Page images

He leaves his Gods, his friends, and native soil,
Ur of Chaldæa, passing now the ford

To Haran : after him a cumb'rous train
Of herds, and flocks, and numerous servitude ;
Not wand'ring poor, but trusting all his wealth
With God, who call'd him, in a land unknown.
Canaan he now attains: I see his tents

135 Pitch'd about Sechem, and the neighb'ring plain Of Moreh: there, by promise, receives Gift to his progeny of all that land, From Hamath northward to the Desert south (Things by their names I call, tho' yet unnamed), 140 From Hermon east to the great western sea ; Mount Hermon, yonder sea; each place behold In

prospect, as I point then : on the shore Mount Carmel : here the double-founted stream Jordan, true limit eastward; but his sons 145 Shall dwell to Senir, that long ridge of hills. This ponder, that all nations of the earth Shall in his seed be blessed. By that seed Is meant thy great Deliv'rer, who shall bruise The Serpent's head: whereof to thee anon 150 Plainlier shall be reveal'd. This patriarch blest, Whom faithful Abraham due time shall call, A son, and of his son a grandchild leaves, Like him in faith, in wisdom, and renown.. The grandchild with twelve sons increased, departs From Canaan to a land, hereafter call'd

158 Egypt, divided by the river Nile. See where it flows, disgorging at seven mouths Into the sea. To sojourn in that land He comes, invited by a younger son,

160 In time of dearth : a son whose worthy deeds Raise him to be the second in that realm Of Pharaoh. There he dies, and leaves his race Growing into a nation, and now grown Suspected to a sequent King, who seeks

165 To stop their overgrowth, as inmate guests Too num'rous; whence of guests he makes them slaves Inhospitably', and kills their infant males : Till by two brethren (those two brethren call Muses and Aaron) sent from God to claim 170 His people from iuthralment, they return With glory' and spoil back to their promised land. But first the lawless tyrant, who denies To know their God, or message to regard, Must be compellid by signs and judgments dire. 175 To blood unshed the rivers must be turn'd; Frogs, lice, and flies must all his palace fill With loath'd intrusion, and fill all the land; His cattle must of rot and murrain die; Botches and blains must all his flesh emboss, 180 And all his people; thunder mix'd with hail, Hail mix'd with fire, must rend th’Egyptian sky, And wheel on th' earth, devouring where it rolls; What it devours not, herb, or fruit, or grain, A darksome cloud of locusts swarming down 185 Must eat, and on the ground leave nothing green: Darkness must overshadow all his bounds, Palpable darkness, and blot out three days ; Last, with one midnight stroke, all the first-born Of Egypt must lie dead. Thus with ten wounds 190 The river-dragon tamed, at length submits To let his sojourners depart, and oft Humbles his stubborn heart, but still as ice More harden'd after thaw, till in his rage Pursuing whom he late dismiss'd, the sea 195 Swallows him with his host; but them lets pass As on dry land, between two crystal walls, Awed by the rod of Mouses so to stand Divided, till his rescued gain'd their shore. Such wondrous power God to his saint will lend, Though present in his Angel, who shall go 201 Before them in a cloud and pillar of fire (By day a cloud, by night a pillar of fire), To guide them in their journey, and remove Behind them, while th' obdurate king pursues. 205 All night he will pursue ; but his approach Darkness defends between till morning watch:

speaking natural to the angel, to whom all the future was revealed The reader will find the whole of the narrative here given in different parts of the Pentateuch.

155. With twelve sons increased a Latipiam.

.88. The Vulgate translation of Exodus X. 21. has lam dense palpari queant. Our English has, darkness that may be felt

207. Defends, forbids.

Then through the fiery pillar and the cloud
God, looking forth, will trouble all his host,
And craze their chariot-wheels: when by command
Moses once more his potent rod extenus

Over the sea; the sea his rod obeys;
On their embattled ranks the waves return,
And overwhelm their war. the race elect
Safe towards Canaan from the shore advance 215
Through the wild desert, not the readiest way,
Lest, ent'ring on the Canaanite, alarm'a,
War terrify them inexpert, and fear
Return them back to Egypt, choosing rather
Inglorious life with servitude; for life

To noble and ignoble is more sweet
Untrain'd in arms, where rashness leads not on.
This also shall they gain by their delay
In the wide wilderness ; there they shall found
Their government, and their great senate choose 225
Through the twelve tribes, to rule by laws ordain'd.
God from the mount of Sinai, whose grey top
Shall tremble, he descending, will himself
In thunder, lightning, and loud trumpets sound,
Ordain them laws; part such as appertain 230
To civil justice, part religious rites
Of sacrifice, informing them, by types
And shadows, of that destined Seed to bruise
The Serpent, by what means he shall achieve
Mankind's deliverance. But the voice of God 295
To mortal ear is dreadful! They beseech
That Moses might report to them bis will,
And terror cease. He grants what they besought,
Instructed that to God is no access
Without Mediator, whose high office now

Moses in figure bears, to introduce
One greater, of whose day he shall foretell;

210. Craze, braise or shatter, from the French ecraser. In Exodus xiv. 25. our translation has taken off, but Milton is nearer the original.

230. Milton has not made any particular mention of the moral law in this passage. The reason I imagine is, that the sole object he had in view was to shew the progress of events towards the appearance of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom. Ite had, therefore, only so far to introduce the Jewish dispensation as it typified the Missiali's kingdom or illustrated his charactes and actions. The moral law was unchanged and unchangeable, and belonged to no one time or system. The objections, there fore, of Warburton and others are wishont foundation

[ocr errors]

And all the prophets in their age the times
Of great Messiah shall sing. The laws and rites
Establish'd, such delight hath God in men 245
Obedient to his will, that he vouchsafes
Among them to set up his tabernacle,
The Holy One with mortal men to dwell.
By his prescript a sanctuary is framed
Of cedar, overlaid with gold, therein

An ark, and in the ark his testimony,
The records of his covenant; over these
A mercy-seat of gold between the wings
Of two bright Cherubim ; before him burn
Seven lamps, as in a zodiac, representing 255
The heav'nly fires; over the tent a cloud
Shall rest by day, a fiery gleam by night,
Save when they journey; and at length they come,
Conducted by his Angel, to the land
Promised to Abraham and his seed. The rest 260
Were long to tell, how many battles fought,
How many kings destroy'd, and kingdoms won,
Or how the sun shall in mid Heav'n stand still
A day entire, and night's due course adjourn,
Man's voice commanding, Sun in Gibeon stand, 265
And thou moon in the vale of Aijalon,
Till Israel overcome; so call the third
From Abraham, son of Isaac, and from him
His whole descent, who thus shall Canaan win.

Here Adam interposed : 0 sent from Heav'n, 270 Enlight'ner of my darkness, gracious things Thou hast reveal'd, those chiefly which concern Just Abrabam and his seed: now first I find Mine eyes true opening, and my heart much eased, Erewhile perplex'd with thoughts what would become Of me and all mankind; but now I see

270 His day, in whom all nations shall be blest, Favour unmerited by me, who sought Forbidden knowledge by forbidden means. This yet I apprehend not, why to those

20 Among whom God will deign to dwell on earth, So many and so various laws are given ? So many laws argue so many sins

256. The heav'nly fires, the seven lamps, signifying the
seven planets.

277. John viii. 38. 283. Gal. iii. 19. Rom. vii.", 8. iij. 20. Heb. ix. 13. X. 4, 5 &c.

Among them. How can God with such reside?

To whom thus Michael : Doubt uot but that sin Will reign among them, as of thee begot; 296 And therefore was law given them to evince Their natural pravity, by stirring up Sin against law to fight : that when they see Law can discover sin, but not remove,

299 Save by those shadowy expiations weak, The blood of bulls and goats, they may conclude Some blood more precious must be paid for man, Just for unjust, that in such righteousness To them by faith imputed, they may find 298 Justification towards God, and peace Of conscience, which the law by ceremonies Cannot appease, nor man the moral part Perform, and, not performing, cannot live. So law appears imperfect, and but given 300 With purpose to resign them in full time Up to a better covenant, disciplined From shadowy types to truth, from flesh to spirit, From imposition of strict laws to free Acceptance of large grace, from servile fear 305 To filial, works of law to works of faith. And therefore shall not Moses, though of God Highly beloved, being but the minister Of law, his people into Canaan lead; But Joshua, whom the Gentiles Jesus call, 310 His name and office bearing, who shall quell The adversary Serpent, and bring back, Thro' the world's wilderness long wander'd, man Safe, to eternal Paradise of rest.

314 Mean while they in their earthly Canaan placed, Long time shall dwell and prosper, but when sins National interrupt their public peace, Provoking God to raise them enemies; From whom as oft he saves them penitent By judges first, then under kings ; of whom 320 The second, both for piety renown'd And puissant deeds, a promise shall receive

310. Jesus and Joshua are the same name, the former being the Greek and the latter the Hebrew form. Jesus is used for Joshua, Acts vii. 45. Heb. iv. 8. As the whole of this part of the poem is taken from Scripture, the reader will do well to consult the marginal references of his Bible, if he be curious to see how the author has converted his scriptural knowledge to his use in this narrative, mixing with great skill history and prophecy

« PreviousContinue »