« PreviousContinue »
affairs were not very intricate, nor authors very numerous.
For the subject of his epick poem, after much deliberation, long chusing, and beginning late, he fixed upon Paradise Lost; a design so comprehensive, that it could be justified only by success. He had once designed to celebrate King Arthur, as he hints in his verses to Mansus; but Arthur was reserved, says Fenton, to another destiny *.
It appears, by some sketches of poetical projects left in manuscript, and to be seen in a library mi at Cambridge, that he had digested his thoughts on this sub. ject into one of those wild dramas which were anciently called Mysteries ; and Philips had seen what he terms part of a tragedy, beginning with the first ten lines of Satan's address to the Sun. These mysteries confift of allegorical persons; such as Justice, Mercy, Faith. Of the tragedy or mystery of Peradise Lost there are two plans :
The Persons. : Michael.
Moses. Chorus of Angels. Divine Justice, Wisdom, Heavenly Love.
Heavenly Love. Lucifer.
The Evening Star, Heri adam, \ with the Serpent. perus. Eve, s
Chorus of Angels. Conscience.
* ldct, to be the fubject of an heroic poem, written by Sir Richard Blackmore. H. of Trinity College. R.
Moses, upodoy 12 !, recounting how he assumed his true body ; that it corrupts not, because it is with God in the mount; declares the like with Enoch and Elijah; besides the purity of the place, that certain pure winds, dews, and clouds, preserve it from corruption; whence exhorts to the fight of God; tells they cannot fee Adam in the state of innocence, by reason of their fin.
June, debatino what should become of man, if Mercy, 1 he fall.
Chorus of Angels finging a hymn of the Creation.
A CT II.
Lucifer contriving Adam's ruin.
lion and fall.
Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise. --
presented by an angel with Labour, Grief, Hatred, Envy, War, Famine,)
Peltilence, Sickness, Discontent, Ignor. Mutes,
Heat, Tempeít, &c.
Chorus briefly concludes,
Such Such was his first design, which could have produced only an allegory, or mystery. The following ketch seems to have attained more maturity.
Adam unparadised :
The angel Gabriel, either descending or entering; shewing, fince this globe was created, his frequency as much on earth as in heaven; describes Paradise. Next, the Chorus, fhewing the reason of his coming to keep his watch in Paradise, after lucifer's rebellion, by command from God; and withal expressing his desire to see and know more concerning this excellent new creature, man. The angel Gabriel, as by his name fignifying a prince of power, tracing Paradise with a more free office, paffes by the station of the Chorus, and, defired by them, relates what he knew of man; as the creation of Eve, with their love and marriage. After this, Lucifer appears; after his overthrow, bemoans himself, seeks revenge on man. The Chorus prepare resistance at his first approach. At last, after discourse of enmity on either side, he departs : whereat the Chorus fings of the battle and victory in Heaven, against him and his accomplices: as before, after the first act, was sung a hymn of the creation. Here again may appear Lucifer, relating and insulting in what he had done to the destruction of man. Man next, and Eve having by this time been seduced by the Serpent, appears confusedly covered with leaves. Conscience, in a shape, accuses him ; Justice cites him to the place whither Jehovah called for him. In the mean while, the Chorus en. tertains the stage, and is informed by some angel the
manner of the fall. Here the Chorus bewails Adam's fall; Adam then and Eve return; accuse one another; but especially Adam lays the blame to his wife ; is stubborn in his offence. Justice appears, reasons with him, convinces him. The Chorus admonishes Adam, and bids him beware Lucifer's example of impenitence. The angel is sent to banish them out of Paradise; but before causes to pass before his eyes, in Tapes, a mask of all the evils of this life and world. He is humbled, relents, despairs; at last appears Mercy, comforts him, promises the Messiah; then calls in Faith, Hope, and Charity; instructs himn; he repents, gives God the glory, submits to his penalty. The Chorus briefly concludes. Compare this with the former draught.
These are very imperfect rudiments of Paradise Loft; but it is pleasant to see great works in their fe-. minal fiate, pregnant with latent possibilities of excellence; nor could there be any more delightful entertainment than to trace their gradual growth and expansion, and to observe how they are sometimes sud.denly advanced by accidental hints, and sometimes. slowly improved by steady meditation.
Invention is almost the only literary labour which blindness cannot obstruct, and therefore he naturally folaced his folitude by the indulgence of his fancy, and the melody of his numbers. He had done what he knew to be necessarily previous to poetical excellence; he had made himself acquainted with seemly arts and affairs; his comprehenfion was extended by various knowledge, and his memory stored with intellectual treasures. He was skilful in many languages, and had by reading ard composition attained the full mastery