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placing it in a different posture to the Sun from what it had before the Fall of Man, is conceived with that sublime Imagination which was so peculiar to this great Author.
Some fay he bid his angels turn a/can/e
We are in the second place to consider the Infernal Agents under the View which Milton has given us of them in this Book. It is observed by those who would set forth the Greatness of Virgil's Plan, that he conducts his Reader thro' all the Parts of the Earth which were discover'd in his time. Asia, Africk and Europe are the several Scenes of his Fable. The Plan of Milton's Poem is of an infinitely greater extent, and fills the Mind with many more astonishing Circumstances. Satan, having surrounded the Earth seven times, departs at length from Paradise. We afterwards [then] fee 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 work'd up with Circumstances which give a delightsul Surprize 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 beautisul 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 his Poem. The unexpected Hiss which rises in this Episode, the Dimensions and Bulk of Satan so much superior to those of the Infernal Spirits who lay under the fame 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 Sixth Paper of these my Remarks the great Judgment with which it was contrived.
The Parts of Adam and Eve, or the Humane 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 wondersully contrived to influence the Reader with Pity and Compassion towards them. Tho' Adam involves the whole Species in Misery, his Crime proceeds from a Weakness which every Man is inclin'd to pardon and commiserate, as it seems rather the frailty of Humane 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 foi Eve that ruined Adam and his Posterity. I need not add, that the Author is justified in this particular bj 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 Criticks call the Tender, and which is in a particular manner engaging to all forts 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 in 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 giving [having given] him an unasked Existence.
Did I request thee, Maker, from my Clay
In this delicious Garden 1 as my will
He immediately after recovers from his Presumption, owns his Doom to be just, and begs that the Death which is threaten'd him may be inflicted on him.
His hand to execute what his decree
Why am I mockd with Death, and le/igtlicn'd out
Would thunder in my ears, no fear of worfe
With cruel expeelation.
This whole Speech is sull of the like Emotion, and varied with all those Sentiments which we may suppose natural to a Mind so broken and disturb'd. I must not omit that generous Concern which our first Father shows in it for his Posterity, and which is so proper to affect the Reader.
Hide me from the face
Of God, whom to behold was then my height
Now Death to hear! >
In me all
Posterity stands curst: Fair Patrimony
So disinherited how would you bless
Who can afterwards 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
The Part of Eve in this Book is no less passionate, and apt to sway the Reader in her Favour. She is represented with great Tenderness as approaching Adam, but is fpurn'd from him with a Spirit of Upbraiding and Indignation conformable to the Nature of Man, whose Passions had now gained the Dominion over him. The following Passage, wherein she is described as renewing her Addresses to him, with the whole Speech that follows it, have something in them exquisitely moving and pathetick. He added not, and from her turn'd: but Eve Not so repulfi. with tears that ceas'd not slowing And treffes all diforder'd, at his Feet Fell humble, and embracing them, besought His peace, and thus proceeding in her plaint.
Forsake me not thus Adam, witness Heav'n
Thy counfel in this tittermost distress,
My only strength and stay: Forlorn of thee
Whither shall I betake me, where subsist 1
While yet we live fcarce one short hour perhaps,
Adam's Reconcilement to her is worked up in the fame Spirit of Tenderness. Eve afterwards propoles to her Husband, in the Blindness of her Despair, that to prevent their Guilt from descending upon Posterity they should resolve to live Childless; or, if that could not be done, that they should seek their own Deaths by violent Methods. As those 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 Dispenfations 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 Sin and Death, who act a large part in this Book. Such beautisul extended Allegories are certainly some os 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 Action[s] of these [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 iuch Shadowy and