« הקודםהמשך »
and with repenting hand Abolish his own works. It seems highly improbable, that Satan was prompted to the seduction of our first parents by some such expectation which must have been gratified, but for the interposition of the Son of God, of whose intended incarnation he was undoubtedly ignorant. No slighter consequence than the destruction of the earth, by the hand that formed it, could otherwise have followed the revolt of man, since to have continued, and multiplied, a species called into existence only to be miserable for ever, would have been a mode of punishment more dishonourable to God, than the sin itself, for which it was inflicted.
But their spite still serves His glory to augment. This is a great and sacred truth. There would have been no opportunity for the display of mercy, the attribute, of all, which most endears the Creator to his creature had not the fall supplied one.
delicious air How beautiful is the epithet delicious, and how admirably expressive of that thirst after a purer atmosphere, which he must necessarily feel, who has long inhaled the air of a dungeon! But the speaker's estimation of its value is, if possible, still more forcibly expressed in the following metaphor, and when he calls it a balm to heal the scar of those corrosive fires, we almost feel the scorch, and the pleasure of the remedy.
palpable obscure Like the darkness of Egypt, which, the Scripturc tells us, was darkness that might be felt. LINE 409.
-the vast abrupt The chaos described afterward, the immense chasm, or gulph interposed between earth and hell. LINE 465.
Dr. Newton might have observed, that there is a peremptoriness in the manner of this conclusion, that gives it particular propriety and beauty. It reminds us of Homer's
μαλα κρατερως αγορευσε. . LINE 488. As when from mountain tops
The reader loses half the beauty of this charming simile, who does not give particular attention to the numbers. There is a majesty in them not often equalled, and never surpassed even by this great poet himself; the movement is uncommonly slow; an effect produced by means already hinted at, the assemblage of a greater proportion of long syllables than usual. The pauses are also managed with great skill and judgment; while the clouds rise, and the heavens gather blackness, they fall in those parts of the verse, where they retard the reader most, and thus become expressive of the solemnity of the subject ; but in the latter part of the simile, where the sun breaks out, and the scene brightens, they are so disposed as to allow the verse an easier and less interrupted flow, more suited to the cheerfulness of the occasion.
LINE 496. O shame to men!
It has been observed by the critics, and by Aristotle, the chief of them all, that in an Epic work the poet should be hidden as much as possible, and ought but seldom, in the way of reflection, or remark, to obtrude himself on the notice of the reader. The observation was, no doubt, at first suggested by the practice of Homer, who rarely shows himself, except when he invokes the Muse, or would rehearse the terrors of a battle by seeming to shudder at his own description of it. Virgil is also very temperate in this particular, and if Milton, be less reserved than either, it should be considered that there is more real worth and importance in a single reflection of his, than in all those of his heathen predecessors taken together : and that in a poem, like that of Paradise Lost, where the subject could not fail continually to suggest the most interesting and valuable remarks, it was almost a duty not to suppress them.' Milton, however, must in fact, have suppressed a multitude, and instead of being blamed for excess, deserves to be admired for his moderation. LINE 506. The Stygian council thus dissolved.
The verb dissolve in the common use of it is either active or passive, and we shculd say, either that the council dissolved itself, or that it was dissolved; but Milton here uses it as a deponent.
the hollow' abyss. This is an instance of the fine effect of an elision VOL. II.
used judiciously. His ear is not well formed for nice distinction of sounds, who would think the line improved by a monosyllable epithet, which would make it run more smoothly. LINE 533, As when to warn prowd cities.
A captious reader might object to this simile as exhibiting a comparison of the subject with a thing that never existed, for that in fact no such aerial knights were ever seen in the clouds, except by the dreaming vulgar. But let such readers confine themselves to prose. Verse is not their element. It is always lawful for a poet to avail himself of a prevalent, and popular opinion and to realize a creature of the fancy, merely for the sake of embellishment, and illustration. LINE 542. As when Alcides.
Dr. Newton approves of Mr. Thyer's objection to this simile, and with him condemns it, but perhaps for no sufficient reason. It is by no means necessary, that a simile should be more magnificent than the subject, it is enough, that it gives us a clearer, and more distinct perception of it, than we could have without it. Were it the indispensible duty of a simile to elevate, as well as to illustrate, what must be done with many of Homer's? When he compares the Grecian troops, pouring themselves forth from camp and fleet in the plain of Troy, to bees issuing from a hollow rock, or the body of Patroclus in dispute between the two armies, to an ox hide larded, and stretched by the curriers, we must con
demn him utterly as guilty of degrading his subject, when he should exalt it. But the exaltation of his subject was no part of Homer's concern on these occasions, he intended nothing more than the clearest possible impression of it on the mind of his hearers.
It may be farther observed, that the frenzy of the fallen angels caused by pain, and furious passions, being the principal, if not the only point, in which Milton intended, that the simile should bear upon the subject, he could not have chosen a happier, than this of Hercules mad with anguish. LINE 547. Retreated in a silent valley.
The poet in the 6th book, speaking of the hills which the angels hurled at their apostate enemies, says
For earth had this variety from heav'n
Of pleasure situate in hill and dale. How is it then that this variety obtains in Hell also? Either the inconsistency escap'd his notice, or he thought it not worth regarding. LINE 552. Their song was partial.
Partial to themselves. Was silent as to the corrupt motive of their conduct, and dwelt only on the sad consequences of it. LINE 561. And found no end,
A good lesson, and no doubt, intended as such, by the poet, to controversialists on these difficult and mysterious subjects, on which books without end have been written, that have served no purpose but to load the shelves and to perplex the reader. The dispute therefore is