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a more regular sequel to · Paradise Lost;' or, if neither this nor that, whether it was his being tired out with the labour of composing "Paradise Lost,' which made him averse to another work of length (and then he would never be at a loss for fanciful reasons to determine him in the choice of his plan), is very uncertain. All that we can be sure of is, that the plan is a very unhappy one, and defective even in that narrow view of a sequel ; for it affords the poet no opportunity of driving the devil back again to hell from his new conquests in the air. In the mean time, nothing was easier than to have invented a good one, which should end with the resurrection ; and to comprise these four books, somewhat contracted, in an episode ; for which only the subject of them is fit."
Warburton was a man of great subtlety, force, and originality ; but totally deficient in poetical taste. To have contracted the matter of these four books, would indeed have been a loss and a destruction. If the poem had been extended to the length of the Paradise Lost,' it might indeed have contained that of which Warburton charges the omission as a great defect : but as the poem now stands, it is a perfect whole in itself ; and it is not improbable, that the poet found age and sickness too fast pressing upon him to make it longer.
It seems to me, that, in my preliminary remarks upon one of Milton's chief poems, I cannot do better than impress on the reader the peculiarity of the bard's genius, and endeavour to imbue him with a Miltonic taste ; which is so distinct from that of all other poetry. That this is no fancy of my own, I can establish on the authority of Milton himself, and of the comments of two distinguished annotators.
I refer to the passage beginning v. 285 of b.iv. of Paradise Regained,' which contains Christ's answer to Satan's panegyric of human learning, beginning v. 236, describing Athens as the seat of all intellectual glory. Our Saviour answers, v. 309 :
Alas! what can they teach, and not mislead,
Degraded by himself, on grace depending ? &c. &c.
Remove their swelling epithets, thick laid
Thyer observes here, that “this answer of our Saviour is as much to be admired ! for solid reasoning, and the many sublime truths contained in it, as the preceding
speech of Satan is for that fine vein of poetry which runs through it : and one may observe in general, that Milton has quite, throughout this work, thrown the ornaments of poetry on the side of error: whether it was that he thought great truths best expressed in a grave, unaffected style; or intended to suggest this fine moral to the 1 reader ;-that simple naked truth will always be an overmatch for falsehood, though recommended by the gavest rhetoric, and adorned with the most bewitching colours.
As to the inferiority of Grecian literature to the songs of Sion, Newton observes, that Milton was of this opinion, not only in the decline of life, but likewise in his earlier days, as appears from the Preface to his second book of The Reason of Church Government:'_“Or if occasion shall lead to imitate those magnific Odes and Hymns wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are in most things worthy, some others in their frame judicious, in their matter most an end faulty. But those frequent songs throughout the law and prophets beyond all these, pot in their divine argument alone, but in the very critical art of composition, may be easily made appear over all the kinds of lyric poesy to be incomparable.”
On this note Warton makes the following comment :—“But Milton now appears to have imbibed so strong a tincture of fanaticism, as to decry all human compositions and profane subjects. In the context he speaks with absolute contempt, even in a critical view; and a general disapprobation of the Greek odes and hymns. (Read ver. 343 to ver. 348.) Undoubtedly these were Milton's own sentiments, though delivered in an assumed character. Even in his own person he had long before given the substance of the context, as cited by Dr. Newton : it must, however, be observed that Christ is here answering Satan's speech, and counteracting his exquisite panegyric on the philosophers, poets, and orators of Athens : yet at ! the same time, I can conceive that Satan's speech, which here he means to confute, and which no man was more able to write than himself, came from the heart*. The writers of dialogue in feigned characters have great advantage."
The chief purpose for which I have introduced this criticism here is this,-that the reader may not look for what are thought the common ornaments or spells of poetry: he must look for stern truths ; for sublime sentiments ; for naked grandeur of imagery; for an absence of all the rhetorical flourishes of literary composition ; for the dictates of a lofty and divine virtue; for a bold and gigantic dispersion of the reil from the delusions of human vanity ; for the blaze of an Evil Spirit eclipsed by the splendour of a Good and Divine Spirit, illumined by the lamp of Heaven.
But though a great part of the poem is intellectual and argumentative, another large portion is full of grand or beautiful imagery: the description of the wilderness at the opening abounds with sublime scenery: the picture of the storm at the close of the last book, with the bright morning which succeeded, may vie with any of the noblest passages in the ‘ Paradise Lost;' perhaps in expression, while it loses nothing of grandeur, it is more polished than any other to be found.
Milton intended this poem as the brief or didactic epic, of which he considered the book of Job to be a model, such as he notices in the second book of his • Reason of Church Government.' “Milton,” says Hayley, “ had already executed one extensive divine poem, peculiarly distinguished by richness and sublimity of description : in framing a second he naturally wished to vary its effect ; to make it
* Surely there is here something of inconsistency in Warton.
rich in moral sentiment, and sublime in its mode of unfolding the highest wisdom that man can learn : for this purpose it was necessary to keep all the ornamental parts of the poem in due subordination to the preceptive. This delicate and difficult point is accomplished with such felicity; they are blended together with such exquisite harmony and mutual aid ; that, instead of arraigning the plan, we might rather doubt if any possible change could improve it. Assuredly, there is no poem of an epic form, where the sublimest moral is so forcibly and abundantly united to poetical delight: the splendour of the poem does not blaze indeed so intensely as in his larger production : here he resembles the Apollo of Ovid; softening his glory in speaking to his Son; and avoiding to dazzle the fancy, that he may descend into the heart.”
In another place, Hayley, having spoken of the “uncommon energy and felicity of composition in Milton's two poems, however different in design, dimension, and effect," adds,—" to censure the Paradise Regained,' because it does not more resemble the · Paradise Lost,' is hardly less absurd, than it would be to condemn the moon for not being a sun; instead of admiring the two different luminaries, and feeling that both the greater and the less are equally the work of the same divine and inimitable Power.
" Yet this is the poem,” says Dunster, “ from which the ardent admirers of Milton's other works turn, as from a cold, uninteresting composition, the produce of his dotage, of a palsied hand no longer able to hold the pencil of poetry.”
The origin of this poem is attributed to the suggestion of Ellwood, the quaker. Milton had lent this friend, in 1665, his · Paradise Lost,' then completed in manuscript, at Chalfont, St. Giles'; desiring him to peruse it at at his leisure, and give his judgment of it ;“which I modestly but freely told him," says Ellwood, in his Life of Himself; “ and after some farther discourse of it, I pleasantly said to him, • Thou hast said much of Paradise Lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise Found ?' He made me no answer, but sat some time in a muse ; then broke off that discourse, and fell upon another subject.” When Ellwood afterwards waited on him in London, Milton showed him his · Paradise Regained;' and, in a pleasant tone, said to him,—“ This is owing to you ; for you put it into my head by the question you put to me at Chalfont; which before I had not thought of.” Milton, in the opening of this poem, speaking of his Muse, as prompted
to tell of deeds
Above heroick, considers the subject of it, as well as of Paradise Lost,' to be of much greater dignity and difficulty than the argument of Homer and Virgil. But the difference here is, as Richardson observes, that he confines himself “ to nature's bounds;" not as in the Paradise Lost,' where he soars “ above the visible diurnal sphere :" and so far. Paradise Regained' is less poetical because it is less imaginative.
«« Paradise Regained' has not met with the approbation it deserves,” says Jortin : “ it has not the harmony of numbers, the sublimity of thought, and the beauties of diction, which are in • Paradise Lost :' it is composed in a lower and less striking style ;-a style suited to the subject. Artful sophistry, false reasoning, set off in the most specious manner, and refuted by the Son of God with strong unaffected eloquence, is the peculiar excellence of this poem. Satan there defends a bad cause with great skill and subtlety, as one thoroughly versed in that craft:
qui facere assuerat
Candida de nigris, et de candentibus atra. His character is well drawn."
THE very oc: ine of the subject of this book of sublime wisdom, argument, and ence, is f the highest character of poetry. Our Saviour, in a fit of medisive ai racia, and just beginning to feel his divinity from the signs imparted to
at the twist of S. J. hn, wanders into a desert and barren wilderness, where Buss hinsi, ard fasts for forty days. There Satan encounters him, first in ce; and, when deteeted, in his avowed name, to tempt him to his fall; as te firmeriy successfuis tempted Eve, and thus effected the ruin of the human
The daripere parts are here only occasional ; but when they do occur, theş ar mixt and peruresque. The argumentative parts form the main matter. Saga ärgues with the wieked power of a rebellious and perverted angel; but tars, feng within kim the growing illumination of his mighty mission, always everones him : Fet the fiend is as subtle, crafty, flattering, and persuasive, as be is ratus and rizomus. Our Saviour had yet scarcely plumed his wings; he s dat:ful of his own stren th ; yet a secret Spirit from Heaven now whispered to him, that he was born for the trial. The dialogue is supported with amazing fore and spend ur on both sides : the mind of the profound reader is kept in anxious ani trembling suspense. The flash of the demon comes strong and danning; shen foliows the sublime and overwhelming answer, which eclipses it at once ; and which mores the soul and heart by its acute and moral grandeur, and its heroie self-denial.
But let it be rememlered, that in addition to Satan's alarming artifices, our Saviour had to sustain hunger, thirst, want of shelter, loneliness in a desert of territie gaminess, out of which he could not find his way: this gives the story a sort of inathless interest, in which the human imagination can find the strongest sympathy. As a divinity, we should not feel the same interest in the fate of the hero of this poem ; uniess he had, for the execution of his great mission, clothed himself with a nature which subjected him to all the evils of humanity.
The art with which the poet interests us in Satan himself, is miraculous : the demon's plausibilities sometimes almost make us pity him. His self-exculpations
, his cunning argurents, to induce a belief that he means no ill-will to man, and that he has no interest in hating him, are invented with astonishing colour and wiliness : our Saviour's calm detection of Satan's sophistries is delightful and exalting. The reader, who feels in this no human sympathy; no glow at intellectual force; no electrification at the spell of mighty genius ; no expansion of the brain ; no light to the ideas; no elation and renovation of our fallen nature must be unspiritualised, and half-imbruted. If any man finds himself cold and dull at first, let him consider it a duty to endeavour by degrees to warm himself. The hardest ice will melt at last by the continual impulse of a glowing sun,
If the intellectual ingredients of this book,-or this poem, --were abstract, I could account for the vulgar distaste of it: bút the whole has reference to the contest of characters, and to practical results : the whole is not only involved in a progressive story; but is partly, by its prevalence of dialogue, of a dramatic interest: the reader is kept in suspense for the event of the successive trials.
Is the mean nature of many individuals fallen so low, that they can recognise nothing of sentiment or thought which is noble and generous ?-Will they call it improbable, exaggerated, and forced ?- There may be poetry holding up a mirror to common life, which is harmless ; but it is not virtuous, because it is of no use.
The mob perhaps like best to see their own likenesses ; but it is often so far mischievous, that it is apt to confirm them in a complacency with their own follies.
Our business is to improve our understandings, and exalt our hearts ; to be taught to detect the delusions of sin and the devil ; and to bear the sorrows and wrongs of life with a magnanimous fortitude. What poem does this like “ Paradise Regained !" What poem therefore ought we so to study, and become familiar with ? The very authorities, on which its chief doctrines are buil are in themselves treasures of wisdom.
But I am at a loss to guess, what, even on the mere principles of poetry, there is of excellence wanting in this poem. Invention, character, sentiment, language, -all in a high degree,-cannot be denied it. Here is unbounded expanse of thought, and profundity of wisdom : here is all the moral eloquence, which is to be found in the noblest authors of antiquity : here is much of the essence of the inspired writings : here is what perhaps popular readers like best of all,—the most condensed and solid brevity: here is inexhaustible richness of thought combined with extreme plainness, and a scriptural simplicity of expression. I believe that no one ever read florid language for any number of pages without satiety and disgust.
Beautiful as the first book of the " Paradise Regained” is, I think that the poem continues to rise to the last : here is the difficulty ; but it would be a fault if it did not. This book is principally occupied in Satan's exculpation of himself : the other books set forth the fiend's temptations, both material and intellectual ; and our Saviour's sublime arguments in answer to him.
The style with which the “ Paradise Regained ” opens, is generally considered more sober, and less removed from its authorities, than that of the “ Paradise Lost;" and this is supposed to have partly arisen from the poet's awe of his subject, and partly from the weakness of rapidly declining age. With respect to the style, so far as it is more subdued (if it be so), I believe that it has purely been caused by the choice of his subject, and the plainer and simpler language of the New Testament, which disdains all ornament, and in which the story gives less scope to imagination. Where we are relating recorded facts, from which we dare not vary, our language is necessarily more controlled and tame.
I am only surprised at the boldness of the poet in choosing this sublime theme : he could not but have foreseen all its difficulties ; but knowing his own perfect familiarity with the scriptural language, his gigantic mind hazarded the task.' This alone is a proof that he was not conscious of any “ failure of strength ;" and there is not a single passage in the execution, which indicates any such failure : with whatever else compared of his immortal writings, the imagery is as distinct and picturesque; the spiritual part, the thoughts and arguments, are at least equally vigorous, original, discriminative, and profound, and perhaps more abundant : nor has the language less of that naked strength, which supports itself by its own
ARGUMENT". Tue subject proposed. Invocation of the Holy Spirit. The poem opens with John baptizing at
the river Jordan: Jesus coming there is baptized ; and is attested, by the descent of the Holy Ghost, and by a voice from heaven, to be the Son of God. Satan, who is present upon this immediately flies up into the regions of the air; where, summoning his infernal council, he acquaints them with his apprehensions that Jesus is that seed of the woman, destined to destroy all their power; and points out to them the immediate necessity of bringing the matter to proof, and of attempting, by snares and fraud, to counteract and defeat the person, from whom they have so much to dread: this office he offers himself to undertake; and, his offer being accepted, sets out on his enterprise. In the mean time, God, in the assembly of holy angels, declares that he has given up bis Son to be tempted by Satan; but foretels that the tempter shall be completely defeated by him : upon which the angels sing a hymn of triumph. Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, while he is meditating on the
* No edition of “ Paradise Regained" had ever appeared with Arguments to the books, before that which was published in 1795 by Mr. Dunster ; from which they are adopted in this edition. Peck, indeed, endeavoured to supply the deficiency, in his “ Menoirs of Wilton," 1740, p. 70, &c, but the Arguments, which he has there given, are too diffuse, and want that conciseness and energy which distinguish Mr. Dunster's.-Topd.