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physiology must supply him with illustrations and images. To put these materials to poetical use, is required an imagination capable of painting nature, and realizing fiction. Nor is he yet a poet till he has attained the whole extension of his language, distinguished all the delicacies of phrase, and all the colours of words, and learned to adjust their different sounds to all the varieties of metrical modulation.
Bossu is of opinion, that the poet's first work is to find a moral, which his fable is afterwards to illustrate and establish. This seems to have been the process only of Milton: the moral of other poems is incidental and consequent; in Milton's only it is essential and intrinsic. His purpose was the most useful and the most arduous; “ to vindicate the ways of God to man;" to shew the reasonableness of religion, and the necessity of obedience to the Divine Law.
this moral, there must be a fable, a narration artfully constructed, so as to excite curiosity, and surprize expectation. In this part of his work, Milton must be confessed to have equalled every other poet. He has involved in his account of the Fall of Man the events which preceded, and those that were to follow it; he has interwoven the whole system of theology with such propriety, that every part appears to be
necessary; and scarcely any recital is wished shorter for the sake of quickening the progress of the main action.
The subject of an epic poem is naturally an event of great importance. That of Milton is not the destruction of a city, the conduct of a colony, or the foundation of an empire. His subject is the fate of worlds, the revolutions of heaven and of earth; rebellion against the Supreme King, raised by the highest order of created beings; the overthrow of their host, and the punishment of their crime; the creation of a new race of reasonable creatures; their original happiness and innocence, their forfeiture of immortality, and their restoration to hope
Great events can be hastened or retarded only by persons of elevated dignity. Before the greatness displayed in Milton's Poem, all other greatness shrinks away. The weakest of his agents are the highest and noblest of human beings, the original parents of mankind; with whose actions the elements consented ; on whose rectitude, or deviation of will, depended the state of terrestrial nature, and the condition of all the future inhabitants of the globe.
Of the other agents in the Poem, the chief are such as it is irreverence to name on slight occasions. The rest were lower powers ;
of which the least could wield Those elements, and arm him with the force Of all their regions;
powers which only the controul of Omnipotence restrains from laying creation waste, and filling the vast expanse of space with ruin and confusion. To display the motives and actions of beings thus superior, so far as human reason can examine them, or human imagination represent them, is the task which this mighty Poet has undertaken and performed.
In the examination of epic poems much speculation is commonly employed upon the characters. The characters in the Paradise Lost, which admit of examination, are those of angels and of man: of angels good and evil; of man in his innocent and sinful state.
Among the angels, the virtue of Raphael is mild and placid, of easy condescension and free communication; that of Michael is regal and lofty, and, as may seem, attentive to the dignity of his own nature. Abdiel and Gabriel appear occasionally, and act as every incident requires : the solitary fidelity of Abdiel is very amiably painted.
Of the evil angels the characters are more diversified. To Satan, as Addison observes, such sentiments are given as suit “the most exalted and most depraved being." Milton has been censured (by Clarke) for the impiety which sometimes breaks from Satan's mouth; for there are thoughts, as he justly remarks, which no observation of character can justify, because no good
man would willingly permit them to
however transiently, through his own mind. To make Satan speak as a rebel, without any such expressions as might taint the reader's imagination, was indeed one of the great difficulties in Milton's undertaking; and I cannot but think that he has extricated himself with great happiness. There is in Satan's speeches little that can give pain to a pious ear. The language of rebellion cannot be the same with that of obedi
The malignity of Satan foams in haughtiness and obstinacy; but his expressions are commonly general, and no otherwise offensive than as they are wicked.
The other chiefs of the celestial rebellion are very judiciously discriminated in the First and Second Books; and the ferocious character of Moloch appears,
both in the battle and the council, with exact consistency.
To Adam and to Eve are given, during their innocence, such sentiments as innocence can generate and utter. Their love is
benevolence and mutual veneration; their repasts are without luxury, and their diligence without toil. Their addresses to their Maker have little more than the voice of admiration and gratitude. Fruition left them nothing to ask, and Innocence left them nothing to fear.
But with guilt enter distrust and discord, mutual accusation, and stubborn self-defence; they regard each other with alienated minds, and dread their Creator as the Avenger of their transgression. At last they seek shelter in his mercy, soften to repentance, and melt in supplication. Both before and after the Fall, the superiority of Adam is diligently sustained.
Of the probable and the marvellous, two parts of a vulgar epic poem, which immerge the critic in deep consideration, the Paradise Lost requires little to be said. It contains the history of a miracle, of Creation and Redemption; it displays the power
and the mercy of the Supreme Being; the probable therefore is marvellous, and the marvellous is probable. The substance of the narrative is truth; and as truth allows no choice, it is, like necessity, superior to rule. To the accidental or adventitious parts, as to every thing human, some slight exceptions may be made. But the main fabric is immoveably supported.
It is justly remarked by Addison, that this Poem has, by the nature of its subject, the advantage above all others, that it is universally and perpetually interesting. All mankind will, through all ages, bear the same relation to Adam and to Eve, and must partake of that good and evil which extend to themselves.
Of the machinery, so called from tos ato una xarns, by which is meant the occasional interposition of supernatural power, another fertile topic