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This idea of God, with which man is impressed throughout the "Paradise Lost," is one of extraordinary sublimity. Eve, in waking to life, is occupied but with her own beauty, and sees God in Man. Adam, as soon as he is created, guessing that he could not have made himself, instantly seeks and calls upon his Maker.
Eve remains sleeping at the foot of the hill. Michael, from its summit, shows Adam, in a vision, his whole race. Thus the Bible is unfolded. First comes the story of Cain and Abel. When Adam sees Abel fall, he exclaims to the Angel,
But have I now seen death? is this the way
Observe that, in the Scriptures, nothing is said of Adam after his fall; silence spreads over the nine hundred and thirty years between his sin and his death. It would seem that the human race, his hapless posterity, durst not speak of him. Even Saint Paul names him not among the Patriarchs who lived by faith. The Apostle commences his list with Abel. Adam passes for the chief of the dead, because in him all mankind died; and yet for nine centuries he saw his sons travelling towards the grave, of which he was the inventor, and which he had opened for them.
After the murder of Abel, the Angel shows Adam a "lazar house," and every different form of death; this picture is full of power, in the style of Tintoretto. The poet says,
Adam could not but weep,
Tho' not of woman born.
A pathetic reflection, inspired by that passage in Job,
"Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble."
The history of the Giants of the mountain, who seduce the females of the plain, is marvellously told. The Deluge offers another vast scene. In this eleventh book, Milton imitates Dante in the form of speech-" Master," used in the dialogue. Dante would have invited Milton as a brother to enter with him the group of great poets.
The twelfth book is no longer a vision, but a narrative. The Tower of Babel, the call of Abraham, the advent of Christ, his incarnation, his resurrection, are replete with beauties of every kind. This book concludes with the banishment of Adam and Eve, and with lines so sad, that every body knows them by heart.
In these last two books, the poet's melancholy is increased; he seems more than ever to feel the
weight of misfortune and age. He attributes to Michael these words:
So mayst thou live, till like ripe fruit thou drop
Gathered, not harshly pluck'd, for death mature:
Thy youth, thy strength, thy beauty, which will change
To what thou hast; and for the air of youth,
To weigh thy spirits down, and last consume
A commentator, speaking of Milton's genius, in these two last books of "Paradise Lost," says, "It is the same ocean, but at the ebb of tide; the same sun, but at the moment of its setting."
Be it so. The sea appears most lovely to my eye when it permits me to wander over its deserted strand, while it retreats towards the horizon with the setting sun.
CHARACTERS OF THE PERSONS IN
ADAM AND EVE.
Milton has given, in the first Man and Woman, the original type of their sons and daughters upon earth.
In their looks divine
The image of their glorious Maker shone,
As the vine curls her tendrils, which imply'd
So pass'd they naked on. nor shunn'd the sight
Adam the goodliest man of men since born
Adam, simple and sublime, instructed by Heaven, and drawing his experience from God, has but one weakness, and it is evident that this weakness will be his ruin. After having recounted his own creation to Raphael, and his conversations with God on solitude, he describes his transports at the first sight of his fair companion:
Methought I saw,—
Though sleeping, where I lay, and saw the shape
The rib he form'd and fashion'd with his hands;