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The perfect season offer'd with my aid
So talk'd he, while the Son of God went on
Me worse than wet thou find'st not; other harm,
As false portents, not sent from God, but thee;
To whom the fiend, now swoln with rage, replied:
All men are sons of God; yet thee I thought
Good reason then, if I before-hand seek
To try thee, sift thee, and confess have found thee
Of adamant, and, as a centre, firm;
To the utmost of mere man both wise and good,
So saying, he caught him up, and, without wing
There stand, if thou wilt stand; to stand upright
561. He said and stood. The tempter | sets our Saviour on a pinnacle of the temple, and there requires of him a proof of his divinity, either by standing or casting himself down, as he might safely do if he was the Son of God, according to the quotation from the Psalmist. To this our Saviour answers, as he answers in the Gospe's.-"It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God," tacitly inferring that his casting himself down would be tempting God.
Have brought thee, and highest placed: highest is best:
He said, that is, he gave this reason for not casting himself down, and stood. His standing properly makes the discovery, and is the principal proof of his progeny that the Tempter required. Now show thy progeny. His standing convinces Satan. His standing is considered as the display of his divinity, and the immediate cause of Satan's fall; and the grand contrast is formed between the standing of the one, and the fall of the other. NEWTON.
But Satan, smitten with amazement, fell.
True image of the Father; whether throned
564. Irassa or Iresus, a beautiful country of Libya, not far from Cyrene. Jove's Alcides: H cules.
572. Theban monster: The Sphinx, whose riddle (Edipus solved; whereupon she cast herself headlong from the citadel of Thebes-termed the Ismenian steep, from the Ismenus, which ran by Thebes.
583. Him, according to the common construction of language, certainly must refer to Satan, the person last mentioned. The intended sense of this passage cannot indeed be misunderstood; but we grieve to find any inaccuracy in a part of the poem so eminently beautiful.DUNSTER.
585. Blithe air: Glad, merry, cheerful,
as pleased with its burden: a beautiful figure.
596. True image, &c. All the poems that ever were written must yield, even Paradise Lost must yield to the Regained, in the grandeur of its close. Christ stands triumphant on the pointed eminence. The Demon falls with amazement and terrour, on this full proof of His being that very Son of God whose thunder forced him out of Heaven. The blessed Angels receive new knowledge. They behold a sublime truth established, which was a secret to them at the beginning of the temptation, and the great discovery gives a proper opening to their hymn on the victory of Christ and the defeat of the Tempter.-COLTON.
Wandering the wilderness; whatever place,
For Adam and his chosen sons, whom thou,
Or lightning, thou shalt fall from heaven, trod down
Thus they the Son of God, our Saviour meek,
619. Autumnal stars, and Sirius in particular, were supposed to produce mischief to mankind. Lightning: see Luke X. 18.
624. Abaddon. The name of the angel |
of the bottomless pit (Rev. ix. 11) is here applied to the bottomless pit itself.
629. Yelling, &c. See Matt. viii. 28, and Rev. xx. 1, 2, 3.
605. Debel, defeat.
Ir has been observed of almost all the great epic poems, that they fall off, and become languid, in the conclusion. This last book of the "Paradise Regained" is one of the finest conclusions of a poem, that can be produced. They who talk of our author's genius being in the decline when he wrote his second poem, and who therefore turn from it, as from a dry prosaic composition, are, I will venture to say, no judges of poetry. With a fancy such as Milton's, it must have been more difficult to forbear poetic decorations, than to furnish them; and a glaring profusion of ornament would, I conceive, have more decidedly betrayed the poeta senescens, than a want of it. The first book of the "Paradise Lost" abounds in similies, and is, in other respects, as elevated and sublime as any in the whole poem: but here the poet's plan was totally different. Though it may be said of the "Paradise Regained," as Longinus has said of the "Odyssey," that it is the epilogue of the preceding poem; still the design and conduct of it is as different as that of the "Georgics" from the "Eneid." The "Paradise Regained" has something of the didactic character: it teaches not merely by the general moral, and by the character and conduct of its hero; but has also many positive precepts everywhere interspersed. It is written for the most part in a style admirably condensed, and with a studied reserve of ornament: it is nevertheless illuminated with beauties of the most captivating kind. Its leading feature throughout is that "excellence of composition," which, as Lord Monboddo justly observes, so eminently distinguished the writings of the ancients; and in which, of all modern authors, Milton most resembles them.
At the commencement of this book the argument of the poem is considerably advanced. Satan appears hopeless of success, but still persisting in his enterprise: the desperate folly and vain pertinacity of this conduct are perfectly well exemplified and illustrated by three apposite similies, each successively rising in beauty above the other. The business of the temptation being thus resumed, the tempter takes our Lord to the western side of the mountain, and shows to him Italy, the situation of which the poet marks with singular accuracy; and, having traced the Tiber from its source in the Apennines to Rome, he briefly enumerates the most conspicuous objects that may be supposed at first to strike the eye on a distant view of this celebrated city. Satan now becomes the speaker; and, in an admirably descriptive speech, points out more particularly the magnificent public and private buildings of ancient Rome, descanting on the splendour and power of its state, which he particularly exemplifies in the superb pomp with which their provincial magistrates proceed to their respective governments; and in the numerous ambassadors that arrive from every quarter of the habitable globe, to solicit the protection of Rome and the emperor. These are two pictures of the most highly finished kind: the numerous figures are in motion before us; we absolutely see
Prætors, proconsuls to their provinces
Lictors and rods, the ensigns of their power,
Having observed that such a power as this of Rome must reasonably be preferred to that of the Parthians, which he had displayed in the preceding book, and that there were no other powers worth our Lord's attention; the tempter now begins to apply all this to his purpose: by a strongly drawn description of the vicious and detestable character of Tiberius, he shows how easy it would be to expel him, to take possession of his throne, and to free the Roman people from that slavery in which they were then held. This he proffers to accomplish for our Lord, whom he incites to accept the offer, not only from a principle of ambition, but
"The poet growing old."