Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

PARADISE REGAINED,

A Poem,

BY JOHN MILTON.

A

CRITIQUE

ON

PARADISE REGAINED.

INVENTION has been justly called the “ very

I who erewhile the happy garden sung

By one man's disobedience lost, now sing soul of poetry." That noble faculty first prompted

Recover'd Paradise to all mankind. man to become a poet, and inspired him with sentiments and language above the standard of And with the confidence of a veteran in sacred ordinary life. It supplies in a great measure the

song he invokes the spirit of inspiration : deficiency of human knowledge, and contributes largely to our intellectual pleasures, by opening, as

Inspire

As thou art wont my prompted song, else mute, it were, a new creation, in which the imagination

And bear through height or depth of nature's may expatiate and regale itself. When united with

bounds a sound judgment, and fed by those inexhaustible

With prosp'rous wing, full summ'd to tell of

deeds stores of solid information which are accessible only Above heroic. to the favourite sons of science, its productions are among the richest treasures of literature. Of this

The narrative then commences with the lustration we have a memorable proof in the works of our

of John the Baptist, and the Saviour's attendance immortal author, who, with an unparalleled feli

on that significant rite. The solemn recognition city of invention and dignity of thought, has pro

of his Sonship, both by the Baptist, and the voice vided for his countrymen such fare as our supe

from heaven, is supposed to have informed Satan, riors in the scale of created intelligence might not disdain to taste, and thereby raised himself a

Who, roving still

About the world, at that assembly fam'd monument more durable than brass.

Would not be last

The Paradise Lost of Milton is, perhaps, the of the dignity of his person. Astonished and apfinest performance that ever dropped from the pen

palled at the attestations given to him and appre. of unassisted mortal man; and in the splendour of hensive that his own empire was on the eve of anits fame his other admirable works have been nihilation, he hastens to summon a council of his sclipsed, and their beauties neglected. It will not,

peers, to devise means of preventing the dreaded however, be too much to say that such a Poet could

catastrophe. His speech at the opening of the never write but in the true spirit of his art; espe. conclave is a compound of hellish malice, envy, cially on a subject so intimately connected with that

and trepidation; and finely supports the character grand effort of his genius as the Poem which is

which the Poet had assigned to him in the Parahere reprinted. He would feel himself quite at dise Lost. His infernal auditors, dismayed at the home, for it is indeed the after-birth of that im

prospect of approaching ruin, eagerly accept his mense conception. His dramatis persone are chiefly proposal to try the same wiles on the second those whose ancient exploits he had formerly re- Adam which had so awfully succeeded with the corded in celestial verse. He celebrates the same first. DIVINE HERO-encounters his old adversary. They would call forth all the energies of his mind

Unanimous they all commit the care

And management of this main enterprise on the principle of association of ideas; and indeed

To him their great dictator, whose attempt it is a striking proof how deeply he was enamoured

At first against mankind so well had thriv'd with his subject, that after he had escaped with immortal honour from his first “ adventurous • In another respect it deserves high commenda. flight," he should again try the strength of his tion. The fiend is involved in doubt and ignorance plume, and voluntarily incur the difficulties inevi. (two most fruitful sources of misery;) not invested table in constructing a Poem of such classical with that kind of omniscience which ignorant perbeauty He thus proposes his theme:

sons are apt to ascribe to him. G

[ocr errors]

In Adam's overthrow, and led their march was made by the venerable Baptist; and to de. From hell's

deep-vaulted den to dwell in light, mand the exertion of his almighty power for the Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods Of many a pleasant realm and province wide. relief of his own wants, and those of his impo.

verished neighbours. Having received his commission, he is prompt to fulfil it. He repairs to the coast of Jordan in search This artifice, however, is too weak to cover him of the Redeemer. Meanwhile the Eternal Father, from the omniscient eye of the Son of God. He who sits on the throne of universal empire, super- is detected in his disguise. A conversation ensues, intending the vast concerns of his providence, and which manifests the wisdom, authority, and inflexegeing every event, informs the inhabitants of ible holiness of the Redeemer, and the hypocrisy, heaven of the machinations of Satan, and predicts tergiversation, misery, and despair of the Tempter, his final confusion and overthrow.

and puts a period to the first book of Paradise Re

gained. The most important part of the action now draws on.-Intent on the great work of human The second book introduces some of the disciples redemption, and musing how he may best enter of Jesus, (afterwards his Apostles) who on the tesupon his public ministry, the Hope of Israel is led timony of the Baptist, and the voice from heaven, into the desert, as, by its deep solitudes, according had received him as the true Messiah. In the with the holy meditations of his mind. It would midst of their rejoicings that he who should rebe difficult to find in the whole compass of poetry deem Israel had appeared, his sudden retirement a more beautiful composition than the soliloquy into the wilderness gives a blow to their hopes, which is here put into his mouth: it contains sen- and rouses the maternal anxiety of his mother. А timents worthy of an incarnate God, and, with the soliloquy of equal tenderness and beauty is put exception of a line or two, exactly suits the char- into the mouth of the latter. The prominent fea. acter of the adorable Jesus as delineated in the tures of Mary's character appear to have been

With inimitable simplicity he takes meekness, patience, and a thoughtful, ruminating a review of the thoughts and actions of his child

turn of mind. They are all admirably copied and hood, all marking him out as more than man.

supported in this exquisite composition, which Imagination cannot conceive of higher thoughts breathes heroic fortitude, implicit acquiescence in and more glorious designs than those which filled

the will of Heaven, and a disposition calmly to the bosom of the infant Saviour. He considers

wait the issue of those stupendous events which himself as born to promote all truth, to subdue and quell brute violence and tyranny over all the

were yet in embryo, but which, with unruffled con

fidence in the divine veracity, she expected to see earth, till equity and justice were freed from re

accomplished. straint, and restored in their purity to the world ;to instruct and guide the meek,

Meanwhile the adversary returns,

sacred pages.

By winning words to conquer willing hearts
And make persuasion do the work of fear ;-

Up to the middle region of thick air ;

to reclaim erring souls ;-and to execute the most

which the Poet, with excellent propriety, has made signal vengeance upon the incorrigible enemies of the seat of his empire,* to give his dolorous retruth and righteousness.

port, to prepare his desperate coadjutors for the

worst, and demand succours. The speech of Belial, In this delightful retrospect, and in reflecting on

and Satan's answer, transport us in imagination the late extraordinary apparition at his baptism,

back to old Pandemonium: not because they are and the awful train of labours and sufferings

servile copies, but as marked and highly finished which awaits him, he beguiles forty days and originals as the effusions of the same personages nights in the horrid shades of the pathless desert.

in that memorable assembly. The former advises The wild beasts know their Creator, and pay him

that objects calculated to raise sensual desires in homage.

the mind of the Redeemer should be set before

him; but Satan, who by proof had learned that he They at his sight grew mild,

was not to be taken with such a bait, proposes to Nor sleeping him

nor waking harm'd, his walk try him with manlier objects, such as carry a show The fiery serpent fled, and noxious worm, The lion and fierce tiger glar'd aloof.

of worth, of honour, of glory, and popular applause,

rocks whereon the greatest men have often been At length he hungers. Here is an opportunity for wrecked; or with such as seem to satisfy the the adversary to inject his temptations by in. lawful desires of nature. And as he now hungers ducing a distrust in the providence of God, and in a place where no sustenance is to be found, he he embraces it. By a happy device of the Poet, he determines to improve an opportunity carved out is introduced in the garb of a peasant, who, from exactly to his wishes. He selects a band of wily such simple subjects as might be supposed to in- spirits, and after instructing each to play his part, terest a poor inhabitant of the confines of a desert, it there should be any need of their services, he is artfully made to turn his conversation on the takes his flight back to the desert. There he finds baptism of John; to recognise Jesus as the person to whom the magnificent ascription of Godhead

• See Eph. ii. 2.

the Redeemer consoling himself under the cravings of such a living oracle, and urges the inutility and of bodily appetite with a cheerful trust in the inglorious nature of a retired life.--He proposes providence of God. At the approach of night he the examples of Alexander, Cyrus, Scipio, and lays him down under the covert of some thick. Pompey, who at his age had obtained their most woven trees. He sleeps-and dreams of the sweet celebrated victories, performed prodigies of valour, refreshments which the exhausted state of his body and made the world ring with their achievements. requires. He imagines himself to be by the brook And as an argument of greater weight than all, he Cherith, and sees the ravens morning and evening quotes the predictions of the Prophets, who had bringing Elijah his food. He is then transported foretold the glory of his reign, and the universality into the desert, and sees the Prophet, how he slept of his empire. To this reasoning the Saviour obunder a juniper tree, then how he awaked, and jects that worldly pomp is a mere shadow; that was bidden by the angel to arise and eat. Now

his way to exaltation was to be througn hardship, he partakes with the Prophet, and anon is a guest affliction, and suffering; and reminds the Tempwith Daniel at his pulse. But morning advances ter that his advancement would tend to his own he rises from his grassy couch, and finds all but a everlasting confusion. This calls up in the mina of dream. This is one of the most beautiful and

Satan feelings of despair. truly poetical incidents in the whole Poem, and charmingly accommodates itself to the character of

I would be at the worst; worst is my port, the Redeemer, making

My harbour and my ultimate repose.

His very dreams devout.

His acute sense of his own irretrievable misery

does not however divert him from his purpose of He now ascends a hill from whose top he might ruining the Saviour, and in him the whole human have a prospect of the surrounding country. A race. He takes him up into a high mountain, from grove in a bottom strikes his attention. He bends whence he shows him the splendours of the four his way thither, determined to rest himself there famous monarchies, particularly of the Roman, now at noon, when suddenly Satan appears before him, establishing itself on the ruins of the other three; not as formerly, in a rustic habit, but attired as a

the sight of which he pretends will remedy the decitizen or courtier. He proffers to the Lord of fect of his inexperience, inspire him with a love of Nature her choicest esculents, only requesting of military glory, and instruct him in all regal mysnim that he would deign to sit and eat.

teries, so as to enable him to fill the throne of

David, and wield his sceptre with honour. He He spake no dream; for as his words had end, offers to procure him the friendship of the Parthian Our Saviour, lifting up his eyes, beheld In ample space, under the broadest shade,

monarch, to fortify him against the enemous power A table richly spread, in regal mode,

of Rome, and facilitate the return of the ten tribes With dishes pild, and meats of noblest sort from their long captivity; or even to supplant and And savour, beasts of chase, or fowl of game,

oust the old and lascivious Roman emperor. But, In pastry built, or from the spit, or boil'd, Gris-amber steam'd: all fish from sea or shore, as the price of these transcendant favours, he de Freshet, or purling brook, of shell

fin,

mands that the Saviour shall fall down and do him And exquisitest name, And at a stately side-board, by the wine, homage, acknowledging that he held them of him That fragrant smell diffus'd, in order stood

as his superior lord. These impudent conditions Tall stripling youths, rich clad, of fairer hue Than Ganymede or Hylas; distant more

rejected with disdain and abhorrence, he points 10 Under the trees now tripp'd, now solemn stood, Athens, the seat of the Muses, and the very headNymphs of Diana's train, and Naiades With fruits and flowers from Amalthea's horn.

quarters of philosophy; pronounces a splendid And all the while harmonious airs were heard eulogium on Heathen learning, and argues the neOf chiming strings, or charming pipes; and cessity of it to him as the Messiah in his inter

winds Of gentlest gale Arabian odours fann'd

course with the Gentile nations. The Saviour in From their soft wings, and Flora's earliest smells. answer asserts the superiority of the Hebrew scrip

B. II. line 337-367.

tures to all the boasted productions of Greece; and

exposes the capital defects of the Heathen PhiloHis services rejected as obtrusive, and unnecessary

sophy and Morality. Finding him superior to all to him who is the Proprietor of the world and the the allurements of wealth, learning, and pleasure, fulness thereof,

the Tempter has but one resource left.-He trans

ports him back to the wilderness, where hungry Both table and provision vanish'd quite

and cold he lays him down to sleep. A dreadful With sound of harpies' wings, and talons heard.

storm ensues ;-and intending to distract the mind

of the Redeemer, and drive him to despair, the Finding the Saviour invincible here, he argues Adversary haunts his slumbers with fearful appathe impossibility of executing his high designs on ritions, to increase the effect of the awful conthe score of his poverty; and by a display of the cussion of the elements. But morning brings a influence of wealth and fortune over the giddy calm, and with it the wonted presence of the multitude, tempts him to the love of riches and Tempter. He takes the Redeemer, places him on regal glory. Repulsed again, he shifts his ground; a pinnacle of the temple, and finishes the black -he pours in his flattery, expresses his admiration catalogue of his wiles by urging him presumptu. of the wisdom of the Redeemer, details the advan ously to appeal to an extraordinary Providence tages that would accrue to the world if possessed for the truth of his Sonship, by casting himself

« ZurückWeiter »