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Who ere while the happy garden fung, By one man's disobedience loft, now fing Recover'd Paradife to all mankind,
Milton's Paradife Regain'd has not met with the approbation that it deferves. It has not the harmony of numbers, the fublimity of thought, and the beauties of diction, which are in Paradife Loft. It is compofed in a lower and lefs ftriking ftile, a ftile fuited to the fubject. Artful fophiftry, falfe reafoning, fet off in the moft fpecious manner, and refuted by the Son of God with ftrong unaffected eloquence, is the peculiar excellence of this poem. Satan there defends a bad caufe with great fkill and fubtlety, as one thoroughly verfed in that craft;
Qui facere affuerat
Candida de nigris, et de candentibus atra.
ere while &c. is plainly an allufion to the Ille ego qui quondam &c. attributed to Virgil: but it doth not therefore follow that Milton had no better tafte than to conceive thefe lines to be genuin. Their being fo well known to all the learned was reafon fufficient for his imitation of them, as it was for Spenfer's before him:
Lo, I the man, whose Muse whileom did mask,
As time her taught, in lowly fhepherds weeds,
Am now enforc'd a far unfitter task,
For trumpets ftern to change mine oaten reeds &c.
2. By one man's disobedience] The oppofition of one man's disobedience
His character is well drawn. Fortin. in this verfe to one man's obedience in
1. I who ere while &c.] Milton begins his Paradife Regain'd in the fame manner as the Paradife Loft; firft propofes his fubject, and then invokes the affiftance of the Holy Spirit. The beginning I who
ver. 4. is fomewhat in the ftile and manner of St. Paul. Rom. V. 19. For as by one man's disobedience many were made finners; fo by the obedience of one hall many be made righteous.
3. Recover'd Paradife] It may feem
By one man's firm obedience fully try'd
Thou Spirit who ledst this glorious eremite
Against the spiritual foe, and brought'ft him thence
feem a little odd at first, that Milton fhould impute the recovery of Paradife to this fhort fcene of our Saviour's life upon earth, and not rather extend it to his agony, crucifixion &c, but the reason no doubt was, that Paradife regain'd by our Saviour's refifting the temptations of Satan might be a better contraft to Paradife loft by our first parents too eafily yielding to the fame feducing Spirit. Befides he might very probably, and indeed very reasonably, be apprehenfive, that a fubject fo extenfive as well as fublime might be too great a burden for his declining conftitution, and a talk too long for the fhort term of years he could then hope for. Even in his Paradife Loft he expreffes his fears, left he had begun too late, and left an age too late, or cold climate, or years should have damp'd his intended wing; and furely he had much greater caufe to dread the fame now, and be very cautious of lanching out too far. Thyer. It is hard to fay whether Milton's wrong notions in divinity led him
to this defective plan; or his fondnefs for the plan influenced thofe notions. That is whether he indeed fuppofed the redemption of mankind (as he here reprefents it) was procured by Chrift's triumph over the Devil in the wilderness i or whether he thought that the scene of the defert opposed to that of Paradife, and the action of a temptation withftood to a temptation fallen under, made Paradife Regain'd a more regular fequel to Paradife Loft. Or if neither this nor that, whether it was his being tired out with the labor of compofing Paradife Loft made him averfe to another work of length (and then he would never be at a lofs for fanciful reafons to determin him in the choice of his plan) is very uncertain. All that we can be fure 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 conquefts in the air. In the mean time
By proof th' undoubted Son of God, inspire,
As thou art wont, my prompted fong elfe mute,
nothing was easier than to have invented a good one, which fhould end with the refurrection, and comprife these four books, fomewhat contracted, in an episode, for which only the fubject of them is fit.
And Eden rais'd in the waste wilderness.] There is, I think, particular beauty in this line, when one confiders the fine allufion in it to the curfe brought upon the Paradifiacal earth by the fall of Adam,Curfed is the ground for thy fake-Thorns alfo and thiftles fhall it bring forth. Thyer.
8. Thou Spirit who ledft this glorious eremite] The invocation is properly addrefs'd to the Holy Spirit, not only as the infpirer of every good work, but as the leader of our Saviour upon this occafion into the wildernefs. For it is faid
Mat. IV. 1. Then was Jefus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the Devil. And from the Greek original pnp the defert, and ερημίτης an inhabitant of the defert, is rightly formed the word