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OF Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Lines 1—9. Of man's first disobe- 6. On the secret top of Oreb, fc.] dience.] The natural order of these Sonne have proposed to read “ sacred” lines is “Heavenly Muse, sing of instead of secret ;" but no one can man's first disobedience, &c.” There study carefully the account of the has been some dispute among gram- giving of the law in Exodus, without marians as to what part of speech of being persuaded of the superior pro. (the first word of the poem) ought to priety of the former epithet. be considered. I incline to call it a pre- 7. Oreb or Horeb, and Sinai are position; but it certainly may be consi- two peaks of the same mountain range dered an adverb, being used to qualify between the Gulfs of Suez and Akaba. the verb “sing” in l. 6. The good of It is about two miles from north to the inversion is that it enables the Poet south, and about one fourth of a mile to state at once the object of his song. in width. Horeb is at the northern
2. Whose mortai taste brought end of the range, and Sinai at the death, fc.] The word "mortal” is southern, nearly 100 miles from the here used in the sense of " causing top of the Gulf of Suez. deatin," not “subject to death ;” and it 8. Who first taught.] “First” is may be allowed that there is some- here an adjective, not an adverb. It thing pleonastic in the phrase. But means that he “ before any one else ” the blemish is very slight, if it is taught &c., not that he taught them one at all. Too many such pleonasms first, and then did something else. would indicate conscious weakness, but 10. Rose out of Chaos.] Milton here the occasional use of one may spring uses a classical word, but with a strictly from the exuberance of strength. scriptural idea attached to it. See
5. Restore us, and regain the blissful Gen. i. 1 & 2. Chaos, the “rudis in. seat.] What part of the verb are restore digestaque moles” of Ovid, means the and regain here? Why does Milton rude and shapeless mass matter which use the definite article the blissful seat? existed before the formation of the world.
That with no middle flight intends to soar
14. That with no middle flight, 8c.] “ Then was the Almighty angry ; “ As Virgil rivalled Homer, so Milton
The Highest Ruler of Heaven
Hurled him from the lofty seat." was the emulator of both. He found Homer possessed of the province of To bring a charge of plagiarism on Morality; Virgil of Politics ; and no- such a slender foundation is contrary thing left for him but that of Religion. to all the rules of literary criticism. This he seized, as ambitious to share From the lines I refer to, I see no with them in the Government of the reason to think that Milton ever saw poetic world : and by the means of the them; and it is quite certain that in superior dignity of his subject, hath FAIRFAX's Translation of Tasso, and gotten to the head of that Triumvirate still more in SPENSER's Faërie Queene, which took so many ages in forming." we meet with lines by the dozen that
WARBURTON's Divine Legation of more resemble Milton, and that yet are Moses.
quite different. It would have been easy 15. The Aonian mount was Helicon for the objectors to put two or three in Boeotia. It was sacred to Apollo and lines, out of the cento or hundred that the Muses. Milton here intimates with- they talk about, into parallel columns ; out reserve that he purposes to produce but this they have not done. Milton a nobler poem than any transinitted to was undoubtedly a great borrower and us by the Greeks or Romans.
debtor both to Jew and Gentile, but 16. Things unattempted yet in prose whatever he took he fused in the fire or rhyme.] Mr. Cony beare, speaking of his own imagination. There is no of the metrical paraphrase of parts of mistaking his thunder. See also note Scripture, ascribed to a second Cæd- on Book I. l. 351-5. mon, alleges that the fall of man is 17. And chiefly Thou, 0 Spirit that considered, ushered in by an account dost prefer, &c.] Coleridge remarks, of the pride, rebellion, and punishment in his Table Talk, that “ John Miltou of Satan and his powers, “ with a re- himself is in every line of the Paradise semblance to Milton so remarkable, Lost." We certainly see him here in that much of this portion might be his ardent piety and in his puritanic almost literally translated by a cento contempt for splendid temples. “Beof lines from that great poet.” Mr. fore all temples," i. e. any possible Turner, too, in his most excellent His- temple that could be built by the tory of the Anglo-Saxons, brings the hand of man. In his prose works we same accusation against our author; find a similar reference to the Holy and, if these assertions could be esta- Spirit, and get also an insight into the blished, they would show that Milton training of his mind for the production of was doing rather than pur
ome great work. Milton took to poetry suing “things unattempted yet in
prose as the business of his life, and certainly or rhyme.” But out of about 150 lines he was not “ slothful in the business.” given in the Pictorial History of Eng- “ Neither do I think it shame to coland, vol. i. p.294–296., I find nothirg venant with any knowing reader, that more nearly resembling Milton's lines for some few years yet I may go on than these :
trust with him toward the payment of
Illumine ; what is low, raise and support;
25 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, Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
30 om heir Creator, and transgress his will, For one restraint, lords of the world besides ? Who first seduced them to that foul revolt? Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile, Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
35 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 equalled the Most High, If he opposed; and, with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God, what I am now indebted, as being a able to do justice to the difficult subwork not to be raised from the heat of ject he has taken in hand, and conyouth or the vapours of wine ; like vince men of the great truth that this that which flows at waste from the pen world is not under the dominion of of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher chance, but is really governed by God. fury of a rhyming parasite ; nor to be 26. And justify, &c.] Pope has obtained by the invocation of Dame adopted this line with the change of Memory and her siren daughters, but one word—vindicate for justify. There by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit is not much to choose between them. who can enrich with all utterance and “Vindicate” is, perhaps, slightly more knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, classical, and “justify” more scriptural. with the hallowed fire of his altar, to See Rom. ïïi. 4. touch and purify the lips of whom he 28. Tract of Hell.] i. e. region of pleases ; to this must be added in- hell. We still speak of a tract of land. dustrious and select reading, steady 30. Favoured of Heaven.] What does observation, insight into all seemly and "favoured"apply to ;“ parents” or state? generous arts and affairs ; till which 32. For one restraint, lords of the in some measure be compassed, at mine world besides.] Except for one reown peril and cost, I refuse not to sus. straint, lords of all the world. See tain this expectation from as many as Gen. ii. 16 & 17. are not loth to hazard so much credu- 34. The infernal Serpent.] What lity upon the best pledges that I can case is serpent in here, and why? give them.” — Reason of Church Go- 36. What time.] A Latinism for vernment, fc.
when or after. 23. What is low raise and support.] 40. He trusted to have equ i. e. raise up,
and keep up when raised, Most High.] There is a slight grammawhat in me is low.
tical blemish here. It ought to be, “ He 24. The height of this great argu trusted to equal the Most High.”. See ment.] Milton prays that he may be Conxon's English Grammar, p. 162.
Raised impious war in Heaven, and battle proud,
60 A dungeon, horrible on all sides round, 44. Him the Almighty Power, &c.] hardest iron or steel ; " penal fire,” i.e. The natural order would be “ The fire kindled by vengeance, and inflicted Almighty Power hurled him headlong," as a punishment. &c. The transposition redeems the 49. Who durst defy, &c.] i.e. inaspassage from being prosaic ; and, in much as he dared to defy. The relafact, gives it grandeur and sublimity. tive is equivalent sometimes to " and
Nothing contributes more than in- he," and at other times to“ because he,” version to the force and elevation of but without any difference in the verb, language : the couplets of rhyme con- as is the case in Latin. fine inversion within narrow limits; 50. Nine times the space, &c.] nor would the elevation of inversion, There would have been an anachronism were there access for it in rhyme, be in saying “ nine days and nights,” even extremely concordant with the humbler if the phrase had been otherwise equally tone of that sort of verse. It is uni- good. Milton is referring to a period versally agreed, that the loftiness of when day was not divided from night. Milton's style supports admirably the 56. Torments him.] Why ought sublimity of his subject; and it is not the verb to be in the singular ? less certain, that the loftiness of his 57. That witnessed huge affliction.] stvle arises chiefly from inversion." “ Witnessed " here means manifested or Home's Elements of Criticism. showed to others, not beheld in others.
46. Hideous ruin and combustion.] 59. As far as Angels' ken.] “Ken" Milton uses ruin in its etymological is connected with the verb to know, sense, including the idea of rushing and when used as a noun it always with violence, noise, tumult and velocity; means “sight at a distance.” As and then, as a body on fire glows the far as Angel's ken,” therefore, is as far more the faster it passes through space, as the sight of an angel, or with the so the fallen angel feels and exhibits apostrophe after the s, of angels can intenser heat the farther he falls. reach. I prefer calling ken a noun ; but
48. In adamantine chains and let it not be thought altogether absurd penal fire.] “ Adamantine," having to consider it as a verb, for Dr. Johnthe qualities of adamant; anything in- son, whose merits as a verbal critic are flexible, or not to be broken, like the allowed by all, so considers it, and
As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
unconsumed. Such place eternal Justice had prepared
70 For those rebellious; here their prison ordained In utter darkness; and their portion set As far removed from God and light of Heaven, As from the centre thrice to th' utmost pole. O how unlike the place from whence they fell ! 75 There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelmed With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire, He soon discerns, and, welt'ring by his side, One next himself in power, and next in crime, Long after known in Palestine, and named
80 Beelzebub. To whom th’ Arch enemy,
And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold words quotes this very line as his autho- bliss than the world's diameter multirity.
plied.” — Doctrine and Discipline of 62. Yet from those flames no Divorce. light.] As we are accustomed to asso- 75. O how unlike the place from ciate pleasure with light, Milton takes whence they fell !] Observe the climax care to correct this notion, that we may here. The poet had laboured to esnot suppose there was any source of press the horrible nature of the tortures comfort left to the “horrid crew." that had been reserved for the fallen
no light, but rather darkness angels, and had enumerated circumvisible,” is a grand picture. Indistinct, stance after circumstance of the of course, it must be, but we can feel it. dungeon horrible” where they were
66–67. Hope never comesthatcomes confined, attempting to produce that to all.] Hope that comes to all men, effect by iteration and accumulation of even the most miserable, never comes particulars which no single statement to them. Milton, no doubt, had in his or simile would produce. But then, mind one of the sentences that Dante to condense all that had been said into tells us was written over the gates of the space of a single line, to drive the hell,“ Put away hope all ye who enter nail home, as it were, and clench it on here." The position of the relative the other side, he adds, “O how unthat is objectionable ; being too far off like the place from which they fell!” from its antecedent.
Nothing could be more impressive or 68. Urges.] i. e. pursues, so as to be magnificent. The force of contrast hard upon ; pursues with punishment. can no further go.
70–74. Such place eternal Jus- 82. And thence in Heaven called tice.] “To banish for ever into a Satan.] Satan is a Hebrew word local hell, whether in the air, or in the transferred to the English. It is de. centre, or in that uttermost and bot- rived from a verb signifying “ to lie in tomless gulf of chaos, deeper from holy wait,”
"" to be an adver.
" " to oppose,