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his melancholy prospect of death and sickness, raises up a scene of mirth, love, and jollity. The secret pleasure that steals into Adam's heart as he is intent upon this vision, is imagined with great delicacy. I must not omit the description of the loose female troop, who seduced the sons of God, as they are called in scripture.
For that fair female troop thou saw'st that seem'd
The next vision is of a quite contrary nature, and filled with the horrors of war. Adam at the sight of it melts into tears, and breaks out in that passionate speech,
O what are these
Make they but of their brethren, men of men? Milton, to keep up an agreeable variety in his visions, after having raised in the mind of his reader the several ideas of terror which are conformable to the description of war: passes on to those softer images of triumphs and festivals, in that vision of lewdness and luxury which ushers in the flood.
As it is visible that the poet had his eye upon Ovid's account of the universal deluge, the reader may observe with how much judgment he has avoided everything that is redundant or puerile in the Latin poet. We do not here see the wolf swimming among the sheep, nor any of those wanton imaginations which Seneca found fault
with, as unbecoming the great catastrophe of nature. If our poet has imitated that verse in which Ovid tells us that there was nothing but sea, and that this sea had no shore to it, he has not set the thought in such a light as to incur the censure which critics have passed upon it. The latter part of that verse in Ovid is idle and superfluous, but just and beautiful in Milton.
Jamque mare et tellus nullum discrimen habebant,
Sea cover'd sea,
In Milton the former part of the description does not forestall the latter. How much more great and solemn on this occasion is that which follows in our English poet,
-And in their palaces
than that in Ovid, where we are told that the sea-calves lay in those places where the goats were used to browze? The reader may find several other parallel passages in the Latin and English description of the deluge, wherein our poet has visibly the advantage. The sky's being over-charged with clouds, the descending of the rains, the rising
of the seas, and the appearance of the rainbow, are such descriptions as every one must take notice of. The circumstance relating to Paradise is so finely imagined and suitable to the opinions of many learned authors, that I cannot forbear giving it a place in this
Then shall this mount
The transition which the poet makes from the vision of the deluge, to the concern it occasioned in Adam, is exquisitely graceful, and copied after Virgil, though the first thought it introduces is rather in the spirit of Ovid.
How did'st thou grieve then, Adam, to behold
His children, all in view destroy'd at once. I have been the more particular in my quotations out of the eleventh book of Paradise Lost, because it is not generally reckoned among the most shining books of this poem; for which reason the reader might be apt to overlook those many passages in it which deserve our ad. miration. · The eleventh and twelfth are, indeed, built upon that single circumstance of the removal of our first parents from Paradise; but though this is not in itself so great a subject as that in most of the foregoing books, it is extended and diversified with so many surprising incidents and pleasing episodes, that these two last books can by no means be looked upon as unequal parts of this divine poem. I must further add, that had not Milton represented our first parents as driven out of Paradise, his Fall of Man would not have been compleat, and consequently his action would have been imperfect
Milton, after having represented in vision the history of mankind to the first great period of nature, dispatches
the remaining part of it in narration. He has devised a very handsome reason for the angel's proceeding with Adam after this manner; though doubtless the true reason was the difficulty which the poet would have found to have shadowed out so mixed and complicated a story in visible objects. I could wish, however, that the author had done it, whatever pains it might have cost him. To give my opinion freely, I think that the exhibiting part of the history of mankind in vision, and part in narrative, is as if an history painter should put in colours one half of his subject, and write down the remaining part of it. If Milton's poem flags any where, it is in this narration, where in some places the author has been so attentive to his divinity, that he has neglected his poetry. The narration, however, rises very happily on several occasions, where the subject is capable of poetical ornaments, as particularly in the confusion which he describes among the builders of Babel, and in his short sketch of the plagues of Egypt. The storm of hail and fire, with the darkness that overspread the land for three days, are described with great strength. The beautiful passage which follows, is raised upon noble hints in scripture.
-Thus with ten wounds
Divided The river-dragon is an allusion to the Crocodile, which inhabits the Nile, from whence Egypt derives her plenty. This allusion is taken from that sublime passage in Ezekiel: “Thus saith the Lord God, behold I am against thee Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, my river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.' Milton has given us another very noble and poetical
image in the same description, which is copied almost word for word out of the history of Moses.
All night he will pursue, but his approach
And overwhelm their war: As the principal design of this episode was to give Adam an idea of the holy person, who was to re-instate human nature in that happiness and perfection from which it had fallen, the poet confines himself to the line of Abraham, from whence the Messiah was to descend. The angel is described as seeing the Patriarch actually travelling towards the Land of Promise, which gives a particular liveliness to this part of the narration.
I see him, but thou canst not, with what faith
As Virgil's vision in the sixth Æneid probably gave Milton the hint of this whole episode, the last line is a translation of that verse where Anchises mentions the names of places, which they were to bear hereafter.
Hæc tum nomina erunt, nunc sunt sine nomine terræ.
The poet has very finely represented the joy and gladness of heart which rises in Adam upon his discovery of the Messiah. As he sees his day at a distance