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serve as one instance; and I think he plainly here alludes to the manner of consecrating
The circumstances of this description of the abating of the flood are few, but selected must be owned, Milton greatly excels the Italians, who are generally too prolix in their descriptions, and think they have never said enough while anything remains unsaid. When once enough is said to excite in the reader's mind a proper idea of what the instead of pleasing it; and rather cools than improves that glow of pleasure which arises is representing ; whatever is added, however beautiful, serves only to tease the fancy, similar to such as are to be found in the notes of subsequent commentators already copied :
Again I have to observe, that Mr. Addison's remarks upon the book before us are it is probable that the originality lay with Addison, who, not having produced them de tached, but as parts of one critique, has given them in a more popular form. Still, when the matter of them is so anticipated, I must forbear to repeat them at length : I shall, hor
He observes, that the acceptance of the prayers of
By men who there frequent, or therein dwell.
He look'd, and saw the ark hull on the flood,
Greatly rejoiced; and thus his joy broke forth : our author's way of thinking, as superstitious and popish.—Tuyer.
e Frinkled the face of deluge. - THYER. ever, notice them in a summary way.
O thou, who future things canst represent
To whom the archangel: Dextrously thou ain'st;
Both heaven and earth, wherein the just shall dwell. Adam and Eve at the beginning of this eleventh book is formed upon that beautiful passage in Holy Writ :-"And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden ceuser; 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." He then notices the poetical beauty of the vision of the angels to Ezekiel, where “every one had four faces; all their shape spangled with eyes ;” next, the assembly of the angels to hear the judgment passed upon man; then the conference of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent morning notice of the signs of the changes about to take place in all the creation surrounding them. The next striking passage is the description of the appearance of the archangel Michael, sent to expel them from Paradise.
Addison gives the full measure of praise to Eve's complaint on receiving the notice that she must quit Paradise, and the more masculine and elevated speech of Adam.
The critic then commends that noble part, where the angel leads Adam to the highest mount of Paradise, and lays before him a whole hemisphere, as a proper stage for those visions which were to be represented on it. The image of death in the second vision is represented in all its varieties and attitudes : then, by way of contrast, comes a scene of mirth, love, and jollity. The deluge is drawn with the most powerful and masterly hand.
The present twelfth book being only one half of the original and then concluding tenth, the revelations of the archangel Michael were to be continued from the flood, at which the eleventh book closes : and indeed it was a fortunate circumstance, that Milton, previously to the division, had changed the medium of impression from vision to narration ; because it bestows a feature of novelty and distinction upon his concluding book.
It is therefore with some surprise that we meet with any objection to this arrangement of the poet, and the wish that he had imparted all his disclosures in the way of picture and vision, in which they commenced : but Mr. Dunster goes at once to the “ heart of the mystery," and inquires Whether all the coming subjects were equally suited to the specular mount? The plagues of Egypt, as he observes, so represented, must have been tedious. How was the delivery of the law to have been represented, under all its sublime circumstances, in vision ? How could the great miracle (related with concise sublimity) of the heavenly bodies standing still at the command of Joshua, be exhibited in vision ? Could the nativity, the life and death of our blessed Lord, or his resurrection (each related in a few lines of exquisite beauty) have been so clearly or adequately displayed in picture ? or could his ascension, and resumption of his heavenly seat, and his coming again to judge the world, have been adequately exhibited at all ?
The pictures even of the eleventh book were of necessity accompanied by sojne verbal explanations. In the remainder of the history, as Mr. Dunster remarks, " the accruing materials come too thick to be represented in visions : the task would have been laborious to the artist, who would have fatigued and disgusted those whom he wished to inform and delight.” Here, therefore, the poet judiciously reversed his plan,
But there is another topic of remark which the concluding book of Milton's divine poem suggests ; it is his comparative affluence of invention. The sentence upon Adam might have been attended by immediate expulsion : but how gracious is the divine condescension, to allow some interval of reflection ; and, previously to ejectment, to fortify the minds of the repentant pair with anticipated knowledge and distant consolation ! Thus the interest of the poem is kept alive with the reader to the last line. The whole of the twelfth book closely relates to Adam and his posterity; and so delightfully are these soothing hopes of happiness administered by the archangel, that we, equally with Adam, forget that we are to quit Paradise; and are, like him, heart-struck by the sudden warning, that “the hour is come, the very minute of it ;" and attend the “ hastening angel; to the gates of exclusion, with all the sad and lingering acquiescence of our first parents.”
* The first edition was in ten books In the second edition, the seventh and the tenth books, being greatly beyond the rest in the number of the verses, were divided each into two; so that the seventh became the eighth also ; the eighth of the first edition then stood ninth : the ninth, tenth; and the tenth of the first edition became of course, when divided, the present eleventh and twelfth.
ARGUMENT. The angel Michael continues, from the Flood, toʻrelate what shall succeed; then, in the mention
of Abraham, comes by degrees to explain who that seed of the woman shall be which was promised Adam and Eve in the Fall; his incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension; the state of the church till bis second coming, Adam, greatly satisfied and recomforted by these relations and promises, descends the hill with Michael; wakens Eve, who all this while had slept, but with gentle dreams composed to quietness of mind and submission. Michael in either hand leads them out of Paradise ; the fiery sword waving behind them, and the cherubim taking their stations to guard the place.
As one who on his journey bates at noon,
Thus thou hast seen one world begin, and end ;
This second source of men, while yet but few,
& Vith some regard. This answers to the silver age of the poets: the paradisiacal state is the golden one: that of iron begins soon, v. 24.-RICHARDSON.
biline-offerings. Sce Exodus, xxix. 40.-Todd.
c Till one shall rise. It is generally agreed that the first governments in the world were patriarchal, “ by families and tribes;” and that Nimrod was the first who laid the foundation of kingly government among mankind. Milton, therefore, (who was no friend to kingly government at the best,) represents him in a very bad light, as a most wicked and insolent tyrant; but he has great authorities, both Jewish and Christian, to justify him for so doing.– Νεντος. ,
Concord and law of nature from the earth;
Whereto thus Adam, fatherly displeased :
d Though of rebellion. This was added by our author, probably not without a view to his own time; when himself and those of his own party were stigmatised as the worst of rebels.- Newton.
e Marching from Eden. See Gen. xi. 2, &c. : “ And it came to pass as they journeyed in the east, that they found a plain on the land of Shinar ; and they had brick for stone, and slime had they for
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven ; and let us inake us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."--NEWTON.
See their city. See Gen, xi. 5, &c. The Scripture speaks after the manner of men : so the heathen gods are often represented as coming down to observe human actions, as in the stories of Lycaon, Baucis and Philenion, &c.
Confusion named. Babel in Hebrew signifies confusion. -Newton.