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THE 'Paradise Regained' bears the same character, compared with the 'Paradise Lost,' as the New Testament bears, compared with the Old: it is more subdued, more didactic, more simple and unornamented, more practical, and less imaginative. The holy poet seems to have been awed by his subject, and to have given less of his own, either of thought, matter, or language: he appears rather the oracle or channel, through which the voice of the Divinity speaks. There is less of human learning, but more than human wisdom;-less of that visionariness of dimly-embodied, half-spiritual forms; and none of that gorgeous display of sublime creation, which the pictures every where abounding in Paradise Lost' exhibit. All in the Paradise Regained' wears a sober, serene majesty, like the mellow light of the moon in a calm autumnal evening.
It is true that the essence of poetry is not merely imagination or invention, but invention of a particular quality; and this belongs to the 'Paradise Lost' more than to the 'Paradise Regained:' as, for instance, to Satan's escape from hell, and his first sight of the newly-created globe of earth, and Adam and Eve placed in the enjoyment of it,
than to the description of Christ's entry into the wilderness, and Satan in disguise first accosting him: but though the latter description is less grandly imaginative, it is still rich with invention, and invention which is truly poetical: still it is a representation of actual existences, though not a copy of them.
Milton is here pre-eminent in designing character and sentiment: his dialogue is supported with miraculous power and force; and its strength and sublimity shine out the more from the extreme plainness of the language: the task was perilous to find adequate arguments for the contest between the Divine Humanity and a devil. The reader who is not deeply moved, and deeply instructed by it, must be one of brutish and hopeless stupidity. I have said before, that I deemed it an unquestionable duty of every one who understands the English language to study Milton next to the Holy Writings: this remark more especially applies to the description of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. The Paradise Lost' is moral and didactic, but less so than the 'Paradise Regained.'
Satan tempts Christ first by the offer of sensual pleasures; then of riches; then of power; then of glory; and, last, of intellectual pleasures: but Warburton objects to these temptations conquered, as the means of Paradise Regained;' and asserts, that the poet ought to have dwelt on Christ's death and resurrection as the price paid for this redemption. He says:--
"Whether Milton supposed the redemption of mankind, as he here represents it, was procured by Christ's triumph over the devil in the wilderness; or whether he thought that the scene of the desert, opposed to that of Paradise; and the action of a temptation withstood, to a temptation fallen under, made Paradise Regained' a more regular
sequel to 'Paradise Lost;' or, if neither this nor that, whether it was his being tired out with the labour of composing 'Paradise Lost,' which made him averse to another work of length, (and then he would never be at a loss for fanciful reasons to determine him in the choice of his plan,) is very uncertain. All that we can be sure of is, that the plan is a very unhappy one, and defective even in that narrow view of a sequel; for it affords the poet no opportunity of driving the devil back again to hell from his new conquests in the air. In the mean time, nothing was easier than to have invented a good one, which should end with the resurrection; and comprise these four books, somewhat contracted, in an episode; for which only the subject of them is fit."
Warburton was a man of great subtlety, force, and originality; but totally deficient in poetical taste. To have contracted the matter of these four books, would indeed have been a loss and a destruction. If the poem had been extended to the length of the 'Paradise Lost,' it might indeed have contained that of which Warburton charges the omission as a great defect: but as the poem now stands, it is a perfect whole in itself; and it is not improbable, that the poet found age and sickness too fast pressing upon him to make it longer.
It seems to me, that, in my preliminary remarks upon one of Milton's chief poems, I cannot do better than impress on the reader the peculiarity of the bard's genius, and endeavour to imbue him with a Miltonic taste; which is so distinct from that of all other poetry. That this is no fancy of my own, I can establish on the authority of Milton himself, and of the comments of two distinguished anno
I refer to the passage beginning v. 285 of b. iv. of 'Pa
radise Regained,' which contains Christ's answer to Satan's panegyric of human learning, beginning v. 236, describing Athens as the seat of all intellectual glory. Our Saviour answers, v. 309:
Alas! what can they teach, and not mislead,
The poet goes on, at v. 343:—
Remove their swelling epithets, thick laid
Such are from God inspired, not such from thee;
In them is plainest taught, and easiest learnt,
Thyer observes here, that "this answer of our Saviour is as much to be admired for solid reasoning, and the many sublime truths contained in it, as the preceding speech of Satan is for that fine vein of poetry which runs through it: and one may observe in general, that Milton has quite,