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greater extent, and fills the mind with many more astonishing circumstances. Satan, having surrounded the earth seven times, departs at length from Paradise. We then see him steering his course among the constellations; and, after having traversed the whole creation, pursuing his voyage through the chaos, and entering into his own infernal dominions.
His first appearance in the assembly of fallen angels is worked up with circumstances which give a delightful surprise to the reader : but there is no incident in the whole poem which does this more than the transformation of the whole audience, that follows the account their leader gives them of his expedition. The gradual change of Satan himself is described after Ovid's manner, and may vie with any of those celebrated transformations which are looked upon as the most beautiful parts in that poet's works. Milton never fails of improving his own hints, and bestowing the last finishing touches to every incident which is admitted into this poem. The unexpected hiss which arises in this episode, the dimensions and bulk of Satan, so much superior to those of the infernal spirits who lay under the same transformation, with the annual change which they are supposed to suffer, are instances of this kind. The beauty of the diction is very remarkable in this whole episode, as I have observed in the
of these my remarks the great judgment with which it was contrived.
The parts of Adam and Eve, or the human persons, come next under our consideration. Milton's art is no where more shewn, than in his conducting the parts of these our first parents. The representation he gives of them, without falsifying the story, is wonderfully contrived to influence the reader with pity and compassion towards them. Though Adam
involves the whole species in misery, his crime proceeds from a weakness which every man is inclined to pardon and commiserate, as it seems rather the frailty of human nature, than of the person who offended. Every one is apt to excuse a fault which he himself might have fallen into. It was the excess of love for Eve that ruined Adam and his posterity. I need not add, that the author is justified in this particular by many of the fathers and the most orthodox writers. Milton has by this means filled a great part of his poem with that kind of writing which the French critics call the tendre, and which is in a particular manner engaging to all sorts of readers.
Adam and Eve, in the book we are now considering, are likewise drawn with such sentiments as do not only interest the reader in their afflictions, but raise in him the most melting passions of humanity and commiseration. When Adam sees the several changes of nature produced about him, he appears in a disorder of mind suitable to one who had forfeited both his innocence and his happiness; he is filled with horror, remorse, despair; in the anguish of his heart he expostulates with his Creator for having given him an unasked existence :
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
He immediately after recovers from his presumption, owns his doom to be just, and begs that the death which is threatened him may be inflicted on -_Why delays His hand to execute what his decree Fir'd on this day? Why do I over-live? Why am I mock'd with death, and lengthened out To deathless pain? How gladly would I meet Mortality my sentence, and be earth Insensible! how glad would lay me down, As in my mother's lap! There I should rest And sleep secure; his dreadful voice no more Would thunder in my ears : no fear of worse To me, and to my offspring, would torment me With cruel expectationThis whole speech is full of the like emotion, and varied with all those sentiments which we may suppose natural to a mind so broken and disturbed. 'I must not omit that generous concern which our first father shews in it for his posterity, and which is so proper to affect the reader:
Hide me from the face
In me all
But all corrupt? Who can afterward behold the father of mankind, extended upon the earth, uttering his midnight complaints, bewailing his existence, and wishing for death, without sympathizing with him in his distress!
Thus Adam to himself lamented loud
Of tardy execution-
He added not, and from her turn'd: but Eve
peace, and thus proceeded in her plaint.
• Forsake me not thus, Adam! Witness Heav'n
Between us two let there be peace,' &c.
by violent methods. As these sentiments naturally engage the reader to regard the mother of mankind with more than ordinary commiseration, they likewise contain a very fine moral. The resolution of dying to end our miseries does not shew such a degree of magnanimity as a resolution to bear them, and submit to the dispensations of Providence. Our author has, therefore, with great delicacy, represented Eve as entertaining this thought, and Adam as disapproving it.
We are, in the last place, to consider the imaginary persons, or Death and Sin, who act a large part in this book. Such beautiful extended allegories are certainly some of the finest compositions of genius; but, as I have before observed, are not agreeable to the nature of an heroic poem. This of Sin and Death is very exquisite in its kind, if not considered as a part of such a work. The truths contained in it are so clear and open, that I shall not lose time in explaining them; but shall only observe, that a reader, who knows the strength of the English tongue, will be amazed to think how the poet could find such apt words and phrases to describe the actions of those two imaginary persons, and particularly in that part where Death is exhibited as forming a bridge over the chaos ; a work suitable to the genius of Milton.
Since the subject I am upon gives me an opportunity of speaking more at large of such shadowy and imaginary persons as may be introduced into heroic poems, I shall beg leave to explain myself in a matter which is curious in its kind, and which none of the critics have treated of. It is certain Homer and Virgil are full of imaginary persons, who are very beautiful in poetry, when they are just shewn without being engaged in any series of action. Homer, indeed, represents Sleep as a person, and ascribes