Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

1

By his own nation, slain for bringing life,
But to the cross he nails thy enemies.

His own

Milton's genius is softened by the rays of Christianity. As he displayed events preceding Time, he leaves you in that time into which he has introduced you at the fall of man. mind passes over this intermediate world, which it disdains, and hastens to announce the destruction of that Time to whom he gives the wings of hours, to proclaim the renewal of all things, the union of the end and of the beginning, in the bosom of God.

MILTON'S ANGELS.

AMONG the angels there are great varieties of character. Uriel, Raphael, Michael, have each peculiar traits which distinguish them from one another. Raphael is the friend of man.

The portrait which the poet draws of him is replete with modesty and grace.

Sent by God to our first parents, on arriving in Eden, he

Shook his plumes, that heavenly fragrance filled
The circuit wide.

Adam thus calls his partner:

Haste hither Eve, and worth thy sight behold,
Eastward among those trees, what glorious shape
Comes this way moving; seems another morn
Ris'n on mid-noon.

Raphael accosts Adam, as, in Scriptural history, the angels demanded hospitality of the Patriarchs, or, in Pagan annals, gods sat at the table of Baucis and Philemon. Raphael salutes our first mother

On whom the angel Hail
Bestow'd, the holy salutation used
Long after to blest Mary, second Eve.

He then relates, as I have said, what has passed in heaven, the fall of the rebel angels and the creation of the world; he satisfies the curiosity of the father of men; and blushes

Celestial rosy red, love's proper hue,

[ocr errors]

when Adam ventures to question him on the loves of spirits. When he returns to heaven, Adam says:

:

Go, heavenly guest,

thou to mankind
Be good and friendly still, and oft return!

Michael, chief of the heavenly warriors, is sent in his turn, but to banish the guilty pair from Paradise.

Not in his shape celestial, but as man
Clad to meet man: over his lucid arms
While military vest of purple flow'd;
His starry helm unbuckled show'd him prime
In manhood, where youth ended; by his side,
As in a glist'ring zodiac, hung the sword,

Satan's dire dread, and in his hand the spear.
Adam, perceiving him from afar, says to Eve:

Majesty
Invests his coming ; yet not terrible
That I should fear, not sociably mild

As Raphael.

The poet is familiar with all these angels, and makes you live with them. The faithful one in the Satanic host is energetic. I shall presently quote his discourse. Even the cherubim who in

their night-watch surprise Satan at the ear of Eve are correctly drawn. Satan insultingly cries :

Know
ye not me?

ye

knew me once, no mate
For

you, there sitting where ye durst not soar;
Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,
The lowest of your throng.
To whom thus Zephon, answ'ring scorn with scorn:
Think not, revolted spirit, thy shape the same
Or undiminish'd brightness to be known,
As when thou stoodst in heaven upright and pure.
Thy glory then, when thou no more wast good,
Departed from thee.

Thy fear, said Zephon bold,
Will save us trial what the least can do
Single against the wicked, and thence weak.

When Satan transforms himself into a spirit of light, the poet spreads over him all the harmonies of his art.

Under a coronet his flowing hair
In curls on either cheek play'd; wings he wore
Of many-colour'd plumes, sprinkled with gold ;
His habit, fit for speed, succinct, and held

Before his decent steps a silver wand. All these spirits, in their infinite variety and beauty, appear before us as if painted by Michael Angelo or Raphael ; or rather we see that Milton habited and represented them after the pictures of those great masters. He has transferred them from the canvass to poetry, and, by the aid of his lyre, given language to the lips which painting had left mute.

MILTON'S DEMONS AND ALLEGORICAL

PERSONAGES.

It were useless to repeat what every one knows respecting the spirits of darkness, as Milton has produced them. Satan is acknowledged to be an incomparable creation.

Louis Racine makes this remark in speaking of Satan's four soliloquies : « On what occasions does the spirit of rage, the king of evil, utter reflections which may be called wise ? First, when contemplating the beauty of the sun; secondly, in contemplating the beauty of the earth; thirdly, in contemplating the beauty of two beings, who in peaceful converse assure each other of their mutual love ; fourthly, in contemplating one of these creatures alone, among trees, cultivating flowers, the image of innocence and tranquillity. All that is good and fair at first excites his admiration; this awakens remorse, by the remembrance of what he has lost, and the results of his remorse only harden him the more in crime. The

« VorigeDoorgaan »