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BOOK III.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.

I cannot admit this book to be inferior in poetical merit to those which precede it : the argumentative parts give a pleasing variety. The unfavourable opinion has arisen from a narrow view of the nature of poetry : from the theory of those who think that it ought to be confined to description and imagery. On the contrary, the highest poetry consists more of spirit than of matter. Matter is only good so far as it is imbued with spirit, or causes spiritual exaltation. Among the innumerable grand descriptions in Milton, I do not believe there is one which stands unconnected with complex intellectual considerations, and of which those considerations do not form a leading part of the attraction. The learned allusions may be too deep for the common reader ; and so far the poet is above the reach of the multitude : but even then they create a certain vague stir in unprepared minds :-names indistinctly heard ; visions dimly seen ; constant recognitions of Scriptural passages, and sacred names, awfully impressed on the memory from childhood, -awaken the sensitive understanding with sacred and mysterious movements.

We do not read Milton in the same light mood as we read any other poet: his is the imagination of a sublime instructor : we give our faith through duty, as well as will. If our fancy flags, we strain it, that we may apprehend : we know that there is something which our conception ought to reach. There is not an idle word in any of the delineations which the bard exhibits ; nor is any picture merely addressed to the senses. Everything therefore is invention ;-arising from novelty or complexity of combination : nothing is a mere reflection from the mirror of the fancy.

Milton early broke loose from the narrow bounds of observation ; and explored the trackless regions of air, and worlds of spirits,—the good and the bad.—There his pregnant imagination embodied new states of existence ; and out of Chaos drew form, and life, and all that is grand, and beautiful, and godlike : and yet he so mingled them up with materials from the globe in which we are placed, that it is an unpardonable error to say that “ Paradise Lost" contains little applicable to human interests. The human learning and human wisdom contained in every page are inexhaustible.

On this account no other poem requires so many explanatory notes, drawn from all the most extensive stores of erudition,

Of classical literature, and of the Italian poets, Milton was a perfect master : he often replenished his images and forms of expression from Homer and Virgil, and yet never was a servile borrower. There is an added pleasure to what in itself is beautiful, from the happiness of his adaptations.

I do not doubt that what he wrote was from a conjunction of genius, learning, art, and labour ; but the grand source of all his poetical conceptions and language was the Scripture.

I have defended the argumentative, as well as the imaginative parts of this poem. I use imaginative invention in its strict sense, to express that which consists of imagery. The argumentative may be equal invention ;-but ideal or spiritual invention : every great poem must unite both in large proportions. There is great simplicity and plainness in the greater part of Milton's images taken separately ;the novelty and gr eur is in their positio and association. When Satan beholds the pendent orb of this world floating in immense space, while number. less other globes are suspended in the same vacuity ;—the sublimity of the picture

is mainly caused by reflecting on the character of him, on whose sight this object breaks.

Spenser's subject was confined to human nature, represented by a moral allegory; but the manners which he undertook to describe were factitious; and he is often therefore over-coloured and extravagant : but Milton's subject allowed all the flights of the most gigantic and marvellous imagination : he never therefore offends probability ; while we are often ob to consider Spenser as merely sportive.

ARGUMENT. Goo sitting on his throne sees Satan flying towards this world, then newly created; shows him

to the Son, who sat at his right hand; foretells the success of Satan in perverting mankind; clears his own justice and wisdom from all imputation, having created man free, and ablo enough to have withstood his tempter; yet declares his purpose of grace towards him, in regard he fell pot of his own malice, as did Satan, but by him seduced. The Son of God renders praises to his Father for the manifestation of his gracious purpose towards man; but God again declares, that grace cannot be extended towards man without the satisfaction of dirine justice : man hath offended the majesty of God by aspiring to Godhead, and therefore with all his progeny devoted to death must die, unless some one can be found sufficient to answer for his offence, and undergo his punishment. The Son of God freely offers himself a ransom for man; the Father accepts him, ordains his incarnation, pronounces his exaltation above all names in heaven and earth; commands all the angels to adore him; they obey, and, hymning to their harps in full quire, celebrate the Father and the Son. Meanwhile, batan alights upon the bare convex of this world's outermost orb; where wandering he first finds a place, since called the Limbo of Vanity; what persons and things fly up thither; thence comes to the gate of heaven, described ascending by stairs, and the waters above the firmament that flow about it; his passage thence to the orb of the sun ; he finds there Uriel, the regent of that orb; but first changes bimself into the shape of a meaner angel ; and, pretending a zealous desire to behold the new creation, and man whom God had placed here, inquires of him the place of his habitation, and is directed ; alights first on Mount Niphates.

Hail, holy Lighta ! offspring of heaven first born,
Or of the Eternal co-eternal beam,

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Milton having in the first and second books represented the infernal world with all its borrors, the thread of his fable naturally leads him into the opposite regions of bliss and glory.

If Milton's majesty forsakes him anywhere, it is in those parts of his poem where the divine persons are introduced as speakers. One may, I think, observe that the author proceeds with a kind of fear and trembling, whilst he describes the sentiments of the Almighty: be dares not give his imagination its full play, but chooses to confine himself to such thoughts as are drawn from the books of the most orthodox divines, and to such expressions as may be met with in Scripture. The beauties therefore which we are to look for in these speeches are not of a poetical nature ; nor so proper to fill the mind with set timents of grandeur, as with thoughts of devotion : the passions which they are designed to raise, are a divine love and religious fear. The particular beauty of the speeches in the third book consists in that shortness and perspicuity of style, in which the poet has couched the greatest mysteries of Christianity, and drawn together, in a regular scheme, the whole dispensation of Providence with respect to man. He has represented all the abstruse dextrines of predestination, free-will, and grace; as also the great points of incarnation and redemption, (which naturally grow up in a poem that treats of the fall of man,) with great energy of expression, and in a clearer and stronger light than I have ever met with in any other writer. As these points are dry in themselves to the generality of readers, the concise and clear manner in which he has treated them is very much to be admired ; as is likewise the particular art which he has made use of in the interspersing of all those graces of poetry which the subject was capable of receiving.--Addison.

* Hail, holy Light. This celebrated complaint, with which Milton opens the third book, deserves all the praises which have been given it, though it may rather be looked on as an excrescence

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May I express thee unblamed ? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity ; dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear’st thou rather pure ethereal stream,
Whose fountain who shall tell <? before the sun,
Before the heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I revisit now with bolder wing,
Escaped the Stygian pool, though long detain'd
In that obscure sojourn; while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness d borne,
With other notes than to the Orphean lyre,
I sung of Chaos and eternal Night;
Taught by the heavenly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to reascend,
Though hard and rare : thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital lamp; but thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil'd. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Clear spring, or shady grove, or sunny hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song ®; but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath',
That wash thy hallow'd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit ; nor sometimes forget

than as an essential part of the poem. The same obscrvation might be applied to that beautiful digression upon hypocrisy in the same book. -Addison.

Ibid. Our author's address to Light, and lamentation of his own blindness, may perhaps be censured as an excrescence or digression not agrecable to the rules of epic poetry ; but yet this is so charming a part of the poem, that the most critical reader, I imagine, cannot wish it were omitted.

One is even pleased with a fault that is the occasion of so many beauties, and acquaints us so much with the circumstances and character of the author.--Newton.

b Since God is light. See 1 John i. 5; and 1 Tim. vi. 16.- Newton.

( Whose fountain who shall tell ? As in Job xxxviii. 19. “ Where is the way where light dwelleth ?"—HUME.

d Through utter and through middle darkness. Through hell, which is often called utter darkness; and through the great gulf between hell and heaven, the middle darkness.—NEWTON.

e Smit with the love of sacred song. So Virgil, Georg. ii. 475 :

Dulces ante omnia Musæ,
Quarum sacra fero ingenti percussus amore.-NEWTON.

{The flowery brooks beneath.
Kedron and Siloah. He still was pleased to study the beauties of the ancient poets, but his
highest delight was in the songs of Sion, in the holy Scriptures; and in these be meditated day
and night. This is the sense of the passage stripped of its poetical ornaments.— NEWTON.

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Those other two equald with me in fate,
So were I equal'd with them in renown,
Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides 5,
And Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old :
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return, but not to me returns la
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine ;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of nature's works, to me expunged and rased,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou, celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate; there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

Now had the Almighty Father from above,
From the pure empyrean where he sits
High throned above all highth, bent down his cye,
His own works and their works at once to view.
About him all the sanctities of heaven
Stood thick as stars, and from his sight received
Beatitude past utterance'; on his right
The radiant image of his glory sat,
His only Son : on earth he first beheld
Our two first parents, yet the only two

& Blind Thamyris and blind Meonidis.
Mæonides is Homer. Thamyris was a Thracian, and invented the Doric mood or measure.
Tiresias and Phinens, the one a Theban, the other a king of Arcadia, famous blind prophets
and poets of antiquity.--Newton.

b Seasons return, but not to me returns.
This beautiful turn of the words is copied from the beginning of the third act of Guarini's
Pastor Fido," where Mirtillo addresses the Spring :-

Tu torni ben, ma teco
Non tornano, &c.
Tu torni ben, tu torni,
Ma teco altro non torna, &c.-NEWTON.

And from his sight received

Beatitude past utterance.
Milton bere alludes to the beatific vision, in which divines suppose the happiness of
the saints to consist.—THYER.
Sandys, in his Paraphrase on Job, has a similar passage:

Againe when all the radiant sonnes of light
Before his throne appear'd, whose only sight
Beatitude infused.--TODD.

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Of mankind, in the happy garden placed,
Reaping immortal fruits of joy and love,
Uninterrupted joy, unrivald love,
In blissful solitude : hé then survey'd
Hell and the gulf between, and Satan there
Coasting the wall of heaven on this side night
In the dun air sublime, and ready now
To stoop with wearied wings, and willing feet,
On the bare outside of this world, that seem'd
Firm land imbosom’d without firmaments,
Uncertain which, in ocean or in air.
Him God beholding from his prospect high,
Wherein past, present, future, he beholds,
Thus to his only Son foreseeing spake :-

Only-begotten Son ", seest thou what rage
?'ransports our adversary? whom no bounds
Prescribed, no bars of hell, nor all the chains
Heap'd on him there, nor yet the main abyss
Wide interrupt, can hold; so bent he seems
On desperate revenge, that shall redound
Upon his own rebellious head. And now,
Through all restraint broke loose, he wings his way
Not far off heaven, in the precincts of light,
Directly towards the new-created world,
And man there placed ; with purpose to assay
If him by force he can destroy, or, worse,
By some false guile pervert; and shall pervert :
For man will hearken to his glozing lies,
And easily transgress the sole command,
Sole pledge of his obedience : so will fall,
He and his faithless progeny. Whose fault?
Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me
All he could have : I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all the ethereal powers
And spirits, both them who stood and them who fail'd :
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.
Not free, what proof could they have given sincere
Of true allegiance, constant faith, or love?

Firm land imbosom'd without firmament. The universe appeared to Satan to be a solid globe, encompassed on all sides, but uncertain whether with water or air, but without firmament, without any spbere or fixed stars over it, as over the earth. The sphere, or fixed stars, was itself comprehended in it, and made a part of it.--Newton.

k Only-begotten Son. I will make one general observation on this and all the speeches in the poem, put into the mouth of God the Father; which is, that nothing can be more unjust than Pope's criticism on Milton, accusing him of making “ God turn school-divine," unless he meant hy school-divinity the doctrine of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. John, &c. : for Milton has copied them with the greatest exactness; and, bating a word or two (fully implied however in those writers), bas kept to their very expressions.-STILLINGFLEET.

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