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heaven, whose shining cliffs and walls rise sheer out of the dark unfathomable depths. It is not homogeneous. It apparently has strata. In it there is at least one vast vacuity.' Through it Satan, with difficulty and labor hard,'
O'er bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
Yet it is an ocean
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Clearly, if heaven has sharp, rigid outlines like the moon, chaos has a shifting, tumultuous surface like the sun.
Deep in this tremendous abyss lies Hell, perhaps near the centre, possibly at the nadir; distant, at any rate, from the light of God by three times the radius of our starry universe.* In the centre of hell is the lake of fire, a boiling ocean.' Three vast regions of horror lie in concentric zones around it. First, a belt of fiery volcanic soil ; then, a moist region, through which, like an ocean stream,
“Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her watery labyrinth ;”
next, a frozen continent with
"A gulf profound as that Serbonian bog;'
* We need not suppose a mathematical exactness. " The moment you furnish Imagination with a yardstick, she abdicates in favor of her statistical poor-relation Commonplace.” – Lowell on Milton (Among My Books, 2d series).
and beyond all,
66 At last appear
Hell bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof,"
and in them the ninefold gates.
“ Our World, as Milton calls it, the whole solar system and the stars, is linked to Heaven and to Hell [to the latter by the bridge, Par. Lost, II. 1028], and in Chaos. It is a vast hollow sphere, hung at its zenith by a golden chain from the Empy
. . It is beaten by the winds of Chaos, and has only [sic] light on that side of it which is turned to Heaven. At its very zenith a bright sea flows as of liquid pearl, from which a mighty structure of stairs leads up to Heaven's gate. Over against the stairs a passage down to the earth opens into the hollow sphere." *
From the gifted critic just quoted, we may cite a paragraph upon Milton's diction and rhythm. “The Style is always great. On the whole it is the greatest in the whole range of English poetry; so great that when once we have come to know and honor and love it, it so subdues the judgment that the judgment can with difficulty do its work with temperance. . . . No style, when one has lived in it, is so spacious and so majestic a place to walk in. . . . Fulness of sound, weight of march, compactness of finish, fitness of words to things, fitness of pauses to thought, a strong grasp of the main idea while other ideas play round it, power of digression without loss of the power to return, equality of power over vast spaces of imagination, sustained splendor when
"With plume so strong, so equal and so soft,'
* Brooke's Milton Primer, p. 86.
a majesty in the conduct of thought, and a music in the majesty which fills it with solemn beauty, - belong one and all to the style; and it gains its highest influence on us, and fulfils the ultimate need of a grand style in being the easy and necessary expression of the very character and nature of the man."
The preparation of this little volume has been a continual joy, and the labor bestowed has daily brought its own exceeding great reward. Step by step, as the view was nearer, the poem has grown grander, and Milton's genius has seemed more angelic. May this slight contribution lead at least a few others to love more warmly this kingliest of English souls, and to study more intelligently and more reverently this loftiest work of the human imagination.
Girls' High School, Boston,
October 1, 1879.
* Brooke's Milton Primer, pp. 83, 84. Compare this with the fine passage on Milton's style and method in Lowell's Among My Books, 2d series, pp. 284–299. As to Milton's character, see the essays in J. R. Seeley's Roman Imperialism, etc. For many interesting and suggestive remarks on the poem, see Himes's Study of Paradise Lost (Lippincott, 1878).