ePub 版

That sparkling blazed, his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, ***

Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames,
Driven backward, slope their pointing spires, and roll'd
In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale.

We have more which we should gladly say of the delineation of Satan ; especially of the glimpses which are now and then given of his deep anguish and despair, and of the touches of better feelings which are skilfully thrown into the dark picture, both suited and designed to blend with our admiration, dread, and abhorrence, a measure of that sympathy and interest with which every living, thinking being ought to be regarded, and without which all other feelings tend to sin and pain.

As far as regards the daring, dauntless disposition of Milton's Satan, we are inclined to agree with Dr. Channing. What, indeed, can more terribly demonstrate the desperate determination of the devil than the following famous lines:

Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,
Said then the lost Archangel, this the seat

That we must change for heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he

Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid

What shall be right: farthest from him is best,

Whom reason hath equall'd, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells; hail horrors, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new possessor; one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place, or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less than he

Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell;
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
Th' associates and copartners of our loss,
Lie thus astonish'd on th' oblivious pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy mansion, or once more
With rallied arms to try what may be yet
Regain'd in Heav'n or what more lost in Hell?

So does his personal description of the fiend give us the idea of a Spirit of Evil, mighty and majestic :—

The superior Fiend

Was moving tow'rd the shore; his pond'rous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,

Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening from the top of Fesolé,
Or in Valdarno, to desery new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, on her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand,
He walk'd with to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marle; not like those steps
On Heaven's azure, and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire:
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and call'd
His legions, Angel forms, who lay entranced
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades
High over-arch'd imbow'r; or scatter'd sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm'd

Hath vex'd the Red Sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,

While with perfidious hatred they pursued

The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld

From the safe shore their floating carcasses

And broken chariot wheels: so thick bestrown,
Abject and lost lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded.

Still we have often doubted whether Milton has successfully detailed the entire nature of the devil. He has made him, like the Prometheus of Eschylus, a magnificent rebel to the Divine power, but we scarcely perceive, throughout the Paradise Lost, that crafty, tempting, and utterly malignant demon, such as spoken of in Scripture. Milton, for instance, commits an unpardonable error when he makes Satan, tempting Eve, to be moved even for instant :

Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold
This flow'ry plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone. Her heav'nly form
Angelic, but more soft and feminine,
Her graceful innocence, her ev'ry air
Of gesture or least action, overawed
His malice, and with rapine sweet bereaved
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought.
That space the Evil One abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remain'd
Stupidly good; of enmity disarm'd,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge;
But the hot Hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid Heaven, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more, the more he sees
Of pleasure not for him ordain'd.

The very notion of a moment's hesitation to do wrong, in the mind of the demon, is utterly absurd. If such vacillation were to occur once, it

might occur again, and thus would it destroy that eternity of active evil which is supposed to occupy the arch-enemy of mankind. Milton's Satan is a grand impersonation of wickedness, but it is not the Tempter of the desert-insidious, indefatigable, and implacable. This is fully the opinion of Dr. Blair, who, in his celebrated Lectures, thus alludes to the Satan of Paradise Lost:

Milton has not described Satan such as we suppose an infernal spirit to be. He has, more suitably to his own purpose, given him a human, that is, a mixed character, not altogether void of some good qualities. He is brave, and faithful to his troops. In the inidst of his impiety he is not without remorse. He is even touched with pity for our first parents, and justifies himself in his design against them, from the necessity of his situation. He is actuated by ambition and resentment, rather than by pure malice. In short, Milton's Satan is no worse than many a conspirator or factious chief that makes a figure in history.

Shakespeare, in his Iago, has produced a masterly incarnation of the fiendish spirit. Iago has all the qualifications of the demon; he is deep, daring, sarcastic, malignant, and unmerciful: not alone his acts, but his every thought is wicked. He has no human feeling beyond hate and malice. True, he talks of injuries inflicted, yet we think it is a mistake to suppose that he is actuated by revenge. The fierce jealousy he expresses with regard to Othello is a mere pretext, such as even fiends will start in excuse for the perpetration of crime. This is the more clearly so, from his giving the very same reason, immediately afterwards, for destroying Cassio, when in Cassio's case he could have no ground for suspicion. Moreover, Iago cares nothing for his wife, and treats her with utter contempt. He is throughout the play an arch-enemy of mankind; and that Shakespeare intended him to be so is evident from the frequent allusions made to infernal agency. Thus Iago says

Hell and night

Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.

And again

Divinity of hell!

When devils will their blackest sins put on,
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,
As I do now.

Othello, too, exclaims, in addressing Iago

I look down towards his feet, but that 's a fable.

Some of the speeches of Iago demonstrate his devil's spirit to perfection. For instance, how subtle is the following!

O sir, content you;

I follow him to serve my turn upon him :
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
Cannot be truly follow'd. You shall mark
Many a dutious and knee-crooking knave,
That, doting on his own obsequious boudage,
Wears out his time, much like his master's ass,

For nought but provender; and, when he 's old, cashier'd;
Whip me such honest knaves. Others there are,

Who trimm'd in forms and visages of duty,

Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves;

And, throwing but shews of service on their lords,

Do well thrive by them, and, when they have lined their coats,
Do themselves homage: these fellows have some soul;
And such a one do I profess myself.

For, sir,

It is as sure as you are Roderigo,

Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago :

In following him I follow but myself;

Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end;
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

How fiendish, too, is this!

Virtue? a fig! 'tis in ourselves, that we are thus, or thus. Our bodies are our gardens; to the which, our wills are gardeners: so that if we will plant nettles, or sow lettuce; set hyssop, and weed up thyme; supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many; either to have it sterile with idleness, or manured with industry; why the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality, the blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us to most preposterous conclusions: But we have reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts; whereof I take this, that you call-love, to be a sect, or scion.

He watches the progress of the evil he does with the exulting satisfaction of a demon

I will in Cassio's lodgings lose this napkin
And let him find it; Trifles, light as air,
Are, to the jealous, confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ. This may do something.
The Moor already changes with my poison:-
Dangerous conceits are, in their natures, poisons,
Which, at the first, are scarce found to distaste;
But, with a little act upon the blood,

Burn like the mines of sulphur-I did say so :


Look, where he comes! Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,

Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep,

Which thou ow'dst yesterday.

Shakespeare, though usually so fond of supernatural agency, exhibits consummate art in avoiding it when delineating the character and schemes of Iago. His object is to represent the fiend incarnate, triumphing in his villainy, without any other aid than the resources of his own diabolical mind, and he works out the plot most ably. Milton's Satan may be a magnificent creation, but Shakespeare's Iago approaches far nearer to the nature of the devil.

The Mephistopheles of Goethe may be said to be a compound of Milton's Satan and Shakespeare's Iago: he has the bold daring of the one and the cruel craft of the other. The opening prologue of Faust

reminds one strongly of Milton, though Mephistopheles is more subservient and sarcastic than Satan. Goethe's fiend thus addresses the Almighty Power:

Since Thou, O Lord, approachest us once more,
Deigning to our concerns to lend an ear;
As Thou wast pleased to see me heretofore,
Behold, I now among thy train appear!
Forgive me, if in rhetoric I 'm unskilled;
Tho at my words the Audience all should scoff!
Pathos, from me, had Thee with laughter filled;
If, long ago, Thou hadst not left it off!

Of Suns and Planets I have nought to say-
I mark how men still fret their lives away!
Ever the same, the little God of Earth

Is just as whimsical as at his birth!

Much better had the creature thriven,

Had'st Thou to him no glimpse of Heaven's light given,
Which he calls Reason, using it, at best,

To prove himself a greater brute than all the rest!
He seems to me, with licence of Your Grace,

Like one of your long-shanked grasshopper race,
That springs, and flies, and, flying, springs;

While in the grass, he ever to the old tune sings.
Why can't the insect in the grass lie close?
Now into every mess he pokes his nose!

The temptation of Faust by Mephistopheles is finely conceived and powerfully described. Though long, we make no excuse for presenting the greater portion of it:

[blocks in formation]

* The translation of Faust, here given, is that by the Hon. Robert Talbot.

« 上一頁繼續 »