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These Lines are perhaps as plain, fimple and unado'rned as any of the whole Poem, in which particular the Author has conform'd himself to the Example of Isomer, and the Precept of Horace.
His Invocation to a Work which turns in a great
measure upon-the Creation of the World, is very properly made to the Muse who inspired Moses in those Books from whence our Author drew his Subject, and to the Holy Spirit who is therein represented as operating after a partictflar manner in the first Production of Nature. This whole Exordium rises very happily into noble Language and Sentiment, as I think the Tranfition to the Fable is exquifitely beautiful and natural.
The nine Days Astonishment-, in which the Angels lay entranced after their dreadful Overthrow and Fall from Heaven, before they could recover either the use of Thought or Speech, is a noble Circzcmslance, and very finely imagined. The Divifion of Hell into Seas of Fire, and into firm Ground impregnated with the same furious Element, with that particular Circumstance of the exclufion of Hope from those Insernal Regions, are Instances of the same great and fruitful Invention. '
The Thoughts in the first Speech and Description of Satan, who is one of the principal Actors in this Poem, are wonderfully proper to give us a full Idea of him. His Pride, Envy and Revenge, Obstinacy, Despair and Impenitence, are all ,of'them very artfully interwoven. In short, his first Speech is a Complication of all those Pasfions which discover themselves separately in several other of his Speeches in the Poem. The whole part of this great Enemy of Mankind is filled with such Incidents as are very apt to raise and terrifie the Reader's Imagination. Of this Nature, in the Book now before us, is his being the first that awakens out of the general Trance, with his Posture on the burning Lake, his rising from it, and the Description of his Shield and Spear.
Thus Satan talking to his nearesl mate, -
T hat jparkling blazed, his other parts bedde
To which we may add his Call to the fallen Angels that lay plunged and stupified in the Sea of Fire.
Amidst those Impieties which this Enraged Spirit utters in other Places of the Poem, the Author has taken care to introduce none that is not big with absurdity, and incapable of shocking a Religious Reader ; his Words, as the Poet himself describes them, bearing only a semblance of Worth, not Subslance. He is likewise with great Art described as owning his Adversary to be Almighty. Whatever perverse Interpretacion he puts on the Justice, Mercy, and other Attributes of the Supreme Being, he frequently confesses his Omnipotence, that being the Perfection he was forced to allow him, and the only Confideration which could support his Pride under the Shame of his Defeat.
Nor must I here omit that beautiful Circumstance of his bursting out in Tears, upon his Survey of those innumerable Spirits whom he had involved in the fame Guilt and Ruin with himself.
The Catalogue of Evil Spirits has a great deal [Abundance] Of Learning in it, and a very agreeable turn Of
Poetry, which rises in a great measure from his describing the Places where they were worshipped, by those beautiful marks of Rivers so frequent among the Ancient Poets. The Author had doubtless in this place Homer's Catalogue of Ships, and Virgil's List of Warriors in his view. The Characters of Moloch and Belial prepare the Reader's Mind for their respective Speeches and Behaviour in the second and fixth Book. The Account of Thammuz is finely Romantick, and suitable to what we read among the Ancients of the Worship which was paid to that Idol.