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concerning the motions of those celestial bodies which make the most glorious appearance among the six days work. The poet here, with a great deal of art, represents Eve as withdrawing from this part of their conversation, to amusements more suitable to her sex. He well knew that the episode in this book which is filled with Adam's account of his passion and esteem for Eve, would have been improper for her hearing, and has therefore devised very just and beautiful reasons for her retiring.
So spake our sire, and by his countnance seem'd
Such pairs, in love and mutual honour join’d? The angel's returning a doubtful answer to Adam's inquiries was not only proper for the moral reason which the poet assigns, but because it would have been highly absurd to have given the sanction of an archangel to any particular system of philosophy. The chief points in the
Ptolemaic and Copernican hypotheses are described with great conciseness and perspicuity, and at the same time dressed in very pleasing and poetical images.
Adam, to detain the angel, enters afterwards upon his own history, and relates to him the circumstances in which he found himself
his creation; as also his conversation with his Maker, and his first meeting with Eve. There is no part of the poem more apt to raise the attention of the reader than this discourse of our great ancestor; as nothing can be more surprising and delightful to us, than to hear the sentiments that arose in the first man while he was yet new and fresh from the hands of his Creator. The poet has interwoven every thing which is delivered upon this subject in holy writ, with so many beautiful imaginations of his own, that nothing can be conceived more just and natural than this whole episode. As our author knew this subject could not but be agreeable to his reader, he would not throw it into the relation of the six days work, but reserved it for a distinct episode, that he might have an opportunity of expatiating upon it more at large. Before I enter on this part of the poem, I can not but take notice of two shining passages in the dialogue between Adam and the angel. The first is that wherein our ancestor
ives an account of the pleasure he took in conversing with him, which contains a very noble moral.
For while I sit with thee, I seem in heay'n,
Of sweet repast: they satiate, and soon fill,
The other I shall mention is that in which the angel gives a reason why he should be glad to hear the story Adam was about to relate.
For I that day was absent, as befel,
Destruction with creation might have mix'd. There is no question but our poet drew the image in what follows from that in Virgil's sixth book, where Æneas and the Sibyl stand before the adamantine gates, which are there described as shut upon the place of torments, and listen to the
groans, the clank of chains, and the noise of iron whips, that were heard in those regions of pain and sorrow.
- Fast we found, fast shut
Adam then proceeds to give an account of his condition and sentiments immediately after his creation. How agreeably does he represent the posture in which he found himself, the beautiful landscape that surrounded him, and the gladness of heart which grew up in him on that occasion!
-As new wak'd from soundest sleep,
Adam is afterwards described as surprised at his own existence, and taking a survey of him
self, and of all the works of nature. He like• Wise is represented as discovering by the light of
reason, that he and every thing about him must have been the effect of some being infinitely good and powerful, and that this being had a right to his worship and adoration. His first address to the sun, and to those parts of the creation which made the most distinguished figure, is very natural and amusing to the imagination.
- Thou sun,' said I, “fair light,
His next sentiments, when, upon his first going to sleep, he fancies himself losing his existence, and falling away into nothing, can never be sufficiently admired. His dream, in which he still preserves the consciousness of his existence,
together with his removal into the garden which was prepared for his reception, are also circumstances finely imagined, and grounded upon what is delivered in sacred story.
These, and the like wonderful incidents in this part of the work, have in them all the beauties of novelty, at the same time that they have all the graces of nature. They are such as none but a great genius could have thought of; though, upon the perusal of them, they seem to rise of themselves from the subject of which he treats. In a word, though they are natural, they are not obvious; which is the true character of all fine writing.
The impression which the interdiction of the tree of life left in the mind of our first parent, is described with great strength and judgment; as the image of the several beasts and birds passing in review before him is very beautiful and lively.
-Each bird and beast behold Approaching two and two, these cow'ring low With blandishment; each bird stoop'd on his wing: I nam'd them as they pass'dAdam, in the next place, describes a conference which he held with his Maker upon the subject of solitude. The poet here represents the Supreme Being as making an essay of his own work, and putting to the trial that reasoning faculty with which he had endued his creature. Adam urges, in this divine colloquy, the impossibility of his being happy, though he was the inhabitant of Paradise, and lord of the whole creation, without the conversation and society of some rational creature, who should partake those bless