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THE ARGUMENT.

THE subject proposed. Invocation of the Holy Spirit. The poem opens with John baptizing at the river Jordan. Jesus coming there is baptized; and is attested by the descent of the Holy Ghost, and by a voice from heaven, to be the Son of God. Satan, who is present, upon this immediately flies up into the regions of the air: where, summoning his Infernal Council, he acquaints them with his apprehensions that Jesus is that seed of the woman, destined to destroy all their power, and points out to them the immediate necessity of bringing the matter to proof, and of attempting by snares and fraud to counteract and defeat the person, from whom they have so much to dread. This office he offers himself to undertake, and, his offer being accepted, sets out on his enterprize. In the mean time God, in the assembly of holy angels, declares that he has given up his Son to be tempted by Satan; but foretels that the Tempter shall be completely defeated by him: upon which the angels sing a hymn of triumph. Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, while he is meditating on the commencement of his great office of Saviour of mankind. Pursuing his meditations he narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and philanthropic impulses he had felt from his early youth, and how his mother Mary, on perceiving these dispositions in him, had acquainted him with the circumstances of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a person than the Son of God; to which he adds what his own enquiries and reflections had supplied in confirmation of this great truth, and particularly dwells on the recent attestation of it at the river Jordan. Our Lord passes forty days, fasting, in the wilderness; where the wild beasts become mild and harmless in his presence. Satan now appears under the form of an old peasant; and enters into discourse with our Lord, wondering what could have brought him alone into so dangerous a place, and at the same time professing to recognize him for the person lately acknowledged by John, at the river Jordan, to be the Son of God. Jesus briefly replies. Satan rejoins with a description of the difficulty of supporting life in the wilderness; and entreats Jesus, if he be

really the Son of God, to manifest his divine power, by changing some of the stones into bread. Jesus reproves him, and at the same time tells him that he knows who he is. Satan instantly avows himself, and offers an artful apology for himself and his conduct. Our blessed Lord severely reprimands him, and refutes every part of his justification. Satan, with much semblance of humility, still endeavours to justify himself; and professing his admiration of Jesus and his regard for virtue, requests to be permitted at a future time to hear more of his conversation; but is answered that this must be as he shall find permission from above. Satan then disappears, and the book closes with a short description of night coming on in the desert. Dunster.

PARADISE REGAINED.

BOOK I.

I WHO ere while the happy garden sung,
By one man's disobedience lost, now sing

Milton's Paradise Regained has not met with the approbation that it deserves. It has not the harmony of numbers, the sublimity of thought, and the beauties of diction, which are in Paradise Lost. It is composed in a lower and less striking style, a style suited to the subject. Artful sophistry, false reasoning, set off in the most specious manner, and refuted by the Son of God with strong unaffected eloquence, is the peculiar excellence of this poem. Satan there defends a bad cause with great skill and subtlety, as one thoroughly versed in that craft;

Lost could ever write without great effusions of fancy, and exalted precepts of wisdom. The basis of Paradise Regained is narrow; a dialogue without action can never please like an union of the narrative and dramatic powers. Had this poem been written not by Milton, but by some imitator, it would have claimed and received universal praise. Johnson.

His character is well drawn. Jortin.

Of Paradise Regained the general judgment seems now to be right, that it is in many parts elegant, and every where instructive. It was not to be supposed that the writer of Paradise

But surely this poem has merits far superior to "occasional elegance" and “ general instruction;' and indeed that this is really the case is sufficiently implied in the succeeding sentence of Dr. Johnson's cri

Qui facere assuerat

Candida de nigris, et de candenti- tique.

bus atra.

That "the basis of Paradise Regained is narrow" has been the remark of several of the critics. See Bentley's note on Par. Lost, x. 182, who observes upon this work, that Milton "has amplified his scanty materials to a surprising dignity; but yet, being cramped down by a wrong

Recover'd Paradise to all mankind,
By one man's firm obedience fully tried

choice, without the expected applause." To the same purpose are the observations of Bp. Newton, in his Life of Milton, (see the Life, pp. lxi. lxii. for the origin and character of Paradise Regained;) of Mr. Thyer, (see his note on Par. Reg. ii. 1.) and of Bp. Warburton, (see his note on ver. 3.) But we may collect from the author himself, that he designed this poem for, what he terms, the brief epic, which he particularly distinguishes from the great and diffuse epic, of which kind are the great poems of Homer and Virgil, and his own Paradise Lost. [See a passage in the introduction to the second book of his Reason of Church Government, cited by Bp. Newton in his concluding note, b. iv. 639. E.] His model then we may suppose to have been in a great measure the book of Job; and however the subject which he selected may have been considered as narrow ground, and one that cramped his genius, there is no reason to imagine that it was chosen hastily or inconsiderately. It was peculiarly adapted to the species of poem he meant to produce, namely, the brief or didactic epic. The basis he thought perfectly adequate to the superstructure which he meant to raise; to the merit of which the lapse of time bears the material testimony of a gradually increasing admiration. Dunster.

1. I who ere while &c.] Milton begins his Paradise Regained in the same manner as the Paradise Lost; first proposes his subject,

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Through all temptation, and the Tempter foil'd
In all his wiles, defeated and repuls'd,
And Eden rais'd in the waste wilderness.

rents too easily yielding to the same seducing spirit. Besides he might very probably, and indéed very reasonably, be apprehensive, that a subject so extensive as well as sublime might be too great a burden for his declining constitution, and a task too long for the short term of years he could then hope for. Even in his Paradise Lost he expresses his fears, lest he had begun too late, and lest an age too late, or cold climate, or years should have damped his intended wing; and surely he had much greater cause to dread the same now, and be very cautious of launching out too far. Thyer.

It is hard to say whether Milton's wrong notions in divinity led him to this defective plan; or his fondness for the plan influenced those notions. That is, whether he indeed supposed the redemption of mankind (as he here represents it) was procured by Christ's triumph over the Devil in the wilderness; or whether he thought that the scene of the desert opposed to that of Paradise, and the action of a temptation withstood to a temptation fallen under, made Paradise Regained a more regular sequel to Paradise Lost. Or if neither this nor that, whether it was his being tired out with the labour of composing Paradise Lost made him averse to another work of length, (and then he would never be at a loss for fanciful reasons to determine him in the choice

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of his plan,) is very uncertain. All that we can be sure of is, that the plan is a very unhappy one, and defective even in that narrow view of a sequel, for it affords the poet no opportunity of driving the Devil back again to hell from his new conquests in the air. In the mean time nothing was easier than to have invented a good one, which should end with the resurrection, and comprise these four books, somewhat contracted, in an episode, for which only the subject of them is fit. Warburton.

If Milton thought the tempter foiled in all his wiles, defeated, and repulsed, he did not however conceive the redemption of mankind (as I before remarked, Par. Lost, x. 182, so soon effected. See the address of the Angels to our Lord, at the conclusion of this poem, b. iv. 634.

-on thy glorious work Now enter, and begin to save mankind.

Compare b. i, 155–167, and b. iv. 608. See also Mr. Dunster's note on ver. 174 of this book. E.

7. And Eden rais'd in the waste wilderness.] There is, I think, a particular beauty in this line, when one considers the fine allusion in it to the curse brought upon the Paradisiacal earth by the fall of Adam,-Cursed is the ground for thy sake-Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth. Thyer.

So in his translation of the 135th Psalm, written when he

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