Imágenes de páginas

address the light as the first-born of Heaven, or as the coeternal beam of the eternal Father, or as a pure ethereal stream, whose fountain is unknown. But as the second appellation seems to ascribe a proper eternity to light, Milton very justly doubts whether he might use that without blame. Newton.

[blocks in formation]

Dwelt] From 1 John. i. 5. "God is light; and in him is no darkness at all." And 1 Tim. vi. 16. "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto."


6. Bright effluence of bright essence increate.] What the Wisdom of Solomon says of wisdom, he applies to light (vii. 25, 26.): “ She is a pure influence, flowing from the glory of the Almighty.she is the brightness of the everlasting light." Newton.

12. Won from the void and formless infinite.] Void must not here be understood as emptiness, for Chaos is described full of matter; but void, as destitute of any formed being, void as the earth was when first created. What Moses says of that, is here applied to Chaos," without form, and void." A short, but noble description of Chaos, which is said to be infinite, as it extended underneath, as Heaven above, infinitely. Richardson.

37. Then feed on thoughts,] Nothing could better express the musing thoughtfulness of a blind Poet. The phrase was perhaps borrowed from the following line of Spenser's Tears of the Muses.

I feed on fweet contentment of my thought.


56. Now had th' almighty Father, &c.] 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 Jupiter, as the Christian idea of the Supreme 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. Addison.

79. Thus to his only Son foreseeing spake.] If Milton's majesty forsakes him anywhere, it is in those parts of his Poem where the Divine Persons are introduced as speakers. One may, I think, observe that the Author proceeds with a kind of fear and trembling,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

whilst he describes the sentiments of the Almighty. He dares not give his imagination its full play, but chooses to confine himself to such thoughts as are drawn from the books of the most orthodox divines, and to such expressions as may be met with in Scripture. The beauties, therefore, which we are to look for in these speeches, are not of a poetical nature, nor so proper to fill the mind with sentiments of grandeur, as with thoughts of devotion. The passions, which they are designed to raise, are a divine love and religious fear. The particular beauty of the speeches in the third book, consists 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 expression, 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 interspersing of all those graces of poetry which the subject was capable of receiving. Satan's approach to the confines of the creation is finely imaged in the beginning of the speech which immediately follows. Addison.

108.(reason also 's choice)] The Author had expressed the same sentiment before in prose: "Many there be that complain of Divine Providence for suffering Adam to transgress. Foolish tongues! when God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose; for reason is but choosing: he had been else a mere artificial Adam,” &c. See his Speech for the Liberty of Unlicenced Printing, p. 149 and 150, edit. 1738. Newton.

168. O Son, &c.] The Son is here addressed by several titles and appellations borrowed from Scripture. "O Son, in whom my soul hath chief delight," from Matt. iii. 17. "My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." "Son of my bosom," from John i. 18. "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father." "My Word," from Rev. xix. 13. "And his name is called the Word of God." "My wisdom and effectual might," from 1 Cor. i. 24. "Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God." Newton.

[blocks in formation]

183. Some I have chosen of peculiar grace, &c.] Our Author did not hold the doctrine of rigid predestination; he was of the sentiments of the more moderate Calvinists, and thought that some indeed were elected of peculiar grace; the rest might be saved by complying with the terms and conditions of the Gospel. Newton.

197. And, to the end persisting, safe arrive.]" He that endureth to the end shall be saved." Matt. x. 22. Newton.

198. This my long suff'rance and my day of grace

They who neglect and scorn, shall never taste ;] It is a great pity that our Author should have thus debased the dignity of the Deity, by putting in his mouth this horrid doctrine of a day of grace, after which it is not possible for a man to repent; and there can be no sort of excuse for him, except the candid reader will make some allowance for the prejudices which he might possibly receive from the gloomy divinity of that enthusiastic age in which he lived.


231. Comes unprevented,] Prevent, from prævenire, to come before. This grace is not preceded by merit or supplication: itself prevents or goes before; 'tis a free gift, as xi. 3. "Prevenient grace descending," &c. 2 Tim. i. 9. "Not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace." Psal. lxxxviii. 13. "But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee." Here the favour, if it comes, comes not unprevented: prayer prevents or goes before God's goodness.


299. Giving to death, and dying to redeem,] The love of the Father in giving the Son to death, and the love of the Son in submitting to it, and dying to redeem mankind. Mr. Warburton thus explains it: "Milton's system of divinity taught (says he) not only that man was redeemed, but likewise that a real price was paid for his redemption: "dying to redeem," therefore signifying only redemption in a vague uncertain sense, but imperfectly represents his system; so imperfectly, that it may as well be called the Socinian; the price paid (which implies a proper redemption) is wanting. But to pay a price, implying a voluntary act, the Poet therefore well expresses it, by "giving to death;" that is, giving himself to death; so that the sense of the line fully expresses Milton's notion: Heavenly love gave a price for the redemption of mankind, and, by virtue of that price, really redeemed them.


353. Immortal amaranth; ] Amaranth, Aμapan Greek, for unfading, that decayeth not: a flower of a purple velvet colour, which, though gathered, keeps its beauty; and when all other flowers fade, recovers its lustre, by being sprinkled with a little water; as Pliny affirms, lib. 21. c. 11. Our Author seems to have taken this hint from 1 Pet. i. 4. "To an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away," auagaslov: and 1 Pet. v. 4. " Ye shall receive a crown of glory, that fadeth not away," apagailor: both relating to the name of his everlasting amaranth, which he has finely set near the tree of life. Amarantus flos, symbolum est immortalitatis. Clem. Alexand. Hume.

372. Thee, Father, first they sung, &c.] This hymn seems to be composed somewhat in the spirit and manner of the hymn to Hercules, in the 8th book of the Æneid; but is as much superior as the subject of the one transcends that of the other. Newton.

467. Of Sennaar,] Or Shinar, for they are both the same name of this province of Babylonia. But Milton follows the Vulgate, as he frequently does in the names of places. Newton.

495. Into a Limbo large and broad,] The " Limbus patrum," as it is called, is a place that the school-men supposed to be in the neighbourhood of Hell, where the souls of the patriarchs were detained, and those good men who died before our Saviour's resurrection. Our Author gives the same name to his Paradise of Fools; and more rationally places it beyond" the backside of the world." Newton.

625. a golden tiar] A golden coronet of shining rays circled his head, yet nevertheless, did not hinder his lovely locks, that hung behind over his shoulders adorned with wings, from waving themselves into curls and rings. Tiar of Tiara, the Persian word for a round cap, high and ending in a point; the usual cover and ornament the eastern princes wore on their heads. Hume.

654. Uriel,] His name is derived from two Hebrew words which signify, "God is my light." He is mentioned as a good Angel, in the second book of Esdras, chapters iv, and v. ; and the Jews and some Christians conceive him to be an angel of light, according to his name, and therefore he has properly his station in the sun. Newton.

683. Hypocrisy, &c.] What is said here of hypocrisy, is cen

sured as a digression, but it seems no more than is absolutely necessary; for otherwise it might be thought very strange that the evil spirit should pass undiscovered by the Arch-Angel Uriel, the regent of the sun, and the sharpest-sighted Spirit in Heaven; and therefore the Poet endeavours to account for it by saying, that hypocrisy cannot be discerned by Man or Angel; it is invisible to all but God, &c. but yet the evil Spirit did not pass wholly undiscovered; for though Uriel was not aware of him now, yet he found reason to suspect him afterwards, from his furious gestures in the Newton.


694. Fair Angel, &c.] In the answer which this Angel returns to the disguised evil Spirit, there is such a becoming majesty, as is altogether suitable to a superior being. The part of it in which he represents himself as present at the creation, is very noble in itself, and not only proper where it is introduced, but requisite to prepare the reader for what follows in the seventh book. In the following part of the speech he points out the earth with such circumstances, that the reader can scarce forbear fancying himself employed on the same distant view of it. Addison.

[blocks in formation]

1. Ọ for that warning voice, &c.] The Poet opens this book with a wish in the manner of Shakspeare, "Ofor a muse of fire," &c. Prologue to Henry V. "O for a falc'ner's voice," &c. Romeo and Juliet, Act ii.; and in order to raise the horror and attention of his reader, introduces his relation of Satan's adventures upon earth, by wishing that the same warning voice had been uttered now at Satan's first coming, that St. John, who in a vision saw the Apocalypse or Revelation, of the most remarkable events which were to befall the Christian church to the end of the world, heard when the Dragon (that old Serpent, called the Devil and Satan) was put to second rout.. Rev. xii. 12. "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, for the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath." Newton.

10. - th' accuser of mankind,] As he is represented in that same chapter of the Revelation, which the Poet is still alluding to. "For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night." Ver. 10. Newton.

32. O thou, &c.] Satan being now within prospect of Eden, and

« AnteriorContinuar »