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—Hope elevates, and joy
That secret intoxication of pleasure, with all those transient flushings of guilt and joy, which the poet represents' in our first parents upon their eating the forbidden fruit, to those flaggings of spirit, damps of sorrow, and mutual accusations which succeed it, are conceived with a wonderful imagination, and described in very natural sentiments. When Dido, in the fourth AEneid, yielded to that fatal temptation which ruined her, Virgil tells us the earth trembled, the beavens were filled with flashes of lightning, and the nymphs bowled upon the mountain tops. Milton, in the same poetical spirit, has described all nature as disturbed upon Eve's eating the forbidden fruit. So saying, her rash hand in evil hour Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck'd, she eat: Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe
Upon Adam's falling into the same guilt, the whole creation appears a second time in convulsions.
He scrupled not to eat Against his better knowledge, not deceiv'd, But fondly overcome with female charm. Earth trembled from her entrails, as again In pangs, and nature gave a second groan, Sky low’red, and, mutt'ring thunder, some sad drops Wept at compleating of the mortal sin.
As all nature suffered by the guilt of our first parents, these symptoms of trouble and consternation are wonderfully imagined, not only as prodigies, but as marks of her sympathizing in the fall of man.
Adam's converse with Eve, after having eaten the forbidden fruit, is an exact copy of that between Jupiter and Juno, in the fourteenth Iliad. Juno there approaches Jupiter with the girdle which she had received from Venus; upon which he tells her, that she appeared more charming and desirable than she had ever done before, even when their loves were at the highest. The poet afterwards describes them as reposing on a summit of mount Ida, which produced under them a bed of flowers, the lotos, the crocus, and the hyacinth, and concludes his description with their falling asleep.
Let the reader compare this with the following passage in Milton, which begins with Adam's speech to Eve:
For never did thy beauty since the day
As no poet seems ever to have studied Homer more, or to have more resembled him in the greatness of genius than Milton, I think I should have given but a very imperfect account of his beauties, if I had not observed the most remarkable passages which look like parallels in these two great authors. I might, in the course of these criticisms, have taken notice of many particular lines and expressions which are translated from the Greek poet; but as I thought this would have appeared too minute and over-curious, I have purposely omitted them. The greater inci. dents, however, are not only set off by being shewn in the same light with several of the same nature in Homer, but by that means may be also guarded against the cavils of the tasteless or ignorant.
The tenth book of Paradise Lost has a greater variety of persons in it than any other in the whole poem. The author, upon the winding up of his action, introduces all those who had any concern in it, and shews with great beauty the influence which it had upon each of them. It is like the last act of a well written tragedy, in which all who had a part in it are generally drawn up before the audience, and represented under those circumstances in which the determination of the action places them.
I shall, therefore, consider this book under four heads, in relation to the celestial, the infernal, the human, and the imaginary persons, who have their respective parts allotted in it.
*The motto to this paper in the original publication in folio, is the same with that which is now prefixed to No. 279.-C.
To begin with the celestial persons: the guardian angels of Paradise are described as returning to Heaven upon the fall of man, in order to approve their vigilance; their arrival, their manner of reception, with the sorrow which appeared in themselves, and in those spirits who are said to rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, are very finely laid together in the following lines.
Up into Heav'n from Paradise in haste,
The same divine person, who, in the foregoing parts of this poem, interceded for our first parents before their fall, overthrew the rebel angels, and created the world, is now represented as descending to Paradise, and pronouncing sentence upon the three offenders. The cool of the evening being a circumstance with which holy writ introduces this great scene, it is poetically described by our author, who has also kept religiously to the form of words, in which the three several sentences were passed upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent. He has rather chosen to neglect the numerousness of his verse, than to deviate from those speeches which are recorded on this great occasion. The guilt and confusion of our first parents standing naked before their Judge, is touched with great beauty. Upon the arrival of Sin and Death into the works of the creation, the Almighty is again introduced as speaking to his angels that surrounded him.
See with what heat these dogs of hell advance
The following passage is formed upon that glorious image of holy writ, which compares the voice of an innumerable host of angels, uttering hallelujahs, to the voice of mighty thunderings, or of many waters. He ended, and the heav'nly audience loud Sung hallelujah, as the sound of seas, Through multitude that sung: “Just are thy ways,
Righteous are thy decrees in all thy works,
Though the author, in the whole course of his poem, and particularly in the book we are now examining, has infinite allusions to places of scripture, I have only taken notice in my remarks of such as are of a poetical nature, and which are woven with great beauty into the body of this fable. Of this kind is that passage in the present book, where describing Sin and Death as marching through the works of nature, he adds,
— Behind her Death
Close following pace for pace, not mounted yet
On his pale horse!
Which alludes to that passage in scripture so wonderfully
poetical, and terrifying to the imagination. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him; and power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with sickness, and with the beasts of the earth.” Under this first head of celestial persons we must likewise take notice of the command which the angels received,