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dominion of Heaven; he had represented Cromwell as the lieutenant-general of God and the protector of the republic :
Cromwell, our chief of men, who, through a cloud
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough'd,
Hast rear'd God's trophies, and his works pursued,
And Dunbar field resounds thy praises loud,
To conquer still; peace hath her victories
No less renown'd than war : new foes arise
Satan and his angels were pictured to Milton's imagination by the proud Presbyterians, who refused to submit to the Saints, Milton's own faction, of which he hailed the inspired Cromwell as the godly leader.
We discern in Milton a man of troubled spirit ; still under the influence of revolutionary scenes and passions, he stood erect after the downfall of the revolution which had fled to him for shelter, and palpitated in his bosom. But the earnestness of that revolution overpowers him; religious gravity forms the counterpoise to his political agitations. Stunned, however, at the overthrow of his fondest illusions, at the dissipation of his dreams of liberty, he knows not which way to turn, but remains in a state of perplexity, even respecting religious truth.
An attentive perusal of “Paradise Lost” fixes on the mind the impression that Milton fluctuated between a variety of systems. In the very opening of his poem, he avows himself a Socinian by the celebrated expression
one greater man;" he is silent respecting the Holy Ghost, never names the Trinity, nowhere states the Son to be equal to the Father. The Son is not begotten of all eternity; the poet even places his creation after that of the angels. Milton is, if anything, an Arian; he does not admit what is properly called the creation, but supposes a pre-existing matter, co-eternal with the spirit. The particular creation of the universe is no more, in his opinion, than the arrangement of a little corner of chaos, which is ever threatening to return to its previous state of confusion. All the known philosophical theories of the poet have more or less taken root amongst his beliefs ; at one time, Plato with the exemplars of ideas, or Pythagoras with the harmony of the spheres ; at another, Epicurus, or Lucretius, with His materialism, as when he exhibits to view the half-formed animals issuing from the earth. He is a fatalist when making the rebel angel say of himself and his companions :
- We know no time when we were not as now ;
Had circled his full orb.' Milton is, moreover, a pantheist or Spinozist, but his pantheism is of an extraordinary kind.
The poet first appears to admit of the known pantheism, a medley of matter and mind; but, if man had not sinned, Adam would have gradually extricated himself from matter, and acquired the nature of angels. Adam falls into sin. With a view to redeem the spiritual part of man, the Son of God, who is all spirit, assumes a material substance, descends upon earth, dies, and re-ascends into heaven, after passing through matter. Christ thus becomes the vehicle by means of which matter, brought into contact with intelligence, becomes spiritualised. At length, the due time having elapsed, matter or the material world is at an end, and merges into the other principle. “ The Son,” says Milton, 66 shall be absorbed in the bosom of the Father, with the rest of the creatures * ; God shall be all in all." This is a spiritual pantheism, succeeding the pantheism of the two principles.
* This I cannot find in Milton. --- TRANSLATOR.
Thus our soul will be absorbed in the source of spirituality. What is that sea of intelligence, a single drop of which, contained within matter, is sufficiently powerful to comprehend the motion of the spheres and to investigate the nature of God ? What is the Infinite ? What! still worlds after worlds! Imagination is bewildered in its endeavours to penetrate those abysses, and Milton is wrecked in the attempt. Nevertheless, amidst this chaos of principles, the poet remains biblical and a Christian ; he rehearses the fall and the redemption. A Puritan at first, then an Independent and an Anabaptist, he becomes a saint, a quietist, and an enthusiast; it is at length but a voice that sings the praises of the Almighty. Milton had forsaken the house of God; he no longer gave any external signs of religion; in “ Paradise Lost ” he declares that prayer is the only worship acceptable to God.
This poem, which opens in hell, and, passing over the earth terminates in heaven, exhibits only two human beings in the vast wilderness of the new creation ; the rest are the supernatural inhabitants of the abyss of endless felicity, or of the gulf of everlasting misery. Well, then, the poet has dared to penetrate this solitude, where he presents himself as the child of Adam, a deputy of the human race, fallen through disobedience.
He there appears as the hierophant, the prophet, commissioned to learn the history of man's fall, and to sing it on the harp devoted to the penances of David. He is so full of genius, holiness, and grandeur, that his noble head is not misplaced near that of our first parent, in the presence of God and of his angels. Issuing forth from the abyss of darkness, he hails that holy light which is denied
to his eyes.
Hail, holy light, offspring of heaven first-born,
nor sometimes forget Those other two equallid with me in fate. So were I equall’d with them in renown, Blind Thamyris, and blind Mæonides,