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Paradise Regained, executed when he was verging on sixty. The subject of that poem is expressly and exclusively the Temptation of Christ by the Devil in the Wilderness, after his baptism by John, as related in Matt. iv. 1-11, Mark i. 12, 13, and Luke iv. 1-13. Commentators on the Poem, indeed, have remarked it as somewhat strange that Milton should have given so general a title as "Paradise Regained" to a poem representing only this particular passage of the Gospel History. For the subject of the Poem is thus announced in the opening lines
On which passage, and on the Poem generally, a commentator (Thyer), representing a general feeling, makes this remark: "It may seem a little odd that
Milton should impute the recovery of Paradise to this short scene of our Saviour's life upon earth, and not rather extend it to His Agony, Crucifixion, "&c. But the reason, no doubt, was that Paradise regained by our Saviour's
resisting the temptation of Satan might be a better contrast to Paradise lost by our first parents too easily yielding to the same seducing Spirit." This remark is perfectly just; but it receives elucidation and point from Ellwood's story of the way in which the poem came into existence.
Only by firmly remembering that it was as a sequel to Paradise Lost that Paradise Regained grew into shape in Milton's mind, will the second poem be rightly understood. The commentators, indeed, as they have sought the "origin of Paradise Lost," or hints for its origin, in all sorts of previous poems, Italian, Latin, and Dutch, on the same subject (see our Introduction to the Poem), have, though less laboriously, searched for previous poems from which Milton may have taken hints for his Paradise Regained. Todd, in his preliminary observations entitled Origin of Paradise Regained," refers to the following pieces as possibly in Milton's recollection while he was writing the Poem, -Bale's Brefe Comedy or Enterlude concernynge the Temptacyon of our Lorde and Saver Jesus Christ by Sathan in the Desart (1538); Giles Fletcher's Christ's Victorie and Triumph (1611), a poem in four parts, the second of which, entitled "Christ's Triumph on Earth," describes the Temptation; also La Humanità del Figlivolo di Dio, a poem in ten books, by Theofilo Folengo of Mantua (1533); La Vita et Passione di Christo, a poem by Antonio Cornozano (1518); and one or two other Italian poems cited at random for their titles and not from knowledge. The only one of these references worth much is that to Giles Fletcher's religious poem. Giles Fletcher (died 1623), and his brother Phineas Fletcher, who outlived him more than twenty-five years, were among the truest poets in the interval between Spenser and Milton, and the highest in that ideal or Spenserian faculty which Milton possessed and admired. He must have known the works of both brothers well, and not least the really fine poem of Giles Fletcher to which Todd refers. But recollection of it can have had no effect on the scheme of his own Paradise Regained. That was determined simply by the poet's own meditations on those passages of the Evangelists which narrate the Temptation in the Wilderness,-especially the eleven verses in Matt. iv. and the thirteen in Luke iv.—with a view to construct therefrom an
"I, who erewhile the happy Garden sung
And Eden raised in the waste Wilderness."
imagination of the whole scene, which, while it should be true to the scriptural text, should fit as a sequel to Paradise Lost. The result was the poem as we now have it-a poem in which the brief scriptural narrative of the Temptation is expanded into four books, and yet the additions and filling-in are consistent with the texts which have suggested them.
So distinctly is Paradise Regained a sequel to Paradise Lost that acquaintance with Paradise Lost is all but presupposed in the reader ere he begins the shorter poem. Such acquaintance, indeed, is not absolutely necessary; but it conduces to a more exact understanding of the total meaning of the poem, and of not a few individual passages in it. Indeed, even that diagram of Universal Space or physical Infinitude which was before the poet's mind, as we have seen, throughout Paradise Lost (see our Introduction to that Poem), is still present to his mind, though more dimly, in Paradise Regained.
The result of Satan's triumph in Paradise Lost, it is to be remembered, was that he and his crew of Fallen Angels had succeeded in adding the "orbicular World" of Man, i.e. the whole Starry Universe with the Earth at its centre, to that infernal Empire of Hell to which they had been driven down on their expulsion from Heaven or the Empyrean. At the close of the real action of the great epic this is what we find Satan and Sin congratulating themselves upon (Book X. 350-409)—that Man's World has now been wrested from the Empire of Heaven above, and annexed to that of Hell beneath. An inter-communication has been established between Hell and Man's World, and it is hinted that thenceforward the Fallen Angels will not dwell so much in their main dark dominion of Hell as in the more lightsome World overhead, to which access is now easy. Distributing themselves through this World, they will rule its spheres and its elements; but more especially will they congregate in the Air round the central Earth, so as to intermingle with human affairs continually and exercise their diabolic functions on the successive generations of men. They originally Angels in the Empyreal Heaven, then doomed spirits in Hell-will now be the "Powers of the Air," round about the Earth, and the Gods of Man's World. So they anticipate, and, over and over again throughout the poem, we are reminded that their anticipation has been fulfilled. What is the theory throughout Paradise Lost but that the gods of all the heathen mythologies, worshipped by all the nations, are the Fallen Angels who, in their new condition as Demons of Man's World and Powers of the Air, have so blinded and drugged the perceptions and imaginations of men as to be accepted as divinities?
Well, in Paradise Regained all this is assumed. It is assumed that for some thousands of years these "Powers of the Air," alias Devils, alias gods of the Polytheistic Mythologies, have been in possession of Man's World, distributed some here, some there, according to their characters and faculties of mischief, but occasionally meeting in council somewhere in the element of Air or Mist. Satan is still their chief-the greatest in power and in ability, the leader in their councils, their governor, and the director of their common enterprises. He is no longer quite the same sublime spirit as in the Paradise Lost, in whom were to be discerned the majestic lineaments of the Archangel just ruined. The thousands of years he has spent since then in his self-selected function as the devil of our Earth,- -no longer flying from star to star and through the grander regions of Universal Space, but winging about constantly close to our Earth, and meddling incessantly with all that is worst in merely terrestrial affairs, — have told upon his nature, and even upon his mien and bearing. He is a
meaner, shrewder spirit, both morally and physically less impressive. But he has not yet degenerated into the mere scoffing Mephistopheles of Goethe's great poem. He retains something of his former magnanimity, or at least of his power of understanding and appealing to the higher motives of thought and action. Whatever of really great invention or wisdom remains among the diabolic host in their diffusion through Man's World and its elements is still chiefly lodged in him. He it is, accordingly, who, in his vigilance as to what goes on on Earth, is the first to become aware of the advent of one who may possibly be that prophesied 'greater Man" who is to retrieve the consequences of Adam's fall, end the diabolic influence in Man's World, and reconnect that World with Heaven. He it is who, as soon as he has made this discovery, summons the diabolic crew to consultation; and the farther trial of Christ's virtue likewise devolves on him.
The greater portion of the first book of the Poem is preliminary to the real action. It describes the baptism of Christ, when about thirty years of age, and as yet obscure and unknown, by John at Bethabara on the Jordan, the recognition of him by John, the proclamation from Heaven of his Messiahship, the presence of Satan among those who hear this proclamation, and his alarm thereupon. A few days are then supposed to elapse, during which Christ remains in his lodging in Bethabara, the object now of much public regard, and with his first disciples gathering round him; after which he is led by the Spirit into the wilderness, there to revolve his past life, and meditate on the ministry he is about to begin. It is after he has been already forty days in the Desert, and has begun to feel hunger, that the special action of the Poem opens (I. 303). It extends over three days. On the first day (the fortieth, it is to be supposed, of Christ's stay in the Wilderness,) we have Satan's presentation of himself to Christ in the guise of an old peasant, their first discourse, and the commencement of the Temptation in the manner in which it is related both in Matthew and in Luke-to wit, by the suggestion to Christ that he should prove his divinity by turning the stones around him into bread. This part of the relation occupies the remainder of Book I., which ends with a description of the coming on of night in the Desert. In Book II. the relation is resumed -about half the Book being occupied with an episodic account of the perplexity of Mary and the disciples by reason of Christ's mysterious absence, and an account also of a second council of the Evil Spirits to advise with Satan on his farther proceedings; but the remainder of the Book bringing us back to the Desert, where Satan, early in the second day, renews the temptation. This second day's temptation is the most protracted and laborious, and the account of it extends from Book II. through the whole of Book III. and over two-thirds of Book IV. It is here that Milton has allowed his imagination the largest liberty in expanding the brief hints of the scriptural texts. Both in Matthew and in Luke the acts of the Temptation are represented as three. There is the Temptation of the Bread, or the appeal to Christ's hunger, which is put first by both Evangelists: there is the Temptation of the Vision of the Kingdoms of the Earth from a mountain-top, or the appeal to Christ's ambition-which Luke puts second in order, but Matthew last; and there is the Temptation on the pinnacle of the Temple, or, as it may be called, the appeal to vanity-which Matthew puts second, but Luke last. Milton, assigning a separate day to each act of the Temptation, follows Luke's order rather than Matthew's in the last two acts, and devotes the second day to the appeal to Christ's ambition. But he adds a variety of circumstances. He begins
the day, for example, with a repetition of the hunger-temptation of the previous day, and then passes on to subtle appeals to the higher appetites of wealth and power, so as to prepare the way for the vision of the Kingdoms of the Earth from the mountain-top. Milton's management of this vision (which begins at line 251 of Book III. and extends to line 393 of Book IV.) has hardly met with sufficient admiration. He contrives to make it not only a splendid, but also a most accurate, general view of the political condition of the earth at the time referred to, when the Parthians in the East and the Romans in the West were the great rival powers that had swamped all others; and by thus supposing Satan to have based his temptation on the actual state of the world, and a calculation of what might be done by the genius of a bold adventurer striking in, at that particular juncture, between the Romans and the Parthians, he imparts to it a character of high Machiavellian ability. But the Temptation passes into still a new vein at the close, where, the direct appeal to political ambition having failed, Satan, with Athens in view instead of Rome, tries to work on the passion for purely intellectual distinction. This too failing, the second day's temptation is at an end, and there is the return from the mountaintop to the wilderness, where Christ is left alone during a night of storm and ghastliness. There remains then only the final act of the Temptation, reserved for the third day-the temptation on the pinnacle of the Temple. Although 'Milton has also put his own interpretation on this portion of the Temptation, working up to the actual transportation of Christ to the pinnacle, and the challenge of his power there, by previous questionings of Satan whether, after all, he is the "Son of God" in any very extraordinary sense, yet a comparatively brief space suffices both for the discourse leading up to the incident and for the incident itself. The third day's temptation, indeed, encroaching only a little on that day, and not protracted over the whole of it, occupies only about the last third of Book IV. One sees, at the close of the poem, why Milton preferred Luke's arrangement of the three acts of the Temptation to Matthew's. The reservation of the incident on the pinnacle of the Temple to the last enables the poet to close with that fine visual effect of Christ standing alone on the pinnacle, after Satan's inglorious fall, till the fiery globe of ministering Angels surround him, and bear him in safety to Earth on their wings as on a floating couch. Down they bear him to a flowery valley, and to the celestial food spread out for him there; he refreshes himself therewith while the Angels above sing a hymn of his victory and its consequences; then, rising, he finds his way unobserved to his mother's house.
Speaking of Paradise Regained, Milton's nephew, Phillips, says (Life of Milton, 1694): "It is generally censured to be much inferior to the other (i.e. "to Paradise Lost), though he (Milton) could not hear with patience any such
thing when related to him." Tradition, as usual, has exaggerated this statement, until now the current assertion is that Milton preferred Paradise Regained to Paradise Lost. We may safely say that he knew better than to do any such thing. But, probably, in that “general censure" of the inferiority of the smaller poem, which had begun, according to Phillips, even during the thre years that were spared Milton to note its reception, he discovered critical misconceptions which have transmitted themselves to our time. "Is Paradise Regained complete or not?" is a question on which a good deal has been written by Peck, Warburton, Newton, and others. The sole reason for thinking that it is incomplete, and that possibly the four books of the Poem as it now stands were originally intended only as part of a much larger poem, is founded
on the smallness of that portion of Christ's life which is embraced in the poem, and on the stopping short of that consummation which would have completed the antithesis to Paradise Lost-i.e. the expulsion of Satan and his crew out of the human World altogether back to Hell. This objection has already been discussed, and found invalid. By no protraction of the poem over the rest of Christ's life, we may also remark, could Milton have brought the story to the consummation thought desirable. The virtual deliverance of the World from the power of Satan and his crew may be represented as achieved in Christ's life on earth, and Milton represents it as achieved in Christ's first encounter with Satan at the outset of his ministry; but the actual or physical expulsion of the Evil Spirits out of their usurped world into their own nether realm was left a matter of prophecy or promise, and was certainly not regarded by Milton as having been accomplished even at the time when he wrote. Such completion of the poem, therefore, as could be given to it by working it on to this historical consummation, was impossible. But, in short, by publishing the poem as it stands, Milton certified its completeness according to his own idea of the theme.- -"Well, then," some of the critics continue, raising a second question, can the poem properly be called an epic?" They have in view the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Æneid, as the types of epics; and, allowing that Paradise Lost may rank as also an epic, they think Paradise Regained too short and too simple for such a name. But Milton had anticipated the objection as early as 1641, when, in his Reason of ChurchGovernment, speaking of his literary schemes, he had discriminated two kinds of epics, of which he might have the option, if he should ultimately determine on the epic form of composition as the best for his genius. "That epick
form," he had said, "whereof the two poems of Homer, and those other two "of Virgil and Tasso are a diffuse, and the Book of Job a brief model.' May we not say that, whereas in Paradise Lost he had adopted the larger or more diffuse of the two models of epic here described, so in Paradise Regained he had in view rather the smaller or briefer model? This would put the matter on its right footing. Paradise Regained is a different poem from Paradise Lostnot so great, because not admitting of being so great; but it is as good in its different kind. The difference of kinds between the two poems is even signalized in certain differences in the language and versification. Paradise Regained seems written more hurriedly than Paradise Lost, and, though with passages of great beauty, with less avoidance of plain historical phrases, and less care to give to all the effect of continued song.