« ZurückWeiter »
others think this light was the light of the sun, which shone as yet very imperfectly, and did not appear in full lustre till the fourth day. It is most probable, that by light (as it was produced the first day) we must not understand the darting of rays from a luminous body, such as do now proceed from the sun, but those particles of matter which we call fire (whose properties we know are light and heat) which the Almighty produced, as a propei instrument for the preparation and digestion of other matter. So Bishop Patrick upon the text. However it be, Milton's account is certainly very poetical, though you may not allow it to be the most philosophical.
15. When I behold this goodly frame, this world, &c.] Milton, after having given so noble an idea of the creation of this new world, takes a most proper occasion to show the two great systems, usually called the Ptolemaic and the Copernican; one making the earth, the other the sun, to be the center; and this he does by introducing Adam proposing very judiciously the difficulties that occur in the first, and which was the system most obvious to him. The reply of the Angel touches on the expedients the Ptolemaics invented to solve those difficulties, and to patch up their system, and then intimates that perhaps the sun is the center, and so opens that system, and withal the noble improvements of the new philosophy; not however determining for one or the other : on the contrary, he exhurts our progenitor to apply his thoughts rather to what more nearly concerns him, and is within his reach.
Richardson. 357. O by, &c.] It is an unreasonable as well as untheological supposition, that God gave man the inspired knowledge of the natures of his fellow.creatures before the nature of his Creator; yet this our Poet supposes. What seems to have missed him was, that in the ordinary way of acquiring knowledge, we rise from the creature to the Creator,
Warburton. 470. Under his forming hands a creature grew, &c.] This whole account of the formation of Eve, and of the first meeting and nuptials of Adam and Eve, is delivered in the most natural and easy
language, and calls to mind an observation of Mr. Pope upon Milton's stile, in his Postscript to the Odyssey, “ The imitators of Milton,
like most other imitators, are not copies, but caricatures of their original ; they are an hundred times more obsolete and cramp than he, and equally so in all places : whereas it should have been observed of Milton, that he is not lavish of his exotic words and phrases everywhere alike, but employs them much more where the subject is marvellous, vast, and strange, as in the scenes of Heaven, Hell, Chaos, &c. than where it is turned to the natural and agreeable, as in the pictures of Paradise, the loves of our first parents, the entertainments of angels, and the like. In general, this unusual stile better serves to awaken our ideas in the descriptions and in the imaging and picturesque parts, than it agrees with the lower sort of narrations, the character of which is simplicity and purity. Milton has several of the latter, where we find not an antiquated, affected, or uncouth word, for some hundred lines together; as in his fifth book, the latter part of the eighth, the former of the tenth and eleventh books, and in the narration of Michael in the twelfth. I wonder indeed that he, who ventured (contrary to the practice of all other epic poets) to imitate Homer's lownesses in the narrative, should not also have copied his plainness and perspicuity in the dramatic parts : since in his speeches (where clearness above all is necessary) there is frequently such transposition and forced construction, that the very sense is not to be discovered without a second or third reading: and in this certainly he ought to be no example."
Newton. 543. — resembling less
His image, &c.] Milton here seems to adopt the opinion, that the image of God in man was the dominion given to him over the creatures, contrary to the sense he follows at ver.440.; but this is not the only instance where in different places he goes upon different hypotheses, as may best suit with his subject. See his differ. ent construction of the sons of God going in to the daughters of men, in PARADISE Lost and PARADISE REGAINED. Tbyer,
1. No more of talk, &c.] These prologues or prefaces of Milton to some of his books, speaking of his own person, lamenting his blindness, and preferring his subject to those of Homer and Virgil, and the greatest poets before him, are condemned by some critics; and it must be allowed that we find no such digression in the
Iliad or Æneid. It is a liberty that can be taken only by such a gepius as Milton; and I question whether it would have succeeded in any hands but his. As Monsieur Voltaire says upon the occasion, I cannot but own that an author is generally guilty of an unpardonable self-love, when he lays aside his subject to descant upon his own person : but that human frailty is to be forgiven in Milton; nay I am pleased with it. He gratifies the curiosity he has raised in me about his person ; when I admire the Author, I desire to know something of the man; and he, whom all readers would be glad to know, is allowed to speak of himself. But this however is a very dangerous example for a genius of an inferior order, and is only to be justified by success. See Voltaire's Essay on Epic Poetry, pag. 111, But as Mr. Thyer adds, however some critics and Monsieur Voltaire may condemn a poet's sometimes digressing from his subject to speak of himself, it is very certain that Milton was of a very different opinion long before he thought of writing this Poem. For in his discourse of the Reasoa of Church-Government, &c. apologizing for saying so much of himself as he there does, he adds, “ For although a poet, soaring in the high region of his fancies, with his garland and singing robes about him, might, without apology, speak more of himself than I mean to do; yet for me sitting here below in the cool element of prose, a mortal thing among many readers of no empyreal conceit, to venture and divulge un. usual things of myself, I shall petition to the gentler sort it may not be envy to me." Vol. 1. p. 59. Edit. 1738.
940. Soon his heart relented] This seems to have been drawn from a domestic scene. Milton's wife, soon after marriage, went to visit her friends in Oxfordshire, and refused to return at the time appointed. He often solicited her, but in vain : she declared her resolution not to cohabit with him any more. Upon this he wrote his “ Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce,” and to show that he was in earnest, was actually treating about a second marriage, when the wife contrived to meet him at a friend's, whom he often visited, and there fell prostrate before him, imploring forgiveness and reconciliation. It is not to be doubted (says Mr. Fenton) but an interview of that nature, so little expected, must wonderfully affect him; and perhaps the impressions it made on his imagination con
tributed much to the painting of that pathetic scene in PARADISE Lost, in which Eve addresseth herself to Adam for pardon and peace. At the intercession of his friends who were present, after a short reluctance, he generously sacrificed all his resentment to her tears :
soon his heart relented
Now at his feet submissive in distress. Mr. Thyer thus farther enlarges upon the same subject. “ This picture of Eve's distress, her submissive tender address to her husbard, and his generous reconcilement to her, are extremely beautiful, I had almost said beyond any thing in the whole Poem ; and that reader must have a very sour and unfriendly turn of mind, whose heart does not relent with Adam's, and melt into a sympathizing commiseration towards the mother of mankind : so well has our Author here followed Horace's advice,
Si vis me flere, dolenduin est
Art. Poet. 102 Milton, with great depth of judgment, observes in his “ Apology for Smectymnuus," that “he who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well in Jaudable things, ought himself to be a true poem ; that is, a composition of the best and honourablest things, and have in himself the experience and practice of all that which is praise-worthy. Of the truth of which observation, he himself is, I think, a shining instance in this charming scene now before us, since there is little room to doubt but that the particular beauties of it are owing to an interview of the same nature, which he had with his own wife, and that he is only here describing those tender and generous sentiments which he then felt and experienced.”
1. Thus they in lowliest plight, &c.] Milton has shown a wonderful art in describing that variety of passions which arise in our first parents upon the breach of the commandment that had been given them. We see them gradually passing from the triumph of their guilt through remorse, shame, despair, contrition, prayer, and hope, to a perfect and complete repentance. At the end of the tenth book, they are represented as prostrating themselves
upon the ground, and watering the earth with their tears : to which the Poet joins this beautiful circumstance, that they offered up their penitential prayers on the very place where their Judge appeared to them when he pronounced their sentence. There is a beauty of the same kind in a tragedy of Sophocles, where OEdipus, after having put out his own eyes, instead of breaking his neck from the palace-battlements (which furnishes so elegant an entertainment for our English audience) desires that he may be conducted to mount Cithæron, in order to end his life in that very place where he was exposed in his infancy, and where he should then have died, had the will of his parents been executed. As the Author never fails to give a poetical turn to his sentiments, he describes in the beginning of this book, the acceptance which these their prayers met with, in a short allegory formed upon that beautiful passage in holy writ (Rev. viii. 3, 4.) : “ And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer ; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which was before the throne : and the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God.” We have the same thought expressed a second time in the intercession of the Messiah; which is conceived in very emphatic sentiments and expressions.
11. Henceforth what is to come I will relate,] Milton, after having represented in vision the history of mankind, to the first great period of nature, dispatches the remaining part of it in narration. He has devised a very handsome reason for the Angel's proceeding with Adam after this manner ; though doubtless the true reason was, the difficulty which the Poet would have found to have shadowed out so mixed and complicated a story in visible objects. I could wish, however, that the Author had done it, whatever pains it might have cost him. To give my opinion freely, I think that the exhibiting part of the history of mankind in vision, and part in tiarrative, is as if an history-painter should put in colours one half of his subject, and write down the remaining part of it. If Mil. ton's Poem flags anywhere, it is in this narration, where in some places the Author has been so attentive to his divinity, that he has