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Thus, measuring things in heaven by things on earth,
$93. It is remarkable with what art and beauty the poet, from the height and sublimity of the rest of the book, descends here, at the close of it, (like the lark from her loftiest notes in the clouds,) to the most prosaic simplicity of language and numbers: a simplicity which not only
gives it variety, but the greatest majesty. -NEWTON.
900. He. The construction requires him. Or we may understand it as, He it is who envies, &c.
909. Thy weaker. 1 Peter iii. 7.
REMARKS ON BOOK VII.
THE seventh book is nothing but delight;-all beauty, and hope, and smiles: it has little of the awful sublimity of the preceding books; and it has much less of that grand invention, which sometimes astonishes with a painful emotion, but which is the first power of a poet: at the same time, there is poetical invention in filling up the details.
In every description Milton has seized the most picturesque feature, and found the most expressive and poetical words for it. On the mirror of his mind all creation was delineated in the clearest and most brilliant forms and colours; and he has reflected them with such harmony and enchantment of language as has never been equalled.
The globe with all its rich contents thus lies displayed before us, like a landscape under the freshness of the dewy light of the opening morning, when the shadows of night first fly away.
Here is to be found every thing which in descriptive poetry has the greatest spell: all majesty or grace of forms, animate or inanimate; all variety of mountains, and valleys, and forests, and plains, and seas, and lakes, and rivers; the vicissitudes of suns and of darkness; the flame and the snow; the murmur of the breeze; the roar of the tempest.
One great business of poetry is to teach men to see, and feel, and think upon the beauties of the creation, and to have gratitude and devotion to their Maker: this can best be effected by a poet's eye and a poet's tongue. Poets can present things in lights which can warm the coldest hearts: he who can create himself, can best represent what is already created.-SIR EGERTON Brydges.
In the seventh book the author appears in a kind of composed and sedate majesty; and though the sentiments do not give so great an emotion as those in the former book, they abound with magnificent ideas. The sixth book, like a troubled ocean, represents greatness in confusion; the seventh affects the imagination like the ocean in a calm; and fills the mind of the reader, without producing in it any thing like tumult or agitation.
In this book, which gives us an account of the six days' work, the poet received but very few assistances from heathen writers, who were strangers to the wonders of creation: but, as there are many glorious strokes of poetry upon this subject in Holy Writ, the author has numberless allusions to them through the whole course of this book. The great eritic, Longinus, though a heathen, has taken notice of the sublime manner in which the lawgiver of the Jews has described the creation in the first book of Genesis: and there are many other passages in Scripture, which rise up to the same majesty, where this subject is touched upon. Milton has shown his judgment very remarkably in making use of such of these as were proper for his poem; and in duly qualifying those high strains of Eastern poetry, which were suited to readers, whose imagina. tions were set to a higher pitch than those of colder climates.
Adam's speech to the angel, where he desires an account of what passed within the regions of nature before the creation, is very great and solemn. The lines, in which he tells that the day is not too far spent for him to enter upon such a subject, are exquisite in their kind, v. 98.
The angel's encouraging our first parents in a modest pursuit after knowledge, and the causes which he assigns for the creation of the world, are very just and beautiful. The Messiah, by whom, as we are told in Scripture, the heavens were made, comes forth in the power of his Father, surrounded with a host of angels, and clothed with such a majesty, as becomes his entering upon a work, which, according to our conceptions, appears the utmost exertion of Omnipotence. What a beautiful description has our author raised upon that hint in one of the prophets ! "And behold there came four chariots out from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of brass :"—
About his chariots numberless were pour'd, &c.
I do not know any thing in the whole poem more sublime than the description which follows; where the Messiah is represented at the head of his angels, as looking down into the chaos, calming its confusion, riding into the midst of it, and drawing the first outline of the creation.
The beauties of description in this book lie so very thick, that it is impossible to enumerate them in these remarks. The poet has employed on them the whole energy of our tongue: the several great scenes of the creation rise up to view, one after another, in such a manner, that the reader seems present at this wonderful work, and to assist among the choirs of angels, who are the spectators of it. How glorious is the conclusion of the first day! v. 252, &c. We have the same elevation of thought in the third day, when the mountains were brought forth, and the deep was made: we have also the rising of the whole vegetable world described in this day's work, which is filled with all the graces that other poets have lavished on their description of the spring, and leads the reader's imagination into a theatre equally surprising and beautiful. The several glories of the heavens make their appearances on the fourth day.
One would wonder how the poet could be so concise in his description of the six days' work, as to comprehend them within the bounds of an episode and, at the same time, so particular, as to give us a lively idea of them. This is still more remarkable in his account of the fifth and sixth days, in which he has drawn out to our view the whole animal creation, from the reptile to the behemoth. As the lion and the leviathan are two of the noblest productions in the world of living creatures, the reader will find a most exquisite spirit of poetry in the account which our author gives us of them. The sixth day concludes with the formation of man; upon which, the angel takes occasion, as he did after the battle in heaven, to remind Adam of his obedience, which was the principal design of his visit.
The poet afterwards represents the Messiah returning into heaven and taking a survey of his great work. There is something inexpressibly sublime in this part of the poem, where the author describes the great period of time filled with so many glorious circumstances; when the heavens and earth were finished; when the Messiah ascended up in triumph through the everlasting gates; when he looked down with pleasure upon his new creation; when every part of nature seemed to rejoice in its existence; "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy."-ADDISON.
RAPHAEL, at the request of Adam, relates how and wherefore this world was first created; that God, after the expelling of Satan and his angels out of heaven, declared his pleasure to create another world, and other creatures to dwell therein; sends his Son with glory, and attendance of angels, to perform the work of creation in six days; the angels celebrate with hymns the performance thereof, and his reascension into heaven.
DESCEND from heaven, Urania, by that name
Lest from this flying steed unrein'd, (as once
1. Urania, Heavenly; thus here, as in the opening of the poem, he invokes the "heavenly muse."
episode, which consists of two parts, the war in heaven, and the new creation: the latter is confined to a narrower compass, and bound within the visible sphere of day.
8. See Prov. viii. 24, 25, 30.
19. Aleian field. This was a tract of country in Cilicia, (Asia Minor.) east of the river Sarus, (which is the river next east to the Cydnus, on which was Tarsus) where Bellerophon was fabled to have been thrown from his horse Pegasus, and to have perished.
21 Half yet, &c. That is, half of the obnoxious to the government, and hav
25. Though fallen, &c. The repetition and turn of the words is very beautiful: a lively picture this, in a few lines, of the poet's wretched condition. Though he was blind, "in darkness; and with dangers compass'd round, and solitude,"
On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues;
Of that wild rout that tore the Thracian bard
Say, goddess, what ensued, when Raphael,
Of all tastes else to please their appetite,
Of things so high and strange; things, to their thought
And war so near the peace of God in bliss,
ing a world of enemies among the royal party, and therefore obliged to live very much in privacy and alone, he was not become "hoarse or mute." And what strength of mind was it, that could not only support him under the weight of these misfortunes, but enable him to soar to such heights, as no human genius ever reached before.-NEWTON. Who will
not add,-and as no human genius has reached since?
33. Of Bacchus, &c. Milton here, doubtless, intends to satirize the dissoluteness of Charles the Second and his court, from whom he seems to have appre hended the fate of Orpheus.
59. Repeal'd: Dismissed, banished.