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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 l 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 upon 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 anguish, or repeat his groans. Beelzebub, the next in rank, is nearest to him, yet the same distance honours the couch of his chief, as ever honoured the glorious throne. Satan is the first to awake, as the light strikes on the mountain ere it reaches the plain.—That face which rises highest in defiance, and lowers most darkly in hatred of God, and quivers in most intense pain under the shadow of deepest despair, MUST be the infernal idol '!” We mentioned simplicity as the third grand characteristic of Milton's genius. His is not, however, in general, a bare, but a rich simplicity; not the nakedness of desolation and poverty, but the sublime nakedness of unfallen Adam. In his earlier poems we find something which resembles exuberance of fancy—a play of imagery—a fine, light, aerial movement, as of a young cherub, with flushed cheek, restless eye, and fluttering pinions. But as his genius advances, this is gradually lost, and he grows and calms into a “Giant Angel,” wearing a beauty grave and terrible as his strength—his vast wings, like sunny clouds, slowly passing through the noon; resting, when he rests, like a Pyramid, and moving, when he moves, like a Planet. Some have talked of the baldness of his later style, but these persons might as soon speak of dressing the Sphynx, as of improving on that austere and bold simplicity. His genius, as a whole, including its juvenile and elderly efforts, may be described in Moore's words on Lebanon :
“Whose head in wintry grandeur towers,
While the young will continue to prefer Comus, the more matured will prefer the statelier and sterner heights of Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes.
Subordinate to those main elements, we find many others, from which we select one or two. His dramatic power has been greatly underrated. It seems to us only inferior to Shakspere's. He has divided the general angel or fiend element into a variety of finely individualised forms, and he has adapted the language to the character of each. He has done this in spite of the somewhat unwieldy nature of his style. Byron has often been accused of masking himself under all his ideal characters—so that Childe Harold is Byron musing; Lara, Byron murdering; Manfred, Byron writhing in remorse; Cain, Byron speculating; and Don Juan, Byron pursuing love adventures. But no such charge can be brought against Milton. He can be identified neither with Michael nor with Satan; neither with Raphael nor Belial; neither with Gabriel nor Moloch. Nor can any of these be confounded with one another. Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Abdiel, Uriel, are all holy, happy, powerful, and brave; but how different!—Michael is the strong Angel; Raphael, the eloquent; Gabriel, the wise; Abdiel, the faithful; and Uriel, the watchful. Satan, Moloch, Belial, Mammon, Beelzebub, are all fallen, eloquent, bold, all in torment, hate, and hell; but distinct as are columns of different architectures. Satan is the Infernal Egotist: the pronoun “I” begins every sentence of peculiar pride, and the favourite exclamation of his anguish is “Ah me / " Moloch is rash and desperate, and his fury vents itself in rugged laconics, in gasps and howls of hatred. Belial is the subtle, far revolving fiend, and his eloquence is fluent and sweet—a stream of sugared poison. Mammon is the downlooking Demon, and his words, like his thoughts, seek the centre. Beelzebub's speeches, like his character, are calm, measured—his talk is just thinking made audible, and has, withal, a cast of grave, terrific irony, which he fears not to apply to his fellow-fiends, when he says— “Thrones, and imperial powers, offspring of Heaven, Ethereal virtues Or these titles now
Must we renounce, and, changing style, be called
Paradise Lost in a dramatic form; had he completed it as a Drama, it had become a Tragedy surpassing any single play in Eschylus or Shakspere—it would have necessarily avoided the prose and platitudes which are found in the present Epic -it would have combined the rugged force of the Agonistes with a far richer, more imaginative, and passionate treatment, and would have stood more conspicuously and colossally alone among the Dramas, than it does now among the Epics of the World. There are many still who mate the Iliad and the Divina Commedia with the Paradise Lost; but there would, we think, have been none to compare the Prometheus Vinctus, or the Macbeth, to the “Fall of Man," by Milton, had he executed his purpose as he could have done. We do not mean to say, that his native genius was superior or equal to that of Shakspere and Eschylus, but merely that his blended art, genius, learning, and religion, would have constructed a greater separate dramatic structure than any they have left-a Drama combining the severity and the loftiness of the old Grecian model, with much of the subtlety, variety, and brilliance of the Shaksperean Play.
The manner in which Milton sublimates his learning has often been noticed by his critics. It is more wonderful than his learning itself. And yet that is worthy of all the encomiums which have been passed on it. It comes out, not only in those apparently elaborate, though in reality spontaneous and irresistible, accumulations of names and historic facts, which are found scattered through all his poems, but in the far-flashing allusions which everywhere abound. His style not only ever and anon sparkles with, but is steeped in, the most profound and recondite learning of his times. Buchanan has given the preference to learned Poets, in the lines
“ Sola doctorum monumenta vatům
Nesciunt Fati imperium severi ;
Here he errs in the word “sola,” but certainly, in the case of Milton and a few others, Poetry has found a graceful handmaid in Learning. Names, incidents, countries, characters,