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“Satan proposes to seek this unknown world, to destroy or to corrupt it. He departs, explores hell, encounters sin and death; he induces sin to open the portals of the abyss, traverses chaos, discovers the creation, descends from the sun, and arrives on earth ; sees our first parents in Eden; is moved by their beauty, their innocence, and, by his remorseful tenderness, gives an ineffable idea of their nature and their happiness. God beholds Satan from heaven, and predicts the weakness of man, his utter ruin, unless some one presents himself to be his surety, and die for him. The heavenly choir stand mute with amazement. In the silence of heaven, the Son alone replies, and offers himself as a sacrifice. The victim is accepted, and man redeemed, even before he falls.
“The Almighty sends Raphael to warn our first parents of their enemy's arrival and intent. The celestial messenger relates to Adam the revolt of the angels, which took place at the moment when the Father, from the summit of the holy hill, proclaims that he has begotten the Son, and endowed him with full power. The pride and jealousy of Satan, inflamed by this declaration, excite him to combat; vanquished with his legions, he is thrown into hell
. Milton had no data for assigning a motive for Satan's rebellion; he was obliged to draw every thing from his own genius. Thus, with the art of a great master, he makes known what had befallen before the opening of the poem. Raphael then relates to Adam the work of the six days. Adam, in his turn, describes his own creation. The angel returns to heaven. Eve suffers herself to be tempted, tastes the forbidden fruit, and involves Adam in her fall.
"In the tenth book all the personages reappear; they are about to meet their fate. In the eleventh and twelfth books, Adam sees the results of his faults, in all that is to happen till the incarnation of Christ. The Son must sacrifice himself to ransom man. The Son is one of the characters of the poem. By means of a vision, he remains the last and alone on the stage, in order to fulfil
, in the soliloquy of the cross, the definitive action. Consummatum est.
“Such is the work in its simplicity; the incidents and the narrations spring the one from the other. We travel through hell, chaos, heaven, earth, eternity, and time, amid blasphemies and hymns, tortures and delights; we rove through these immensities with ease, unconsciously, insensible of moving; we think not of the efforts it must have cost to bear us thus high, on eagle's wings, or to create such a universe.
“The observation touching the last appearance of the Son, shows, contrary to the opinion of certain critics, that Milton would have been wrong in suppressing the last two books. These books, considered, I know not why, as the weakest part of the poem, are, in my opinion, quite as beautiful as the others ; nay, they have a human interest which the earlier ones possess not. From the greatest of poets, as he was, the author becomes the greatest of historians, without ceasing to be a poet. Michael informs our first parents that they must quit Paradise. Eve weeps; grieved at leaving her garden, she says,
From the first opening bud, and gave ye names.' “A charming trait of character, which has been supposed to be the idea of a modern German poet, but is only one of the beauties with which the works of Milton abound. Adam, too, complains, but it is that he must abandon the scenes where God had deigned to honour him with his presence. He says,
"Here I would frequent
and to my sons relate
I heard, here with him at this fountain talked.' “This idea of God, with which man is impressed throughout the 'Paradise Lost,' is one of extraordinary sublimity. Eve, in waking to life, is occupied but with her own beauty, and sees God in man. Adam, as soon as he is created, guessing that he could not have made himself, instantly seeks and calls upon his Maker.
“Evé remains sleeping at the foot of the hill. Michael, from its summit, shows Adam, in a vision, his whole race. Thus the Bible is unfolded. First comes the story of Cain and Abel. When Adam sees Abel fall, he exclaims to the angel,
way I must return to native dust ?' “Observe that, in the scriptures, nothing is said of Adam after his fall; silence spreads over the nine hundred and thirty years between his sin and his death. It would seem that the human race, his hapless posterity, durst not speak of him. Even Saint Paul names him not among the patriarchs who lived by faith. The apostle commences bis list with Abel. Adam passes for the chief of the dead, because in him all mankind died; and yet for nine centuries he saw his sons traveling towards the grave, of which he was the inventor, and which he had opened for them.
“After the murder of Abel, the angel shows Adam a 'lazar house,' and every different form of death; this picture is full of power, in the style of Tintoretto. The poet says,
Adam could not but weep, Tho' not of woman born.' “A pathetic reflection, inspired by that passage in Job—'Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.'
“The history of the giants of the mountain, who seduce the females of the plain, is marvellously told. The deluge offers another vast scene. In this eleventh book, Milton imitates Dante in the form of speechMaster,' used in the dialogue. Dante would have invited Milion as a brother to enter with him the group of great poets.
“The twelfth book is no longer a vision, but a narrative. The Tower of Babel, the call of Abraham, the advent of Christ, his incarnation, his resurrection, are replete with beauties of every kind. This book concludes with the banishment of Adam and Eve, and with lines so sad, that every body knows them by heart.
“In these last two books, the poet's melancholy is increased; he seems more than ever to feel the weight of misfortune and age. He attributes to Michael these words :
'So may'st thou live, till like ripe fruit thou drop
“ The two Frances met on this soil which they had thus leveled. Whatever remained of old blood and of recollections in the France of the Crusades, struggled against the new blood and the hopes put forth by revolutionary France. The victor was sensible of the dignity of the conquered: Thurot, the general of the republicans, declared that history would assign to the Vendeans the first rank among military populations' Another general wrote to Merlin, of Thionville ; Troops that have defeated Frenchmen, such as these, may well hope to conquer all other nations. The legions of Probus said as much, in their songs, respecting our forefathers. The battles of La Vendée were called by Bonaparte "Battles of Giants.'
“I was the only one of the crowd in the apartments who looked with admiration and respect upon the representative of those boors of old who, whilst breaking the yoke of their lords, repelled, under Charles V., the invasion of foreigners; I fancied I beheld in him an inhabitant of those communes which, aided by the petty provincial nobility, in the days of Charles VII., reconquered, furrow by furrow, inch by inch, the territory of France. He had ihat air of indifference which marks the savage; his eye was gray and inflexible as an iron rod; bis lower lip trembled under his clenched teeth ; his hair fell from his head like snakes, benumbed but ready to rear themselves; his arms, hanging by his side, gave a nervous shock to enormous fists slashed with sabre cuts; he might have been taken for a sawyer. His physiognomy expressed a plebeian rustic nature, brought by a moral force into the service of interests and ideas at variance with that nature; the unaffected fidelity of the vassal, the simple faith of the Christian, were blended in him with rude plebeian independence, accustomed to value itself, and to revenge its own wrongs. His sense of liberty seemed to spring from the consciousness of the strength of his arm and of the intrepidity of his heart. He was as silent as a lion, scratched himself like a lion, yawned like a lion, stretched on his side like a wearied lion, and appeared to dream of blood and forests; his intelligence was akin to that of death. What men were the French of those days, be their party what it might, and what a race have we become at the present day! But the republicans had their principle in them, in the very midst of them, whereas the principle of the royalists was out of France. The Vendeans sent deputations to the emigrants ; the giants sent to solicit leaders from the pigmies. The rustic messenger I was contemplating had taken the revolution by the throat; he had exclaimed—'Come in ; pass behind me; it will not hurt you; it shall not stir; I have a strong hold of it.' No one was willing to pass; Jacques Bonhomme then released the revolution from his gripe, and Charette shivered his sword.” Vol. II. pp. 179—182.
But for the space we have consumed, we should extract the whole of what Chateaubriand says about himself and Lord Byron. It is one of the most amusing specimens of restless vanity we recollect ever to have encountered. He admires Byron much; and is somewhat afraid that the admiration was not reciprocal. Lord Byron never mentioned or even alluded to him in his writings. That so distinguished a man, as the viscount regards himself to be, should have been passed by unnoticed, without some very good reason, is incredible. What, then, was the reason? Perhaps he had unintentionally offended the English bard. He never acknowledged the receipt of a