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entranced after their dreadful overthrow and fall from heaven, before they could recover either the use of thought or speech, is a noble circumstance, and very finely imagined. The division of hell into seas of fire, and into firm ground impregnated with the same furious element, with that particular circumstance of the exclusion of Hope from those infernal regions, are instances of the same great and fruitful invention.
The thoughts in the first speech and description of Satan, who is one of the principal actors in this poem, are wonderfully proper to give us a full idea of him. His pride, envy, and revenge, obstinacy, despair, and impenitence, are all of them very artfully interwoven. In short, his first speech is a complication of all those passions which discover themselves separately in several other of his speeches in the poem. The whole part of this great enemy of mankind is filled with such incidents as are very apt to raise and terrify the reader's imagination. Of this nature in the book now before us, is his being the first that awakens out of the general trance, with his posture on the burning lake, bis rising from it, and the description of his shield and spear:
Thus Satan talking to bis nearest mate,
-His pond'rous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large and round,
Over the burning marleTo which we may add his call to the fallen angels that lay plunged and stupified in the sea of fire :
He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of bell resounded. But there is no single passage in the whole poem worked up to a greater sublimity, than that wherein his person is described in those celebrated lines :
-He, above the rest
&c. His sentiments are every way answerable to his character, and suitable to a created being of the most exalted and most depraved nature. Such is that in which he takes possession of his place of torments :
Hail, horrors! hail,
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
Here at least
Here we may reign secure ; and in my choice
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heav'n. Amidst those impieties which this enraged spirit utters in other places of the poem, the author has taken care to introduce none that is not big with absurdity, and incapable of shocking a religious reader; his words, as the poet himself describes them, bearing only a 'semblance of worth, not substance. He is likewise with great art described as owning his adversary to be Almighty. Whatever perverse interpretation be puts on the justice, mercy, and other attributes of the Supreme Being, he frequently confesses his omnipotence, that being the perfection he was forced to allow him, and the only consideration which could support bis pride under the shame of his defeat,
Nor must I here omit that beautiful circumstance of his bursting out into tears, upon his survey of those innumerable spirits whom he had involved in the same guilt and ruin with himself:
-He now prepared
Tears, such as angels weep, burst forthThe catalogue of evil spirits bas abundance of learning in it, and a very agreeable turn of poetry, which rises in a great measure from its describing the places where they were worshipped, by those beautiful marks of rivers so frequent among the ancient poets. The author had doubtless in this place Homer's catalogue of ships, and Virgil's list of warriors, in his view. The characters of Moloch and Belial prepare the reader's mind for their
respective speeches and behavior in the second and sixth books. The account of Thammuz is finely romantic, and suitable to what we read among the ancients of the worship which was paid to that idol:
- Thammuz came next behind,
The reader will pardon me if I insert as a note on this beautiful passage, the account given us by the late ingenious Mr. Maundrell of this ancient piece of worship, and probably the first occasion of such a superstition. • We came to a fair large river; doubtless the ancient river Adonis, so famous for the idolatrous rites performed here in lamentation of Adonis. We had the fortune to see what may be supposed to be the occasion of that opinion which Lucian relates concerning this river, viz. that this stream, at certain seasons of the year, especially about the feast of Adonis, is of a bloody colour; which the heathens looked upon as proceeding from a kind of syinpathy in the river for the death of Adonis, who was killed by a wild boar in the mountains, out of which this stream rises. Something like this we saw actually come to pass : for the water was stained to a surprising redness; and, as we observed in travelling, had discoloured the sea a great way into a reddish hue, occasioned doubtless by a sort of lum, or red earth, washed into the river by the violence of the rain, and not by any stain from Adonis's blood.'
The passage in the catalogue, explaining the manner how spirits transform themselves by contraction or enlargement of their dimensions, is introduced with great judgment, to make way for several surprising accidents in the sequel of the poem.
There follows one at the very end of the first book, which is what the French critics call marvellous, but at the same time probable, by reason of the passage last mentioned. As soon as the infernal palace is finished, we are told the multitude and rabble of spirits immediately shrunk themselves into a small compass, that there might be room for such a numberless assembly in this capacious hall. But it is the poet’s refinement upon this thought which I most admire, and which is indeed very noble in itself. For he tells us, that notwithstanding the vulgar among the fallen spirits contracted their forms, those of the first rank and dignity still preserved their natural dimensions.
Thus incorporeal spirits to smallest forms
Frequent and full
There are several other strokes in the first book wonderfully poetical, and instances of that sublime genius so peculiar to the author. Such is the description of Azazel's stature, and the infernal standard which he