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The Son of God presents to his Father the prayers of our first parents now repenting, and intercedes for them: God accepts them, but declares that they must no longer abide in Paradise; sends Michael with a band of Cherubim to dispossess them; but first to reveal to Adam future things: Michael's coming down. Adam shews to Eve certain ominous signs; he discerns Michael's approach, goes out to meet him; the Angel denounces their departure. Eve's lamentation. Adam pleads, but submits : The Angel leads him up to a high hill, sets before him in vision what shall happen till the flood.
THUS they in lowliest plight repentant stood
1. Thus they in lowliest plight elegant an entertainment for our &c.] Milton has shewn a won- English audience,) desires that derful art in describing that he may be conducted to mount variety of passions, which arise Cithæron, in order to end his in our first parents upon the life in that very place where he breach of the commandment was exposed in his infancy, and that had been given them. We where he should then have died, see them gradually passing from had the will of his parents been the triumph of their guilt through executed. As the author never remorse, shame, despair, con- fails to give a poetical turn to trition, prayer, and hope, to a his sentiments, he describes in perfect and complete repent- the beginning of this book, the ance. At the end of the tenth acceptance which these their book they are represented as prayers met with, in a short prostrating themselves upon the allegory formed upon that beauground, and watering the earth tiful passage in holy writ: (Rev. with their tears: to which the viii. 3, 4.) And another angel poet joins this beautiful circum- came and stood at the altar, havstance, that they offered up ing a golden censer ; and there their penitential prayers on the was given unto him much incense, very place where their Judge that he should offer it with the appeared to them when he pro- prayers of all saints upon the nounced their sentence. There golden altar which was before the is a beauty of the same kind in throne: and the smoke of the a tragedy of Sophocles, where incense, which came with the Edipus, after having put out prayers of the saints, ascended his own eyes, instead of break-, up before God. We have the ing his neck from the palace same thought expressed a second battlements, (which furnishes so time in the intercession of the
Prevenient grace descending had remov'd
Messiah, which is conceived in 5. —that sighs now breath'd very emphatic sentiments and Unutterable,] expressions. Addison.
That sighs inexpressible burst 1. -repentant stood
forth, which God's Holy Spirit, Praying ]
the Spirit of supplication and Dr. Bentley thinks that the intercession, breathed into them, author intended it repentant and wafted up to heaven with kneeled, because it is said in ver. nimbler speed, than the most 150, and in x. 1099, that they audible and loudest oration could kneeled and fell prostrate : but ever reach: according to St. stood here has no other sense Paul, Rom. viii. 26. Likewise the than that of the noun substan- Spirit also helpeth our infirmitive were. So in ii. 55. stand in ties ; for we know not what we arms signifies are in arms. In should pray for as we ought: but the same sense stetit and cornXS the Spirit itself maketh intercesare often used by the Latinssion for us with groanings which and Greeks. See my note on cannot be uttered. Hume. ü. 56. Pearce.
8. —yet their port &c.] This Stood here, and in ver. 14. yet refers so far back as to line bath no relation to the posture, the first, Thus they in lowliest but to the act itself, and the plight repentant stood praying, continuance of it. Standing in yet their port not of mean suitors, arms is not only being armed or all the intermediate lines being having armour on, but being to be understood as in a parenin arms with a determined reso- thesis. Nor did their petition lution not to lay them down seem of less importance, than without endeavouring to attain when the ancient pair so some end proposed. Thus stood nowned in old fables, yet not so praying means, not only that ancient a pair as Adam and Eve, they prayed, or were praying, Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha, in but that they persevered in their order to restore the race of mandevotions, and, as the apostle kind after the deluge, stood deexpresses it, continued instant in voutly praying before the shrine prayer, in the humble postures of Themis, the goddess of jusof sometimes kneeling, and some- tice, who had the most famous times falling prostrate. Green- oracle of those days. The poet wood.
could not have thought of a
Not of mean suitors, nor important less
more apt similitude to illustrate O righteous Themis, if the Pow'rs his subject, and he has plainly
above fetched it from Ovid, Met. i.
By pray’rs are bent to pity and to
If human miseries can move their Hic ubi Deucalion (nam cætera
mind ; texerat æquor)
If yet they can forgive, and yet be
kind; Cum consorte tori parvå rate vectus adhæsit;
Tell how we may restore, by second Corycidas Nymphas et numina mon.
birth, tis adorant,
Mankird, and people desolated earth. Fatidicamque Themin, quæ tunc
Dryden. orâcla tenebat. Non illo melior quisquam, nec
Milton has been often censured amantior æqui
for his frequent allusions to the Vir fuit, aut illâ metuentior ulla heathen mythology, and for mixDeorum.
ing fables with sacred truths : Atque ita, și precibus, dixerunt, but it may be observed in fa
numina justis Victa remollescunt, si Alectitur ira vour of him, that what he borDeorum;
rows from the heathen mythoDie, Themi, qua generis damnum logy, he commonly applies only
reparabile nostri Arte sit: et mersis fer opem, mitis. by way of similitude; and a
similitude from thence may sima, rebus.
illustrate his subject as well as High on the summit of this dubious from any thing else, especially
cliff, Deucalion wafting, moor’d his little since it is one of the first things skiff.
that we learn at school, and is He with his wife were only left made by the ancients such an behind
essential part of poetry, that it Of perish'd man; they two were human kind.
can hardly be separated from it; The mountain-nymphs, and The. and no wonder that Milton was mis they adore,
ambitious of shewing something And from her oracles relief implore. of his reading in this kind, as The most upright of mortalien
well as in all others. was he, The most sincere and holy woman
16. Blown vagabond or frusshe.
trate :] It is a familiar expresVOL. U.
Dimensionless through heav'nly doors ; then clad With incense, where the golden altar fum’d, By their great Intercessor, came in sight sion with the ancient poets, to be wondered how these prayers say of such requests as are not could pass through them withgranted, that they are dispersed out their opening, and for this and driven away by the winds. reason, I suppose, the poet Thus Virgil, Æn. xi. 794. added the epithet dimensionless
. And as he glanced before at the Audiit, et voti Phæbus succedere
heathen manner of expression partem Mente dedit: partem volucres di
in saying that their
prayers spersit in auras.
not by envious winds blown tagaSterneret ut subitâ turbatam morte bond or frustrate, so here he Camillam,
intend a remote reflection Annuit oranti: reducem ut patria alta videret,
upon that other notion of the Non dedit; inque notos vocem ver.
heathens contained in the fable tere procellæ.
of Menippus, who was taken up
into heaven, where Jupiter is Apollo heard, and granting half his pray'r,
represented as opening a trapShuffled in winds the rest, and toss'd
door to hear the requests of in empty air.
mankind, and shutting it again He gives the death desir'd; his safe when he was unwilling to atreturn,
tend to any more petitions. By southern mpests to the seas is borne.
19. —came in sight &c.] Mil
ton, in this allegorical descripAnd it is in allusion to this tion of the repentant prayers of manner of speaking, that Milton
our first parents, very much exsays here of the prayers of our ceeds the two great masters of first parents, that they were not Italian poetry, Ariosto and Tasso, by envious winds blown vagabond who have attempted something or frustrate. By envious winds, in the same way. See Carlo as in Ovid, Met. x. 642. Detulit
magno's prayer in the former, aura preces ad me non invida
cant. xiv. st. 73 and 74. and in the blandas.
latter Raimond's prayer, cant. vii. 17. Dimensionless through st. 79. and Godfrey's, cant. xii. heav'nly doors ;] As these st. 72. As the quotations would prayers were of a spiritual na- be too long, we only refer the ture, not as matter that has reader to the places. Thyer. dimensions, measure,
19. In the Revelation an angel portion, they passed through offers incense with the prayers heaven's gates without any ob- of the saints upon the golden struction. Richardson.
altar, ch. viii. 4. See also SpenAs heaven gates are described ser, Faery Queen, i. x. 51. of (vii. 205, 8c.) as ever-during, Mercy. and moving on golden hinges, and opening wide to let forth and let
Thou dost praiers of the righteous in the King of Glory, it might Present before the maiestie divine.