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happiness,—he exhibits no remorse, but rather exultancy and triumph :—
"Farewell, happy fields,
And when the new creation is won, through that terrible journey he undertook through the realms of chaos and the limbo of vanity; when from regions so dreadful, escaped once more to the strange beauty of the new creation, and the spectacle of the full splendour of the sun beheld for the first time, recalls him to a sense of his own darkness, and long eternity of terror,— then gushes forth that terrible and passionate soliloquy:—
"Me miserable! Which way shall I fly.
Still threatening to devour me, opens wide;
No, pride, stout, stubborn pride, forbids that submission, and
"So farewell hope; and with hope, farewell fear; Farewell remorae; all good to me is lost;— Evil be thou my good '."
These citations present the portrait of Satan; it is a portrait of evil, which awes us, but does not satisfy us; it is too fearfully objective.— We feel that this nobleness of evil does not belong to it,—it is a colouring caught from the poet's own mind; it illustrates our first thought, that in painting Satan, the poet painted himself: this sublime and daring determination was a portion of his soul,—that sublime resolution, undaunted, defiant of the bellowing thunder, the surging fires, and the swift, fierce lightnings, was but the painting of the reality with which Milton himself went forth to encounter the terrible hurricanes of life. We have had other pictures of the impersonated Evil;—and amongst them, especially, Goethe1* Mephistophiles;—but in every point, how different! This being excites no sympathy—he has none. Satan, on the contrary, possesses sympathy, and communicates it. Mephistophiles is cold and passionless; Satan, on the contrary, glows with passionate vehemence. Of course, Mephistophiles neither hates nor loves. The hatred of Satan is intense: his love for something, therefore, must be proportioned to his hatred. And here too, we may remark, how perfectly Goethe, in his portrait of Mephistophiles, painted himself,—cold, being far removed from human sympathies, and loves, and passions; to whom life, with all its solemn realities, was no other,—no more,—than the picture in his study; in fact, to Goethe, the evil principle was a mere shadow,—a terrible necessity of our being,—a negation, not a real existence. Not so Milton; his Satan stands there living—real—the being that did—
"Defy the Omnipotent to arms."
The portraits of the two men are here. The one sitting in his study now anatomising a fly, now dissecting a beam of light,—while Europe around him was in a paroxysm and an agony, while every day would have brought to his door the wail of oppressed people, or the yell of disappointed tyrannies; the other meditating his poem in the closing years of his life; a life spent with men, the greatest Statesmen of any age or nation, in defying, for the interests of Liberty and Humanity, the cruel and boundless ambition of princes and prelates. Sitting there in his study, fallen on evil days and evil tongues, but with a memory crowded with great recollections of work for the world, well done; a blind martyr to his own unflinching attachment to truth and freedom. Now it is 'n these characteristics of his great life that we are to look for the central idea of Satan. It is not too much to say this is the finest conception in the whole realm of poetry; nothing is like it; nowhere do we find the sublime feelings protracted to such unusual length; in no other page can we tolerate supernatural intervention. Gods and demons are perpetually doing things befitting neither God nor Devil to do here; we seem to be admitted to the mysteries of the infernal and the celestial world. Milton does not discourse to us of the origin of evil; he does not show us how it came first to be known in the world. Of course it is easy with Goethe or Philip Bailey to speak of it as a necessity—and we can now very well understand that evil is a law of our being; that that law is overlawed; and that now absolute evil does not exist in the world; that it has its own limitations, and that eventually it results in abundant happiness. All this is easy to see and to say; but the thought yet meets us as it ever will, that evil, even as a means of education and discipline, appears to our poor minds far from the purity and the goodness of the Divine nature: but this terrible antagonism to the Infinite Supreme, this magnificent but perverse will, surely this is the height of evil; and where did Milton obtain this wonderful conception of Satan? Not from the theology of his own time, nor indeed the theology of any time. The hints thrown out in the Sacred writings are dim, vague, shadowy, but these were the foundation of this great structure. Let the reader think of the indistinctness of these hints, and the fully described collossal proportions of our poet's awful hero, and the wonder becomes miraculous. We must seek for our author's ideas of the birth of sin in the extraordinary episode which so many critics have quarrelled with, as objectional in the erection of the poem. Sin is born of presumptuous intelligence. Satan is the portrait of intellect without a God; and our readers will remember the parentage claimed by the portress of Hell Gate.