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Impenitent, and left a race behind
Like to themselves, distinguishable scarce
From Gentiles, but by circumcision vain ;
And God with idols in their worship join'd.
Should I of these the liberty regard,
Who, freed, as to their ancient patrimony,
Unhumbled, unrepentant, unreform'd,
Headlong would follow: and to their gods perhaps
Of Bethel and of Dan? No; let them serve
Their enemies, who serve idols with God.
Yet he at length, (time to himself best known)
Remembering Abraham, by some wondrous call

b Who, freed, as to their ancient patrimony,

Unhumbled, unrepentant, unreform'd,

Headlong would follow; and to their gods perhaps
Of Bethel and of Dan ?

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425

430

There is some difficulty and obscurity in this passage; and several conjectures and emendations have been offered to clear it; but none, I think, entirely to satisfaction. Mr. Sympson would read "Headlong would fall off, and," &c., or Headlong would fall," &c., but Mr. Calton seems to come nearer the poet's meaning. Whom or what would they follow? says he. There wants an accusative case; and what must be understood to complete the sense can never be accounted for by an ellipsis, that any rules or use of language will justify. He therefore 'suspects by some accident a whole line may have been lost; and proposes one, which he says may serve at least for a commentary to explain the sense, if it cannot be allowed for an emendation :

Their fathers in their old iniquities
Headlong would follow, &c.

Or is not the construction thus ?" Headlong would follow as to their ancient patrimony, and to their gods perhaps," &c.-Newton.

There is somewhat of obscurity here, it must be allowed; but I conceive our author to have many passages that are more implicate. The sense seems to be this: Who, if

they were freed from that captivity, which was inflicted on them as a punishment for their disobedience, idolatry, and other vices, would return to take possession of their country, as something to which they were justly entitled, and of which they had been long unjustly deprived; without showing the least sense either of their former abandoned conduct, or of God's goodness in pardoning and restoring them. This change in their situation would produce none whatever in their conduct; but they would retain the same hardened hearts, and the same wicked dispositions as before, and most probably would betake themselves to their old idolatries and other abominations." The expression "headlong would follow" seems allusive to brute animals hurrying in a gregarious manner to any new and better pasture; and "headlong" might be particularly suggested by Sallust's description of irrational animals," pecora, quæ natura prona, atque ventri obedientia finxit." If a correction of the text be thought necessary, I should prefer,

1

Who, freed as to their ancient patrimony,

Unhumbled, unrepentant, unreform'd,

Headlong would fall unto their gods, perhaps

Of Bethel and of Dan.

in recommendation of which it may be observed, that "fall to idols " is Miltonic; as it is said of Solomon, "Paradise Lost," b. i. 444, that his heart,

Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell

To idols foul.-DUNSTER.

Is there not some distant allusion here to the effect of the restoration of Charles II., whom and whose followers their misfortunes had not taught virtue and humility?

Their enemies, &c.

No; let them serve

"Like as ye have forsaken me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours," Jer. v. 19.-DUNSTER.

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non of Israel; but in saying that the Lord 1 Ja e ver Euphrates, at their return from Sa a dezer Jurian at their coming from Egypt, the Bern. 12. and to Isa. xi. 15, 16.-NEWTON.

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Taos in the templation of our blessed Lord, “Chris-

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But her täispersed into wind,

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se conciason of this book, as against that of the mmca? her a part so highly finished, as the view of the § enever if a tiary expedition, it has not the effect it would DƏROVED, I DONT maclusion, and one that materially carries on D WIL JI 8122, 25 of 38 merit is, that however we might DEA SATURG - Bu xam? hare been possible to compress the matter it contains.

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BOOK IV.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.

DUNSTER observes, that great poems have generally fallen off, and grown languid, at the close; but that this is not the case with the "Paradise Regained." The greater part of this fourth book is still dialogue and argument; first in favour of the military power and splendid trophies of Rome; then of the intellectual eminence and spiritual charms of Athens: but it is accompanied by more of action; as the storm in the wilderness raised by Satan, which is one of the grandest descriptions in all poetry; and the carrying off our Saviour by force to the temple of Jerusalem, and placing him on the top of a pinnacle. This is the last trial, and here Satan gives himself up as completely overcome.

The dialogues are always supported with surprising knowledge and power on both sides, though of course with an overcoming superiority on the part of Christ. The reasonings or the pleadings on the part of Satan are often so plausible, that the reader is kept on the anxious stretch how they are to be answered; and feels an electric glow at the unexpected force with which the ready answer is supplied. This never allows these argumentative parts to languish, but keeps the mind in full exercise and constant emotion. It is true, that the learning is so immense, that few can, in the perusal, follow the allusions; but the epithets are so picturesque or striking, that they rouse the mind with a general and strong, though indefinable activity and pleasure: we feel a master-spirit instructing and overawing us, and we believe we do not take it as the flourish of rhetoric, but acknowledge its sincerity and predominance of thought. A divine intelligence is enlightening us, on the grandeur of creation, on the mysteries of our being, and on the purposes, vanities, and delusions of this terrestrial world.

:

Perhaps it may be urged, that this may be useful doctrine, but not poetry. Poetry must represent truths through the medium of imagination. Are not Rome and Athens so delineated by Milton, that we have both lively imagery and accurate comments? We are taught to view them in their proper and undisguised characters.

Speaking of the wise men of Athens, and their different sects, the heathen philosophers, Milton says,

who therefore seeks in these

True wisdom, finds her not; or, by delusion,

Far worse, her false resemblance only meets,

An empty cloud. However, many books,

Wise men have said, are wearisome: who reads

Incessantly, and to his reading brings not

A spirit and judgment equal or superiour,

(And what he brings what needs he elsewhere seek?)

Uncertain and unsettled still remains,

Deep versed in books, and shallow in himself;

Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys

And trifles for choice matters, worth a sponge;

As children gathering pebbles on the shore.

The praise of such a passage as this would be like an attempt to gild the sun

beam.

When Satan was thus silenced, in his attempt to seduce our Saviour by the splendours of Athenian Literature, there follows, at verse 368, an outburst of tremendous force, beginning,

Since neither wealth nor honour, arms nor arts,

and continuing for twenty-five lines.

E E

Satan, in a rage at his defeat, thus resorts to threats :

So saying, he took, (for still he knew his power
Not yet expired) and to the wilderness
Brought back the Son of God, and left him there,
Feigning to disappear. Darkness now rose, &c.

Then follows the frightful storm, when "either tropic began thunder, and both ends of heaven ;" and the "winds rush'd abroad from the four hinges of the world." This is followed by a bright morning, which, Joseph Warton says, " exhibits some of the finest lines which Milton has written in all his poems.' Yet perhaps the storm is still finer: the contrast between the two is enchanting and most glorious. This intermixture of the intellectual, the speculative, and the descriptive, makes the perfect charm, that renders poetry divine.

Man is nothing, but as his mind operates upon matter; and matter is nothing, but as it is associated in its effects upon mind. Mere description is but imperfect poetry but the spell is not confined to what is said and thought; much depends upon the character whence it comes. Every word assigned by Milton to Satan belongs to his proper character: thus his outlet of ungovernable anger at being confuted, and his consequent threats and evil prophecies, succeed to his winning and profuse flatteries. The sudden turn is conceived and expressed with that power of imagination and sagacity which fills us with admiration. Satan seems to say in a taunt ;-" You refuse all my splendid offers; but I dare to hope that you can so little finally resist them, that I will now impose upon you the condition of falling down to worship me, or I will leave you to your fate." Thus the arch-fiend | in his passion defeated himself at once he now has recourse to bodily violence; and there also is finally foiled, and is obliged to leave the field, and give up the attempt, conquered and abased.

Thus the poet rises to the last: then break forth the hymns and songs of angels and archangels, to celebrate the victory of our Saviour; and thus the poem concludes. I do not think that it would have been advisable to carry this subject farther it is a perfect whole in itself. Our Saviour's death and resurrection might have formed the subject of another poem.

It always seems to me injudicious to attempt to weigh the comparative excellence of two compositions of a different nature. Certainly, the "Paradise Regained" does not allow scope for so much inventive imagination as the "Paradise Lost." Adam and Eve were human beings, and of them the holiest poet may create a thousand visions; but of Christ his contemplations are more controlled by awe.

As one of the most marked qualities of this poem is its extraordinary plainness of style, which many have deemed to be too prosaic; it is the more necessary to set this subject in its true light. This plainness is the result of the loftiness of the theme, and of the thoughts and images of which it consists: these support themselves, and require not to be elevated by language: the simplest words do best, provided they are not vulgar. Perhaps no one else would have undertaken so grand a topic: and if any one had, he would have failed: he would have failed by false effort, and extravagant bigness of phrase.

Still it is probable, that one of the causes why this poem has not been as popular as it ought, is this very plainness. The world cannot be brought to think that there is poetry where there is not gaudy language and I am afraid that almost all secondary poets think the same, and are not misled merely by a desire to conform to the bad models which they observe to be the common taste.

Whoever is endowed with a particular power, will follow that power; he will not be restrained by attempting what he cannot do, and neglecting what he can: but this is only true of power which is quite original and decided; it is not true of any faculties which are feeble or imitative even in the first case, the proposition is not without exceptions; there may be a meek and timid heart, with a great genius.

Bad critics, the advocates and defenders of that bad judgment in literature which the multitude are so apt to indulge, do sometimes nip genius in the bud, and warm nauseous and hurtful fruit into birth and maturity: it is of essential service therefore to give to excellence its due praise, and to endeavour to impress the people with those extraordinary merits to which they have been hitherto blind.

The mass of mankind cannot easily be brought to believe that one man has been

born with gifts so preeminent over others: they suspect therefore the worth of that superiority which is claimed for him. Dryden and Pope did not follow a different track from Milton in obedience to the public taste, but in obedience to the nature of their own inborn faculties: neither in fable, thought, nor style, could they have ever followed Milton.

Of almost all poets but Milton, it may be said, as he himself says of the Athenians,

Remove their swelling epithets, thick laid

As varnish on a harlot's cheek, the rest,
Thin sown with aught of profit or delight,

will be found bare and fruitless; at least, it will seem so, when we compare it with the celestial feast of the mighty author of "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained." With him we rise to the stern simplicity of inspired wisdom: he leaves us in no state of factitious heat, to fall again, like Icarus, after having mounted on false wings we find breathed into us a calm fortitude; we expect sorrows, and wrongs, and dangers, and are prepared for them; we covet no inebriate visions, and thus expose ourselves to no blights on a diseased susceptibility. The elevation is sublime; yet by its sublimity gives us mastery to grapple with earth.

ARGUMENT.

SATAN, persisting in the temptation of our Lord, shows him Imperial Rome in its greatest pomp and splendour, as a power which he probably would prefer before that of the Parthians; and tells him that he might with the greatest ease expel Tiberius, restore the Romans to their liberty, and make himself master not only of the Roman empire, but, by so doing, of the whole world, and inclusively of the throne of David. Our Lord, in reply, expresses his contempt of grandeur and worldly power; notices the luxury, vanity, and profligacy of the Romans, declaring how little they merited to be restored to that liberty, which they had lost by their misconduct; and briefly refers to the greatness of his own future kingdom. Satan, now desperate, to enhance the value of his proffered gifts, professes that the only terms on which he will bestow them are our Saviour's falling down and worshipping him. Our Lord expresses a firm but temperate indignation at such a proposition, and rebukes the tempter by the title of "Satan for ever damn'd." Satan, abashed, attempts to justify himself: he then assumes a new ground of temptation; and proposing to Jesus the intellectual gratifications of wisdom and knowledge, points out to him the celebrated seat of ancient learning, Athens, its schools, and other various resorts of learned teachers and their disciples; accompanying the view with a highly-finished panegyric on the Grecian musicians, poets, orators, and philosophers of the different sects. Jesus replies, by showing the vanity and insufficiency of the boasted heathen philosophy; and prefers to the music, poetry, eloquence, and didactic policy of the Greeks, those of the inspired Hebrew writers. Satan, irritated at the failure of all his attempts, upbraids the indiscretion of our Saviour in rejecting his offers; and, having, in ridicule of his expected kingdom, foretold the sufferings that our Lord was to undergo, carries him back into the wilderness, and leaves him there. Night comes on: Satan raises a tremendous storm, and attempts farther to alarm Jesus with frightful dreams, and terrific threatening spectres; which however have no effect upon him. A calm, bright, beautiful morning succeeds to the horrors of the night. Satan again presents himself to our blessed Lord; and, from noticing the storm of the preceding night as pointed chiefly at him, takes occasion once more to insult him with an account of the sufferings which he was certainly to undergo. This only draws from our Lord a brief rebuke. Satan, now at the highth of his desperation, confesses that he had frequently watched Jesus from his birth, purposely to discover if he was the true Messiah; and, collecting from what passed at the river Jordan that he most probably was so, he had from that time more assiduously followed him, in hopes of gaining some advantage over him, which would most effectually prove that he was not really that Divine Person destined to be his "fatal enemy." In this he acknowledges that he has hitherto completely failed; but still determines to make one more trial of him. Accordingly, he conveys him to the temple at Jerusalem; and, placing him on a pointed eminence, requires him to prove his divinity either by standing there, or casting himself down with safety. Our Lord reproves the tempter, and at the same time manifests his own divinity by standing on this dangerous point. Satan, amazed and terrified, instantly falls; and repairs to his infernal compeers, to relate the bad success of his enterprise. Angels, in the mean time, convey our blessed Lord to a beautiful valley; and, while they minister to him a repast of celestial food, celebrate his victory in a triumphant hymn.

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