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Sir John Denman, a man distinguished as a soldier, a senator, and a poet, entered the House of Commons with a proof sheet of Milton's work, wet from the press, and exclaimed, “This is part of the noblest poem that ever was written in any language or in any age;" and Dryden's exclamation on first seeing it was no less pithy—“This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too!"
With the close of his great life-work, we may end this biographical sketch. Ere the first edition of his poem had been sold, he was numbered with the mighty dead. “With a dissolution so easy that it was unperceived by the persons in his bed-chamber, he closed a life, clouded indeed by uncommon and various calami. ties, yet ennobled by the constant exercise of such rare endowments, as render his name, perhaps, the very first in that radiant and comprehensive list, of which England, the most fertile of countries in the produce of mental power, has reason to be proud."
His funeral was attended by "all his learned and great friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar." His place of burial is in the church of St. GDes's, Cripplegate, and there England's noblest poet was committed to the dust, calm in the Christian's sure and certain hope of a blessed immortality.
Tais first book proposes, first in brief, the whole sub
ject, man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed. Then touches the prime cause of his fall, the serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was by the command of God driven out of heaven with all his crew into the great deep. Which action passed over, the Poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into hell, describ. ed here, not in the centre, for heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed; but in a place of atter darkness, fitliest call. ed Chaos: here Satan, with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded: they rise; their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech. comforts them with hope yet of regaining heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of crea
be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in heaven: for that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandæmonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: the infernal Peers there sit in council.
Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
view, Nor the deep tract of hell; say first, what cause Moved our grand parents, in that happy state, Favour'd of Heaven so highly, to fall off From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the world besides ?
thought Both of lost happiness and lasting pain Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes, That witness'd huge affliction and dismay, Mix'd with obdurate pride and steadfast hate. At once, as far as angels ken, he views The dismal situation waste and wild: A dungeon horrible, on all sides round, As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those
flames No light, but rather darkness visible Served only to discover sights of woe, Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can never dwell; hope never comes,