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BORN, 1608,-died, 1674.

It is difficult to know what to do with some of the finest passages in Milton's great poem. To treat the objectionable points of their story as mythological, might be thought irreverent to opinion; and to look upon them in the light in which he at first wished us to regard them (for he is understood to have changed his own opinions of it), involves so much irreverence towards the greatest of beings, that it is painful to seem to give them counteThe difficulty is increased in a volume of the present kind, which is intended to give the reader no perplexity, except to know what to admire most. I have therefore thought it best to confine the extracts from Paradise Lost to unconnected passages; and the entire ones to those poems which he wrote when a happy youth, undegenerated into superstition. The former will still include his noblest flights of imagination: the rest are ever fresh, true, and delightful.


Milton was a very great poet, second only (if second) to the very greatest, such as Dante and Shakspeare; and, like all great poets, equal to them in particular instances. He had no pretensions to Shakspeare's universality; his wit is dreary; and (in general) he had not the faith in things that Homer and Dante had, apart from the intervention of words. He could not let them speak for themselves without helping them with his learning. In all he did, after a certain period of youth (not to speak it irreverently), something of the schoolmaster is visible; and a gloomy religious creed removes him still farther from the universal gratitude and delight of mankind. He is understood, however, as I have just intimated, to have given this up before he died. He had then run the circle of his knowledge, and

probably come round to the wiser, more cheerful, and more poetical beliefs of his childhood.

In this respect, Allegro and Penseroso are the happiest of his productions; and in none is the poetical habit of mind more abundantly visible. They ought to precede the Lycidas (not unhurt with theology) in the modern editions of his works, as they did in the collection of minor poems made by himself. Paradise Lost is a study for imagination and elaborate musical structure. Take almost any passage, and a lecture might be read from it on contrasts and pauses, and other parts of metrical harmony; while almost every word has its higher poetical meaning and intensity; but all is accompanied with a certain oppressiveness of ambitious and conscious power. In the Allegro and Penseroso, &c., he is in better spirits with all about him; his eyes had not grown dim, nor his soul been forced inwards by disappointment into a proud self-esteem, which he narrowly escaped erecting into self-worship. He loves nature, not for the power he can get out of it, but for the pleasure it affords him; he is at peace with town as well as country, with courts and cathedralwindows; goes to the play and laughs; to the village-green and dances; and his study is placed, not in the Old Jewry, but in an airy tower, from whence he good-naturedly hopes that his candle-I beg pardon, his "lamp," for he was a scholar from the first, though not a Puritan-may be "seen" by others. His mirth, it is true, is not excessively merry. It is, as Warton says, the "dignity of mirth;" but it is happy, and that is all that is to be desired. The mode is not to be dictated by the mode of others; nor would it be so interesting if it were. The more a man is himself the better, provided he add a variation to the stock of comfort, and not of sullenness. Milton was born in a time of great changes; and in the order of events and the working of good out of ill, we are bound to be grateful to what was of a mixed nature in himself, without arrogating for him that exemption from the mixture which belongs to no man. the same principle on which nature herself loves joy better than grief, health than disease, and a general amount of welfare than the reverse (urging men towards it where it does not prevail, and making many a form of discontent itself but a mode of pleasure and

But upon

self-esteem), so Milton's great poem never has been, and never can be popular (sectarianism apart) compared with his minor ones; nor does it, in the very highest sense of popularity, deserve to be. It does not work out the very piety it proposes; and the piety which it does propose wants the highest piety of an intelligible charity and reliance. Hence a secret preference for his minor poems among many of the truest and selectest admirers of Paradise Lost,-perhaps with all who do not admire power in any shape above truth in the best; hence Warton's fond edition of them, delightful for its luxurious heap of notes and parallel passages; and hence the pleasure of being able to extract the finest of them, without misgiving, into a volume like the present.


He scarce had ceas'd, when the superior Fiend
Was moving toward the shore, his ponderous shield
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening from the top of Fesolé

Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers or mountains in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand,
He walk'd with, to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marle, not like those steps
On Heaven's azure; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire:
Nathless he so endur'd, till on the beach
Of that inflamèd sea he stood, and call'd,
His legions, angel forms, who lay entranc'd
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades,
High over-arch'd, embower; or scatter'd sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm'd
Hath vex'd the Red Sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian Chivalry,

While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore their floating carcasses

And broken chariot wheels: so thick bestrown,
Abject and lost lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded. Princes, Potentates,
Warriors, the flower of Heaven, once yours, now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seize

Eternal Spirits; or have ye chosen this place

After the toil of battle to repose

Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the conqueror? who now beholds
Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood,
With scatter'd arms and ensigns; till anon
His swift pursuers from heaven-gates discern
The advantage, and, descending, tread us down,
Thus drooping, or with linkèd thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!


All these and more came flocking; but with looks
Downcast and damp; yet such wherein appear'd
Obscure, some glimpse of joy, to have found their chief
Not in despair; which on his countenance cast
Like doubtful hue; but he, his wonted pride
Soon recollecting, with high words, that bore
Semblance of worth, not substance, gently rais'd
Their fainting courage, and dispell'd their fears.
Then straight commands, that at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions be uprear'd

His mighty standard: that proud honor claim'd
Azazel as his right, a cherub tall;

Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurl'd
The imperial ensign; which, full high advanc'd,
Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind,
With gems and golden lustre rich emblaz'd,
Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while
Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds:
At which the universal host up-sent

A shout, that tore Hell's concave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.
All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air
With orient colors waving: with them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
Appear'd, and serried shields, in thick array
Of depth immeasurable: anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood
Of flutes and soft recorders; such as rais'd
To height of noblest temper heroes old
Arming to battle; and instead of rage
Deliberate valor breath'd, firm and unmov'd
With dread of death to flight or foul retreat,
Nor wanting power to mitigate and swage
With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase
Anguish, and dòubt, and fèar, and sòrrow, and pain,
From mortal or immortal minds. Thus they
Breathing united force, with fixed thought,
Mov'd on in silence to soft pipes, that charm'd
Their painful steps o'er the burnt soil: and now
Advanc'd in view they stand, a horrid front
Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise
Of warriors old with order'd spear and shield;
Awaiting what command their mighty chief
Had to impose: he through the armed files
Darts his experienc'd eye, and soon traverse
The whole battalion views; their order due;
Their visages and stature as of gods;
Their number last he sums. And now his heart
Distends with pride, and hardening in his strength,
Glories: for never, since created man,

Met such embodied force, as nam'd with these
Could merit more than that small infantry
Warr'd on by cranes; though all the giant brood
Of Phlegra with the heroic race were join'd
That fought at Thebes and Ilium, on each side
Mix'd with auxiliar gods; and what resounds
In fable or romance of Uther's son

Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptiz'd or infidel,
Jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,
Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond,
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore,
When Charlemain with all his peerage fell
By Fontarabbia. Thus far these beyond

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