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vanishes before the lightning thought by which they have leapt from the bottom of our heart. Nothing then can be more depressing than the degradation of these noble ideas, settling into the regularity of formulas, and under the discipline of a popular worship. What is smaller than a god sunk to the level of a king and a man? what more repulsive than the Hebrew Jehovah, defined by theological pedantry, governed in his actions by the last manual of doctrine, petrified by literal interpretation ?
Milton's Jehovah is a grave king, who maintains a suitable state, something like Charles I. When we meet him for the first time, in Book mi., he is holding council, and setting forth a matter of business. From the style we see his grand furred cloak, his pointed Vandyke beard, his velvet-covered throne and golden dais. The business concerns a law which does not act well, and respecting which he desires to justify his rule. Adam is about to eat the apple: why have exposed Adam to the temptation? The royal orator discusses the question, and shows the reason:
I made him just and right,
Both what they judge and what they choose.'!
"Paradise Lost, book iii, v. 98-123.
at the distinguo, and, before all, incomparably tedious. To get them to listen to such tirades he must pay his councillors of state very well. Ilis son answers him respectfully in the same style. Goethe's God, half abstraction, half legend, source of calm oracles, a vision just beheld after a pyramid of ecstatic strophes, greatly excels this Miltonic God, a business man, a schoolmaster, a man for show! I honour him too much in giving him these titles. He deserves a worse name, when he sends Raphael to warn Adam that Satan intends him some mischief:
This let him know,
Surprisal, unadmonish'd, unforewarn’d.'' This Miltonic Deity is only a schoolmaster, who, foreseeing the fault of his pupil, tells him beforehand the grammar rule, so as to have the pleasure of scolding him without discussion. Moreover, like a good politician, he had a second motive, just as with his angels, . For state, as sovran king; and to inure our prompt obedience. The word is out; we see what Milton's heaven is : a Whitehall filled with bedizened footmen. The angels are the chapel singers, whose business is to sing hymns about the king and before the king, relieving each other to sing 'melodious hymns about the sovran throne. What a life for this poor king! and what a cruel condition, to hear eternally his own praises ! To amuse himself, Milton's Deity decides to crown his son kingpartner-king, if you prefer it. Read the passage, and say if it be not a ceremony of his time that the poet describes :
. Ten thousand thousand ensigns high advanced,
Standards and gonfalons 'twixt van and rear
Recorded eminent;'' doubtless the capture of a Dutch vessel, the defeat of the Spaniards in the Downs. The king brings forward his son, 'anoints' him, declares him his great vicegerent:'
"To him shall bow
"End of the continuation of Faust. Prologue in Heaven. ? Paradise Lost, book v. v. 243.
3 We are reminded of the history of Ira in Voltaire, condemned to hear with. out intermission or end the praises of four chamberlains, and the following hymn :
· Que son mérite est extrême !
Doit être content de lui-meme!' * Paradise Lost, book v. v. 588-594.
6 Ibid. v. 607-612.
and such were, in fact, expelled from heaven the same day. All seem'd well pleased; all seem'd, but were not all.' Yet
. That day, as other solemn days, they spent
Desirous.'1 Milton describes the tables, the dishes, the wine, the vessels. It is a popular festival; I miss the fireworks, the bell-ringing, as in London, and I can fancy that all would drink to the health of the new king. Then Satan revolts; he takes his troops to the other end of the country, like Lambert or Monk, toward the quarters of the north,' Scotland perhaps, passing through well-governed districts, "empires,' with their sheriffs and lord-lieutenants. Heaven is divided like a good map. Satan holds forth before his officers against royalty, opposes in a word-combat the good royalist Abdiel, who refutes his ' blasphemous, false, and proud' arguments and quits him to rejoin his prince at Oxford. Well armed, the rebel marches with his pikemen and artillery to attack the fortress. The two parties cut each other with the sword, mow each other down with cannon-balls, knock each other down with political arguments. These sorry angels have a mind as well disciplined as the Parliamentarians; they have passed their youth in a class of logic and in a drill school. Satan holds forth like a preacher:
• What heaven's Lord had powerfulest to send
Against us from about his throne, and judged
Omniscient thought.'3 He also talks like a drill-sergeant. Vanguard, to right and left the front unfold.' He makes quips as clumsy as those of Harrison, the former butcher turned officer. What a heaven! It is enough to disgust one with Paradise; one would rather enter Charles 1.'s troop of lackeys, or Cromwell's Ironsides. We have orders of the day, a hierarchy, exact submission, extra-duties, disputes, regulated ceremonials, prostrations, etiquette, furbished arms, arsenals, depots of chariots and ammunition. Was it worth while leaving earth to find in heaven carriage-works,
i Paradise Lost, book v. v. 617-631.
2 The Miltonic Deity is so much on the level of a king and man, that he uses (with irony certainly) words like these : 'Lest unwary we love this place, our sanctuary, our hill.'
His son, about to flesh his maiden sword, replies : 'If I be found the worst in heaven, Metc.-Book vi. * Paradise Lost, book vi. v. 425-430.
buildings, artillery, a manual of tactics, the art of salutations, and the Almanac de Gotha ? Are these the things which 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart to conceive?' What a gap between this inonarchical frippery' and the visions of Dante, the souls floating like stars amid the harmonies, the mingled splendours, the mystic roses radiating and vanishing in the azure, the impalpable world in which all the laws of earthly life are dissolved, the unfathomable abyss traversed by fleeting visions, like golden bees gliding in the rays of the deep central sun! Is it not a sign of extinguished imagination, of the inroad of prose, of the birth of the practical genius, replacing metaphysics by morality? What a fall! To measure it, read a true Christian poem, the Apocalypse. I copy half-a-dozen verses; think what it has become in the hands of the imitator:
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks ;
"And in the midst of the seven candlesticks, one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire ;
*And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; ard his voice as the sound of many waters.
'And he had in his right hand seven stars : and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword : and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.'?
When Milton was arranging his celestial show, he did not fall as dead.
But if the innate and inveterate habits of logical argument, joined with the literal theology of the time, prevented him from attaining to lyrical illusion or from creating living souls, the splendour of his grand imagination, joined with the Puritan passions, furnished him with an heroic character, several sublime hymns, and scenery which no one has surpassed. The finest thing in connection with this Paradise is hell; and in this history of God, the chief part is taken by the devil. The ridiculous devil of the middle-age, a horned enchanter, a dirty jester, a petty and mischievous ape, band-leader to a rabble of old women, has become a giant and a hero. Like a conquered and vanished Cromwell, he remains admired and obeyed by those whom he has drawn into the abyss. If be continues master, it is because he deserves it; firmer, more enterprising, more scheming than the rest, it is always
1 When Raphael comes on earth, the angels who are under watch,''in honour rise.' The disagreeable and characteristic feature of this heaven is, that the universal motive is obedience, while in Dante's it is love. “Lowly reverent they bow. . . . Our happy state we hold, like yours, while our obedience holds.'
2 Rev. i. 12.
from him that deep counsels, unlooked-for resources, courageous deeds, proceed. It was he who invented "deep-throated engines . . . disgorging, ... chained thunderbolts, and hail of iron globes,' and won the second day's victory; he who in hell roused his dejected troops, and planned the ruin of man; he who, passing the guarded gates and the endless chaos, amid so many dangers, and across so many obstacles, made man revolt against God, and gained for hell the whole posterity of the new-born. Though defeated, he prevails, since he has won from the monarch on high the third part of his angels, and almost all the sons of his Adam. Though wounded, he triumphs, for the thunder which smote his head, left his heart invincible. Though feebler in force, he remains superior in nobility, since he prefers suffering independence to happy servility, and welcomes his defeat and his torments as a glory, a liberty, and a joy. These are the proud and sombre political passions of the constant though oppressed Puritans; Milton had felt them in the vicissitudes of war, and the emigrants who had taken refuge amongst the panthers and savages of America, found them strong and energetic in the depths of their heart.
Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.'' This sombre heroism, this harsh obstinacy, this biting irony, these proud stiff arms which clasp grief as a mistress, this concentration of invincible courage which, cast on its own resources, finds everything in itself, this power of passion and sway over passion,
The unconquerable will,
i Paradise Lost, book i. v. 242-263.