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by a steady growth of the Puritan at the expense of the humanist in his character and work. Yet, as I have been solicitous to show, it is altogether a mistake to suppose that in his case the Puritan destroyed the humanist. Completely as the pagan spirit of the Renaissance finally disappeared from his mind, its learning, its art, its passion for beauty remained, though these were now made subordinate and ancillary to his Puritanism. This is strikingly shown in “ Paradise Lost," in which, as we now see, the forms of classic art are employed and with finer effect than anywhere else in modern literature for a Christian instead of a classic subject. It is therefore evident that we have to introduce some qualification into the oftreiterated statement which describes Milton as the greatest exponent of Puritanism in English literature. If we want Puritanism in
its simplest expression and uncomplicated by any other influences, it is rather to Bunyan than to Milton that we should turn ; for in form and style as well as in matter and thought the inspired tinker derived from Puritanism and belonged entirely to it. Milton adds the Renaissance artist to the Puritan thinker-the Hellenic love of knowledge and beauty to the Hebraic zeal for righteousness; and if in places the combination gives rise to some incongruity, it is none the less a special and distinctive feature of his master-work. On the whole, there is little to find fault with in the dictum that in Milton the Hellenic and Hebraic spirits are harmonised more completely than in any other poet in the world's literature.
I must now leave the student to turn to " Paradise Lost for himself. He will not find it easy reading, nor uniformly interesting reading. The style is often extremely involved -"contorted or gnarled," as Masson phrased it; ellipses, inversions, Latinisms abound; Milton's erudition, as I have already said, makes extortionate demands upon us ; there are many sandy places in the poem-long, dreary wastes of theological argument and philosophical discussion. But perseverance will inevitably bring its own reward ; for alike in design and execution “Paradise Lost” is—I do not say the most vital or the most attractive poem for the modern reader, but—incomparably the greatest poem in our language.
We have seen that “ Paradise Lost reaches out beyond its nominal theme and includes, in the form of prophecy, the poet's interpretation of the ultimate defeat of Satan and the salvation of the human race. It is in the highest degree probable that Milton had originally intended to leave the matter there. A suggestion from the outside (as it would seem) caused him to change his mind; and four years after the appearance of “ Paradise Lost” he published a sequel in four books,“ Paradise Regained."
We have an account of the genesis of this poem in the autobiography of Thomas Ellwood. That faithful friend tells us how one day in 1665 Milton handed him the manuscript of “Paradise Lost” with the request that he would take it away with him, read it at his leisure, and pronounce judgment upon it. He then proceeds :
After I had, with the best attention, read it through, I made him another visit, and returned him his book, with due acknowledgment of the favour he had done me in communicating it to me. He asked how I liked it, and what I thought of it; which I modestly, but freely, told him; and after some further discourse about it, I pleasantly said to him, “ Thou hast said much here of Paradise lost; but what hast thou to say of Paradise found ?" He made me no answer, but sate some time in a muse, then brake off that discourse, and fell upon another subject. After the sickness was over, and the city well cleansed and become safely habitable again, he returned hither. And when, afterwards, I went to wait on him there (which I seldom failed of doing, whenever my occasions drew me to London), he showed me his second poem, called “Paradise Regained," and in a pleasant tone said to me, “ This is owing to you ; for you put it into my head by the question you put to me at Chalfont, which before I had not thought of.” 1
Though Milton himself was very impatient when he heard his new poem underrated-he never, by the way, expressed his preference for it to “ Paradise Lost," as the common saying runs—the modern reader cannot fail to be impressed by a sense of flagging powers when he turns to it from the previous work. “Paradise Regained " has little to remind us of the 1 “The History of the Life of Thomas Ellwood" (1714), pp. 246, 247.
tremendous creative energy, the marvellous imagination, the sustained intellectual force, the sweep and harmony of style, with which “ Paradise Lost" has made us familiar. Milton here gives little rein to his invention, since, as Mark Pattison notes, the whole poem is scarcely more than an amplified paraphrase of the narrative of the Temptation in the synoptical Gospels; there are few scenes or descriptions to arrest or surprise ; the manner is generally pedestrian; the language and versification plain and severe almost to baldness. None the less, overshadowed as it is by its mighty forerunner, slight and unequal as it must necessarily seem by contrast, “Paradise Regained " has dignity and nobility, some great moments, and here and there passages of rare homely tenderness and charm. One question connected with the very foundations of it has puzzled many readers : Why should Milton call his
i “Paradise Regained " when the substance of it is provided only by the temptation of Christ in the wilderness ? Surely, it is said, the title is a misnomer ; surely any full treatment of the subject should have comprised the entire work of redemption. The answer seems to be that in the poet's mind temptation was balanced against temptation ; and as in the one case Paradise had been lost by the weakness and disobedience of man, so in the other case, through the strength and righteousness of the
greater man," Satan was effectively defeated, and our fallen race restored to “the blissful
seat." Earlier critics wondered why the poem ended where it does, and even suggested that it is really incomplete. But as Masson insists,
by no protraction of the poem over the rest of Christ's life . . . could Milton have brought the story to the consummation thought desirable. The virtual deliverance of the world from the power of Satan and his crew may be represented as achieved in Christ's life on earth, and Milton represents it as achieved in Christ's first encounter with Satan at the outset of His ministry ; but the actual or physical expulsion of the evil spirits out of their usurped world into their own nether realm was left a matter of prophecy or promise, and "-the point is very important"was certainly not regarded by Milton as having been accomplished even at the time when he wrote. Such completion of the poem, therefore, as could be given to it by working it on to this historical consummation, was impossible. But, in short, by publishing the poem as it stands, Milton certified its completeness according to his own idea of the theme.'
From the autobiographical point of view by far the most interesting portion of “Paradise Regained " is to be found in the narrative of the last temptation (in Milton's order) in Book IV. Satan, thrice repulsed, now proceeds to attack the Saviour on the intellectual side. jures up before him the old Greek capital of arts and philosophy, and the description of Athens which follows is in Milton's noblest style :