Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

I

[ocr errors]

may

assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

Say first, for heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of hell; say first, what cause
Moved our grand Parents in that happy state,
Favour'd of heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the world besides?
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
The infernal serpent: he it was, whose guile,
Stirr'd up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels; by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equal'd the Most High,"
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in heaven and battel proud,
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.

Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquish'd, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded though immortal: but his doom
Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain

Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witness'd huge affliction and dismay
Mix'd with obdurate pride and stedfast hate.
At once, as far as angels ken, he views

The dismal situation waste and wild:

A dungeon horrible on all sides round,

As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell; hope never comes,
That comes to all; but torture without end

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

of Milton from all others. In other illumines the bright, and enlarges the works of imagination, the difficulty lies great: he expands his wings, and 'sails in giving sufficient elevation to the sub- with supreme dominion' up to the hea ject: here it lies in raising the imagina-vens, parts the clouds, and communes tion up to the grandeur of the subject, with angels and unembodied spirits.”— in adequate conception of its mightiness, SIR E. BRYDGES. and in finding language of such majesty as will not degrade it. A genius less gigantic and less holy than Milton's would have shrunk from the attempt. Milton not only does not lower, but he

40. He trusted, &c. Isa. xiv. 13.

63. Darkness visible. Not absolute darkness, for that is invisible; but gloom, which shows that there are objects, though they cannot be distinctly seen

Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed

With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed:
Such place eternal justice had prepared

For those rebellious; here their prison ordain'd
In utter darkness; and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven,
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.
O, how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelm'd
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns; and welt'ring by his side,
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and nam'd
Beelzebub: to whom the arch-enemy,

And thence in heav'n call'd Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:-

[blocks in formation]

If thou beest he-But, O, how fallen! how changed

From him, who in the happy realms of light,
Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads, though bright! If he, whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the glorious enterprize,

[ocr errors]

Join'd with me once, now misery hath join'd

ยง

In equal ruin: into what pit thou seest,

From what highth fallen: so much the stronger prov'd

He with his thunder; and till then who knew

The force of those dire arms? yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his rage

95

Can else inflict, do I repent, or change,

Though changed in outward lustre, that fix'd mind
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along
Innumerable force of spirits arm'd,

That durst dislike his reign; and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battel on the plains of heaven,

100

And shook his throne. What though the field be lost? 105
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome;

74. Utmost pole; that is, the pole of the universe. "Homer (1. viii. 16) makes the seat of Hell as far beneath the deepest pit of earth, as the heaven is above the earth. Virgil (Æn. vi. 578) makes it twice as far, and Milton thrice as far; as if these three great poets had stretched their utmost genius, and vied with each other, who should extend his idea of the depth of Hell farthest. But Milton's whole description of Hell as much exceeds theirs as in this single

circumstance of the depth of it.”—NEWTON.

77. Tempestuous fire. Ps. xi. 6.

82. Called Satan. The word Satan in Hebrew signifies an enemy: hence he is eminently the enemy, that is, of God and man.

109. And what is else not to be overcome. Pickering's edition, following Milton's own copy, reads this line with a note of interrogation. Though one or two commentators prefer this, I agree decidedly with Drs. l'earce and Newton

That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me: to bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power,
Who from the terrour of this arm so late
Doubted his empire; that were low indeed;
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall; since, by fate, the strength of gods
And this empyreal substance cannot fail;
Since, through experience of this great event,
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal war,
Irreconcileable to our grand Foe,

Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of heaven.

So spake the apostate angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but rack'd with deep despair:
And him thus answer'd soon his bold compeer:-
O prince, O chief of many throned powers,
That led th' embattell'd seraphim to war
Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds
Fearless, endanger'd heaven's perpetual King;
And put to proof his high supremacy,

Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate:
Too well I see and rue the dire event,
That with sad overthrow and foul defeat

Hath lost us heaven, and all this mighty host
In horrible destruction laid thus low;
As far as gods and heavenly essences
Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains
Invincible, and vigour soon returns;

Though all our glory extinct, and happy state
Here swallow'd up in endless misery.

116

115

120

125

130

135

140

But what if he our Conquerour, whom I now

Of force believe almighty, since no less

Than such could have o'erpower'd such force as ours—

145

Have left us this our spirit and strength entire,

Strongly to suffer and support our pains,

That we may so suffice his vengeful ire;
Or do him mightier service, as his thralls
By right of war, whate'er his business be,
Here in the heart of hell to work in fire,
Or do his errands in the gloomy deep:]

in preferring the semicolon, or, what is still better, the colon. Satan tells BeelBebub what "is not lost," and then says, and if there be any thing else besides the particulars mentioned which is not to be overcome, THAT is not lost; and then he adds, that that glory, namely, to cherish and preserve the unconquerable will, the study of revenge, and any thing else which cannot be overcome, God shall never extort from him.

150

117. Empyreal substance, that is, fiery substance. "He maketh his Angels spi rits, and his ministers a flame of fire." Ps. civ. 4.

131. Perpetual, not eternal, for then he could not have boasted of endangering his kingdom: but, for detraction, he calls God only perpetual King, that is, king from time immemorial, or without interruption.-Newton.

What can it then avail, though yet we feel

Strength undiminish'd, or eternal being,

To undergo eternal punishment?

Whereto with speedy words the Arch-fiend replied:

Fallen cherub, to be weak is miserable,

Doing or suffering: but of this be sure,
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight;
As being the contrary to his high will,
Whom we resist. If then his providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil:
Which oft-times may succeed, so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from their destined aim.
But see! the angry Victor hath recall'd
His ministers of vengeance and pursuit
Back to the gates of heaven: the sulphurous hail,
Shot after us in storm, o'erblown hath laid
The fiery surge, that from the precipice
Of heaven received us falling; and the thunder,
Wing'd with red lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless deep.
Let us not slip the occasion, whether scorn
Or satiate fury yield it from our foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
The seat of desolation, void of light,

Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves;
There rest, if any rest can harbour there;
And, reassembling our afflicted powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our enemy; our own loss how repair;
How overcome this dire calamity;

What reinforcement we may gain from hope;
If not, what resolution from despair.

Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge

As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-born, that warr'd on Jove,
Briareos, or Typhon, whom the den

By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works

155

160

165

170

175

180

185

190

195

200

199. Briareos and Tiphoeus were two | Milton here means the whale, though in famed giants of antiquity. By Leviathan | Job it answers to the crocodile.

Created hugest that swim the ocean stream:
Ilim, haply, slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-founder'd skiff,
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays.

So stretch'd out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay
Chain'd on the burning lake; nor ever thence
Had risen or heaved his head, but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs;
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought
Evil to others; and enraged might see

| How all his malice served but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy shown
On man by him seduced; but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance pour'd.
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames,

205

210

215

220

Driven backward, slope their pointing spires, and, roll'd
In billows, leave in the midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight

225

Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air

That felt unusual weight, till on dry land
He lights; if it were land, that ever burn'd
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire;
And such appear'd in hue, as when the force
Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shatter'd side
Of thundering Etna, whose combustible
And fuel'd entrails thence conceiving fire,
Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,
And leave a singed bottom all involv'd

With stench and smoke: such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet. Him follow'd his next mate;

Both glorying to have 'scaped the Stygian flood,

As gods, and by their own recover'd strength,

230

235

240

Not by the sufferance of supernal Power.

Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,

Said then the lost Archangel, this the seat

That we must change for heaven? this mournful gloom

For certain

204. Night-founder'd. A ship is said to founder at sea, (from the French fondre, Either some one like us night-founder'd here. to melt, to fall,) when she is overtaken by a leak, fills, and sinks. So she is here said to be night-founder'd, when she is overtaken by the night, and is stopped, not knowing which way to go. The same phrase is used in Comus. The two brothers in the night have lost their way in the wood: one hears a noise, and asks what it is. The other replies

Line 483. 232. Pelorus. Pelorus was the northeastern promontory of Sicily. "Here again Milton brings in his learned allusions and illustrations: the picture is highly poetical and sublime."-BRYDGES. 240. Recovered, resumed, self-raised, self-recovered.

« AnteriorContinua »