Page images

Her riddle', and him who folv'd it not, devour'd,
That once found out and folv'd, for grief and fpite
Caft herself headlong from th' Ifmenian steep; 575
So ftruck with dread and anguish fell the Fiend,
And to his crew, that fat confulting, brought
Joylefs triumphals of his hop'd fuccess,
Ruin, and defperation, and dismay,

Who durft so proudly tempt the Son of God. 580
So Satan fell; and strait a fiery globe

Of Angels on full fail of wing flew nigh,
Who on their plumy vans receiv'd him soft

that the Scholiaft fays, Antaus dwelt at Irafa, not he who wrestled with Hercules, but one later than him; which, if true, makes against Milton that he afterwards adds, that according to the opinion of fome, the Antaus whom Hercules overcame was Ιρασσευς, απο Ιρασow, which Berkelius takes to be the genitive of ta 'Igasca, though it may be of as 'Igaooa. Jortin. Antaus dwelt at the city Irafa, according to Pindar. But it was not there that he wrestled with Hercules, but at Lixos, according to Pliny. Lixos vel fabulofiffime antiquis narrata. Ibi regia Antæi, certamentque cum Hercule. Nat. Hift. Lib. 5. cap. 1. Meadowcourt. 572. And as that Theban monfter &c] The Sphinx, whofe riddle


being refolved by Oedipus, fhe threw herself into the fea. Statius Theb. I. 66.

Si Sphingos iniquæ Callidus ambages te præmonftrante refolvi.

581. — and ftrait a fiery globe Of Angels &c] There is a peculiar foftness and delicacy in this defcription, and neither circumftances nor words could be better felected to give the reader an idea of the easy and gentle defcent of our Saviour, and to take from the imagination that horror and uneafinefs which it is naturally fill'd with in contemplating the dangerous and uneafy fituation he was left in. Thyer. So Pfyche was carried down from

From his uneasy station, and upbore

As on a floting couch through the blithe air,
Then in a flow'ry valley fet him down
On a green bank, and set before him spread
A table of celestial food, divine,

Ambrofial fruits, fetch'd from the tree of life,
And from the fount of life ambrofial drink,
That foon refresh'd him wearied, and repair'd
What hunger, if ought hunger had impair'd,
Or thirst; and as he fed, angelic quires
Sung heav'nly anthems of his victory
Over temptation, and the Tempter proud.

the rock by zephyrs, and laid lightly on a green and flowry bank, and there entertain'd with invifible mufic. See Apuleius. Lib. IV. Richardfon. 585. As on a floting couch through the blithe air, Which way foever I turn this term blithe, it conveys no idea to me fuitable to the place it occupies: nor do my dictionaries aid me in the leaft, The place is certainly corrupted, and ought to run fo,

-through the lithe air,

Our author uses the word in his Paradife Loft in the fenfe requir'd here,

and wreath'd His litbe probofcis. IV. 347.





I make no doubt of the certainty
of this conjecture, Sympfon.
I queftion whether others will have
fo good an opinion of this emen- .
dation, as the Gentleman feems to
entertain of it himself. I conceive
through the blithe air to be much
the fame as if he had said through
the glad air, and the propriety of
fuch a metaphor wants no juftifi-
cation or explanation.


angelic quires Sung heav'nly anthems of his victory] As Milton in his Paradife Loft had reprefented the Angels finging triumph upon the Meffiah's victory over the rebel Angels; fo here again with the fame propriety they are defcribed celebrating his fuccefs

True image of the Father, whether thron'd In the bofom of blifs, and light of light Conceiving, or remote from Heav'n, inshrin'd In fleshly tabernacle, and human form, Wand'ring the wilderness, whatever place, Habit, or state, or motion, ftill expreffing The Son of God, with God-like force indued Against th' attempter of thy Father's throne, And thief of Paradife; him long of old Thou didst debel, and down from Heaven caft 605 With all his army, now thou haft aveng'd Supplanted Adam, and by vanquishing

fuccefs against temptation, and to
be fure he could not have poffibly
concluded his work with greater
dignity and folemnity, or more
agreeably to the rules of poetic
596. True image of the Father,



Cedite Romani fcriptores, cedite the Tempter.


All the poems that ever were written, muft yield, even Paradife Loft muft yield to Regain'd in the grandeur of its close. Chrift ftands triumphant on the pointed eminence. The Demon falls with amazement and terror, on this full proof of his being that very Son


of God, whofe thunder forced him
out of Heaven. The bleffed An-
gels receive new knowledge. They
behold a fublime truth establish'd,
which was a fecret to them at the
beginning of the temptation; and
the great difcovery gives a proper
to their hymn on the vic-
tory of Christ, and the defeat of



[ocr errors]


whatever place,

Habit, er ftate, or motion,] Probably not without allufion to Horace Ep. I. XVII. 23,

Omnis Ariftippum decuit color, et ftatus, et res.

605. Thou didst debel] Debellare fuperbos. Virg. Æn. VI. 853. 619. like


Temptation, haft regain'd loft Paradife ;
And fruftrated the conqueft fraudulent :
He never more henceforth will dare set foot
In Paradise to tempt; his fnares are broke :
For though that feat of earthly blifs be fail'd,
A fairer Paradife is founded now

For Adam and his chofen fons, whom thou
A Saviour art come down to re-install


Where they shall dwell secure, when time shall be,


619. like an autumnal far Or lightning] The poet does here, as in other places, imitate profane authors and Scripture both together. Like an autumnal ftar, Ασεξ οπωρινῳ, Evaλ. Iliad. V. 5. Or like lightning fall from Heaven, Luke X. 18. I beheld Satan as lightning fall from Heaven.

624. Abaddon] The name of the Angel of the bottomlefs pit. Rev. IX. 11. Here applied to the bottomlefs pit itself. In this concluding hymn of the Angels, the poet has taken fome pains, to fhow the fitnefs and propriety of giving the name of Paradife Regain'd to fo confin'd a fubject, as our Saviour's temptation. Confin'd as the fubject was, I make no question that he thought the Paradife Regain'd an epic poem as well as the Paradife Loft. For in his invocation he undertakes

to tell of deeds Above heroic :


[ocr errors]

and he had no notion that an epic poem must of neceffity be formed after the example of Homer, and according to the precepts of Ariftotle. In the introduction to the fecond book of his Reason of ChurchGovernment he thus delivers his fentiments. "Time ferves not now, " and perhaps I might feem too "profufe to give any certain ac


count of what the mind at home, "in the fpacious circuits of her mufing, hath liberty to propose to herself, though of highest hope, and hardelt attempting; "whether that epic form whereof "the two poems of Homer, and "thofe other two of Virgil and "Taffo are a diffuse, and the book "of Job a brief model: or whe"ther the rules of Ariftotle here"in are ftrictly to be kept, or na


ture to be followed, which in "them that know art, and use judgment, is no tranfgreffion, but an enriching of art." We fee that



Of Tempter and temptation without fear.
But thou, infernal Serpent, thalt not long
Rule in the clouds; like an autumnal ftar
Or lightning thou fhalt fall from Heav'n, trod down
Under his feet for proof, ere this thou feel'st 621
Thy wound, yet not thy laft and deadlieft wound,
By this repulfe receiv'd, and hold'st in Hell
No triumph; in all her gates Abaddon rues
Thy bold attempt; hereafter learn with awe

that he look'd upon the book of Job, as a brief model of an epic poem and the subject of Paradife Regain'd is much the fame as that of the book of Job, a good man triumphing over temptation: and the greatest part of it is in dialogue as well as the book of Job, and abounds with moral arguments and reflections, which were more natural to that feafon of life, and better fuited Milton's age and infirmities than gay florid defcriptions. For by Mr. Elwood's account, he had not thought of the Paradife Regain'd, till after he had finish'd the Paradife Loft: (See the Life of Milton) the firft hint of it was fuggefted by Elwood, while Milton refided at St. Giles Chalfont in Buckinghamshire during the plague in London; and afterwards when Elwood vifited him in London, he fhow'd him the poem finish'd, fo that he was not long in conceiving, or long in writing it:

625 To

and this is the reason why in the Paradife Regain'd there are much fewer imitations of, and allufions to other authors, than in the Paradife Loft. The Paradife Loft he was long in meditating, and had laid in a large ftock of materials, which he had collected from all authors ancient and modern: but in the Paradise Regain'd he compofed more from memory, and with no other help from books, than fuch as naturally occurred to a mind fo thoroughly tinctur'd and feafon'd, as his was, with all kinds of learning. Mr. Thyer makes the fame obfervation, particularly with regard to the Italian poets. From the very few allufions, fays he, to the Italian poets, in this poem one may draw, I think, a pretty conclufive argument for the reality of thofe pointed out in the notes upon Paradise Loft, and show that they are not, as fome may imagine, mere accidental coincidences

« PreviousContinue »