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Phillips's information that it was he that assisted his uncle in amending this copy, or part of it, in those more minute particulars of spelling, punctuation, etc., to which the original amanuenses were not competent, and in which it was difficult for the blind author to superintend them. Suppose all finished in this way, however, and still one fair copy at least would be necessary for the licencer and the press, not to speak of previous perusal by private friends. It must surely have been such a fair copy, and not the only manuscript in Milton's possession, that he lent to the young Quaker Ellwood at the cottage in Chalfont-St.-Giles, Buckinghamshire, in the summer of 1665. At all events, there was the fair copy that went to the licencer, Mr. Tomkyns, in the following year, and from which the poem was printed by Simmons. The first book of that copy is still extant (see ante, p. 6, note); and a facsimile of the first few lines of it will be found in vol. iii. of this edition. As the other books of the copy are not extant, we do not know that the whole was written by the same hand; but it would be something to identify the hand that wrote this fair copy of even the First Book. I have not succeeded in doing
The hand certainly is not that of any of Milton's daughters; it is not his third wife's; it is not Edward Phillips's, nor John Phillips's; it is not Andrew Marvell's; it is not Cyriack Skinner's; nor, as far as I have been able to examine, is it that of any of the amanuenses who were employed in writing the manuscript of Milton's Treatise De Doctrinâ Christianâ. This treatise, being in Latin, required perhaps amanuenses of a higher order than sufficed for the English poem." The hand in the extant manuscript of the First Book of Paradise Lost is what is called a "secretary hand” of the period, and is probably that of a professional penman. The manuscript is neat and accurate enough, but there are corrections in it by another hand.
1 It shows how firmly the legend of Milton's dictations to his daughters had taken hold of the popular mind that even an expert like Mr. Lemon supposed one of the hands in the MS. of the Treatise on Christian Doctrine,—"a beautiful Italian hand," as he described it, -to be the hand of Milton's second daughter, Mary. It is the hand of Daniel Skinner, a relative of Cyriack Skinner's, and one of Milton's latest amanuenses.
SCHEME AND MEANING OF THE POEM.
PARADISE Lost is an Epic. But it is not, like the Iliad or the Æneid, a national epic; nor is it an epic after any other of the known types.
It is an epic of the whole human species,-an epic of our entire planet, or indeed of the entire astronomical universe. The title of the poem, though perhaps the best that could have been chosen, hardly indicates beforehand the full extent of the theme. Nor are the opening lines sufficiently descriptive of what is to follow. According to them, the song is to be
Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
This is a true description, for the whole story bears on that point. But it is the vast comprehension of the story, both in space and in time, as leading to that point, that makes it unique among epics, and entitles Milton to speak of it as involving
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. It is, in short, a poetical representation, on the authority of hints from the Book of Genesis and other parts of the Bible, of the historical connexion between Human Time and Aboriginal or Eternal Infinity, or between our Created World and the immeasurable and inconceivable Universe of Pre-human Existence. So far as our World is concerned, the poem starts from that moment when our newly-created Earth, with all the newly-created starry depths about it, had as yet but two human beings upon it. These consequently are, on this side of the presupposed Infinite Eternity, the main persons of the epic. But we are carried back into this presupposed Infinite Eternity; and the grand purpose of the poem is to connect, by a stupendous imagination, certain events or courses of the inconceivable history that had been unfolding itself there with the first fortunes of that new azure World which is familiar to us, and more particularly with the first fortunes of that favoured ball at the centre whereon those two human creatures walked. Now the
person of the epic through the narration of whose acts this connexion is established is Satan. He, as all the critics have perceived, and in a wider sense than most of them have perceived, is the real hero of the poem. He and his actions are the link between that new World of Man the infancy of which we behold in the poem and that boundless antecedent Universe of Pre-human Existence which the poem
For he was a native of that pre-human universe, -one of its greatest and most conspicuous natives ; and what we follow in the poem, when its story is taken chronologically, is the life of this great being, from the time of his yet unimpaired archangelship among the Celestials, on to that time when, in pursuit of a scheme of revenge, he flings himself into the new experimental World, tries the strength of the new race at its fountain-head, and, by success in his attempt, vitiates Man's portion of space and wins possession of it for a season. The attention of the reader is particularly requested to the following remarks and diagrams.
Aboriginally, or in primeval Eternity, before the creation of our Earth or the Starry Universe to which it belongs, universal space is to be considered, according to the requisites of the poem, not as containing stars or starry systems at all, but as a sphere of infinite radius, --the phrase is, of course, self-contradictory, but it is necessary,– divided into two hemispheres, thus:
The upper of these two hemispheres of Primeval Infinity is HEAVEN, or The EMPYREAN,-a boundless, unimaginable region of light,
THE freedom, happiness, and glory, in the midst whereof God, though omnipresent, has His immediate and visible dwelling. He is here surrounded by a vast population of beings, called “The Angels," or “Sons of God," who draw near to His throne in worship, derive thence their nurture and their delight, and yet live dispersed through all the ranges and recesses of the region, leading severally their mighty lives and performing the behests of Deity, but organised into companies, orders, and hierarchies. Milton is careful to explain that all that he says of Heaven is said symbolically, and in order to make conceivable by the human imagination what in its own nature is inconceivable ; but, this once explained, he is bold enough in his use of terrestrial analogies. Round the immediate throne of Deity, indeed, there is kept a blazing mist of vagueness, which words are hardly permitted to pierce, though the Angels are represented as from time to time assembling within it, beholding the Divine Presence and hearing the Divine Voice. But Heaven at large, or portions of it, are figured as tracts of a celestial Earth, with plain, hill, and valley, whereon the myriads of the Sons of God expatiate, in their two orders of Seraphim and Cherubim, and in their descending ranks, as Archangels or Chiefs, Princes of various degrees, and individual Powers and Intelligences. Certain differences, however, are implied as distinguishing these Celestials from the subsequent race of Mankind. As they are of infinitely greater prowess, immortal, and of more purely spiritual nature, so their ways even of physical existence and action transcend all that is within human experience. Their forms are dilatable or contractable at pleasure ; they move with incredible swiftness; and, as they are not subject to any law of gravitation, their motion, though ordinarily represented as horizontal over the Heavenly ground, may as well be vertical or in any other direction, and their aggregations need not, like those of men, be in squares, oblongs, or other plane figures, but may be in cubes, or other rectangular or oblique solids, or in spherical masses. These and various other particulars are to be kept in mind concerning Heaven and its pristine inhabitants. As respects the other half or hemisphere of the Primeval Infinity, though it too is inconceivable in its nature, and has to be described by words which are at best symbolical, less needs be said. For it is Chaos, or the Uninhabited, --a huge, limitless ocean, abyss, or quagmire, of universal darkness and lifelessness, wherein are jumbled in blustering confusion the elements of all matter, or rather the crude embryons of all the elements, ere as yet they are distinguishable. There is no light there, nor properly Earth, Water, Air, or Fire, but only a vast pulp or welter of unformed matter, in which all these lie tempestuously intermixed. Though the presence of Deity is there potentially too, it is still, as it were, actually retracted thence, as from a realm unorganised and left to Night and Anarchy; nor do any of the Angels wing down into its repulsive obscurities. The crystal floor or wall of Heaven divides them from it; underneath which, and unvisited of light, save what may glimmer through upon its nearer strata, it howls and rages and stagnates eternally.
Such is, and has been, the constitution of the Universal Infinitude, from ages immemorial in the Angelic reckoning. But lo! at last a day in the annals of Heaven when the grand monotony of existence hitherto is disturbed and broken. On a day,-“such day as Heaven's great year brings forth” (V. 582, 583), -all the Empyreal host of Angels, called by imperial summons from all the ends of Heaven, assemble innumerably before the throne of the Almighty; beside whom, imbosomed in bliss, sat the Divine Son. They had come to hear this divine decree :
“ Hear, all ye Angels, Progeny of Light,
Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers,
Your head I him appoint ;
With joy and obedience is this decree received throughout the hierarchies, save in one quarter. One of the first of the Archangels in Heaven, if not the very first,--the coequal of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, if not their superior,-is the Archangel known afterwards (for his first name in Heaven is lost) as Satan or Lucifer. In him the effect of the decree is rage, envy, pride, the resolution to rebel. He conspires with his next subordinate, known afterwards as Beelzebub; and there is formed by them that faction in Heaven