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In this point of view, with what pathetic grandeur is the poet invested !
In contemplating the variety of his sufferings, and his various mental achievements, we may declare, without any extravagance of praise, that, although sublimity is the predominant characteristic of Milton's poem, his own personal character is still more sublime.
His majestic pre-eminence is nobly described in the following verses of Akenside, a poet who bore some affinity to Milton in the ardour of his mind, whose sentiments are always noble, though not always accompanied by a graceful felicity of expression.
“ Mark how the dread Pantheon stands,
Amid the domes of modern hands;
Presents her tuneful sons to time,
And add, Thus differs from the throng
The spirit which informed thy awful song,
The powers of Milton, indeed, are so irresistible, that even those, whom the blindness of prejudice has rendered his enemies, are constrained to regard him as
bject of admiration. In this article, posterity,
to whom he made a very interesting appeal, has done him ample justice; still he is more admired than beloved ; yet in granting him only admiration, we ungenerously withhold the richest half of that posthumous reward, for which he laboured so fervently; we may be confident that he rather wished to excite the affection, than the applause, of mankind; and assuredly he has the noblest title to both, the title of having exerted superlative genius and literary ambition under the constant influence of religious philanthropy.
In proportion as our country has advanced in purity of taste, she has applauded the poet; and in proportion as she advances in liberality of sentiment, she will love the man.”
The first book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject, Man's dis
obedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was placed : then touches the prime cause of his Fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the Serpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the Poem hastens into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell, described here, not in the centre (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed,) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos : here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him : they confer of their miserable fall; Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded. They rise; their numbers ; array of battle; their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient propbecy or report in Heaven ; for that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: the infernal peers there sit in council.
OF Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer