« FöregåendeFortsätt »
And drop down clouds of flowers ? Did'st not thou bow
Long might he look, and look, and long in vain,
Might load his harvest in an empty wain,
She ended, and the heavenly Hicrarchies
The carth, and her firm basis quite in sunder,
Flam'd all in just revenge, and mighty thunder, Heaven stole itself from earth by clouds that moisten dunder. The awful grandeur of celestial indignation seems to lift itself up in the majesty of these lines. The sudden preparation of the heavenly warriors, the clangor of arms and the uprising of the Deity himself, are splendid images, which are known to the reader of Paradise Lost not to have escaped the notice of Milton. The pause at the beginning of the stanza is a note of solemn preparation.
The reappearance of Mercy in the midst of darkness and tumult is very picturesque ; her face soon glimmers through, and paints the clouds with beauty
As when the cheerful sun, elamping wide,
Wrapt in a sable cloud from mortal eyes
The hasty stars at noon begin to rise,
But soon as he again deshadow'd is,
So Mercy once again herself displays,
Out from her sister's cloud, and open lay's
The poct then describes the charms of Mercy in verses sparkling as the "discoloured plumes" of the graces that attend upon her. His "gelden phrases flie" in a stream of “choicest rhetorie."
The gentleness of Mercy is contrasted with the haggard wretchedness of Repentance:
Deeply, alas, impassioned she stool,
Crouching upon the ground in sacklotlı trust,
Early and late she pray'd, and fast she must,
And first within the porch and jaws of hell,
Her wretchedness Fletcher wanted the energy of Sackville's iron pen. The impersonations of Dread, Revenge, Misery, and Death, placed by that writer in the Porch of Hell, have never been surpassed. They stand out in the ghastly reality of life, and fill the mind with a solemn visionary terror.
When Mercy beheld the wretched form of Repentance sitting in “a dark valley" she sent to comfort her one of her loveliest attendants, "smiling Eirene *
That a garland wears
And them to guide unto their Master's home,
A star comes dancing up the orient.
Bring, bring, ye Graces, all your silver flaskets,
So down she let her eyelids fall, to shine
Upon the rivers of bright Palestine. So beautifully does the poet strew with flowers the path of the infant Jesus.
The second canto, Christ's Victorie on Earth, opens with the temptation of our Saviour in the wilderness, The fanciful prettiness of Fletcher contrasts_upleasingly with the calm and dignified narrative of Milton, who, without departing from the text of Scripture, where it is said, Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, has invested it with a poetical character. Fletcher's picture of our Saviour upon "a grassy hillock laid," with “woody primroses befreckled," does not impress us like Milton's description of Him, who the "better to converse with solitude," entered the
bordering desert wild,
pursued "his holy meditations." The silence of the desert dwells around us!
In the representation of our Lord's personal appearance Fletcher has manifested a still greater absence of judgment; it is principally formed from the Canticles, and in a style of fantastical colouring, peculiarly displeasing in a sacred poem. The author might, however, have pleaded the prevalent taste of the age in extenuation. Two nights the Saviour has passed in "the silent wilderness," making "the ground his bed, and his moist pillow grass," when he discovers afar off an old palmer, "come footing slowly," who entreats him to bless his lowly roof with his presence. Milton concurred with Fletcher in concealing the Prince of Darkness under the form of an aged man. This similitude appears to have been generally adopted. In La Vita et Passione di Christo, published at Venice in 1518, a wooden cut is prefixed to the Temptation, in which Satan is represented as an old •man with a long beard, offering bread to our Lord. In Vischer's cuts to the Bible, as noticed by Thyer, the teinpter is an aged man, and Mr. Dunster has pointed out the same circumstance in the painting of the Temptation by Salvator Rosa*.
They wander along together until they arrive at a dismal abode, the Cave of Despair
E'er long they came near to a baleful bower,
The ground no herbs but venomous did bear,
Nor ragged trees did leave; but every where
* See Todd's Works of Milton, V. 4, preliminary observations, p. 18.
Upon the roof the bird of sorrow sat,
Th' unblessed house ; there, on a craggy stone,
Celeno hung, and made his direful moan,
Sunk in his skull, his starry eyes did glow,
That made him deadly look, their glimpse did show
Some winged fury, straight the hasty foot,
Eager to fly, cannot pluck up its root :
And ever as he crept would squint aside,
Lest him, perhaps, some fury had espied,
• Select Specimens, vol. i. p. 81.