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A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
The parting Genius is with sighing sent;
In consecrated earth,
The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaint;
Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint;
Peor and Baalim
Forsake their temples dim,
With that twice-batter'd God of Palestine;
Now sits not girt with tapers' holy shrine;
And sullen Moloch fled,
His burning idol all of blackest hue;
In dismal dance about the furnace blue;
Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian grove or green,
Trampling the unshowered grass with lowings loud:
Nought but profoundest hell can be his shroud.
But see the Virgin blest
Time is our tedious song should here have ending:
Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending:
It is not necessary to point the reader's attention to those lines, most vividly descriptive and powerful. Some are magical: the reader seems, while he reads, to be translated to the dreadful scenery of some of the ancient mysteries. In silence and darkness, save from the livid lustre of the blue fitful flame, the rites of Isis or Ceres are performed before the reader's eye. He figures to himself the vast, dread, and dim space—the clash of cymbals breaking the stillness—the low mutterings of distant priests—the flit of the stole—the roar of pentup winds or flames—and the spell-bound astonishment of all at the cessation of the mystic profanity. Is not all this before the eye when Moloch's priests move
"In dismal dance about the furnace blue?"
or when the poet describes the flight of Osiris:
"In vain with timbrell'd anthems dark,
The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipp'd ark."
We have lingered thus long on this ode, though it is comparatively brief, because it is the noblest promise in our author's youth, of "Paradise Lost." But, though written in his youth, the poem breathes the deep-toned solemnity of most earnest thought. In its grand cadences it reminds us of Milton's favourite instrument, the organ. The words surge to and fro, with wonderful propriety and harmony. But enough—all encomium is tame to the deserts of so great a piece of genius.
Cambbidge must have presented to the eye and mind of the poet a very flat appearance. Within the last few years it has been made to put on the garb of prettiness, and many of the walks upon the banks of the Cam wear the appearance of still, retired life; but in the time when Milton studied, there was really nothing to rouse and inspire the intellect. The remove, therefore, to Horton-in-Colebrook, Buckinghamshire, must have been very grateful. There he resided five years, beneath the roof of his father, who had quitted business, and had purchased an estate in this neighbourhood. Here he read over all the Greek and Latin authors, especially the historians; and here he is believed to have written his Arcades, Comus and Allegro, II Penseroso, and Lycidas. This pleasant retreat excited his most poetic feelings; and all the poems written during this period show a most delighted appreciation of the charms of English scenery. The Countess Dowager of Derby resided near Horton, and the Arcades was performed by her grandchildren, residing at this seat, called Herefield Place. "It seems to me," says Todd, "that Milton intended a compliment to his fair neighbour (for fair she was) in his L' Allegro.
"Towers and battlements it sees,
The two odes, IT Allegro and II Penseroso, are finely descriptive of English scenery, and may be ever read, learned, recalled. They are not marked by any Miltonic grandeur or sublimity; on the contrary, they are exquisitely simple; but the grouping of natural objects and images is most complete; there is more of description than of imagination,—and the mind of the reader is instantly borne away to the retired and solitary beauty of the country life in the times of Elizabeth or the Stuarts. They give, immediately upon their perusal, a contradiction to Johnson's criticism, that "Milton