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of Missed by its sublimis a sensibility and mouth. Is i
the description of the infernal regions with a fearless tread, as if he felt within himself a power to erect the prison-house of fallen spirits, to encircle them with flames and horrors worthy of their crimes, to call forth from them shouts which should
tear hell's concave,' and to embody in their Chief an Archangel's energies and a Demon's pride and hate. Even the stupendous conception of Satan seems never to oppress his faculties. This character of power runs through all Milton's works. His descriptions of nature show a free and bold hand. He has no need of the minute, graphic skill, which we prize in Cowper or Crabbe. With a few strong or delicate touches, he impresses, as it were, his own mind on the scenes which he would describe, and kindles the imagination of the gifted reader to clothe them with the same radiant hues under which they appeared to his own.
This attribute of power is universally felt to characterize Milton. His sublimity is in every man's mouth. Is it felt that his poetry breathes a sensibility and tenderness hardly surpassed by its sublimity ? We apprehend that the grandeur of Milton's mind has thrown some shade over his milder beauties; and this it has done not only by being more striking and imposing, but by the tendency of vast mental energy to give a certain calmness to the expression of tenderness and deep feeling. A great mind is the master of its own enthusiasm, and does not often break out into those tumults, which pass with many for the signs of profound emotion. Its sensibility, though more intense and enduring, is more self-possessed, and less perturbed than that of other men, and is therefore less observed and felt, except by those who understand, through their own consciousness, the workings and utterance of genuine feeling. We might quote pages in illustration of the qualities here ascribed to Milton. Turn to Comus, one of his earliest productions. What sensibility breathes in the descriptions of the benighted Lady's singing, by Coinus and the Spirit!
Amidst the flow'ry-kirtled Naiades,
Lines 555–563. In illustration of Milton's tenderness, we will open almost at a venture.
Now morn, her rosy steps in th' eastern clime
Par. Lost, b. v. lines 1--25.
So cheer'd he his fair spouse, and she was cheer'd,
Ibid. b. v. lines 129–135. From this very imperfect view of the qualities of Milton's poetry, we hasten to his great work, Paradise Lost, perhaps the noblest monument of human genius. The two first books, by universal consent, stand pre-eminent in sublimity. Hell and Hell's King have a terrible harmony, and dilate into new grandeur and awfulness, the longer we contemplate them. From one element, 'solid and liquid fire,' the poet has framed a world of horror and suffering, such as imagination had never traversed. But fiercer flames than those which encompass Satan, burn in his own soul. Revenge, exasperated pride, consuming wrath, ambition though fallen, yet unconquered by the thunders of the Omnipotent, and grasping still at the empire of the universe,—these form a picture more sublime and terrible than Hell. Hell yields to the spirit which it imprisons. The intensity of its fires reveals the intenser passions and more vehement will of Satan; and the ruined Archangel gathers into himself the sublimity of the scene which surrounds him. This forms the tremendous interest of these wonderful books. We see mind triumphant over the most terrible powers of nature. We see unutterable agony subdued by energy of soul. We have not indeed in Satan those bursts of passion, which rive the soul as well as shatter the outward frame of Lear. But we have a depth of passion which only an Archangel could manifest. The all-enduring, all-defying pride of Satan, assuming so majestically Hell's burning throne, and coveting the diadem, which scorches his thunder-blasted brow, is a creation requiring in its author almost the spiritual energy with which he invests the fallen seraph. Some have doubted whether the moral effect of such delineations of the storms and terrible workings of the soul is good; whether the interest felt in a spirit so transcendently evil as Satan, favours our sympathies with virtue. But our interest fastens, in this and like cases, on what is not evil. We gaze on Satan with an awe not unmixed with mysterious pleasure, as on a miraculous manifestation of the power of mind. What chains us, as with a resistless spell, in such a character, is spiritual might made visible by the racking pains which it overpowers. There is something kindling and ennobling in the consciousness, however awakened, of the energy which resides in mind; and many a virtuous man has borrowed new strength from the force, constancy, and dauntless courage of evil agents.
Milton's description of Satan attests in various ways the power of his genius. Critics have often observed, that the great difficulty of his work was to reconcile the spiritual properties of his supernatural beings with the human modes of existence, which he was obliged to ascribe to them; and the difficulty is too great for any genius wholly to overcome, and we must acknowledge that our enthusiasm is in some parts of the poem checked by a feeling of incongruity between the spi: ritual agenț, and his sphere and mode of agency. But we are visited with no such chilling doubts and misgivings in the description of Satan in Hell. Imagination has here achieved its highest triumph, in imparting a character of reality and truth to its most daring creations. That world of horrors, though material, is yet so remote from our ordinary nature, that a spiritual being, exiled from heaven, finds there an appropriate home. There is, too, an indefiniteness in the des scription of Satan's person, which incites without shocking the imagination, and aids us to combine in our conception of him the massiness of a real form with the vagueness of spiritual existence. To the production of this effect, much depends on the first impression given by the poet; for this is apt to follow us through the whole work; and here we think Milton eminently successful. The first glimpse of Satan is given us in the following lines, which, whilst too indefinite to provoke the scrutiny of the reason, fill the imagination of the reader with a form which can hardly be effaced.
Thus. Satan, talking to his nearest mate
Par. Lost, b. i. lines 192—196.
In billows, leave i'th' midst a horrid vale. Ibid. 221–224.' We have more which we should gladly say of the delineation of Satan; especially of the glimpses which are now and then given of his deep anguish and despair, and of the touches of better feelings which are skilfully thrown into the dark pićture, both suited and designed to blend with our admiration, dread, and abhorrence, à measure of thiat sympathy and interest with which every living, thinking being ought to be regarded, and without which all other feelings tend to sin and pain. But there is another topic which we cannot leave un-touched. From Hell we flee to Paradise, a region as lovely as Hell is terrible, and which to those who do not know the universality of true genius, will appear doubly wonderful, when considered as the creation of the same mind which had painted the infernal world.
Paradise and its inhabitants are in sweet accordance, and together form a scene of tranquil bliss, which calms and soothes, whilst it delights the imagination. Adam and Eve, just moulded by the hand, and quickened by the breath of God, reflect in their countenances and forms, as well as minds, the intelligence, benignity, and happiness of their author.
Their new existence has the freshness and peacefulness of the dewy morning. Their souls, unsated and untainted, find an innocent joy in the youthful creation, which spreads and smiles around them. Their mutual love is deep, for it is the love of young, unworn, unexhausted hearts, which meet in each other the only human objects on whom to pour forth their fulness of affection; and stilt it is serene, for it is the love of happy beings, who know not suffering even by name, whose innocence excludes not only the tumults but the thought of jealousy and shame, who, imparadised in one another's arms, scarce dream of futurity, so blessed is their present being We will not say that we envy our first parents; for we feel that there may be higher happiness than theirs, a happiness won through struggle with inward and outward foes, the happiness of power and moral victory, the happiness of disinterested sacrifices and wide-spread love, the happiness of boundless hope, and of thoughts which wander through eternity. Still there are times, when the spirit, oppressed with pain, worn with toil, tired of tumult, sick at the sight of guilt, wounded in its love, baffled in its hope, and trembling in its faith, almost longs for the wings of a dove, that it might fly away' and take refuge amidst the shady bowers,' the 'vernal airs,' the roses without thorns,' the quiet, the beauty, the loveliness of Eden. It is the contrast of this deep peace of Paradise with the storms of life, which gives to the fourth and fifth books of this poem a charm so irresistible, that not a few would sooner relinquish the two first books with all their