« PreviousContinue »
another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoided by the learn❜d ancients both in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then of rime so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be efteem'd an example fet, the firft in English, of antient liberty, recover'd to heroic poem from the troublesome and modern bondage of riming.
THE ARGUMENT OF THE FIRST BOOK.
HE firft book proposes first in brief the whole fubject, man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradife wherein he was plac't: then touches the prime cause of his fall, the serpent, or rather Satan in the ferpent, who revolting from God, and drawing to his fide many legions of angels, was by the com mand of God driv'n out of heaven with all his crew into the great deep. Which action past over, the poem haftes into the midft of things, prefenting Satan with his angels now fall'n into hell, defcribed here, not in the center (for heav'n and earth may be fuppos'd as yet not made, certainly not yet accurft) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest call'd Chaos: here Satan with his angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonisht, after a certain space recovers, as from confufion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; they confer of their miferable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the fame manner confounded; they rife, their numbers, array of battel, their chief leaders nam'd, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining, to these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hopes yet of regaining heav'n, but tells them laftly of a new world, and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophefie, or report in
heaven; for that angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient fathers. To find out the truth of this prophefie, and what to determine thereon he refers to a full council. What his affociates thence attempt. Pandaemonium the palace of Satan rifes, fuddenly built out of the deep: the infernal peers there fit in council.
THE ARGUMENT OF THE SECOND BOOK.
THE confultation begun, Satan debates whether another battle be to be hazarded for the recovery of heaven: fome advise it, others diffuade a third propofal is preferr'd, mentioned before by Satan, to search the truth of that prophefie or tradition in heav'n concerning another world, and another kind of creature equal or not much inferior to themselves, about this time to be created: their doubt who shall be fent on this difficult fearch: Satan their chief undertakes alone the voyage, is honoured and applauded. The council thus ended, the rest betake them several ways and to feveral employments, as their inclinations lead them, to entertain the time till Satan returns. He paffes on his journey to hell gates, finds them shut, and who fat there to guard them, by whom at length they are opened, and discover to him the great gulph between hell and heav'n; with what difficulty he paffes through, directed by Chaos, the power of that place, to the fight of this new world which he fought.
THE ARGUMENT OF THE THIRD BOOK.
OD fitting on his throne fees Satan flying to
world, newly thews
him to the son who sat at his right hand; foretells the fuccefs of Satan in perverting mankind; clears his own justice and wisdom from all imputation, having created man free and able enough to have withstood his tempter; yet declares his purpose of grace towards him, in regard he fell not of his own malice, as did Satan, but dfby him seduc't. The son of God renders praises to his ro- father for the manifestation of his gracious purpose torchwards man; but God again declares, that grace cannot be extended towards man without the fatisfaction of dion-! vine justice; man hath offended the majefty of God by this aspiring to god-head, and therefore with all his progeny devoted to death must dye, unless fome one can be found fufficient to answer for his offence, and undergo his punishment. The fon of God freely offers himself a ransom for man: the father accepts him, ordains his incarnation, pronounces his exaltation above all names in heaven and earth; commands all the angels to adore him; they obey, and hymning to their harps in full quire, celebrate the father and the fon. Mean while Satan alights upon the bare convex of this world's outermost orb; where wandring he first finds a place fince called the lymbo of vanity; what persons and things fly up thither; thence comes to the gate of heaven, defcrib'd afcending by stairs, and the waters above the firmament
that flow about it: his passage thence to the orb of the fun; he finds there Uriel the regent of that orb, but
first changes himself into the shape of a meaner angel; and pretending a zealous defire to behold the new creation and man whom God had plaç't here, inquires of him the place of his habitation, and is directed; alights first on mount Niphates.
THE ARGUMENT OF THE FOURTH BOOK.
ATAN now in profpect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprize which he undertook alone against God and man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many paffions, fear, envy, and despair; but at length confirms himself in evil, journeys on to Paradife, whofe outward prospect and fituation is described, overleaps the bounds, fits in the fhape of a cormorant on the tree of life, as highest in the garden to look about him. The garden describ'd; Satan's first fight of Adam and Eve; his wonder at their excellent form and happy state, but with resolution to work their fall; overhears their difcourfe, thence gathers that the tree of knowledge was forbidden them to eat of, under penalty of death; and thereon intends to found his temptation, by seducing them to tranfgrefs: then leaves them a while, to know further of their state by fome other means: Mean while Uriel descending on a fun-beam warns Gabriel, who had in charge the gate of Paradise, that some evil spirit had escap'd the deep, and past at noon by his sphere in the shape of a good angel down to Paradise, discovered after by his furious gefture in the mount. Gabriel promises to find him ere morning. Night coming on, Adam and Eve discourse of going to their reft: their bower defcrib'd; their even