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1. Thus tbey in lowest plight &c.] MILTON has shown a wonderful art in describing that variety of passions, which arise in our first parents upon the breach of the commandment that had been given thém. We see them gradually passing from the triumph of their guilt through remorse, shame, despair, contrition, prayer and hope, to a perfect and complete repentance.
At the end of the tenth book they are represented as prostrating themselves upon the ground, and watering the earth with their tears : to which the poet joins this beautiful circumstance, that they offered up their penetential prayers on the very place where their
judge appeared to them when he pronounced their sentence. There is a beauty of the same kind in a tragedy of Sophocles, where Edipus, after having put out his own eyes, instead of breaking his neck from the palace-battlements ( which furnishes so elegant an entertainment for our English audience) desires that he may be conducted to mount Cithæron, in order to end his life in that very place where he was exposed in his infancy, and where he should then have died, had the will of his parents been executed. As the author never fails to give a poetical turn to his sentiments, he describes in the beginning of this book the acceptance which these their prayers met with, in a short allegory formed upon that beautiful passage in holy Writ: (Rev. viji. 3. 4.) “ And another Angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the goļden altar which was before the throne: and the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God."
We have the saree thought expressed a second time in the interce: sion of the Messiah, which is conceived in very emphatic sentimentsand expressions. Addison,
So that sighs now breath'd Unutterable,] That sighs inexpressible burst forth, which God's Holy Spirit, the spirit of supplication and intercession; breathed into them, and wafted up to Heaven with nimblest speed. 8.
yet their port &c.] This yet refers so far back as to line the first, “ Thus they in lowest plight repentant stood praying, yet their port not of mean suiters," all the intermediate lines being to be understood as in a parenthesis. “ Nor did their petition seem of less importance, than when the ancient pair's so renowned “in old fables, yet not so ancient a pair as Adam and Eve, Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha,"in order to restore the race of mankind after the deluge, stood devoutly praying before the shrine of Themis" the Goddess of justice, who had the most famous oracle of those days. The poet could not have thought of a more apt similitude to illustrate his subject, and he has plainly fetched it from Ovid, Met: i. 318.
High on the summit of this dubious cliff,
Mankind, and people desolated earth. Dryden. Milton has been often censured for his frequent allusions to the Heathen mythology, and for mixing fables with sacred truths: but it may be observed in favour of him, that what he borrow's from the Heathen mythology, he commonly applies only by way of similitude; and a similitude from thence may illustrate his subject as well as from any thing else.
19.--came in sight &c.] Milton in this allegorical description of the repentant prayers of our first parents, very much exceeds the two great masters of Italian poetry, Ariosto and
Tasso, who have attempted something in the same way. See Carlomagno's prayer in the former, Cant. 14. St. 73 and 74; and in the latter, Raimond's prayer, Cant. 7. St. 79; and Godfrey's, Cant. 13. St. 72. 38. The smell of peace tow'ard mankind;] The peace
offer ing is frequently called an offering of a sweet savour unto the Lord. So Levit. iii. 5. Heylin.
44. Made one with me as I with thèe am one. ] “That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee: and the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." John xvii. 21, 22.
74. His trumpet beard in Oreb since perbaps &c.] For the lave was given on mount Oreb with the noise of the trumpet, Exod. xx. 18, and at the general judgment, according to St. Paul, 1 Thess. iv. 16,“ The Lord shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Arch-Angel, and with the trump of God."
78. Of amarantine sbade,] See iii. 353, and the note there.
82. And took their seats;] Dr. Bentley says that if the poet gave it thus, he had forgot himself; for he never makes the Angels to sit round the throne of God: But if he never did elsewhere, he has authority for doing so here. I know that it is a maxim with the schoolmen, Sola sedit Trinitas, that only the three persons in the Trinity sit: but this is contrary to Scripture; for in Rev. iv. 4, and xi. 16, the four and twenty elders are described as sitting on seats round about the throne. There is no occasion then to read with the Doctor and took their stand: especially when it is considered that the idea of taking suits so much better with seats than stand. Pearce.
The Angels are generally represented to be standing, or falling down before the throne of God; because they are generally cmployed there in acts of praise and adoration. But here they are introduced in another character, called to synod, like a grand council, or to be as it were assessors with the Almighty, when he was to pronounce his decree on fallen man : and therefore the poet very properly says, they took their seots. And thus our Saviour tells the Apostles, tbey sball sit on twelve thrones as his assessors, judging ibe t welve tribes of Israel. Mat. xix. 28.
Greeenwood. 84. O Sons &c.] The aseembling of all the Angels of Hea.
ven, to hear the solemn decree passed upon Man, is represente ed in very lively ideas. The Almighty is here described as remembering mercy in the midst of judgment, and commanding Michael to deliver his message in the mildest terms, lest the spirit of Man, which was already broken with the sense of his guilt and misery, should fail before him. Addisor.
This whole speech is founded upon the following passage in Genesis iii. 22, 23, 24. " And the Lord God said, Behold the Man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: And now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever; Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.”
86. Of that defended fruit;] Forbidden fruit, from defendre (French) to forbid.
99. Michael, this my bebest have thou in charge,] Our author has with great judgment singled out Michael to receive this charge. It would not have been so proper for the sociable spirit Raphael to have executed this order : but as Michael was the principal Angel employed in driving the rebel Angels out of Heaven, so he was the most proper to expel our first parents too out of Paradise.
11. Bewailing their excess,] God is here represented as pitýing our first parents, and even while he is ordering Michael to drive them out of Paradise, orders him at the same time to bide all terror; and for the same reason he chooses to speak of their offence in the softest manner, calling it only an excess, a going beyond the bounds of their duty, by the same metaphor as sin is often called transgression.
128 --four faces each &c.] Among the poetical parts of Scripture, which Milton has so finely wrought into this part of his narration, I must not omit that wherein Ezekiel speake ing of the Angels who appeared to him in vision, adds that
every one had four faces,” and that “their whole bodies, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings were full of eyes round about. Addison.
135. Leucothea wak'd, ] The White Goddess, as the name in Greek imports, the same with Matuta in Latin, as Cicero
« Lucothea nominata a Græcis, Matuta habetur a nostris.” Tusc. i. 12. “Quæ Lucothæa a Græcis, a nobis Matuta dicitur." De Nat. Deor. iii. 19. And Matuta is the early morning that ushers in the Aurora rosy with the sun-beams, according to Lucretius, v. 655.
Tempore item certo roseam Matuta per oras
Ætheris Auroram defert et lumina pandit. And from Matuta is derived Matutinus, early in the morning. This is the last morning in the poem, the morning of the fatal day in which our first parents were expelled out of Paradise. It is impossible to say how much time is taken up in the action of this poem. Mr. Addison reckons only ten days, that is, he supposes that our first parents were expelled out of Paradise the very next day after the fall. The author, we think, is not very exact in the computation of time, and perhaps he affected some obscurity in this particiar, and did not choose to define, as the Scripture itself has not defined, how soon after the fall it was that our first parents were driven out of Paradise.
157• Assures me that the bitterness of deatb
Is past,] Adam is made to talk in the language of Agag, i Sam. xv. 32. “ And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.”
159. Eve rightly callid mother of all mankind,] Gen. lii. 20. o And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living,” He called her before Ishah, Woman, because she was taken out of Ish, Man, Gen. ii. 23.
Woman is her name, of Man Extracted as it is expressed viii. 496. But now he denominates her Eve or Hayah from a Hebrew word which signifies to live, in firm belief that God would make her the mother of all mankind, and of the promised Seed particularly. . Our poet had called her Eve before by way of anticipation.
175. Her rosy progress smiling ;] This may serve to confirm what we observed before, that Leucobea is the most early morning, that ushers in the Aurora; she was pale and wbite before, but now she is rosy red, with the nearer a proach of the sun-beams, agreeably to the quotation that we made above from Lucretius. And the expression of the morn's beginning ber pregress seems to be copied from Shakespear, i Henry iv. Act ii.