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ADDISON observes, that this eleventh book of Paradise Lost' is not generally reckoned among the most shining books of the poem. How is it possible that every book, where the splendour is so excessive, should blaze equally? Probably there is less invention in this book; but the descriptive parts are not less powerful, nor less important, instructive, and awful in their topics. The Deluge was a trial of strength with the ancients, since it forms so important a feature in Ovid's poems. So far as there is invention in this book, it lies in the selection of circumstances, in picturesque epithets, and in moral, political, and religious reflections: its intellectual compass is vast and stupendous. Such a view opened upon Adam of the fate of his posterity, could only be conceived and comprehended by the splendid force of the poetical eye of Milton. Wonderful as is the liveliness and truth of shape and tint of each part, still the greater wonder is in the united brilliance of the whole.
It is truly said, that Milton every where follows the great ancients, and improves upon them: he despises all the petty gildings and artifices, which are so much boasted
in modern poetry. His object is, to convey images and ideas-not words; and the plainer the words, so that they do not disgrace the thought, the better! He would never sacrifice the force of the language to the metre. The mark of this is, that when he had occasion to use the terms of the Scripture, he would not derange them for the sake of the rhythm.
On that which pleases us individually, without consulting the feelings and opinions of others, we cannot rely : but when what delights us has made the same impression on gifted persons of all ages, and under all different circumstances, then we may be sure that its charms are intrinsic, and such as it is important to bring out, and render more impressive. Thus Milton is full of imagery, which makes the spell of Homer and Virgil.
There are those who think that poetry is not of the essence of intellectual cultivation: they think so because they have no idea of the nature of true poetry; without which there can be no due conception of the wonders and charms of the creation.
Smooth verses are indeed but childish amusements to the ear, which would be better fed by common and unpolished sounds conveying useful knowledge through the sense to the mind.
ARGUMENT OF BOOK XI.
THE Son of God presents to his Father the prayers of our first parents now repenting, and intercedes for them: God accepts them, but declares that they must no longer abide in Paradise; sends Michael with a band of cherubim to dispossess them; but first to reveal to Adam future things: Michael's coming down. Adam shows to Eve certain ominous signs; he discerns Michael's approach; goes out to meet him; the angel denounces their departure. Eve's lamentation. Adam pleads, but submits: the angel leads him up to a high hill; sets before him in vision what shall happen till the flood.