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great Creator of all things, and required by him,--are both admirable. The rest of the dialogue is well supported; and it is wound up, with the best effect, in the concluding speech, where Satan offers a vindicatory explanation of his conduct, in which the dignity of the Arch-angel, (for, though “ ruined,” the Satan of Milton seldom“ appears less than an Arch-angel,") is happily combined with the insinuating art and “sleeked tongue” of this grand Deceiver. The first nineteen lines are peculiarly illustrative of this double character: The transition that follows to the immediate Temptation then going on, and which paves the way for the ensuing change of scene, is managed with the happiest address.— The poet now quits mere Dialogue for that “ union of the narrative and dramatick powers," which Dr. Johnson, speaking of this Poem, observes “must ever be more pleasing than a dialogue without action.”—The description of the
specular mount,” where our Lord is placed to view at once the whole Parthian empire, at the same time that it is truly poetical, is so accurately given, that we are enabled to ascertain the exact part of Mount Taurus, which the poet had in his mind. The geographical scene, from ver. 268 to 292, is delineated with a precision that brings each place immediately before our eyes, and, as Dr. Newton remarks, far surpasses the prospect of the kingdoms of the world from “ the mount of vision," in the eleventh Book of 'the Paradise Lost. The military expedition of the Parthians, from ver. 300 to 336, is a picture in the boldest and most masterly style. It is so perfectly unique in its kind, that I know not where in Poetry, ancient or modern, to go for any thing materially resembling it. The fifteenth Book of Tasso's Jerusalem, &c. (where the two Christian Knights, who are sent in search of Rinaldo, see a great part of the habitable world, and are shown
a numerous camp of their enemies,) does not appear to have furnished a single idea to our Author, either in his geographical, or his military, scene.—The speech of Satan, (ver. 346.) professing the purpose why he showed all this to Jesus, judiciously reverts to the immediate subject of the Temptation; and, by urging our Lord to avail himself of the Parthian power, that he might gain possession of David's throne, and free his countrymen from the Roman yoke, it applies to those patriotick feelings which he had expressed in the first Book of this Poem, where he declares that one of his earliest sentiments of virtue, more than human,
was marked with a wish “ To rescue Israel from the Roman yoke.” Our Lord's reply is close and pointed, and serves further to unfold the character of our great pattern of every
virtue.The same objection still lies against the conclusion of this Book, as against that of the preceding one ;-by coming immediately after a part so highly finished, as the view of the Parthian power in all the splendour of a military expedition, it has not the effect it would otherwise have. It is however a necessary conclusion, and one that materially carries on the business of the Poem. An essential test of its merit is, that, however we might wish it shortened, it would scarcely have been possible to compress the matter it contains.
It has been observed of almost all the great epick poems, that they fall off, and become languid, in the conclusion. The six last books of the Æneid, and the twelve last of the Odyssey, have been thought inferiour to the preceding parts of those poems. In the Paradise Lost the two last books fall short of the majesty and sublimity of the rest : and so, observes Dr. Newton, do the two last books of the Iliad. “ With the fall of our first parents," says Dr. Blair, “ Milton's genius seems to decline;" and though he admits the Angel's showing Adam the fate of his posterity to be happily imagined," the execution,” he adds, is “ languid.” Addison, in pointing out the particular beauties of the two last books of the Paradise Lost, observes that, though these were not looked upon as the most shining books of the poem, they ought not to be considered as unequal parts of it. Perhaps the two concluding books of the Paradise Lost might be * defended by other arguments, and justified in a more effectual manner, than has been done by Addison ; but it is certainly fortunate when the subject and plan of an epick poem are such, that in the conclu. sion it may rise in dignity and sublimity, so as to excite to the very last the attention and admiration of the reader.—This last Book of the Paradise Regained is one of the finest conclusions of a poem, that can be produced. The Book of Job, which I have supposed to have been our Author's model, materially resembles it in this respect, and is perhaps the only instance that can be put in competition with it. It has been remarked that there is not a single simile in the First Iliad ; neither do we meet
[See Mr. Dunster's defence of them in the concluding note on Par. Lost.]
with one in the three first Books of the Paradise Regained. In the beginning of the FOURTH BOOK the poet introduces an Homerick cluster of similes; which seems to mark an intention of bestowing more poetical decoration on the conclusion of the Poem, than on the preceding parts of it.---They who talk of our Author's genius being in the decline when he wrote his second Poem, and who therefore turn from it, as from a dry prosaick composition, are, I will venture to say, no judges of poetry. With a fancy, such as Milton's, it must have been more difficult to forbear poetick decorations, than to furnish them; and a glaring profusion of ornament would, I conceive, have more decidedly betrayed the poeta senescens, than a want of it. The first book of the Paradise Lost abounds in similes, and is, in other respects, as elevated and sublime as any in the whole poem. But here the poet's plan was totally different. Though it may be said of the Paradise Regained, as Longinus has said of the Odyssey, that it is the epilogue of the preceding poem, still the design and conduct of it is as different, as that of the Georgicks from the Æneid. The Paradise Regained has something of the didactick character: it teaches not merely by the general moral, and by the character and conduct of its hero, but has also many positive precepts every where interspersed. It is written for the most part in a style admirably condensed, and with a studied reserve of ornament: it is nevertheless illuminated with beauties of the most captivating kind. Its leading feature throughout is that “excellence of composition," which, as Lord Monboddo justly observes, so eminently distinguished the writings of the ancients; and in which of all modern authors, Milton most resembles them.
At the commencement of this Book the argument of the Poem is considerably advanced. Satan appears hopeless of success, but still persisting in his enterprise. The desperate folly, and vain pertinacity, of this conduct, are perfectly well exemplified and illustrated by three apposite similes, each successively rising in beauty above the other. The business of the Temptation being thus resumed, the Tempter takes our Lord to the western side of the mountain, and shows to him Italy; the situation of which the poet marks with singular accuracy, and, having traced the Tiber from its source in the Apennines to Rome, he briefly enumerates the most conspicuous objects that may be supposed at first to
strike the eye on a distant view of this celebrated city. Satan now becomes the Speaker, and, in an admirably descriptive speech, points out more particularly the magnificent publick and private buildings of ancient Rome, descanting on the splendour and power of its state, which he particularly exemplifies in the superb pomp with which their provincial magistrates proceed to their respective governments; and in the numerous ambassadours that arrive from every quarter of the habitable globe, to solicit the protection of Rome and the emperour. These are two pictures of the most highly finished kind: the numerous figures are in motion before us; we absolutely see
“ Prætors, proconsuls, to their provinces
Hasting, or on return, in robes of state,
Legions and cohorts, &c." Having observed that such a power as this of Rome must reasonably be preferred to that of the Parthians, which he had displayed in the preceding Book, and that there were no other powers worth our Lord's attention, the Tempter now begins to apply all this to his purpose : by a strongly drawn description of the vicious and detestable character of Tiberius, he shows how easy it would be to expel him, to take possession of his throne, and to free the Roman people from that slavery in which they were then held. This he proffers to accomplish for our Lord, whom he incites to accept the offer not only from a principle of ambition, but as the best means of securing to himself his promised inheritance, the throne of David. Our Lord in reply scarcely notices the arguments which Satan had been urging to him; and only takes occasion, from the description which had been given of the splendour and magnificence of Rome, to arraign the superlatively extravagant luxury of the Romans, (possibly not without a glance at the manners of our Court at that time,) and briefly to sum up those vices and misconducts then rapidly advancing to their height, which soon brought on the decline, and in the end effectuated the fall, of the Roman power. -The next object, which our Author had in view in his proposed display of Heathen excellence, was a scene of a different, but no less intoxicating, kind; Athens, in all its pride of literature and philosophy. But he seems to have been well
aware that an immediate transition, from the view of Rome to that of Athens, must have diminished the effect of each. The intermediate space he has finely occupied. Our Lord, unmoved by the splendid scene displayed to captivate him, and having only been led by it to notice the vices and corruptions of the Heathen world, in the conclusion of his speech marks the vanity of all earthly power, by referring to his own future kingdom, as that which by supernatural means should destroy “all monarchies besides throughout the world."
The Fiend hereupon urged by the violence of his desperation to an indiscretion, which he had not before showed, endeavours to enhance the value of his offers by declaring that the only terms, on which he would bestow them, were those of our Lord's falling down and worshipping him. To this our Saviour answers in a speech of marked abhorrence blended with contempt. This draws from Satan a reply of as much art, and as finely written, as any in the Poem ; in which he endeavours, by an artful justification of himself, to repair the indiscretion of his blasphemous proposal, and to soften the effect of it on our Blessed Lord, so far at least as to be enabled to resume the process of his enterprise. The transition, ver. 212, to his new ground of temptation is peculiarly happy: having given up all prospect of working upon our Lord by the incitements of ambition, he now compliments him on his predilection for wisdom, and his early display of superiour knowledge; and recommends it to him, for the purpose of accomplishing his professed design of reforming and converting mankind, to cultivate the literature and philosophy for which the most polished part of the Heathen world, and Greece in particular, was so eminent. This leads to his View of Athens; which is given, with singular effect, after the preceding dialogue, where the blasphemous rage of the Tempter, and the art with which he endeavours to recover it, serve, by the variety of the subject and the interesting nature of the circumstance, materially to relieve the preceding and ensuing descriptions. The Tempter, resuming his usual plausibility of language, now becomes the Hierophant of the scene, which he describes, as he shows it, with so much accuracy, that we discern every object distinctly before
The general view of Athens, with its most celebrated buildings and places of learned resort, is beautiful and original; and