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REMARKS ON PARAD1SE REGA1NED.
Tnb "Paradise Regained" bears the same eharaeter, eompared with the "Paradise Lost," as the New Testament bears, eompared with the Old: it is more subdned, more didaetie, more simple and unomamented, more praetieal, and lew imaginative. The holy poet seems to have been awed by his subjeet, and to have given less of his own, either of thonght, matter, or langnage: he appears rather the oraele or ehaunel, through whieh the voiee of the Divinity speaks. There is less of human learning, bnt more than human wisdom;—less of that visionariness of dimlyembodied, half-spiritnal forms; and none of that gorgeous display of sublime ereation, whieh the pietures everywhere abounding in "Paradise Lost" exhibit. All in the "Paradise Regained" wears a sober, serene majesty, like the mellow light of the moon in a ealm antumual evening.
It is trne that the essenee of poetry is not merely imagination or invention, bnt invention of a partieular qnality; and this belongs to the " Paradise Lost" more than to the "Paradise Regained:" as, for instanee, to 8atan's eseape from hell, and his first sight of the newly-ereated globe of earth, and Adam and Eve plaeed in the enjoyment of it, than to the deseription of Christ's entry into the wilderness, and 8atan in disgnise first aeeosting him: bnt though the latter deseription is less grandly imaginative, it is stiil rieh with invention, and invention whieh is truly poetieal: still it is a representation of aetnal existenees, thongh not a eopy of them.
Milton is here pre-eminent in designing eharaeter and sentiment: his dialogne is supported with miraeulons power and foree; and its strength and sublimity shine ont the more from the extreme plaiuness of the langnage: the task was periions to find adeqnate arguments for the eontest between the Divine Humanity and the devil. The reader who is not deeply moved, and deeply instrueted by it, must be one of brntish and hopeless stupidity. I have said before, that I deemed it an unqnestionable duty of every ono who understands the English langnage to study Hilton next to the Holy Writings: this remark more espeeially applies to the deseription of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. The "Paradise Lost" is moral and didaetie, but less so than the " Paradise Regained."
The reader may not here look for what are thought the eommon ornaments or spells of poetry: be must look for stern trnths; for sublime sentiments; for a naked grandenr of imagery; for an absenee of all the rhetorieal flourishes of literary eomposition; for the dietates of a lofty and divine virtne; for a bold and gigantie dispersion of the veil from the delusions of human vanity; for the blase of an Evil 8pirit eelipsed by the splendonr of a Good and Divine 8pirit, iilumined by the lamp of Heaven.
Bnt though a great part of the poem is intelleetnal and argumentative, another large portion is full of grand or beautiful imagery: the deseription of the wilderness at the opening abonnds with sublime seenery: the pieture of the storm at the elose of the last book, with the bright morning whieh sueeeeded, may vie with any of the noblest passages in the "Paradise Lost:" perhaps in expression, while it loses nothing of grandeur, it is more polished than any other to be found.
Milton intended this poem as the brief or didaetie epie, of whieh he oouiidercd the book of Job to be a model, sueh as he notiees in the seeond book of his "Reason of Chureh Government." "Milton," says Hayley, "had already exeeuted one extensive divine poem, peeuliarly distingnished by riehness and sublimity of deseription: in framing a seeond, he naturally wished to vary its eIfeet; to make it rieh in moral sentiment, and sublime in its mode of unfolding the highest wisdom that man ean learn: for this purpose it waa neeessary to keep all the ornamental parts of the poem in dne subordination to the preeeptive. This delieate and diffieult point is aeeompiished with sueh felieity; they are blended together with sueh exquisite harmony and mntnal aid; that, instead of arraigning the plan, we might rather doubt if any possible ehange eould improve it . Assuredly, there is no poem of an epie form, where the sublimest moral is so foreibly and abundantly united to poetieal delight: the splendour of the poem does not blase indeed so intensely as in his larger produetion: here he resembles the Apollo of Ovid; softening his glory in speaking to his son; and avoiding to daszle the faney, that he may deseend into the heart."
In another plaee, Hayley, having spoken of the "uneommon energy and felieity of eomposition in Milton's two poems, however different in design, dimension, and effeet," adds,—"to eensure the 'Paradise Regained,' beeause it does not more resomble the 'Paradise Lost/ is hardly less absurd, than it would be to eondemu the moon for not being a sun; instead of admiring the two different luminaries, and feeling that both the greater and the less are eqnally the work of the some divine and inimitable Powev."
The origin of this poem is attributed to the suggestion of Ellwood, the quukev. Milton had lent this friend, in 1005, his "Paradise Lost," then eompleted in manuseript, at Chalfont, 8t. Giies'; desiring him to peruse it at his leisure, and give bis judgment of it;—"whieh I modestly bnt freely told him," says Ellwood, in his Life of Uimself; "and, after some farther diseourse of it, I pleasantly said to him, 'Thou hast said mueh of Paradise Lost, bnt what bust thou to say of Paradise Fonnd?" He made me no answer, bnt sat some time in a muse; then broko off that diseourse, and fell upon another subjeet." When Ellwood afterwards waited on him in London, Miiton showed him his " Paradise Regained;" and, in a pleasant tone, said to him,—"This is owing to yon; for yon pnt it into my hend by the qnestion yon pnt to me at Chalfont, whieh before I hod not thought of."
Milton, in the opening of this poem, speaking of his Muse, as prompted
to tell of deeds Above heroiek,
eonsiders the subjeet of it, as well as of "Paradise Lost," to be of mueh greater dignity and diffieulty than the argument of Homer and Virgii. Rnt the differenee here is, as Riehardson observes, that he eonfines himself "to nature's bonnds;" not as in the "Paradise Lost," where he soars "above the visible dinrnal sphere:" and so far "Paradise Regained" is less poetieal, beeause it is less imaginative.
"'Paradise Regained' has not met with the approhation that it deserves," says Jortin; "it has not the harmony of numbers, the sublimity of thought, and the beanties of dietion, whieh are in 'Paradise Lost:' it is eomposed in a lower and less striking style;—a style snited to the subjeet . Artful sophistry, false reasoning, set off in the most speeions manner, and refuted by the 8on of God with strong unaffeeted eloqnenee, is the peeuliar exeellenee of this poem." Sir Egerton Rrydges.
REMARKS ON BOOK L
Tnb very ontline of the subjeet of this book of sublime wisdom, argument, and eloqnenee, is of the highest eharaeter of poetry. Our 8aviour, in a fit of meditative abstraetion, and just begiuning to feel his divinity from the signs imparted to him at the haptism of 8t . John, wanders into a desert and harren wilderness, where he loses himself, and fasts for forty days. There 8atan eneonnters him, Iirst in disgnise; and, when deteeted, in his avowed name, to tempt him to his fall; as he had formerly sueeessfully tempted Eve, and thus eIfeeted the rnin of the human raee.
The deseriptive parts are here only oeeasional; bnt when they do oeeur, they are magnifieent and pieturesqne. The argumentative parts form the main mattev. 8atan argnes with the wieked power of a rebellious and per. verted angel; bnt Christ, feeling within him the growing illumination of his mighty mission, always overeomes him: yet the fiend is as subtle, erafty, tlattering, and persnasive, as he is ingenious and vigorous. Our 8avionr had yet seareely plumed his wings; he was doubtful of his own strength; yet a seeret 8pirit from heaven now whispered to him, that he was born for the triai. The dialogne is supported with amasing foree and splendour on both sides: the mind of the profound reader is kept in anxious and trembling suspense. The flash of the demon eomes strong and daszling: then follows the sublime and overwhelming answer, whieh eelipses it at onee; and whieh moves the sonl and heart by its aente and moral grandenr, and its heroie self-deniai.
Rut let it be remembered, that in addition to 8atan's alarming artifiees, onr 8avionr had to sustain hunger, thirst, want of shelter, loneliness in a desert of terrifie gloominess, ont of whieh he eould not find his way: this gives the story a sort of breathless interest, in whieh the human imagination ean find the strongest sympathy. As a divinity, we should not feel the same interest in the fate of the hero of this poem; unless he bad, for the exeention of his great mission, elothed himself with a nature whieh subjeeted him to all the eviis of humanity.
The art with whieh the poet interests us in 8atan himself, is miraeulous: the demon's plausibilities sometimes almost make us pity him. His self-exeulpations, his euuning arguments, to induee a belief that he means no ill-will to man, and that he has no interest in hating him, are invented with astonishing eolour and wiliness: onr 8aviour's ealm deteetion of 8atan's sophistries is delightful and exalting. The reader, who feels in this no human sympathy; no glow at intelleetual foree; no eleetrifieation at the spell of mighty genins; no expansion of the brain; no light to the ideas; no elation and renovation of onr fallen nature:—must be unspiritnalized, and half-imbruted. If any man finds himself eold und dull at first, let him eonsider it a dnty to endeavour by degrees to warm himself. The hardest iee wiil melt at last by the eontinnal impulse of a glowing sun.
Our business is to improve our understandings, and exalt our hearts; to be taught to deteet the delusions of sin and the devil; and to bear the sorrows and wrongs of life with a magnanimous fortitude. What poem does this like "Paradise Regained?" What poem therefore ought we so to study, and beeome famiiiar with? The very anthorities, on whieh its ehief doetrines are bnilt, are in themselves treasures of wisdom.
Rut I am at a loss to gness, what, even on the mere prineiples of poetry, there is of exeellenee wanting in this poem. Invention, eharaeter, sentiment, language,—all in a high degree,—eaunot be denied it . Here is unbounded expanse of thonght, and profundity of wisdom: here is all the moral eloqnenee, whieh is to be found in the noblest anthors of antiquity: here is mueh of the essenee of the inspired writings: here is what perhaps popular readers like best of all,—the most eondensed and solid brevity: here is inexhaustible riehness of thonght eombined with extreme plaiuness, and a seriptural simplieity of expression. I believe that no one ever read florid langnage for any number of pages withont satiety and disgust.
Reantiful as the first book of the "Paradise Regained" is, I think that the poem eontinnes to rise to the last: here is the diffieulty; bnt it would be a fault if it did not. This book is prineipally oeeupied in 8atan's exeulpation of himself: the other books set forth the fiend's temptations, both material and intelleetnal; and onr 8avionr's sublime arguments in answer to him.
The style with whieh the "Paradise Regained" opens, is generally eonsidered more sober, and less removed from its authorities, than that of the "Paradise Lost;" and this is supposed to have partly arisen from the poet's awe of his subjeet, and partly from the weakness of rapidly deelining age. With respeet to the style, Bo far as it is more subdned, lif it be se,l I believe that it has purely been eaused by the ehoiee of his subjeet, and the plainer and simpler language of the New Testament, whieh disdains all ornament, and in whieh the story gives less seope to imagination. Where we are relating reeorded faets, from whieh we dare not vary, onr langnage is neeessarily more eontrolled and tame.
I am only surprised at the boldness of the poet in ehoosing this sublime theme: he eould not bnt have foreseen all its diffieulties; bnt knowing his own perfeet famiiiarity with the seriptural langnage, his gigantie mind hasarded the task. This alone is a proof that he was not eonseious of any "laiiure of strength;" and there is not a single passage in the exeention whieh indieates any sueh faiiure: with whatever else eompared of his immortal writings,. the imagery is as distinet and pieturesqne; the spiritnal part, the thoughts and arguments, are at least equally vigorons, original, diseriminative, and profonnd, and perhaps more abundant: nor has the langnage less of that naked strength, whieh supports iteelf by its own intrinsie powev. 8ir Kgerton Brydgvs.
Tn* subjeet proposed. Invoeation of the Holy 8pirit . The poem opens with John baptixing at the river Jordan: Jesus eoming there is haptised; and is attested, by the deseent of the Holy Ghost, and by a voiee from heaven, to be the 8on of God. 8atan, who is present, upon this immediately flies up into the regions of the air; where, summoning his infernal eouneii, he aequaints them with his apprehensions that Jesus is that seed of the woman, destined to destroy ail their power; and points ont to them the immediate neeessity of bringing the matter to proof, and of attempting, by snares and fraud, to eonnteraet and defeat the person, from whom they have so mueh to dread: this offiee he offers himself to undertake: and, his offer being aeeepted, sets ont on his enterprise. In the mean time, God, in the assembly of holy angels, deelares that he has given up his 8on to be tempted by 8atan; bnt foretels that the tempter shall be eompletely defeated by him: upon whieh the angels sing a hymu of trinmph. Jesus is led up by the 8pirit into the wilderness, white he is meditating on the eommeneement of his great offiee of 8aviour of mankind. Pursning his meditations, be narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and philanthropic impulses he had felt from his early yonth, and how his mother Mary, on pereeiving these dispositions in him, had aeqnainted him with the eireumstanees of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a person than the 8on of God; to whieh he adds what his own inqniries and refleetions had supplied in eonfirmation of this great trnth, and parti
. eularly dwells on the reeent attestation of it at the river Jordan. Our Lord passes forty days, fasting, in the wilderness; where the wild beasts beeome mild and harmless in bis presenee. 8atan now appears under the form of an old peasant; and enters into diseourse with onr Lord, wondering what eould have brought him alone into so dangerous a plaee, and at the same time professing to reeognise him for the person lately aeknowledged by John at the river Jordan, to be the 8on of God. Jesus briefly replies. 8atan rejoins with a deseription of the diffieulty of supporting life in the wilderness; and entreats Jesus, if he be really the 8on of God, to manifest his divine power, by ehanging some of the stones into bread. Jesus reproves him, and at the same time tells him that he knows who he is. 8atan instantly avews himself, and offers an artful apology for himself and his eonduet. Our blessed Lord severely reprimands him, and refutes every part of his justifieation. 8atan, with mueh semblanee of humility, stiil endeavonrs to justify himself; and professing his admiration of Jesus and his regard for virtne, reqnests to be permitted, at a future time, to hear more of his eonversation ; bnt is answered, that this must be as he shall find permission from above. 8atan then disappears, and the book eloses with a short deseription of night eoming on in the desert .