language of his heart he expostulates with his Creator for having given him an unasked existence.
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
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.
This whole speech is full of the like emotion, and varied with all those sentiments which we may suppose natural to a mind so broken and disturbed. I must not omit that generous concern which our first father shews in it for his posterity, and which is 80 proper to affect the reader.
Hide me from the face
In me all
But all corrupt Who can afterwards behold the father of mankind extended upon the earth, uttering his midnight complaints, bewailing his existence, and wishing for death, without sympathizing with him in his distress?
Thus 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 turn'd: but Eve
Forsake me not thus, Adam; witness heav'n
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 shew 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 persons, 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 poem. 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 into heroic poems, 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 shewn without being engaged in any series of action. Homer indeed, represents Sleep as a person, and ascribes a short part to him in his Iliad; but we must consider, that though we now regard such a person as entirely shadowy and unsubstantial, the heathens made statues of him, placed him in their temples, and looked upon him as a real deity. When Homer makes use of other such allegorical persons, it is only in short expressions, which convey an ordinary thought to the mind in the most pleasing manner, and may rather be looked upon as poetical phrases than allegorical descriptions. Instead of telling us that men naturally fly when they are terrified, he introduces the persons of Flight and Fear, who, he tells us, are inseparable companions. Instead of saying that the time was come when Apollo
ought to have received his recompence, he tells us that the Hours brought him his reward. Instead of describing the effects which Minerva's Ægis produced in battle, he tells us that the brims of it were encompassed by Terror, Rout, Discord, Fury, Pursuit, Massacre, and Death. In the same figure of speaking, he represents Victory as following Diomedes ; Discord as the mother of funerals and mourning ; Venus as dressed by the Graces ; Bellona as wearing terror and consternation like a garment. I might give several other instances out of Homer, as well as a great many out of Virgil. Milton has likewise very often made use of the same way of speaking, as where he tells us, that Victory sat on the right hand of the Messiah when he marched forth against the rebel angels; that at the rising of the sun the Hours unbarred the gates of Light; that Discord was the daughter of Sin. Of the same nature are those expressions, where describing the singing of the nightingale he adds,'Silence was pleased ;' and upon the Messiah's bidding peace to the Chaos, ' Confusion heard his voice.' I might add innumerable instances of our poet's writing in this beautiful figure. It is plain that these I have mentioned, in which persons of an imaginary nature are introduced, are such short allegories as are not designed to be taken in the literal sense, but only to convey particular circumstances to the reader after an unusual and entertaining manner. But when such persons are introduced as principal actors, and engaged in a series of adventures, they take too much upon them, and are by no means proper for an heroic poem, which ought to appear credible in its principal parts. I cannot forbear, therefore, thinking that Sin and Death are as improper agents in a work of this nature, as Strength and Necessity in one of the tragedies of Æschylus, who represented those two persons nailing down Prometheus to a rock, for which he has been justly censured by the greatest critics. I do not