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With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from the ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquish’d, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded though immortal : but his doom
Reserved him to more wrath ; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him ; round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witness'd huge affliction and dismay,
Mix'd with obdurate pride and steadfast liate.
At once, as far as angels' ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild ;
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes,
That comes to all ; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.
Such place eternal justice had prepared
For those rebellious; here their prison ordain'd
In utter darkness, and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven,
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.
Oh, how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelm’d
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns, and weltering by his side
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beelzebub : To whom the arch-enemy,
And thence in heaven call'd Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began :

If thou beest he; but oh, how fallen ! how changed
From him, who in the happy realms of light,
Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads, though bright! If he, whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the glorious enterprise,
Join'd with me once, now misery hath join'd
In equal ruin ; into what pit thou seesť
From what height fallen, so much the stronger provedl
He with his thunder : and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms ? yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his rage

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Can else inflict, do I repent or change,
Though changed in outward lustre, that fix'd mind,
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along
Innumerable force of Spirits arm’d,
That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of heaven,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome ;
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power,
Who from the terror of this arm so late
Doubted his empire, that were low indeed,
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall; since, by fate the strength of gods,
And this empyreal substance, cannot fail ;
Since, through experience of this great event,
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal war,
Irreconcileable to our grand foe,
Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of heaven.

So spake the apostate angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud; but rack'd with deep despair;
And him thus answer'd soon his bold compeer:

O prince, O chief of many-throned powers,
That led the embattled seraphim to war
Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds
Fearless, endanger'd heaven's perpetual King,
And put to proof his high supremacy,
Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate,
Too well I see and rue the dire event,
That with sad overthrow and foul defeat
Hath lost us heaven, and all this mighty host
In horrible destruction laid thus low,
As far as gods and heavenly essences
Can perish: for the mind and spirit remain
Invincible, and vigour soon returns,
Though all our glory extinct, and happy state
Here swallow'd up in endless misery.
But what if he our Conqueror, whom I now
Of force believe Almighty, since no less
Than such could have c'erpower'd such force as ours,
Have left us this our spirit and strength entire,
Strongly to suffer and support our pains,

That we may so suffice his vengeful ire,
Or do him mightier service as his thralls
By right of war, whate'er his business be,
Here in the heart of hell to work in fire,
Or do his errands in the gloomy deep?
What can it then avail, though yet we feel
Strength undiminish'd, or eternal being,
To undergo eternal punishment?
Whereto with speedy words the arch-fiend replied :

Fallen cherub, to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering; but of this be sure,
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will,
Whom we resist. If then his providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil ;
Which oft-times may succeed, so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from their destined aim.
But see! the angry Victor hath recallid
His ministers of vengeance and pursuit
Back to the gates of heaven ; the sulphurous hail,
Shot after us in storm, o'erblown, hath laid
The fiery surge, that from the precipice
Of heaven received us falling ; and the thunder,
Wing'd with red lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless deep
Let us not slip the occasion, whether scorn
Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
The seat of desolation, void of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves;
There rest, if any rest can harbour there ;
And, reassembling our afflicted powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our Enemy, our own loss how repair,
How overcome this dire calamity,
What reinforcement we may gain from hope;
If not, what resolution from despair.

Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate, With head uplift above the wave,


That sparkling blazed ; his other parts besides
Prone on the food, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood; in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-born, that warr'd on Jove;
Briareos, or Typhon, whom the deri

political environments, and (what is here the most important of all) of poetic purpose and performance—is almost fatiguingly conspicuous and uniform. An ordinary mind contemplating Milton can realize to itself the feeling of the Athenian who resented hearing Aristides for ever styled “the Just.”. Such a mind feels a little and excusably provoked at the serene and severe loftiness of a Milton, and casts about to find 'him blameworthy in his very superiority -an exacting husband and father, an over-learned writer, cumbrous or stilted in prose, and pedantically accoutred in verse, a political and religious extremist. There may be something in these objections, or the smaller kind of souls will please themselves by supposing there is something in them. Honour is the predominant emotion naturally felt towards Milton-hardly enthusiasm--certainly not sympathy. Perhaps a decided feeling of unsympathy would affect many of us, were it not for the one great misfortune of the poet. Nature had forbidden him to be infirm in himself, but gave him a crown of accidental or physical infirmity, and bowed him somewhat-a little lower than the angels-towards sympathy. This Aristides was blind.

Any one who has even a small inkling of self-knowledge must feel, two centuries after the death of Milton, that to pretend to say much about the quality of his poetry would be an impertinence. Admiration and eulogium are long ago discounted : objections sound insolent, and are at any rate supererogatory. One's portion is to read and reverence. Still, something remains to be defined by an independent appreciator, however deeply respectful. I shall reduce this something to a minimum : and have indeed, in the preceding general observations about Milton's personal and intellectual character, indicated most of the points which seem to deserve some sort of expression with regard to his poetry.

Among Milton's many great attributes, his mastery of the sublime is the one which has probably received the most frequent and most emphatic laudation. For my own part, I think it open to question whether, even in this preëminent possession of a most preëminent poetic gift, he shows so signal a superiority as he does in point of utterance (as it may be called), or sonority. His power over language, in its beauty and its majesty, his mastery of form and of verse, his dominance over all persuasion and all stress and sustainment of sound, its music and loveliness, its resources and charms, its dignity, austerity, and awe,—these form perhaps the most marked distinction of Milton, and his most genuinely and widely felt appeal. It seems conceivable that some readers, not strictly destitute of suscepti


bility to poetry, might remain cold and obtuse to the sublimity of Milton, or might acknowledge without truly admiring it : but anybody who has read Milton with some moderate degree of attention, and who yet fails to feel the noble delight of his diction and music-his “numbers," as an elder generation of critics used happily to phrase itmust be pronounced deficient in the primary sense of poetry.

From a certain point of view, there is no poet more difficult to estimate than Milton—salient and unmistakeable as his leading characteristics are to the least expert student of poetry. To appraise Milton is to appraise Paradise Lost; or, conversely, to appraise Paradise Lost is in the main to appraise Milton. Now Paradise Lost is an enormously difficult book to give a fair account of even to one's own instincts or intuitions-much more to one's critical or reasoning faculties, or, through the medium of words, to the like faculties of the reader. The great difficulty consists in this : That Paradise Lost is so interwoven with the religion and religious associations of the people, and is written from a standard of conception so lofty and ideal in many respects, that one can hardly bring oneself to apply any different standard to it, and yet one feels that in numerous instances the product is not commensurate with that standard. Not so much that it falls below it (though this also is indisputably true in a sense) as that it deviates entirely. To measure some things in the poem by the ideal standard is like trying chemical substances by the wrong test : they yield no response to the demandant. Hence, I think, some disappointment to the prepossessed reader of Paradise Lost, or to the reader who, being unprepossessed, has the courage also to be candid : the poem ought, he fancies, to be as true as a divine oracle, unswerving from the severe and impeccable ideal line, and behold it is considerably otherwise. The fault, or part of the fault, lies with the reader. There is no final reason why the spiritual afflatus which wrapped Milton, the atmosphere of ideas and data in which he lived, should be closer to ultimate truth and right, to the sublime of a divine equity, than those of Homer or any other great poet. The inextinguishable laughter of Olympus is alien to us, but has a poetic value of its own not likely soon to perish : the scholastic harangues of Jehovah and Messiah, or the cannonades of Satan and Moloch, may also be alien to us, and it is only our prejudices which, perceiving them to be thus alien, refuse to allow the fair consequence—that these things must be dismissed as having any connexion with supernal truth, and must henceforth be regarded as merely so much surplusage

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