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Of the probable and the marvellous, two parts of a vulgar epick poem, which immerge the critick in deep consideration, the Paradise Lost requires little to be said. It contains the history of a miracle, of creation and redemption; it displays the power and the mercy of the supreme being; the probable, therefore, is marvellous, and the marvellous is probable. The substance of the narrative is truth; and, as truth allows no choice, it is, like necessity, superiour to rule. To the accidental or adventitious parts, as to every thing human, some slight exceptions may be made; but the main fabrick is immovably supported.
It is justly remarked by Addison, that this poem has, by the nature of its subject, the advantage above all others, that it is universally and perpetually interesting. All mankind will, through all ages, bear the same relation to Adam and to Eve, and must partake of that good and evil which extend to themselves.
Of the machinery, so called from Beds and unyavis, by which is meant the occasional interposition of supernatural power, another fertile topick of critical remarks, here is no room to speak, because every thing is done under the immediate and visible direction of heaven; but the rule is so far observed, that no part of the action could have been accomplished by any other means.
Of episodes, I think, there are only two, contained in Raphael's relation of the war in heaven, and Michael's prophetick account of the changes to hap