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The corresponding verses in Milton (IV. 288-306) are these :
“ Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native honour clad
She as a veil down to the slender waist
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved.” No need to ask which of the poets excels the other here, which is the more tasteful: the question is whether Milton would not have imagined his Adam and Eve exactly as he has done if there had been no Vondel before him,—whether, in fact, he could have imagined them one whit otherwise. There must be an Adam and Eve in Milton's Paradise, as in any other poet's; and hardly anything was left optional to him in his contrasted portraits of the two,unless indeed, to spite Vondel, he had chosen to make his Eve dark-haired! He could hardly have ventured on that without consulting Adam ; and so there is the astounding coincidence that Milton's Eve and Vondel's are pretty much alike in the matter of the golden hue of their dishevelled tresses.
In Vondel's drama, as in the Anglo-Saxon Cadmon's Paraphrase of Genesis, and perhaps every other poem that had treated of Satan's revolt and fall, the haughty character of Satan is represented by characteristic speeches put into his mouth. The following is Mr. Edmundson's version of a speech of Lucifer in colloquy with Beelzebub. It must be supposed as spoken in Heaven, while Lucifer is contemplating his resistance to the Almighty and the possible result :
“ Thou reas'nest well. Essential powers care not
So easy to let slip their lawful right.
Is my resolve. Is't fated that I fall,
Milton, Mr. Edmundson would have us believe, kept this passage in his repertory of specially available bits from Vondel; but, with his accustomed cunning, he did not use it all in one place, but put a crumb of it here, a crumb of it there, another crumb in a third place, and another in a fourth. The several places, in the order in which Mr. Edmundson cites them, are Par. Lost, V. 787-792, Samson Agonistes, 300-310, Par. Lost, I. 94-111, and Par. Lost, I. 250-263. Let any sensible man look at those passages of Milton for himself, and this miserable hypothesis that they are crumbs from Vondel will vanish in contempt, overwhelmed as it will be by the constant perception that in these passages, as in all others where there is any semblance of coincidence with Vondel, Milton was simply expressing after his grand and all-superseding fashion what had been commonplaces in the poetic tradition of Satan's character and revolt for ages before Vondel had used them in his drama. The last of the passages cited, however, may be quoted here, inasmuch as it contains that particular coincidence which is supposed to be the most clinching in Vondel's favour. To this day, it is said, the most familiar quotation from Vondel in the mouths of his Dutch countrymen is the sentence printed above in italics, the original of which is this:
“ En liever d'eerste vorst in einig lager hof
Dan in't gezaligd licht de tweede, of nog een minder.” Well, how runs the famous passage, Par. Lost, I. 249-263, in which Satan, roused from his first stupor in Hell, declares to Beelzebub his acquiescence with his new condition ?
“Farewell, happy fields,
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Had Milton, so far Vondel's superior in every faculty of mind as every comparison between them shows him to have been, had Milton to go to Vondel for the conception here Italicised ? Not he! If he could not invent it for himself, poor man, it was at hand for him in English books. Among Todd's extracts, for example, there is an extract from an imagined discourse of Satan's which occurs in Stafford's Niobe, an English prose-treatise, the second edition of which was published in London by Humphrey Lownes in 1611. “ They say, forsooth,” the Ruined Archangel is here made to explain, “ that pride was the cause of my fall, and that I dwell where there is
nothing but weeping, howling, and gnashing of teeth ; of which that “ falsehood was the authour I will make you plainelie perceive. True “it is, Sir, that I, storming at the name of Supremacie, dispossessed “me of all pleasures; and the Seraphim and Cherubim, Throni, “ Dominationes, Virtutes, Potestates, Principatus, Archangeli, Angeli, " and all the Celestial Hierarchyes, with a shout of applause, sung my “ departure out of Heaven: my Alleluia was turned into an Ehu ; “ and too soon I found that I was corruptibilis ab alio, though not in alio, and that he that gave me my being could againe take it from
Now, forasmuch as I was once an Angell of Light, it was the “ will of Wisedome to confine me to darknes and to create me “ Prince thereof; so that I who could not obey in Heaven, might com“ mand in Hell. And, believe mee, Sir, I had rather controule within
my dark diocese than to reinhabite CÆLUM EMPYREUM, and there live “in subjection, under check.” The whole passage is interesting as exemplifying the definiteness of that set of imaginations respecting Satan's personality and history which had come down to Vondel and Milton alike as a centuries-old inheritance; but what is most interesting in it for our present purpose is the proof which it seems to furnish that the particular idea Italicised above as perhaps the most startling
example in all Milton of a coincidence of conception between him and Vondel was already in the air and waiting for them before either of them wrote a verse.
" Rather would I be
The Blessed Light the second” was Vondel's weaker version for the Dutch, we may therefore suppose, of a proverbial expression which came out from the stronger stamp of Milton's mintage Englished for ever thus :
“Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." One specimen more of Mr. Edmundson's examples of Milton's debts to Vondel. If there are any two passages in Paradise Lost the correct interpretation of which might be made a test of adequate knowledge and appreciation of the poem as a whole, they are these :
“ Such place Eternal Justice had prepared
For those rebellious ; here their prison ordained
P. L., I. 70-74. “ Weighs his spread wings, at leisure to behold
Far off the empyreal Heaven, extended wide
P. L., II. 1046-1053. The first of these gives the measurement of the vast distance down in Chaos at which Hell, in Milton's scheme, lay separated from Heaven or the Empyrean. It was equal to three semi-diameters of that Astronomical or Mundane Universe which God's new act of Creation had hung in Chaos between Heaven and Hell; and consequently the depth of the belt of Chaos which had been left intervening between the nadir or lowest pole of that Astronomical Universe and the uppermost boss or bulge of Hell was exactly one of these semi-diameters. It was up through this intervening belt of Chaos that Satan had to make his way in his expedition from Hell in search of the new Universe; and the second passage describes the spectacle
that broke upon his gaze when his toilsome ascent had been all but completed, and he could stay his wings in the calmer air which approached the confines of the new Universe and the angles of its contact at the zenith with the great Empyrean itself. He could then behold again the jewelled boundaries, high above him, of this great Empyrean, his recent well-known home, and hanging thence, as in a golden chain, that new object, unknown to him heretofore, which he had come to investigate,--the pendent Starry World wherein Man had existence. In comparison with the dimensions of the Empyrean from which it hung, this pendent World,-i.e. the whole Cosmos of the wheeling spheres and luminaries, was but as a star of the smallest magnitude seen on the edge of the full or crescent moon.
Now, will it be believed that Mr. Edmundson finds purloining from Vondel even in this cardinal matter of the entire physical structure and mapping out of Milton's epic? The purloining is not this time, Mr. Edmundson finds, from Vondel's Lucifer, which had been published before Milton began his epic in earnest; but it is from Vondel's Joannes Boetgezant and his Bespiegelingen van God en Godsdienst, published severally in 1662 and 1661, when Milton was already far on with his epic! What is Mr. Edmundson's warrant? It lies in a combination of two passages, or rather of shreds from two passages, in these two later poems of Vondel. In one passage in the Bespiegelingen, the subject being the inconceivable immensity of the physical Universe, Vondel winds up with this expression :
“ En wat is dit heelal, in dien men God beschouw,
In grootheid meerder dan een druppel morgendouw ?” translated by Mr. Edmundson thus :
“ What is this universe, if viewed by God,
In bulk, but as a drop of morning-dew ?”
The other passage is in the Joannes Boetgezant, and is cited by Mr. Edmundson chiefly with reference to Milton's supposed use of that poem in his subsequent and smaller epic, Paradise Regained. It yields, however, Mr. Edmundson thinks, a conception which had struck Milton so much that he went back with it into the alreadywritten text of the First Book of his Paradise Lost, and carefully worked it into the five lines of that text where Hell's position in space relatively to Heaven and to Man's World is so exactly defined. For Vondel, finding it necessary in his Joannes Boetgezant to make