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earth, rolling as a planet round one of them, is represented, as
"The only spot throughout the works of God,
When all things with respect to mankind in their state of probation are accomplished, the Almighty removes them, quick and dead, to the plain of Armageddon, where they are judged. The earth, deserted by its inhabitants, is given up a prey to the powers of evil, who destroy it, and overthrow also the whole material universe; the inhabitants of the stars having been first removed to heaven.
"That destruction is represented as beginning with the burning of the earth by a column of fire attracted from the surface of a comet. All the suns and constellations, inclosed by the wide circle of Armageddon, rush together in inextricable confusion; the beings that are saved rest in happiness; the condemned continue with the powers of evil. Chaos is commanded to resume its first seat, forming an impassable gulph between the realms of hap piness and misery; the dispensations of Providence are completed, and time is lost in eternity."
We see nothing objectionable in this scheme on the score of propriety; neither revealed truth, nor the deductions of reason, are at all at variance with it. The subject is one on which we may speculate for ever; but we hasten to the consideration of the Poem itself, which is divided into twelve books.
We do not advance far into the first book before we find ourselves engaged in the action of the Poem. The universe having existed its appointed time, the Deity is pleased to bring to a close the state of those beings who had inhabited earth and the surrounding stars. He wills that they should be called to final account, and that the place for judgment should be Armageddon. Accordingly they are summoned, quick and dead, to appear before their God. Angels are commissioned to conduct them from the several lower worlds to a higher region, the appointed plain, there to await their sentence. The overwhelming sensations which affect those thus "gathered to await their judge," are well imagined to be of a nature so powerful, so new, that every corporeal and mental energy is at once deadened; all power of action precluded by intensity of feeling.
"The clamorous outcry, and the whispered prayer,
In mournful silence; one oppressive calm
The Messiah, descending from heaven, (properly so termed, the seat of his glory) proceeds to final retribution. The spirits of the just are admitted into the heavenly kingdom, as good and faithful servants entering into the joy of their Lord: for the slaves of sin is reserved the sentence of everlasting death; condemned to be for ever separated from God, from his angels, and the light of heaven. At this point of time Adam, the patriarch father of mankind is introduced, mourning the fate of those souls, whose vices, when on earth, have caused them woe and death in the world of spirits. He imagines himself to be the cause of their miseries, is agonized, because on him
"Fierce in the torture of despair they turn,
This introduction of Adam has certainly a good effect as far as Poetry be concerned; we shall therefore give the passage as it stands but from the circumstance of his bemoaning with agony the doom of the suffering wicked, and attributing to himself their final condemnation, doctrines may, and indeed must be deduced, the propriety of which, as strict Theologians, we be tempted to dispute.
Before thine awful throne, Almighty King!
That, safely harboured from the wreck of Earth,
We doubt then how far it be correct to suffer Adam, or any other being when once beatified, to know pain and sorrow more, from whatsoever cause they might be supposed to arise The strong and perfect sense which, as spiritual beings, we shall have of the entire justice and mercy of God, will surely prevent any drawback to our felicity, though we should witness as Adam
is here supposed to do, the miseries even of those to whom in life we were bound even by ties of blood.
But we must beg to point out another doctrine equally indefensible and still more dangerous, deducible from this passage: the doctrine of necessity. That the wicked, ever ready to assign for their guilt any other cause than the true one, ready to lay the blame on any rather than on themselves, and anxious to extenuate their conduct by any false pretences, that they should turn in their torments to Adam, and charge him with all their vices, all their woe, might at first, perhaps, appear probable and reasonable to suppose: but even this we cannot allow. The wicked, in the midst of their misery, will be spirits; and, therefore, thoroughly informed on the vast mystery of redemption; universal in its offers of mercy, though too often rendered vain by the perverseness of the impenitent. So strong will be their sense of God's justice, that the accursed shall confess the even of an avenging God.
We find the second and third Books strikingly contrasted. In the former the blessed are taken up into heaven, and there instructed, by the song of the Cherub Jediel, in the history of the universe; including heaven, hell, Armageddon, and the stars. In the latter Book the condemned are represented as conveyed to the infernal regions, their appointed place of torment; where, instead of a cherub's song of joy, are heard only the mingled groans of the tormented, and the mocking taunts of the tormentors; whilst they lie
"Whelmed in the stormy gulphs of rolling fire."
The descriptive passages here have some fine lines, though not perhaps equal in strength of expression to the vast ideas they are meant to convey. The chiefs of the demons are now introduced as consulting how they may, with most probability of success, make war against heaven's King. This consultation is interrupted by the unexpected approach of Sin in person. The thought is well conceived, and managed with peculiar spirit and effect. Sin comes forward as the parent of the demous: she urges them, by an assurance of her ready presence, to aid them to assault the heaven of heavens.
"I will be with you still:
Rouse your keen thoughts, and, pointing to the skies,
When fainting toil shall sink beneath the bolt
Of heavenly wrath. On to the higher world!" P. 118.
The scene in which her figure is disceruible through the va poury cloud, is painted with such warmth, and yet with such propriety, that we cannot but present it to the reader. The image of Sin herself; the blind love which the demons "her sons" bear to her; the change in her form, withering and melancholy at the prospect of her closing reign; and the additional effect which her waning charms have, by the influence of that pity, which is always naturally excited by the contemplation of fallen greatness, even though the fall be merited, and which may be supposed, in the present instance, to have recurred, with mournful recollection, to days of youthful grace and beauty; all these circumstances are combined with great skill in the following animated description.
"They from the hovering cloud
And curses of despair, and nameless blasphemies." P. 119.
The demons continue their consultation in the fourth Book, and the result of their deliberation, animated by the speech of Sin, is, preparation for the battle of Armageddon. To fill up the space of time which is supposed to intervene between the
preparation for war and the battle itself. Brahma and Ithream, two spirits of evil, are introduced, commissioned by Satan to burn the earth and to effect this destruction, they are directed to seize a comet which may be attached to some distant star, direct it to our solar system, and destroy it. To execute this commission, the rebel chieftains, as we find in the opening of the fifth Book, begin their journey. Ithream, a spirit of inferior power and knowledge to Brahma, sees, for the first time, as he emerges from the region of Armageddon, the starry world. The feelings, which he expresses at the sight, give rise to a beautiful passage, full of sentiment, and in a true spirit of poetry,
"Beneath the cloudless sky, at autumn eve,
Up to the firmament the sea-boy turns,
"Poised on expanded wing," and keeping their way through spheres deserted now, since their several inhabitants had been called to judgment, they arrive at the central world. This spot is supposed by Mr. T. to have been ordained as the more immediate throne of the archangel and his minstering spirits; who from thence, as from a centre, were employed at the command of God, in watching over and benefiting surrounding worlds: whilst their face was especially directed to the inhabitants of this earth; in guarding us from temptation, in comfortRr
VOL. V. JUNE, 1816.