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THE 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 enterprize. In the mean time God, in the assembly of holy angels, declares that he has given up his 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 commencement of his great office of Saviour of mankind. Pursuing his meditations he narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and philanthropic impulses he had felt from his early youth, and how his mother Mary, on perceiving these dispositions in him, had acquainted him with the circumstances of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a person than the Son of God; to which he adds what his own enquiries and reflections had supplied in confirmation of this great truth, and particularly dwells on the recent attestation of it at the river Jordan. Our Lord passes forty days, fasting, in the wilderness; where the wild beasts become mild and harmless in his presence. Satan now appears under the form of an old peasant; and enters into discourse with our Lord, wondering what could have brought him alone into so dangerous a place, and at the same time professing to recognize him for the person lately acknowledged by John, at the river Jordan, to be the Son of God. Jesus briefly replies. Satan rejoins with a description of the difficulty of supporting life in the wilderness; and entreats Jesus, if he be
really the Son of God, to manifest his divine power, by changing some of the stones into bread. Jesus reproves him, and at the
avows himself, and offers an artful apology for himself and his conduct. Our blessed Lord severely reprimands him, and refutes every part of his justification. Satan, with much semblance of humility, still endeavours to justify himself; and professing his admiration of Jesus and his regard for virtue, requests to be permitted at a future time to hear more of his conversation; but is answered that this must be as he shall find permission from above. Satan then disappears, and the book closes with a short description of night coming on in the desert. Dunster.
I WHO ere while the happy garden sung,
Milton's Paradise Regained Lost could ever write without has not met with the approba- great effusions of fancy, and extion that it deserves. It has not alted precepts of wisdom. The the harmony of numbers, the basis of Paradise Regained is sublimity of thought, and the narrow; a dialogue without acbeauties of diction, which are in tion can never please like an Paradise Lost. It is composed union of the narrative and drain a lower and less striking style, matic powers. Had this poem a style suited to the subject. Art- been written not by Milton, but ful sophistry, false reasoning, set by some imitator, it would have off in the most specious manner, claimed and received universal and refuted by the Son of God praise. Johnson. with strong unaffected eloquence, But surely this poem has is the peculiar excellence of this merits far superior to “occapoem. Satan there defends a sional elegance" and " general bad cause with great skill and instruction ;"• and indeed that subtlety, as one thoroughly this is really the case is suffi. versed in that craft;
ciently implied in the succeeding Qui facere assuerat
sentence of Dr. Johnson's criCandida de nigris, et de candenti. tique. bus atra.
That “the basis of Paradise His character is well drawn. Regained is narrow” has been Jortin.
the remark of several of the Of Paradise Regained the ge- critics. See Bentley's note on neral judgment seems now to be Par. Lost, x. 182, who observes right, that it is in many parts upon this work, that Milton "has elegant, and every where in amplified his scanty materials to structive. It was not to be sup- a surprising dignity; but yet, posed that the writer of Paradise being cramped down by a wrong
Recover'd Paradise to all mankind,
choice, without the expected ap- and then invokes the assistance plause.” To the same purpose of the Holy Spirit. The beginare the observations of Bp. New- ning I who ere while &c. is plainly ton, in his Life of Milton, (see an allusion to the Ille ego qui the Life, pp. lxi. lxii. for the quondam &c. attributed to Virgil: origin and character of Paradise but it doth not therefore follow, Regained ;) of Mr. Thyer, (see that Milton had no better taste his note on Par. Reg. ii. 1.) and than to conceive these lines to of Bp. Warburton, (see his note be genuine. Their being so well on ver. 3.) But we may collect known to all the learned was from the author himself, that he reason sufficient for his imitation designed this poem for, what he of them, as it was for Spenser's terms, the brief epic, which he before him : particularly distinguishes from Lo, I the man, whose Muse whileom The great and diffuse epic, of which
did mask, kind are the great poems of Ho. As time her taught, in lowly shepmer and Virgil, and his own
herd's weeds, Paradise Lost. [See a passage
Am now enforc'd a far un fitter task, in the introduction to the second
For trumpets stern to change mine
oaten reeds &c. book of his Reuson of Church
2. By one man's disobedience] Government, cited by Bp. Newton in his concluding note, b. iv. 639.
Somewhat in the style and manE.]
ner of St. Paul, Rom. v. 19. For His model then we may
as by one man's disobedience suppose to have been in a great measure the book of Job; and
many were made sinners; so by however the subject which he be made righteous.
the obedience of one shall many selected may have been consi
2. The argument of Paradise dered as narrow ground, and one I that cramped his genius, there is no reason to imagine that it was
- Man's first disobedience chosen hastily or in considerately. Giles Fletcher has expressed the It was peculiarly adapted to the same contrast in Christ's Triumph species of poem he meant to pro- over Death, stanz. xv. Dunster. duce, namely, the brief or didactic 3. Recover'd Paradise] It may epic. The basis he thought per- seem a little odd at first, that fectly adequate to the superstruc- Milton should impute the reture which he meant to raise; covery of Paradise to this short to the merit of which the lapse scene of our Saviour's life upon of time bears the material tes. earth, and not rather extend it timony of a gradually increasing to his agony, crucifixion, &c.; admiration. Dunster.
but the reason no doubt was, that 1. I who ere while &c.] Milton Paradise regained by our Saviour's begins his Paradise Regained in resisting the temptations of Sathe same manner as the Paradise tan might be a better contrast Lost; first proposes his subject, to Paradise Lost by our first pa
Through all temptation, and the Tempter foil'd
rents too easily yielding to the of his plan,) is very uncertain. same seducing spirit. Besides All that we can be sure of is, he might very probably, and in- that the plan is a very unhappy deed very reasonably, be appre- one, and defective even in that hensive, that a subject so exten- narrow view of a sequel, for it sive as well as sublime might be affords the poet no opportunity too great a burden for his de- of driving the Devil back again clining constitution, and a task to hell from his new conquests too long for the short term of in the air. In the mean time years he could then hope for. nothing was easier than to have Even in his Paradise Lost be ex- invented a good one, which presses his fears, lest he had be- should end with the resurrection, gun too late, and lest an age too and comprise these four books, late, or cold climate, or years somewhat contracted, in an epishould have damped his intended sode, for which only the subject wing; and surely he had much of them is fit. Warburton. greater cause to dread the same If Milton thought the tempter now, and be very cautious of foiled in all his wiles, defeated, and launching out too far. Thyer. repulsed, he did not however con
It is hard to say whether Mil. ceive the redemption of mankind ton's wrong notions in divinity (as I before remarked, Par. Lost, led him to this defective plan; or X. 182, so soon effected. See his fondness for the plan influ- the address of the Angels to our enced those notions. That is, Lord, at the conclusion of this whether he indeed supposed the poem, b. iv. 634. redemption of mankind (as he
- on thy glorious work here represents it) was procured Now enter, and begin to save manby Christ's triumph over the
kind. Devil in the wilderness; or whe- Compare b. i. 155–167, and b. ther he thought that the scene iv. 608. See also Mr. Dunster's of the desert opposed to that of note on ver. 174 of this book. E. Paradise, and the action of a 7. And Eden rais'd in the waste temptation withstood to a tempt. wilderness.] There is, I think, a ation fallen under, made Paradise particular beauty in this line, Regained a more regular sequel when one considers the fine alto Paradise Lost. Or if neither lusion in it to the curse brought this nor that, whether it was his upon the Paradisiacal earth by being tired out with the labour the fall of Adam,-Cursed is the of composing Paradise Lost made ground for thy sake-Thorns also him averse to another work of and thistles shall it bring forth. length, (and then he would never Thyer. be at a loss for fanciful reasons So in his translation of the to deterinine him in the choice 135th Psalmi, written when he