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built to, not by, God, but forming a shapely and symmetrical whole.
Milton's sublimity has become proverbial. His natural element is the great. He may love the beautiful, but the sublime loves him. He walks at ease on heights “where angels bashful look," and descends, with equal calm and boldness, amidst depths into which other souls dare only timidly peer. How perfectly at home he is in that wondrous hell of his which he has cut out from Chaos, and wrapped in devouring fires; in Chaos itself, through whose wild and worldshaking uproar, " the womb of nature and perhaps her grave,” the ship of his genius moves on in triumphant security; on Niphates mount, looking down on half the world, and up to that ardent angel standing in the sun; on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north, beside the throne and chariot of the Apostate; or over the surge of the primeval deep, as the Spirit is moving its subsiding waters, and the Son is taking the golden compasses from God's eternal store, -or near the Brightness of the Father's glory, as He comes forth with whirlwind noise to chase his hapless enemies over the battlements of heaven! Never for a moment on the giddiest of these giddy heights, or in the sablest of these dark imaginative depths, does he reel, or blench, or tremble, display weakness, or indicate terror. Girt, sandalled, white robed,“ in privilege of virtue,” he becomes free of the universe, and is safe in hell as an angel of light would be, -can stand on the crystal battlements or in the heart of the sun, with the dignity of a “Watcher," and enter the heaven of heavens with the immunity of a “Holy One." The only instance in which he seems to fail, is in the conversations which he records between God and the Son,—but here he was hampered, not so much by the profundity of his reverence for both, as by the uncertainty of his views as to the relation they bore each other. He seems to have ceased being a Trinitarian, but had not fully become an Arian at the time he wrote Paradise Lost; and hence in those parts of the poem an awkwardness of mannera stiffness of phraseology-a timidity of feeling-an eagerness to confine himself to the ipsissima verba of Scripture, and thus, while his dialogues of devils are most eloquent, varied, and
powerful, his dialogues of Deity are exceedingly prosaic and dull.
The sublime element which was in Milton, condensed most fully and culminated in the idea of Satan. As this is probably the grandest character in the whole world of Poetry, it is proper to analyse it at some little length. It seems Milton's intention to represent the “Progress" of a Pilgrim from the Celestial City to that of utter and deepening Destruction, and that he
may effect this on a broader scale, he chooses a canvas of unearthly magnitude and identifies his Pilgrim with a fallen Angelic Nature. Like great sculptors, he must work out his thought on colossal materials. He means to give the history of Individual Will, perverted, and placed in deadly antagonism with General Will, that is, with the Will of God; and to this perverted Will he must link a form and person the loftiest and most potent of which the imagination can conceive, a person too, of the reality of whose existence the Bible had informed him. He finds this proud and terrible shape in Satan, the archangel
, who, according to Holy Writ, had fallen from heaven, nor had fallen alone, but had carried the third part of its "Stars" along with him. Having accepted the hint and outline from Scripture, he proceeds in accordance with his own idea to fill it up. On Satan he lavishes every power but omnipotence and every gift but goodness. He has might that could wield the elements; fury, that could tear them in sunder; wisdom only less than divine, and the deficiency in which seems supplied by a subtle and far-reaching craft; courage that yields only to fall back into the arms of resolute despair ; pride and ambition pointing upwards to the throne of the universe as their goal and prize; fidelity to his followers, and capacity of enduring personal suffering, equalled only by hatred to all that oppose his path, by regret for happiness gone from him, and by savage envy at the happiness enjoyed by others; remorse and revenge, haughtiness and horror, fearlessness and anguished prospect struggling in one tempestuous yet determined breast. This mighty moral anomaly, Milton incarnates in a figure reflecting at once its powers and its mis-proportions, wearing on his brow a celestial crown blasted, and a reflection of heaven's glory obscured, with eyes like sun-smitten tarns, the chiaroscuro
of which hell's flames are not able to dim, but which "blaze and sparkle" above the billows of the lake of fire ; an Atlantean stature, measured by “roods” of hell, as it had been originally by reaches and altitudes of glory; a brow trenched with thunder; a cheek "faded" like a cloud on which the day has ceased to shine ; a body naked, save when flames are its clothing, or when shield and sword seem to spring up around; and a mien, lofty, lonely, contemptuous, and defiant, fitting the Titanic spear which guides his uneasy but unshrinking steps over the burning marle, and the words which, like mutterings of thunder, or the fierce groans of earthquake, come forth from his mouth
“ Evil, be thou my Good !" “What matter WHERF, if I be still the same ?" Such is Satan, as Milton shews him in the opening of his Poem. But such he had not always been, nor was always to remain. He had been once a pure and exalted Being, next to the Father and the Son themselves, till in an evil hour he allowed ambition to mount what seemed only the single step between him and absolute Dominion—as there seems but a single step between the summit of the mountain and the Sunto enter his soul. Then his real fall commenced; for in the train of ambition came pride, hatred, envy, rebellion, and such carnal passion as spirits can feel, and his expulsion from Heaven was only the inevitable consequence of his sin. In Pandemonium his virtue is lost, his power is limited, his glory is shaded, but his courage, magnanimity, and daring are increased. He is lashed by the flames into fiercer rage, and his unequalled and unenvied possession of the burning Throne of Hell inflates his pride. He determines on a last great effort to regain at least a portion of his original power—if inferior to the task of dethroning God, he shall yet try to blast one of God's favourite works. But from the moment that he determines to seek to involve an unknown and unwitting race of beings in his own ruin, a new shade of darkness falls upon his character, and from the Foe of God and the rebel chief of Angels he sinks into the Tempter of Man. He drops, as it were, the weapons of Heaven he had turned against their giver; he will not even use the black fire and infernal thunder suggested by Moloch, but adopts, instead,
the smaller and subtler engines of craft : for, although he has his armour with him on his journey, it is for defence, not assault; and although his progress through Chaos is sublime, the end which he seeks is mean, and begins to mar that dignity of despair which forsook him not, even when prostrate on the burning lake. He is now the Tempter in embryo, but ere he becomes the Tempter in act, his better nature must re-assert itself in the form of remorse upon the top of Niphates Mount. There the sight of the Sun, once his footstool, sends a flood of agony over his soul, and even one small whisper of hope, through penitence, crosses his mind, but no! it is too late:the earth, his prey, is in sight, he must fulfil his destiny, and, as he wheels down from Niphates to Eden, you feel that a lower deep has opened on his lowest—that he has become irretrievably the Tempter and the Devil. Evil is now his Good. His damnation has darkened into a deeper hue, a hue indeed so deep that it can only be increased by success, and that success begins speedily to be his. Often afterwards does he seek to rally against his down-bearing doom,-once at the sight of the blissful pair in Eden; again, more proudly and characteristically, when he starts up in his own shape of defiance from the ear of Eve; and again, on the very verge of the Fall of Man. But it is vain; the current sweeps him on to a mean triumph, and to that mighty degradation which follows it, and comes to a climax (so far as the Paradise Lost is concerned) in the “ dismal universal hiss" he meets when he returns to the throne of Hell.
In Paradise Regained we see the Pilgrimage still going on. The Fiend has indeed been permitted to evade Hell and to become the “Prince of the Power of the Air.” But long ages of successful wickedness have deepened his misery and his meanness. Hence he does not boldly confront Jesus, but keeps nibbling at his heels, and you see him sunk from the Lost Archangel
“Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms into a crafty and a baffled juggler. Once, indeed, he seeks to re-assert his former character, in that remarkable speech beginning,
“'Tis true I am that Spirit unfortunate,”
which De Quincey somewhere commemorates as one of the most eloquent specimens of rhetoric in literature. But his general conduct serves to prove that Sin, though it gives at first a dreadful glory to a great nature, ultimately degrades it, and becomes not only a bad but a low and ludicrous thing. Indeed, his fall from the pinnacle of the Temple seems designed to caricature his fall from the battlements of Heaven, and to intimate the Poet's view, that he could fall no farther, and that it is not worth while recording or imagining his future career.
We quote, from an able writer, some remarks on Satan which are less known than they deserve. “ The ruined angel's appearance is a new and tremendous vision under the Sun. Dilated in its dimensions into something more fine and subtle than any known materialism, and coloured with hues and shades softer than blood ever blushed or twilight gave, it is yet condensed and solid with adamantine texture and strength, like Teneriffe or Atlas unremoved,' the grand pillar of his own empire. The outlines of the form, with all their vagueness, have nothing shadowy, but are compact and massy with indwelling energy. The face and form attract outwards
and around them, in vivid display, all the inner feelings and purposes, and the hardened and sublime character of the wicked principality. Courage, hatred, remorse, and despair, have a strange effluence of dark and tumultuous glory from the unblest feet up to the fulgent head ;' the lustre of holiness has for ever gone, and with it the smiles of joy; still he is of regal port and faded splendour wan. His immortal nature and original rank have an expression which glows and glimmers through the darkness of guilt and misery; thrust down from heaven to the lowest deep for wickedness, his greatness has yet a stature which reaches the sky. Milton exhausts all the titles of rank and royalty in exalting his Hero. He is the 'Archangel,' the 'Superiour Fiend,' the General, the
Mighty Paramount,' " Hell's King,' the 'Emperor,' the 'Sultan.' His superiority is cheerfully admitted by the very Spirits who had resisted the claims of the Supreme. He is precipitated in common ruin with his followers in the fiery gulph, yet there for nine days he lies apart in misery, as if none might share his pillow, throb in the fellowship of his