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might be given. When Satan, already half-way through Chaos, in his quest of the new Universe, ceases his temporary halt at the pavilion of Night, and, having received direction there, rises with fresh alacrity for his further ascent, how is the recommencement of his motion indicated ? He (II. 1013-4)
Springs upward like a pyramid of fire
And, when, having arrived at the new Universe and found the opening into it, he flings himself down and alights first on the Sun, how is his alighting on the body of the Sun described (III: 588— 590) ?
“ There lands the Fiend, a spot like which perhaps
Astronomer in the Sun's lucent orb
But, even if we follow Milton into the passages of purely terrestrial description in his Paradise Lost,his descriptions of Eden and what went on there,—we shall trace, if I do not mistake, some subtle action of the same influence from his blindness. These portions of the poem amount to about a fifth of the whole, and they are surpassingly beautiful. The poet revels there in a wealth of verdure and luxuriant detail, reminding us of the rich pastoral poems of his youth, when he delighted in landscape and vegetation. Take the first general description of Paradise (IV. 246—268) :
“ Thus was this place,
The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs,
How richly here the blind poet's recollections of natural scenery come back to his dreams! Or take, as a more minute specimen, the description of the nuptial bower of Eve (IV. 692—703) :
" The roof
This is beautiful too: a brave recollection of his old loves, the flowers. But, though such passages abound, showing how, after years of blindness, the poet could still walk in imagination over the variegated earth and recall its delights of form and colour for his use, it will be found, I think, that even in those passages, and much more in others, there is here and there a subtle cunning peculiar to blindness. What I mean is that, even in his descriptions of terrestrial scenes and incidents, Milton will be found, in his Paradise Lost, to have produced his effects with an unusual degree of frequency through the use of the possible varieties of the single metaphor of luminousness or radiance. When, for example, Ithuriel and Zephon, searching through Paradise at night, discover Satan squat like a toad at the ear of the sleeping Eve, and when Ithuriel touches him with his spear, how is the effect described (IV. 814–820) ?
Up he starts,
In the sequel, Ithuriel and Zephon, leading Satan as their prisoner, bring him to the western point of the Garden, where the two subdivisions of guardian angels that have been going their rounds have just met and reformed company under Gabriel's command. There Gabriel upbraids the captive Fiend; who in his turn defies Gabriel, and waxes insolent. One of his speeches is so insolent that the whole band of Gabriel's angels instinctively begin to close round him aggressively. And how is this described (IV. 978—980)?
“ While thus he spake, the Angelic squadron bright
Turned fiery-red, sharpening in moonèd horns
In other words, the appearance of the angelic band, advancing in the dark to encircle Satan, was like that of the crescent moon. But throughout the poem many similar instances will be found, in which the metaphor of luminousness is made to accomplish effects that we should hardly have expected from it. We see the fond familiarity of the blind poet with the element of light in contrast with darkness, and an endless inventiveness of mode, degree, and circumstance in his fancies of this element. Throughout Paradise Lost, brilliance is, to a great extent, Milton's favourite synonym for beauty.1
One question that may be asked respecting the scheme of Paradise Lost remains still unanswered. What extent of time is embraced in the story of the poem? On this question Addison is
“The modern criticks,” he says, “have collected, “ from several hints in the Iliad and Æneid, the space of time which “ is taken up by the action of each of those poems; but, as a great
part of Milton's story was transacted in regions that lie out of the "reach of the Sun and the sphere of Day, it is impossible to gratify “the reader with such a calculation, which, indeed, would be more “ curious than instructive.” With due deference to Addison, it is best to assume that some instruction may lurk in whatever is curious ; and, if Milton has given any hints in his poem bearing on the question of the length of time over which the story extends, or on the more subtle question of his own notion of the applicability of the
1 To prevent mistake, I may state that I have already, in various places, and sometimes anonymously, expressed some of the speculations given in the text as to the influence of Milton's blindness on his later poetry.
human measure of time to such a story at all, it is the business of the critic to collect them. In this respect, too, there is not the least doubt that Milton had a distinct intention.
The action of the poem opens, in the First Book, with what Milton, in the Argument to that Book, calls “the midst of things": i.e. with the rousing of Satan and the rest of the fallen Angels from their first stupor in Hell, and their assembling to deliberate on the policy that may be best for them in their new condition. Whatever information is given us respecting those prior events in Heaven which had brought things to this pass comes in mainly in later parts of the poem by way of retrospect. The rousing of the rebel Angels in Hell is the first event in the order of reading. That event, however, is not left undated. It was exactly eighteen days after the expulsion of the rebel Angels from Heaven by the Messiah. Nine of these days had been occupied, we are afterwards told (VI. 871– 875), with their fall into Hell :
“ Nine days they fell. Confounded Chaos roared,
And felt tenfold confusion in their fall
Yawning, received them whole, and on them closed.” But, after they had thus fallen into Hell and been inclosed within its convex, there was a second period of nine days, during which they lay there stunned and stupefied. This we are told at I. 50-53; where the account of Satan's first awakening from his stupor and casting round his baleful eyes in Hell is prefaced thus :
“ Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew,
Confounded, though immortal.” Milton, it will be seen, here positively stipulates that these second nine days, during which the fallen Angels lay entranced in Hell, shall be taken as literal or human days. Indeed, there is a necessity for this which does not at once appear. For it is during those second nine days, or period of the entrancement of the outcast Angels in Hell, that Milton subsequently makes the Creation of Man's Universe to have taken place; and, as that Creation, according to his literal rendering of the Scripture narrative, is described as occupying six days, the measure of the day is intended to be the
same in both cases. There are even means for determining, by hints in the poem, those particular six days, out of the nine of Angelic stupor in Hell, during which Milton conceived the work of Creation in the Chaos above Hell to have been completed. Thus, in the Argument to the First Book, where we are told that “the poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell,” it is added that Hell is “described here not in the centre,” but as situated in “a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos": the reason for this deviation from the classical or traditional view of the place of Tartarus in space being given, parenthetically, in these words: "For Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly yet not accurst.” That is to say, it has to be assumed in Milton's Epic that the rebel Angels are already fallen into Hell, and closed in there, before there need have existed that Universe of our heavens and earth within the bounds of which Hell had been usually placed by previous poets. This is a preliminary hint to prevent mistake; but actually the poem itself tells us that the central Universe did not exist at the time when the rebel Angels fell through the depths of Chaos, nor till after they had been shut up for some time in that pit or nethermost section of Chaos which had been converted into a Hell. When Satan and the rest have recovered from their stupor of nine days in this new abode, they are represented (I. 650—656, and II. 345---351) as knowing, from their recollection of prophecies and rumours in Heaven, that somewhere or other, “about this time,” the new World of Man must have been created; and on this knowledge or conjecture all their farther action is founded. And their conjecture is right. The work of the New Creation had been begun in the Chaos above them, and completed, or all but completed, during their stupor. For, according to Raphael's account to Adam (VII. 131, et seq.), it was after Satan and his legions had been driven by the Messiah's thunders down into Hell, and the Messiah had returned in triumph to his Father in the Empyrean, that the fiat for the New Creation went forth. To execute this fiat, the Son, attended by His myriads of angelic ministers, again rides forth into Chaos; where, first marking out the spherical bounds of the new Universe, or clearing its destined bulk in the body of Chaos (VII. 216—242), He then, in six successive days (VII. 243-550), brings it, and the Earth at its centre, to perfection. At the close of the sixth day, called “the seventh evening” in the