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MAMMA, ELIZA, EMILY, WILLIAM. William.-Pray, Mamma, what is the title of the book you were talking about with the lady who called this morning?
Mamma.-I do not know which book you mean, my dear; for several works were mentioned in the course of conversation.
William.-One line the lady repeated was,
Grinn'd horribly a ghastly smile.
Eliza.-And when I called William to play in the garden, as you desired, when our lessons were over, he told us you had been saying something about a golden gate in heaven that moved of itself.
Emily. Yes, Mamma, and about an angel going into the garden of Eden, and eating fruit with Adam and Eve.
Mamma.-The book we were speaking of at that time is Milton's Paradise Lost; a very beautiful poem.
William.-O Mamma, do let me read it aloud, while you and my sisters are making the clothes for that poor family we visited yesterday.
Mamma.-It was not written for children, my dear; and there is so much in the poem which you do not understand, that you would soon be weary of it.
Eliza.-You know, Mamma, I am more than three years older than William ; I shall be eleven my next birth-day; do not you think I could understand it?
Mamma.-No, my love, for there are many allusions to subjects of which you know little or nothing.
Emily.-Mamma, could not you find all the pretty parts that would be likely to amuse us? William.-A good thought, Emily!-All about the angel, and the self-moving gate, and the toad that whispered in Eve's ear.
Eliza.-Now I think the best plan would be for Mamma to relate all the principal parts as a story: Will you be so very kind, dear Mamma? And then you can leave out all we know nothing about.
William.-Orelse you can explain in your pleasant way, all those things; and then you will be teaching as well as entertaining us. Mamma.-You know, my dear children, I love to please you, but I fear it will be very difficult to form Paradise Lost into a suitable tale for children; however I am willing to try.
Eliza.-Thank you, thank you, Mamma; -but before you begin, can you tell us how Milton knew all that he has written? Is it in those books of the Bible which we have not yet read?
Mamma.-Milton relates many facts recorded in the Holy Scriptures, to which he adds a great deal from his own imagination; -not, however, with the intention of deceiving his readers.
William.-I think I understand it:-You know, Mamma, when telling us stories of Cain and Abel, and Noah, and Abraham and Isaac ;-you said, they must have had many conversations, and done many things, which are not in the Bible: So, I dare say, Milton supposed what they said and did, and then wrote it down.
Emily. I have one more question to ask, Mamma, before you begin. In the account
God desired Moses to give of Adam and Eve, nothing is said of a toad; do you think it was right for Milton to say that one spoke to Eve? Is not that an untruth? You know it is not like making a tale entirely.
Mamma.-An untruth, my love, is any thing that is said with an intention to deceive. Now Milton never expected people would think he related what you allude to as a fact: Yet I feel a degree of fear, that after hearing his account of the fall of man, &e., you will confound fiction with truth, and think and speak of descriptions and discourses in this poem, as if they were written by the inspiration of God, and, therefore, to be believed.
Eliza.-If you repeated Paradise Lost to us very often, perhaps we should; but I dare say we shall only hear that now and then, while we read some part of the Bible every morning and evening, besides answering the questions you ask us about the verses we learn.
William.-Dear Mamma, I am so desirous to hear the story! I suppose Milton wrote nothing that would do us any harm, if we did believe it: I know if you come to any part not fit for us to hear, you will pass over it, as you always do.