網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

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
Entering on studious thoughts abstruse; which Eve
Perceiving, where she sat, retir'd in sight,
With lowliness majestic, from her seat,
And grace, that won who saw to wish her stay,
Rose, and went forth among her fruits and flowers,
To visit how they prosper'd, bud and bloom,
Her nursery; they at her coming sprung,
And touch'd by her fair tendance gladlier grew.
Yet went she not, as not with such discourse
Delighted, or not capable her ear
Of what was high: such pleasure she reserv'd,
Adam relating, she sole auditress;
Her husband the relater she preferr'd
Before the angel, and of him to ask
Chose rather; he, she knew, would intermix
Grateful digressions, and solve high dispute
With conjugal caresses; from his lip
Not words alone pleas'd her. 0! when meet now

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

VOL. VII.

N

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

upon

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,
And sweeter thy discourse is to my ear
Than fruits of palm-tree (pleasantest to thirst
And hunger both, from labour) at the hour

Of sweet repast: they satiate, and soon fill,
Tho' pleasant; but thy words, with grace divine
Imbu'd, bring to their sweetness no satiety.

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,
Bound on a voyage uncouth and obscure,
Far on excursion towards the gates of hell,
Squard in full legion, (such command we had)
To see that nore thence issu'd forth a spy,
Or enemy, while God was in his work;
Lest he, incens'd at such eruption bold,

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
The dismal gates, and barricado'd strongi.
But long ere our approaching heard within
Noise, other than the sound of dance or song,
Torment, and loud lament, and furious rage.

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!

1

[ocr errors]

-As new wak'd from soundest sleep,
Soft on the flow'ry herb I found me laid
In balmy sweat, which with his beams the sun
Soon dry'd, and on the reeking moisture fed.
Straight towards heav'n my wond'ring eyes I turn'd,
And gaz'd awhile the ample sky, till rais'd
By quick instinctive motion, up I sprung,
As thitherward endeavouring, and upright
Stood on my feet: about me round I saw
Hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny plains,
And liquid lapse of murm’ring streams; by these,
Creatures that liv'd, and mov’d, and walk'd, or few,
Birds on the branches warbling: all things smil'd
With fragrance; and with joy my heart o'erflow'd.

Adam is afterwards described as surprised at his own existence, and taking a survey of himself, and of all the works of nature. He likewise 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,
And thou, enlighten'd earth, so fresh and gay,
Ye hills, and dales, ye rivers, woods, and plains,
And

ye

that live and move, fair creatures, tell, Tell, if ye saw, how came I thus? how here?'

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

2

« 上一頁繼續 »