Obrazy na stronie


£>i, quibus imperium ejlanimarum, umbrœquefilentes,
Et Chaos, Phlegethon, loca notle filentia late;
Sit mihifas audita loqtii : fit numine vestro
Pandere res alta terra &* caligine mersas. Virg.

{ Ye Realms, yet unreveal'd to human Sight,

Ye Gods who rule the Regions of the Night,

Ye gliding Ghosts, permit me to relate

The mystic Wonders of your silent State. Dryden.}

Saturday, February 23. 1712.


Have before observed in general, that the Persons whom Milton introduces into his Poem always discover such Sentiments and Behaviour, as are in a peculiar manner conformable to their respective Characters. Every Circumstance in their Speeches and Actions, is with great justness and delicacy adapted to the Persons who speak and act. As the Poet very much excels in this Consistency of his Characters, I shall beg leave to consider several Passages of the Second Book in this Light. That superior Greatness and Mock-Majesty, which is ascribed to the Prince of the fallen Angels, is admirably preserved in the beginning of this Book. His opening and closing the Debate; his taking on himself that great Enterprize at the Thought of which the whole Infernal Assembly trembled; his encountring the hideous Phantom who guarded the Gates of Hell, and appeared to him in all his Terrors, are Instances of that proud and daring Mind which could not brook Submission even to Omnipotence.

Satan was now at hand, andfrom his Seat
The Monsttr moving onward came as fast

With horridstrides, Hell trembled as hestrode,
TK undaunted Fiend what this might be admir'd,
Admir'd, not fear'd

The same Boldness and Intrepidity of Behaviour discovers it self in the several Adventures which he meets with during his Passage through the Regions of unform'd Matter, and particularly in his Address to those tremendous Powers who are described as presiding over it .

The Part of Moloch is likewise in all its Circumstances sull of that Fire and Fury, which distinguish this Spirit from the reft of the sallen Angels. He is described in the first Book as besinear'd with the Blood of Human Sacrifices, and delighted with- the Tears of Parents, and the Cries of Children. In the second Book he is marked out as the fiercest Spirit that fought in Heaven; and if we consider the Figure which he makes in the Sixth Book, where the Battel of the Angels is described, we find it every way answerable to the same surious enraged Character.

Where the might of Gabriel fought,

And with fierce Ensigns pierdd the deep array
Of Moloc, furious King, who him defiy'd,
And at his chariot wheels to drag him bound
Threaten'd, nor from the Holy one of' Heav'n
Refrain'd his tongue blasphemous; but anon
Down cloven to the waste, with shatter'd arms

And uncouth pain fled bellowing.

It may be worth while to observe, that Milton has represented this violent impetuous Spirit, who is hurried on by such precipitate Passions, as the firjl that rises in the Assembly, to give his Opinion upon their present Posture os Affairs. Accordingly he declares himself abruptly for War, and appears incensed at his Companions, for losing so much time as even to deliberate upon it. All his Sentiments are Rash, Audacious and Desperate. Such is that of arming themselves with their Tortures, and turning their Punishments upon him who inflicted them.

No, let us rather chuse,

Arm'd with Hellflames and fury, all at once
O'er Heavens high tow'rs to force resistlefs way,
Turning our tortures into horrid arms
Against the Torturer; when to meet the Noife
Of his almighty Engine he shall hear
Infernal Thunder, and for Lightning fee
Black sire and horror shot with equal rage
Among his Angels; and his throne it felf
Mixt with Tartarean Sulphur, andstrange fire,
His own invented Torments

His preferring Annihilation to Shame or Misery, is also highly suitable to his Character, as the Comfort he draws from their disturbing the Peace of Heaven, namely, that if it be not Victory it is Revenge, is a Sentiment truly Diabolical, and becoming the Bitterness of this implacable Spirit.

Belial is described, in the First Book, as the Idol of the Lewd and Luxurious. He is in the Second Book, pursuant to that Description, characterized as timorous and slothsul; and if we look into the Sixth Book, we find him celebrated in the Battel of Angels for nothing but that Scoffing Speech which he makes to Satan, on tHeur" supposed Advantage over the Enemy. As his Appearance is uniform, and of a Piece, in these three several Views, we find his Sentiments in the Infernal Assembly every way conformable to his Character. Such are his Apprehensions of a second Battel, his Horrors of Annihilation, his preferring to be miserable rather than not to be. I need not observe, that the Contrast of Thought in this Speech, and that which precedes it, gives an agreeable Variety to the Debate.

Mammon's Character is so sully drawn in the First Book, that the Poet adds nothing to it in the Second. We were before told, that he was the first who taught Mankind to ranfack the Earth for Gold and Silver, and that he was the Architect of Pandtzmonium, or the Infernal Palace, where the Evil Spirits were to meet in Council. His Speech in this Book is every way [where] suitable to so depraved a Character. How proper is that Reflection, of their being unable to taste the Happiness of Heaven were they actually there, in the Mouth of one, who while he was in Heaven, is said to have had his Mind dazled with the outward Pomps and Glories of the Place, and to have been more intent on the Riches of the Pavement, than on the Beatifick Vision. I shall also leave the Reader to judge how agreeable the following Sentiments axe to the same Character.

This deep world

Of Darkness do we dread 1 How oft amidst
Thick cloud and dark doth Heav'ns all-ruling Sire
Chuse to reside, his Glory unobscured,
And with the Majesty of darkness round
Covers his Throne; from whence deep thunders roar
Mustring their rage, and Heav'n resembles Hell 1
As he our darkness, cannot we his light
Imitate when we please 1 This defart Soil
Wants not her hidden lustre, Gems and Gold;
Nor want we Skill or Art, from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can Heav'n shew more 1

Beelzebub, who is reckon'd the second in Dignity that sell, and is in the First Book, the second that awakens out of the Trance, and consers with Satan upon the situation of their Afsairs, maintains his Rank in the Book now before us. There is a wondersul Majesty described in his rising up to speak. He acts asa kind of Moderator between the two opposite Parties, and proposes a third Undertaking, which the whole Assembly gives into. The Motionhe makes of detaching one of their Body in search of a new World is grounded upon a Project devised by Satan, and cursorily proposed by him in the following Lines of the first Book

Space may produce netv Worlds, whereof so rife
There went a fame in Heaifn, that he ier long

Intended to create, and therein plant
A generation, whotn his choice regard
Should favour equal to the Sons of Heaven f
2'hither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps
Our first eruption, thither or elsewhere:
Jvr this infernal Pit shall never hold
Celestial Spirits in bondage, nor th' Abyss
Long under Darkness cover. But these thoughts
Full Counsel must mature:

It is on this Project that Beelzebub grounds his Proposal

What if we find

Some easier enterprize 1 There is a place

(If ancient and prophetic fame in Heav'n

Err not) another World, the happy Seat

Of some new Race calFd Man, about this time

To be created like to us, though less

In power and excellence, but favoured more

Of him who rules above; so was his Will

Pronoundd among the Gods, and by an oath,

That shook Heav'ns whole circumference, confirm'd.

The Reader may observe how just it was, not to omit in the First Book the Project upon which the whole Poem turns: As also that the Prince of the saU'n Angels was the only proper Person to give it Birth, and that the next to him in Dignity was the fittest to second and support it

There is besides, I think, something wondersully beautisul, and very apt to afsect the Reader's Imagination, in this ancient Prophecy or Report in Heaven, concerning the Creation of Man. Nothing could shew more the Dignity of the Species, than this Tradition which ran of them before their Existence. They are represented to have been the Talk of Heaven, before they were created. Virgil, in compliment to the Roman Common-Wealth, makes the Heroes of it appear in their State of Pre-existence; But Milton does a far greater Honour to Mankind in general, as he gives us a Glimpse of them even before they are in Being.

« PoprzedniaDalej »