Abbildungen der Seite

I may assert eternal Providence,

And justify the ways of God to men ".

Say first, for heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of hell', say first what cause

Moved our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favour'd of Heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the world besides?
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirr'd up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind; what time his pride
Had cast him out from heaven, with all his host
Of rebel Angels; by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,

He trusted to have equal'd the Most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim

[blocks in formation]

degrade it. A genius less gigantic and less holy than Milton's would have shrunk from the attempt. Milton not only does not lower, but he illumines the bright, and enlarges the great he expands his wings, and “sails with supreme dominion" up to the heavens, parts the clouds, and communes with angels and unembodied spirits.

And justify the ways of God to men.

Pope has thought fit to borrow this verse, with some little variation, "Essay on Man," ep. i. 16" But vindicate the ways of God to man." It is not easy to conceive any good reason for Pope's preferring vindicate; but Milton uses justify, as it is the Scripture word, "that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings." Rom. iii. 4.-And "the ways of God to men" are justified in the many argumentative discourses throughout the poem, particularly in the conferences between God the Father and the Son.-NEWTON.

Say first, for heaven hides nothing from thy view,

Nor the deep tract of hell.

The poets attribute a kind of omniscience to the Muse; and very rightly, as it enables them to speak of things which could not otherwise be supposed to come to their knowledge. Thus Homer, Il. ii. 485 :

Ὑμεῖς γὰρ θεαί ἐστε, πάρεστέ τε, ἴστε τε πάντα.

And see Virgil, Æn. vii. 645. Milton's Muse being the Holy Spirit, must of course be omniscient and the mention of heaven and hell is very proper in this place, as the scene of a great part of the poem is laid sometimes in hell and sometimes in heaven.-NEWTON. i By whose aid aspiring

To set himself in glory above his peers.

Here Dr. Bentley objects, that Satan's crime was not his aiming "above his peers :" he was in place high above them before, as the Doctor proves from b. v. 812: but, though this be true, Milton may be right here; for the force of the words seems not that Satan aspired to set himself above his peers, but that he aspired to set himself in glory; that is, in divine glory; in such glory as God and his Son were set in. Here was his crime; and this is what God charges him with in b. v. 725:— ›

Equal to ours.

who intends to erect his throne

And in b. vi. 88, Milton says that the rebel angels hoped

To win the Mount of God, and on his throne
To set the envier of his state, the proud

See also, to the same purpose, b. vii. 140, &c.-Pearce.

He trusted to have equal'd the Most High.

See Isaiah, ch. xiv. 13.-STILLINGFLEET.


Against the throne and monarchy of God
Raised impious war in heaven and battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men', he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquish'd, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded though immortal: but his doom
Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain

Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witness'd huge affliction and dismay,
Mix'd with obdurate pride and stedfast hate.
At once, as far as angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild:

A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,

As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible"

Served only to discover sights of woe,

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace

Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men.

[blocks in formation]

The nine days' astonishment, in which the angels lay entranced after their dreadful overthrow and fall from heaven, before they could recover either the use of thought or speech, is a noble circumstance, and very finely imagined. The division of hell into seas of fire, and into firm ground impregnated with the same furious element, with that particular circumstance of the exclusion of hope from those infernal regions, are instances of the same great and fruitful invention.-ADDISON.

No light.

m Yet from those flames

So the Wisdom of Solomon, ch. xviii. 5, 6:-" No power of the fire might give them light; only there appeared unto them a fire kindled of itself, very dreadful."-TODD.

n Darkness visible.

Milton seems to have used these words to signify gloom: absolute darkness is, strictly speaking, invisible; but where there is a gloom only, there is so much light remaining, as serves to show that there are objects, and yet that those objects cannot be distinctly SecT-PEARCE.

Seneca has a like expression, speaking of the grotto of Pausilipo, epist. lvii. :-"Nihil illo carcere longius, nihil illis faucibus obscurius, quæ nobis præstant, non ut per tenebras videamus, sed ut ipsas." And, as Voltaire observes, Antonio de Solis, in his " History of Mexico," speaking of the place wherein Montezuma consulted his deities, says, “It was a large dark subterranean vault, where some dismal tapers afforded just light enough to see the obscurity." So Euripides, "Baccha," v. 510 :

Ως ἂν σκότιον εἰσορᾷ κνέφας.

There is much the same image in Spenser, but not so bold, "Faer. Qu." 1. i. 14 :—

A little glooming light, much like a shade.

Or, after all, Milton might take the hint from his own "Il Penseroso :"

Where glowing embers through the room
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,-NEWTON.


And rest can never dwell; hope never comes,
That comes to all°; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed :
Such place eternal justice had prepared

For those rebellious; here their prison ordain'd
In utter darkness; and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven,
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole P.
O, how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall o'erwhelm'd
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns; and weltering by his side,
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beelzebub to whom the arch-enemy,

That comes to all.

• Hope never comes,

See Dante's "Inferno," ch. iii. 9:-Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch' intrate.

PAs from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Thrice as far as it is from the centre of the earth, which is the centre of the world, according to Milton's system, b. ix. 103, and b x. 671, to the pole of the world; for it is the pole of the universe, far beyond the pole of the earth, which is here called the utmost pole. Homer makes the seat of hell as far beneath the deepest pit of earth as the heaven is above the earth, Iliad, viii. 16. Virgil makes it twice as far, Æneid, vi. 578: and Milton thrice as far; as if these three great poets had stretched their utmost genius, and vied with each other, who should extend his idea of the depth of hell farthest. But Milton's whole || description of hell as much exceeds theirs, as in this single circumstance of the depth of it. And how cool and unaffecting is the Τάρταρον ἠερόεντα, the σιδήρειαί τε πύλαι καὶ Xáλkeos ovdós of Homer,-the "lugentes campi," the "ferrea turris," and "horrisono stridentes cardine portæ," of Virgil, in comparison with this description by Milton, concluding with that artful contrast, "O, how unlike the place from whence they fell!" -NEWTON.

Tempestuous fire.

Psalm xi. 6 :—“ Upon the wicked the Lord will rain fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest."-DUNSTER.

To whom the arch-enemy.

The thoughts in the first speech and description of Satan, who is one of the principal actors in this poem, are wonderfully proper to give us a full idea of him: his pride, envy, and revenge, obstinacy, despair, and impenitence, are all of them very artfully interwoven. In short, his first speech is a complication of all those passions which discover themselves separately in several other of his speeches in the poem. The whole part of this great enemy of mankind is filled with such incidents as are very apt to raise and terrify the reader's imagination. Of this nature, in the book now before us, is his being the first that awakens out of the general trance, with his posture on the burning lake, his rising from it, and the description of his shield and spear: to which we may add his call to the fallen angels, that lay plunged and stupefied in the sea of fire.

Amidst those impieties which this enraged spirit utters in other places of this poem, the author has taken care to introduce none that is not big with absurdity, and incapable of shocking a religious reader: his words, as the poet himself describes then, bearing only "a semblance of worth, not substance." He is also with great art described as owning his adversary to be Almighty. Whatever perverse interpretation he puts on the justice, mercy, and other attributes of the Supreme Being, he frequently confesses his omnipotence; that being the perfection he was forced to allow him, and the only consideration which could support his pride under the shame of his defeat.-ADDISON.

And thence in heaven call'd Satan,—with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:


If thou beest he-But, O, how fallen! how changed
From him, who in the happy realms of light,
Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads, though bright! If he, whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope

And hazard in the glorious enterprise,
Join'd with me once, now misery hath join'd

In equal ruin: into what pit thou seest,

From what highth fallen: so much the stronger proved
He with his thunder; and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms? yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his rage
Can else inflict, do I repent, or change,

Though changed in outward lustre, that fix'd mind
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along
Innumerable force of spirits arm'd,

That durst dislike his reign; and, me preferring,





His utmost power with adverse power opposed

In dubious battel on the plains of heaven,

And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?


All is not lost; the unconquerable will

And study of revenge, immortal hate,

And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome;
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me: to bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power,
Who from the terrour of this arm so late
Doubted his empire; that were low indeed ;
That were an ignominy and shame beneath

This downfall; since, by fate, the strength of gods"

And this empyreal substance cannot fail;

And thence in heaven call'd Satan.



For the word Satan, in Hebrew, signifies an enemy: he is THE ENEMY by way of eminence, the chief enemy of God and man.-) -NEWTON.

All is not lost.

What though the field be lost?

This passage is an excellent improvement upon Satan's speech to the infernal spirits in Tasso, c. iv. st. 15; but seems to be expressed from Fairfax's translation, rather than from the original :

We lost the field, yet lost we not our heart.-NEWTON.

Since, by fate, the strength of gods.

For Satan supposes the angels to subsist by fate and necessity; and he represents them of an empyreal, that is, a fiery substance, as the Scripture itself does, Psalm civ. 4 :—“ He maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire."-NEWTON.

Since, through experience of this great event,
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal war,
Irreconcileable to our grand Foe,

Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of heaven.

So spake the apostate angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but rack'd with deep despair:
And him thus answer'd soon his bold compeer :-
O prince, O chief of many throned powers,
That led the imbattel'd seraphim to war
Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds
Fearless, endanger'd heaven's perpetual King ;
And put to proof his high supremacy,

Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate:
Too well I see and rue the dire event,
That with sad overthrow and foul defeat
Hath lost us heaven, and all this mighty host

In horrible destruction laid thus low;

As far as gods and heavenly essences

Can perish for the mind and spirit remains
Invincible, and vigour soon returns ;

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Though all our glory extinct", and happy state
Here swallow'd up in endless misery.

But what if he our Conquerour, whom I now

Of force believe Almighty, since no less

Than such could have o'erpower'd such force as ours


Have left us this our spirit and strength entire,

Strongly to suffer and support our pains?

That we may so suffice his vengeful ire ;
Or do him mightier service, as his thralls
By right of war, whate'er his business be,
Here in the heart of hell to work in fire,
Or do his errands in the gloomy deep :
What can it then avail, though yet we feel
Strength undiminish'd, or eternal being,

To undergo eternal punishment?

Whereto with speedy words the arch-fiend replied :

▾ Vaunting aloud.



This speech is remarkable for brevity and energy of expression, and justness of the thought, arising from the nature of the foregoing speech, and Satan's present misery.-CALLANDER. Though all our glory extinct.

As a flame put out and extinguished for ever. This word is very properly applied to their irrecoverable loss of that angelic beauty which accompanied them when in a state of innoThe Latins have used the word " extinctus" in the same metaphorical sense. Thus Virgil, Æn. iv. 322 :


[blocks in formation]
« ZurückWeiter »