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Circumstances to a great Length, and by that means have weakned, instead of illustrated, the principal Fable. The Flight of Satanto the Gates of Hellis finely imaged. I have already declared my Opinion of the Allegory
concerning Sin and Death, which is however a very finished Piece in its kind, when it is not confidered as
a Part of an Epic Poem. The Genealogy of the
several Persons is contrived with great Delicacy. Sin
is the Daughter of Satan, and Death the' Offspring of Sin. The incestuous Mixture between Sin and Death produces those Monsters and Hell-hounds which from time to time enter into their Mother, and tear the
Bowels of her who gave them Birth. These are the
Terrors of an evil Conscience, and the proper Fruits
of Sin, which naturally rise from the Apprehenfions of Death. This last beautiful Moral is, I think, clearly intimated in the Speech of Sin, where complaining of this her dreadful Issue, she adds,
I need not mention to the Reader the beautiful Circumstance in the last Part of this Quotation. He will likewise observe how naturally the three Persons concerned in this Allegory are tempted by one common Interest to enter into a Consederacy together, and how properly Sin is made the Portress of Hell, and the only Being that can open the Gates to that World of Tortures.
The descriptive Part of this Allegory is likewise very strong, and full of Sublime Ideas. The Figure of Death, [the Regal Crown upon his Head,] his Menace to Satan, his advancing to the Combat, the Outcry at his Birth, are Circumstances too noble to be past over in Silence, and extreamly suitable to this .King of Tcrrors. I need not mention the Justness of Thought which is observed in the Generation of these
ORA CE advises a Poet to confider thoroughly the Nature and Force of his Genius. Jlsilton seems to have known, perfectly well, wherein his Strength lay, and has therefore chosen a Subject entirely
conformable to those Talents, of which he was Master. As his Genius was wonderfully turned to the Sublime, his Subject is the noblest that could have entered into the Thoughts of Man. Every thing that is truly great and astonishing, has a place in it. The whole System of the intellectual World; the Chaos, and the Creation; Heaven,-Earth and Hell ; enter into the Conflitution of his Poem.
Having in the First and Second Book represented the Infemal World with all its Horrours, the Thread of his Fable naturally leads him into the oppofite Regions of Bliss and Glory.
If sl[i1t0n's Majesty sorsakes him any where, it is in
in Scripture. The, Beauties, therefore, which we are to look for in these Speeches, are not of a Poetical nature, or so proper to fill the mind with Sentiments of Grandeur, as with Thoughts of Devotion. The Pasfions, which they are defigned to raise, are a Divine Love and Religious Fear. The particular Beauty of the Speeches in the Third Book, confists in that Shortness and Perspicuity of Stile, in which the Poet has couched the greatest Mysteries of Christianity, and drawn together, in a regular Scheme, the whole Dispensation of Providence, with respect to Man. He has represented all the abstruse Doctrines of Predestination, Free-will and Grace, as also the great Points of Incarnation and Redemption, (which naturally grow up in a Poem that treats of the Fall of Man,) with great Energy of Expresfion, and in a clearer and stronger Light than I ever met with in any other Writer, As these Points are dry in themselves to the generality of Readers, the concise and clear manner in which he, has treated them, is very much to be admired, as is likewise that particular-Art which he has made use of in the intersperfing of all those Graces of Poetry, which the Subject was capable of receiving. ,
The Survey of the whole Creation, and of every thing that is transacted in it, is a Prospect worthy of Omniscience ; and as much above that, in which Virgil has drawn his supiter, as the Christian Idea of the Supream Being is more rational and Sublime than that of the Heathens. The particular Objects on which he is described to have cast his Eye, are represented in the most beautiful and lively manner.
Now had th' Almzghty Father from above,
From the pure Empyrean where he flts
Lligh thron'd above all hezght, bent down his Eye,
Stood thick as Stars, and from his Szght receiv'd
Satarts Approach to the Confines of the Creation, is finely imaged 'in the beginning of the Speech, which immediately follows. The Effedts of this Speech in the blessed Spirits, and in the Divine Person,to whom it was addressed, cannot but fill the Mind of the Reader with a secret Pleasure and Complacency.