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REV. HENRY STEBBING, A. M.
D. APPLETON & CO., 200 BROADWAY
GEO. S. APPLETON 164 CHESTNUT-ST
M DCCC L
This First Book proposes, first, in brief, the whole subject, Man' disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed: then touches the prime cause of his fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the poem hastens into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell, described here, not in the centre (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded: they rise, their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterward in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven; for that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: the infernal peers there sit in council.
OF man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
1. The fitness and exquisite beauty of this introduction to the poem cannot be too much admired. The classical taste and religious feelings of the author are both evidenced in it; the former by the simplicity with which the subject is stated and the invocation of the muse, and the latter by his addressing the Holy Spirit as the source of inspiration and light. Great admiration has been expressed by the different commentators on the skilful construction of the verse in these introductory lines, the pauses of which are so varied as to give a most musical effect to the whole passage. 4. It has been supposed that Milton intimated in this expression his idea of writing Paradise Regained, but it appears to have been suggested merely by the subject of his present contemp'ation.
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd
And mad'st it pregnant. What in me is dark
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to Men.
Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of Hell; say first what cause
6. Bentley proposed the changing of this epithet into sacred, but his opinion has been successfully confuted, it having been shewn that the former word is peculiarly applicable to Oreb or Sinai, which had been so awfully obscured at the giving of the law. 8. Moses; who, we are told, Exod. iii. 1. kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law.
11. Siloa was a fountain flowing near the temple of Jerusalem. 15. Th' Aonian mount; the classical seat of the Muses.
16. It has been supposed that Milton took the idea of writing a poem on the loss of Paradise, from an Italian tragedy called II Paradiso Perso,' but little weight can be placed on this opinion when it is considered that both his genius and the most favourite of his studies led him continually to religious contemplation.