صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

On princes, when their rich retinue long

Of horses led, and grooms besmeared with gold.

Dazzles the crowd, and sets them all agape."

How long we might loiter talking with angels, and winding our way through these groves of wonderful beauty.

There is, however, yet another section of observation open to us, and a wonderful and fruitful one—the Episodes of " Paradise Lost." The voyage of Satan through chaos, is such an episode, that some critics have objected to its introduction into an epic, especially Addison. But what shall we say to the terrible allegory of Sin and Death? Some have objected, that the conception of such personages is imaginary. Every personage in the poem is imaginary, except our two first parents. How fearfully has the poet preserved the portrait of Death:—

"The other shape,
If shape it may be called that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,
Or substance, might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night,
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful dart. What seem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on."

And, when Sin from her side takes the fatal key, sad instrument of all our woe, and Satan looks forth into chaos—" the womb of Nature, and perhaps her grave,"—as the gates roll back, but not to shut again, who does not feel in how fine a spirit of fearful truth—of poetry—this is conceived; and the allegory is concluded in a still more lofty strain. When, after the fall, Milton represents Sin and Death as building a bridge over chaos to the world, to subdue and enslave mankind—

"They with speed
Their course through thickest constellations held
Spreading their bane; the blasted stars looked wan
And plainer planets, planet-struck, real eclipse
Then suffered."

The other great episode of the poem is the progress of Satan through the Limbo of Vanity: this has been extravagantly censured by some critics, as a departure from epical dignity. This limbo is represented as lying beneath chaos, beyond the outskirts of the globe—a sort of purgatory, of—

"All things vain, and all who in vain things
Built their fond hopes of glory."

This place the poet styles the Paradise of Fools. —Hither they come,—

M

"Embryos and idiots, eremites and friars
White, black, and grey, with all their trumpery.
Here pilgrims roam, that stray'd Bo far to seek.
In Golgotha, Him dead, who lives in Heav"n;
And they who, to be sure of Paradise,
Dying put on the weeds of Dominic,
Or in Franciscan think to pass disguised:
They pass the planets sev'n, and pass the fix'd,
And that crystalline sphere whose balance weighs
The trepidation talk'd, and that first moved;
And now Saint Peter at HeavVs wicket seems
To wait them with his keys, and now at foot
Of Heav'n's ascent they lift their feet, when lo!
A violent cross wind from either coast
Blows them transverse ten thousand leagues awry
Into the devious air; then might ye see
Cowls, hoods, and habits, with their wearers, tost
And flutter" d into rags; then reliques, beads,
Indulgences, dispenses, pardons, bulls,
The sport of winds: all these upwhirl'd aloft
Fly o'er the backside of the world far off
Into a Limbo large and broad, since call'd
The Paradise of Fools, to few unknown
Long after, now unpeopled, and untrod."

Is this a work of supererogation, in which we have been engaged? Was there no need to point out these characteristics of this immortal poem? For the student certainly not; but as this is intended for a pocket volume, to guide the youthful reader to a more intimate acquaintance with this great man, we believe it will not have been a vain task, in thus spreading before the mind the most striking points to which the reader's attention may be directed.

CHAPTER XVI.

PARADISE REGAINED.

Some persons have affected to think the " Paradise Regained" a superior poem to "Paradise Lost." Such a taste, if it have any reality, can only result from an utter inferiority of perception—a lack of imagination, disqualifying all its possessors for the pronouncing of a verdict upon any matters of taste. No! in the "Paradise Regained" we miss all the magnitude that oppressed us in its predecessor. We have neither Hell, Heaven, nor Eden,—with the appalling horrors of the one, and the luxuries of the others. The poem is cast in altogether another mould: it is excellent, most excellent. But if the work of a poem is to be measured by its extraordinary invention—by its longdrawn and highly-animated sublimity—by the vivid colouring in which its actions and scenery are presented, then there can be no comparison between the poems. We look in vain for the utterances of sombre grandeur in which the lost angels indulge. There is no Pandemonium to build; no Limbo of Vanity to plunge through; no bridge to be thrown over Chaos. Satan has been so long winding through the vortexes of guilt, that he appears altogether another character than that bold defiant spirit, who

"on a throne of regal state, that far Outshone the wealth of Ormus or of Ind, . . . exalted sate."

How different his first presentment to us now:—

"An aged man in rural weeds,
Following, as seemed, the quest of some stray ewe,
Or withered sticks to gather, which might serve
Against a winter's day, when winds blow keen,
To warm him, wet returned from field at eve."

And the introduction of Satan is typical of the whole poem. It is a subdued, yet probably a more earnest performance, and scarcely inferior to " Paradise Lost" in instruction; but it bears a nearer relation to prose; philosophy and history are less concealed in allusion to figure. In

« السابقةمتابعة »