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THAT the Paradife Regained has been confiderably underrated by the world, feems of late to be an opinion almost generally admitted. But perhaps we shall state the fact more correctly, if we fay that it has been neglected, rather than underrated; that it has been more unknown, than not admired. This is fo much the cafe, that I apprehend fome of the warmeft panegyrifts of the Paradife Loft have never honoured this Poem with a perufal; or only with a cafual and most unfair one, under a cloud of prejudices against it.-A critick, whofe tafte, judgement, and candour are unquestioned, has given it abfolutely no place at all among the Works of its Author. "If I might venture to place Milton's Works according to their degrees of poetick excellence," fays Dr. Jofeph Warton, "it fhould be perhaps in the following order, PARADISE LOST, COMUS, SAMSON AGONISTES, LYCIDAS, L'ALLEGRO, IL PENSEROSO." (See concluding note to the Lycidas, in Warton's Edition of Milton's Juvenile Poems!) I fhould hope that PARADISE REGAINED flipped accidentally out of the lift: indeed what the late Mr. Warton has faid of the Comus, I do not hesitate to apply to the Poem before us, and to hazard freely my unqualified opinion, that "the Author is here inferiour only to his own Paradife Loft"
→ I have ventured to form the remarks of the learned editor of Paradife Regained, fubjoined in his elegant edition of 1795 to the end of each book, into a Preliminary Difcourfe; as correfponding, in this modification, with the defign of Mr. Addifon's critical effay on Paradife Loft; which is, to point out rongly the particular beauties of the Poem to the reader's notice; or, in other words, to tell him the delicious fare which he may expect, and to bid him “fit down, and feed, and welcome at the table." TODD.
If we confider the FIRST BOOK, we fhall find much to admire, and little to cenfure.
The Propofition of the Subject is clear and dignified, and is beautifully wound up in the concluding line, " And Eden rais'd in the wafte wilderness."
The Invocation of the Holy Spirit is equally devout and poetical. The Baptifm of John carries us with the beft effect in medias res. Satan's Infernal Council is briefly, but finely, affembled; his fpeech is admirable; and the effect of it is strongly depicted. This is ftrikingly contrafted by the fucceeding beautifuf defcription of the Deity furrounded by his Angels; his Speech to them; and the triumphant Hymn of the Cœleftial Choir.———— Indeed the whole opening of this Poem is executed in so masterly ■ manner, that, making allowance for a certain wish to compress, which is palpably vifible, very few parts of the Paradife Loji can in any refpect claim a pre-eminence.-The brief defcription of our Lord's entering "now the bordering defart wild, and with dark fhades and rocks environ'd round;" and again, where "looking round on every fide he beholds a pathlefs defart, dufk with horrid fhades," are fcenes worthy the pencil of Salvator. Our Lord's Soliloquy is a material part of the Poem, and briefly narrates the early part of his life. In the Paradife Loft, where the Divine Perfons are speakers, Milton has fo chaftened his pen, that we meet with few poetical images, and chiefly fcriptural fentiments, delivered, as near as may be, in fcriptural, and almolt always in unornamented, language. But the poet seems to confider this circumftance of the Temptation, (if I may venture fo to exprefs myfelf,) as the last, perfect, completion of the Initiation of the Man Jefus in the mystery of his own divine nature and office: at least he feels himfelf entitled to make our Saviour while on earth, and "infhrined in fleshly tabernacle," fpeak in a certain degree, avlpwwws, or, after the manner of men. Accordingly all the fpeeches of our bleffed Lord, in this Poem, are far more elevated than any language that is put into the mouth of the Divine Speakers in any part of the Paradife Loft. The ingrafting Mary's Speech into that of her Son, it must be allowed, is not a happy circumftance. It has an awkward effect, loads the reft of the Speech, and might have been avoided, and better managed. The defcription of the probable manner of our Lord's pafing the forty days in the wildernefs is very picturefque; and
the return of the wild beafts to their Paradifiacal mildnefs is finely touched. The appearance of the Tempter in his affumed character; the deep art of his two first speeches, covered, but not totally concealed, by a femblance of fimplicity; his bold avowal and plausible vindication of himself; the fubfequent detection of his fallacies, and the pointed reproofs of his impudence and hypocrify, on the part of our Bleffed Lord;-cannot be too much admired. Indeed, the whole conclufion of this Book abounds fa much in closeness of reasoning, grandeur of fentiment, elevation of ftyle, and harmony of numbers, that it may well be queftioned whether poetry on fuch a fubject, and efpecially in the form of dialogue, ever produced any thing fuperiour to it.
The fingular beauty of the brief description of night coming on in the defart, clofes the Book with such admirable effect, that it leaves us con la bocca dolce.
The opening of the SECOND BOOK is not calculated to engage attention, by any particular beauty of the picturefque or defcriptive kind; but by recurring to what paffed at the river Jordan among Jefus's new difciples and followers upon his abfence, and by making Mary exprefs her maternal feelings upon it, the poet has given an extent and variety to his fubject. It might perhaps be wished, that all which he has put into the mouth of the Virgin, refpecting the early life of her Son, had been confined folely to this place, instead of a part being incorporated in our Lord's foliloquy in the firft Book. There it seems aukwardly introduced, but here I conceive her speech might have been extended with good effect.-Our Lord, (ver. 110.) is, in a brief but appropriate defcription, again prefented to us in the wilderness. The poet, in the mean time, makes Satan return to his infernal council, to report the bad fuccefs of his firft attempt, and to demand their counfel, and affiftance, in an enterprise of so much difficulty. This he does in a brief and energetick speech. Hence arifes a debate; or at least a propofition on the part of Belial, and a rejection of it by Satan, of which I cannot fufficiently exprefs my admiration. The language of Belial is exquifitely defcriptive of the power of beauty, without a fingle word introduced, or even a thought conveyed, that is unbecoming its place in this divine Poem. Satan's reply is eminently fine: his imputing to Belial, as the most diffolute of the fallen Angels, the amours attributed by the poets and mythologifts to the Heathen Gods, while it is
replete with claffick beauty, furnishes an excellent moral to thofe extravagant fictions: and his defcription of the little effect which the moft powerful enticements can produce on the refolute mind of the virtuous, while it is heightened with many beautiful turns of language, is, in its general tenour, of the most fuperiour and dignified kind. Indeed all this part of his speech (from ver. 191, to ver. 225.) feems to breathe fuch a fincere and deep fenfe of the charms of real goodness, that we almost forget who is the speaker: at least we readily subscribe to what he had faid of himfelf in the first Book;
"I have not loft
"To love, at least contemplate and admire,
After fuch fentiments fo expreffed, it might have been thought difficult for the poet to return to his fubject, by making the Arch-Fiend refume his attempts against the Divine Perfon, the commanding majefty of whofe invincible virtue he had juft been defcribing with fuch feemingly heart-felt admiration. This is managed with much address, by Satan's propofing to adopt such modes of temptation as are apt to prevail moft, where the propenfities are virtuous, and where the difpofition is amiable and generous and, by the immediate return of the Tempter and his affociates to the wilderness, the Poem advances towards the heighth of its argument. Our Saviour's paffing the night is well defcribed. The coming on of morn is a beautiful counterpart of "night coming on in the defart," which fo finely clofed the preceding Book. Our Lord's waking-his viewing the country -and the description of the "pleasant grove," which is to be the scene of the banquet-are all fet off with every grace that poetry can give. The appearance of Satan, varied from his first difguile, as he has now quite another part to act, is perfectly well imagined; and his fpeech, referring to fcripture examples of perfons miraculously fed in defart places, is truly artful and in character; as is his fecond fycophantick addrefs, where, having acknowledged our Lord's right to all created things, he adds,
"Nature afham'd, or, better to express,
"Troubled that thou should'ft hunger, hath purvey'd
"To treat thee, as befeems, and as her Lord,
The banquet (ver. 340.) comprifes every thing that Roman luxury, Eaftern magnificence, mythological fable, or poetick fancy can fupply; and, if compared with fimilar defcriptions in the Italian Poets, will be found much fuperiour to them. In the concluding part of his invitation the virulence of the Arch-Fiend breaks out, as it were involuntarily, in a farcastick allufion to the divine prohibition refpecting the tree of knowledge; but he immediately refumes his hypocritical fervility, which much resembles his language in the ninth Book of the Paradife Loft, when, in his addreffes to Eve, "persuasive rhetorick fleck'd his tongue." The three laft lines are quite in this ftyle;
"All these are Spirits of air, and woods, and springs, "Thy gentle minifters, who come to pay
"Thee homage, and acknowledge thee their Lord."
Our Lord's reply is truly fublime;
"I can at will, doubt not, as foon as thou,
"And call fwift flights of Angels miniftrant,
Array'd in glory, on my cup to attend."
This part of the Book in particular is so highly finished, that I could wish it had concluded, as it might well have done, with the vanishing of the banquet. The prefent conclufion, from its fubject, required another style of poetry. It has little defcription, no machinery, and no mythological allufions to elevate and adorn it; but it is not without a fublimity of another kind. Satan's fpeech, in which he affails our Lord with the temptation of riches as the means of acquiring greatnefs, is in a noble tone of dramatick dialogue; and the reply of our Saviour, where he rejects the offer, contains a series of the finest moral precepts expreffed in that plain majestick language, which, in many parts of Didactick Poetry, is the most becoming veftitus orationis. Still it must be acknowledged, that all this is much loft and obfcured by the radiance and enriched