Page images
PDF
EPUB

65

70

75

80

85

Above his brethren; to himself assuming
Authority usurp'd, from God not given :
He gave us only over beast, fish, fowl,
Dominion absolute; that right we hold
By his dominion; but man over men
He made not lord; such title to himself
Reserving, human left from human free".
But this usurper his encroachment proud
Stays not on man; to God his tower intends
Siege and defiance : wretched man! what food
Will he convey up thither, to sustain
Himself and his rash army; where thin air
Above the clouds will pine his entrails gross,
And famish him of breath, if not of bread ?

To whom thus Michael : Justly thou abhorrist
That son, who on the quiet state of men
Such trouble brought, affecting to subdue
Rational liberty ; yet know withal,
Since thy original lapse, true liberty'
Is lost, which always with right reason dwells
Twinn'd, and from her hath no dividual being :
Reason in man obscured, or not obey'd,
Immediately inordinate desires
And upstart passions catch the government
From reason; and to servitude reduce
Man, till then free. Therefore, since he permits
Within himself unworthy powers to reign
Over free reason, God, in judgment just,
Subjects him from without to violent lords ;
Who oft as undeservedly enthral
His outward freedom : tyranny must be;
Though to the tyrant thereby no excuse.
Yet sometimes nations will decline so low
From virtue, which is reason, that no wrong,
But justice, and some fatal curse annex’d,
Deprives them of their outward liberty ;
Their inward lost: witness the irreverent son
Of him who built the ark; who for the shame
Done to his father, heard this heavy curse,
Servant of servants, on his vicious race.
Thus will this latter, as the former world,
Still tend from bad to worse ; till God at last,
Wearied with their iniquities, withdraw

90

95

100

105

h From human free. Left mankind in full and free possession of their liberty.—Hume.

i True liberty. So Milton in his sonnet :

liberty ;For who loves that must first be wise and good.

See Gen. xi. 31. Chaldæa, a province of Asia, lying east of the Euphrates, and west
The poet here has an opportunity of introducing the picturesque description of Abraham,

His presence from among them, and avert
His holy eyes ; resolving from thenceforth
To leave them to their own polluted ways ;
And one peculiar nation to select
From all the rest, of whom to be invoked,
A nation from one faithful man to spring :
Him on this side Euphrates yet residing,
Bred up in idol-worship': 0, that men
(Canst thou believe?) should be so stupid grown,
While yet the patriarch lived k who 'scaped the flood,
As to forsake the living God, and fall
To worship their own work in wood and stone
For gods! Yet him God the Most High vouchsafes
To call by vision, from his father's house,
His kindred, and false gods, into a land
Which he will show him; and from him will raise
A mighty nation, and upon him shower
His benediction so, that in his seed
All nations shall be blest: he straight obeys';
Not knowing to what land, yet firm believes :
I see him, but thou canst not, with what faith
He leaves his gods, his friends, and native soil,
Ur of Chaldæa", passing now the ford
To Haran ; after him a cumbrous traino

| Bred up in idol worship. We read in Josh. xxiv. 2 : “ Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor : and they served other gods.

Now as Terah, Abraham's father, was an idolater, I think we may be certain that Abraham was bred up in the religion of his father, though he renounced it afterwards, and in all probability converted his father likewise ; for Terah removed with Abraham to Haran, and there died. See Gen. xi. 31, 32.—NEWTON.

k While yet the patriarch lived. It appears from the computations given by Moses, Gen. xi. that Terah, the father of Abraham, was born two hundred and twenty-two years after the flood, but Noah

, lived Joshua, that Terah, and the ancestors of Abraham, - served other gods ; " and from the father, were statuaries and carvers of'idols and therefore idolatry was set up in the world, Jewish traditions we learn farther, that Terah, and Nachor his father, and Serug his grandwhile yet the patriarch lived who 'scaped the flood.-Newton.

1 He straight obeys. See Heb. xi. 8.

Milton, sensible that this long historical description might grow irksome, has varied the manner of representing it as much as possible ; beginning first with supposing Adam.com lastly, by uniting the two former methods, 'and making Michael see it as in vision, and give a rapturous enlivened account of it to Adam. attention of the reader.—THYER.

n Ur of Chaldæa. of the Tigris : Ur, a city of Chaldæa, the country of Abraham and Terah.– Newton.

O A cumbrous train.

m I see him.

This gives great ease to the languishing

135

110

[ocr errors]

150

155

Of herds and flocks, and numerous servitude ;
Not wandering poor, but trusting all his wealth
With God, who calla him, in a land unknown.
Canaan he now attains; I see his tents
Pitch'd about Sechem, and the neighbouring plain
Of Moreh; there by promise he receives
Gift to his progeny of all that land,
From Hamath northward to the Desert south;
(Things by their names I call, though yet unnamed)
From Hermon east to the great western sea ;
Mount Hermon; yonder sea :-each place behold
In prospect, as I point them; on the shore,
Mount Carmel ; here, the double-founted stream,
Jordan, true limit eastward; but his sons
Shall dwell to Senir, that long ridge of hills.
This ponder, that all nations of the earth
Shall in his seed be blessed : by that seed
Is meant thy great Deliverer, who shall bruise
The serpent's head; whereof to thee anon
Plainlier shall be reveal'd. This patriarch blest,
Whom faithful Abraham due time shall call,
A son, and of his son a grandchild, leaves;
Like him in faith, in wisdom, and renown;
The grandchild, with twelve sons increased, departs
From Canaan, to a land hereafter call’d
Egypt, divided by the river Nile;
See where it flows, disgorging at seven mouths
Into the sea; to sojourn in that land
He comes, invited by a younger son
In time of dearth ; a son, whose worthy deeds
Raise him to be the second in that realm
Of Pharaoh : there he dies, and leaves his race
Growing into a nation; and now grown
Suspected to a sequent king, who seeks
To stop their overgrowth, as inmate guests
Too numerous; whence of guests he makes them slaves
Inhospitably, and kills their infant males :
Till by two brethren (these two brethren call
Moses and Aaron) sent from God to claim
His people from enthralment, they return,
With glory and spoil, back to their promised land.
But first, the lawless tyrant, who denies
To know their God, or message to regard,
Must be compell'a by signs and judgments dire;
To blood unshed the rivers must be turn’d;

Frogs, lice, and flies must all his palace fill with his long train of flocks, herds, family, and servants, passing in procession the river ; which description I consider as a fortunate application of the account given of Jacob's returning from Mesopotamia into Canaan, Gen. xxxii. 13. 16. 22, 23.—Dunster.

160

165

170

175

135

[ocr errors]

195

With loathed intrusion, and fill all the land;
His cattle must of rot and murten die;
Botches and blains must all his flesh emboss,
And all his people ; thunder mix'd with hail,
Hail mix'd with fire, must rend the Egyptian sky,
And wheel on the earth, devouring where it rolls;
What it devours not, herb, or fruit, or grain,
A darksome cloud of locusts swarming down
Must eat, and on the ground leave nothing green ;
Darkness must overshadow all his bounds,
Palpable darkness, and blot out three days;
Last, with one midnight-stroke, all the first-born
Of Egypt must lie dead. Thus with ten wounds
The river-dragon P tamed at length submits
To let his sojourners depart, and oft
Humbles his stubborn heart : but still, as ice
More harden'd after thaw; till, in his rage
Pursuing whom he late dismiss'd, the sea
Swallows him with his host; but them lets pass,
As on dry land, between two crystal walls ;
Awed by the rod of Moses so to stand
Divided till his rescued gain their shore :
Such wondrous power God to his saint will lend,
Though present in his angel; who shall go
Before them in a cloud, and pillar of fire ;
By day a cloud, by night a pillar of fire;
To guide them in their journey, and remove
Behind them, while the obdurate king pursues :
All night he will pursue ; but his approach
Darkness defends between till morning watch ;
Then through the fiery pillar and the cloud,
God looking forth will trouble all his host,
And craze their chariot-wheels: when by command
Moses once more his potent rod extends
Over the sea; the sea his rod obeys;
On their embattel'd ranks the waves return,
And overwhelm their war : the race elect9
Safe towards Canaan from the shore advance
Through the wild Desert; not the readiest way,
Lest, entering on the Canaanite alarm’d,
War terrify them inexpert, and fear

p the river-dragon. The river-dragon, as Addison bas observed, is Pharaoh, in allusion to Ezekiel, xxix. 3. - Todd.

It is remarkable that here Milton omits the moral cause, though he gives the poetical, of the Israelites wandering forty years in the wilderness ; and this was their poltron ma. tiny on the return of the spies. He omitted this with judgment; for this last speech of the angel was to give such a representation of things as might convey comfort to Adam; otherwise the story of the brazen serpent would have afforded noble imagery.-- WARBURTON.

[ocr errors]

710

[ocr errors]

9 The race elect.

[merged small][ocr errors]

220

225

230

235

than he saw in the small presbyterian systems; otherwise the true idea of the theocracy

By these passages Milton seems to have understood no more of the Jewish institution vered to the Jews; but why did he omit the moral law contained in the ten command

Milton speaks of the civil and the ritual, the judicial and the ceremonial precepts deliin the beart of man, and therefore Adam must have been perfectly acquainted with it ; but however I think, this should have been particularly mentioned, as it was published at this time in the most solemn manner by God from mount Sinai ; and as it was thought conveyed to the people by the writing and preach worthy to be written with his own finger upon two tables of stone, when the rest was That the seven lamps signified the seven planets, and that therefore the lamps stood

Return them back to Egypt, choosing rather
Inglorious life with servitude ; for life
To noble and ignoble is more sweet
Untraind in arms, where rashness leads not on.
This also shall they gain by their delay
In the wide wilderness; there they shall found
Their government, and their great senate choose
Through the twelve tribes, to rule by laws, ordain'd:
God from the mount of Sinai, whose gray top
Shall tremble, he descending, will himself
In thunder, lightning, and loud trumpets' sound,
Ordain them laws"; part, such as appertain
To civil justice ; part, religious rites
Of sacrifice; informing them, by types
And shadows, of that destined Seed to bruise
The serpent, by what means he shall achieve
Mankind's deliverance. But the voice of God
To mortal ear is dreadful: they beseech
That Moses might report to them his will,
And terrour cease: he grants what they besought,
Instructed that to God is no access
Without mediator ; whose high office now
Moses in figure bears, to introduce
One greater

, of whose day he shall foretell ;
And all the prophets in their age the times
Of great Messiah shall sing. Thus, laws and rites
Establish’d, such delight hath God in men,
Obedient to his will, that he vouchsafes
Among them to set up his tabernacle ;-
The Holy One with mortal men to dwell:
By his prescript a sanctuary is framed
Of cedar, overlaid with gold ; therein
An ark, and in the ark his testimony,
The records of his covenant; over these
A mercy-seat of gold, between the wings
Of two bright cherubim ; before him burn
Seven lamps, as in a zodiacs representing

r Ver. 230. &c.
would have afforded some noble observations.-WARBURTON,

ing of Moses, as a mediator between God • Seven lamps, as in a zodiac.

210

245

230

255

and them.--GREENWOOD.

« PreviousContinue »