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Before mine eyes in opposition sits
I need not mention to the reader the beautiful circumstance in the last part of this quotation. He will likewise observe how naturally the three persons concerned in this allegory are tempted by one common interest to enter into a confederacy together, and how properly Sin is made the portress of hell, and the only being that can open the gates to that world of tortures. The descriptive part of this allegory is likewise very strong, and full of sublime ideas. The figure of Death, the regal crown upon his head, his menace of Satan, his advancing to the combat, the outcry at his birth, are circumstances too noble to be passed over in silence, and extremely suitable to this King of Terrors. I need not mention the justness of thought which is observed in the generation of these several symbolical persons, that Sin was produced upon the first revolt of Satan, that Death appeared soon after he was cast into hell, and that the terrors of conscience were conceived at the gate of this place of torments. The description of the gates is very poetical, as the opening of them is full of Milton's spirit. — On a sudden open fly With impetuous recoil and jarring sound Th’ infernal doors, and on their hinges grate Harsh thunder, that the lowest bottom shook Of Erebus. She open'd, but to shut Excell'd her power; the gates wide open stood, That with extended wings a banner'd host Under spread ensigns marching might pass through With horse and chariots rank'd in loose array;
So wide they stood, and like a furnace mouth
In Satan's voyage through the Chaos, there are several ima. ginary persons described, as residing in that immense waste of matter. This may perhaps be conformable to the taste of those critics who are pleased with nothing in a poet which has not life and manners ascribed to it; but for my own part I am pleased most with those passages in this description which carry in them a greater measure of probability, and are such as might possibly have happened. Of this kind is his first mounting in the smoke, that rises from the infernal pit, his falling into a cloud of nitre, and the like combustible materials, that by their explosion still hurried him forward in his voyage; his springing upward like a pyramid of fire, with his laborious passage through that confusion of elements, which the poet calls
The womb of nature and perhaps her grave.
The glimmering light which shot into the Chaos from the utmost verge of the creation, with the distant discovery of the earth that hung close by the moon," are wonderfully beautiful and poetical. L.
No. 315. SATURDAY, MARCH 1.
Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus
Never presume to make a god appear, But for a business worthy of a god. Roscom Mon. Horace advises a poet to consider thoroughly the nature and force of his genius. Milton seems to have known perfectly well wherein his strength lay, and has therefore chosen a subject en
* By the moon. Mr. Addison mistakes the sense of this passage.—Sea Dr. Newton's note on the place.—H.
tirely conformable to those talents of which he was master. As his genius was wonderfully turned to the sublime, his subject is the noblest that could have entered into the thoughts of man Every thing that is truly great and astonishing has a place in it. The whole system of the intellectual world; the Chaos, and the creation; heaven, earth, and hell; enter into the constitution of his poem. Having in the first and second book represented the infernal world with all its horrors, the thread of his fable naturally leads him into the opposite regions of bliss and glory. If Milton's majesty forsakes him any where, 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 senti. ments of the Almighty. He dares not give his imagination its full play, but chuses 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 sentiments 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 doctrines of predestination, free-will, and grace, as also the great points of the 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 ever I 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 that particular art which he has made use of, in the interspersing of all those graces of poetry, which the subject was capable of receiving.
The survey of the whole creation, and of every thing that is transacted in it, is a prospect worthy of omniscience; and as much above that, in which" Virgil has drawn his Jupiter, as the christian idea of the Supreme Being is more rational and sublime than that of the heathens. The particular objects on which he is described to have cast his eye, are represented in the most beautiful and lively manner.
Now had th' Almighty father from above,
1“When God Almighty from his lofty throne,
V. Fairfax's Tasso–c. i. st. vii. The comparison with Tasso is the more striking, from Addison's want of appreciation of the genius which Milton found so suggestive.—G.
* In which. In what prospect, or survey; but how could Jupiter be drawn in either? The expression is, plainly, inaccurate.—H.
Hell and the gulf between, and Satan there
Satan's approach to the confines of the creation, is finely imagined in the beginning of the speech which immediately fol. lows. The effects of this speech in the blessed spirits, and in the divine person to whom it was addressed, cannot but fill the mind of the reader with a secret pleasure and complacency. Thus while God spake, ambrosial fragrance fill’d All Heav'n, and in the blessed spirits elect Sense of new joy ineffable diffus'd 1 Beyond compare the Son of God was seen Most glorious, in him all his father shone Substantially express'd, and in his face Divine compassion visibly appear'd, Love without end, and without measure grace.
I need not point out the beauty of that circumstance, wherein the whole host of angels are represented as standing mute; nor show how proper the occasion was to produce such a silence in heaven. The close of this divine colloquy, with the hymn of angels that follows upon it, are so wonderfully beautiful and poetical, that I should not forbear inserting the whole passage, if the bounds of my paper would give me leave. No sooner had th' Almighty ceas'd, but all The multitudes of Angels with a shout, Loud as from numbers without number, sweet As from blest voices, utt'ring joy, heav'n rung