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282. "pernicious highth." Though meaning originally “hurtful,” destructive,” pernicious seems to have come to mean also " extreme,” “excessive,” in our old writers. Thus Henry VIII., II. i. :
“ All the Commons
Hate him perniciously.” 284. “ Was moving toward the shore,” i.e. Satan began to move back on foot over the solid plain towards the verge of the burning lakeBeelzebub gazing after him or following at a distance.
285. "ethereal temper”: i.e. of ethereal temper or nature (temperies): a curious ellipsis.
286—298. The broad circumference,” &c. In the two similes in this passage-the comparison of Satan's shield to the moon and of his spear to a pine-tree—may be marked, as in many others of the similes of Milton, the habit, natural to the poetic mind, of pursuing a comparison, once suggested, beyond the mere limits of illustrative likeness, for the sake of a rich accumulation of circumstance beautiful in itself. Spenser (F. Q. v. 5, 3) compares the shield of Radigund, “on the shoulder hung,” to the full moon.
288–290. “ Through optic glass the Tuscan artist ... top of Fesolè, or in Valdarno.” The Tuscan artist is Galileo, who first turned the “optic glass" or telescope to account for astronomical purposes. Fesolè or Fiesole is a hill close to Florence, the seat of the ancient Etruscan city of Fæsulæ; Valdarno is the valley of the Arno, in which Florence. itself lies. Milton, who had been four months in Florence (1638-39), knew the spots well, and had seen Galileo, then old and blind, in his villa near Florence. It was at Padua in the Venetian states that Galileo had first (1609) turned his telescope to the moon; but he was a Tuscan by birth, and the greater part of his life after 1610 was spent in or near Florence.
294 some great ammiral." The word "ammiral” or “amiral," now corrupted into Admiral, is from the Arabic amir or emir, meaning “lord;" the final al being probably the Arabic definite article al, as it would occur, after the noun, in such phrases as emir al moslemin, “commander of the faithful.” It came into use in the European tongues, through the Spanish, and was generally applied, as now, to the chief commander of a fleet. But it was also used in English books, about and before Milton's time, as the name for any large ship.
296. “marle,” i.e. soil. The word generally means fat or rich earth. 299.
“ Nathless," i.e. "ne (or not) the less," “nevertheless." 303. “Vallombrosa.” Literally "the shady valley”-a beautiful valley, about eighteen miles from Florence, doubtless visited by Milton in the autumn of 1638. There is a tradition that he spent some days there. See Wordsworth’s verses, “At Vallombrosa.”
304-307. scattered sedge . . . the Red-Sea coast . . . Busiris and his Memphian chivalry." Sedge is sea-weed, with which the Red Sea so abounds that it was called by the Hebrews the “Sea of Sedge.” “Busiris" is a special name given, on speculation, to the Pharaoh who chased the children of Israel; and the Egyptian horsemen and charioteers are called “his Memphian chivalry," from Memphis, one of the great cities of ancient Egypt. Busiris figures in Greek legends as a king of Egypt noted for his persecution of foreigners; and Raleigh, in his History of the World, expressly argues that he was “the first oppressor of the Israelites.” Milton follows Raleigh. 305
“ Orion armed.” The constellation Orion was supposed to bring stormy weather at his rising and setting. Thus, as noted by Mr. Browne, Horace (Od. i. 28, 21-22)
“Me quoque, devexi rapidus comes Orionis,
Illyricis Notus obruit undis."
And again (iii. 27, 17-18) :
“ Sed vides quanto trepidet tumultu
He is called “armed” because of his sword, belt, and club. Hume quotes from Virgil (Æn. iii. 517): “Armatumque auro circumspicit Oriona ;” and Todd refers to “ Orione armato” in Petrarch, Sonnet 23.
339. “ Amram's son," i.e. Moses. See Exod. vi. 16—20; also Exod. X. 12—15.
341. “warping," i.e. working themselves forward, or moving in a fluctuating manner,
On the firm brimstone." Here we have the colour of the plain hinted—sulphury and yellow, at least on its shore towards the lake.
353. “Rhene or the Danaw," i.e. the Rhine (Latin Rhenus), or the Danube (German Donau).
355.“ Beneath Gibraltar,” &c., ie. south of Gibraltar, into Africa. Dunster has a good note, in which he calls attention to the three different similes used by Milton, within so brief a space as from line 300 to line 355, to suggest the vast number of the Angels. First, in their supine state on the lake, they are compared to the dead leaves lying in heaps in Vallombrosa, or to the masses of floating sea-weed on the Red Sea ; next, when on wing from the lake to the solid plain at their leader's call and signal, they are like the cloud of locusts coming over Egypt at the summons of Moses's rod; but, finally, when they alight on the plain and fill it, they are like the Northern hordes that, bursting the boundaries of the Rhine and the Danube, overran the Roman Empire.
361-375.“ Though of their names in Heavenly records now be no memorial . . . Nor had they yet . Got them new names ; till," &c. This passage is very noteworthy. The notion that the various gods of the different forms of heathenism were the devils or degraded angels of the Scriptural dispensation belonged to the common Christian theology of mediæval Europe. But Milton gives this common mediæval belief an ingenious poetic turn. The Rebel Angels, before their fall, had glorious names, by which they were known in Heaven; but, after their rebellion, those names were blotted out from the celestial records, so that no whisper of them has survived. It was not till, in the course of ages, roving from Hell, they had realized their new and accursed existence as the idols and false gods of deceived mankind, that they “got them new names.” It is by these names only—their names as the idols of the various Polytheisms-that they are now known; and it is by these names that they must, though by anticipation, be called in the poem !
376. “who first, who last”: as in Iliad, v. 703 : Tíva mpôrov, rira δ' άστατον, ,
3814505. “ The chiey were," &c. to worse rape.” Milton cannot name all, or even the thousandth part, of those gods of the subsequent Polytheisms whom he is now regarding at that point in their existence when they were but newly fallen Angels and as yet anonymous. But he will name their chiefest chiefs—those who were next in rank to Satan and Beelzebub. And who were these ? They were, Milton virtually says, the spirits afterwards known as the chief gods of the Semitic nations -of the nations surrounding the Jews—and of which, and their transactions with the Jews, we hear so much in the Bible. Accordingly, in this splendid passage of 125 lines, we have a poetical enumeration of the principal Semitic idols referred to in Scripture as worshipped round about the Israelites, and sometimes luring the Israelites themselves from the worship of Jehovah. See 2 Kings xxi. 5 ; Jeremiah vii. 30 ; Ezek. xlii. 8. r
392-405. " First, Moloch, horrid king," &c. For the Scriptural accounts of Moloch (meaning “king” in Hebrew), worshipped by various Semitic nations, but here represented as more particularly the god of the Ammonites, see Levit. xviii. 21; · Kings xi. 7 ; 2 Sam. xii. 26—29: see also Judges xi. 12—18. The “opprobrious hill" is the Mount of Olives, on which Solomon built a temple to Moloch (1 Kings xi. 7, and 2 Kings xxiii. 13, 14). The "pleasant valley of Hinnom" (GheHinnom : see Jerem. vii. 31, 32), was on the east side of Jerusalem; here was Tophet, supposed to mean " the place of timbrels.” The word “Gehenna,” now “the type of Hell," or a synonym for Hell, is borrowed from the name of this valley, which, originally the most beautiful valley about Jerusalem, and containing the royal music-garden, was afterwards, in consequence of its having been polluted by the worship of Moloch and other idols, degraded by the pious kings, and converted into a receptacle for all the filth of the city, and a place of abhorrence. Here, it is said, the Jews latterly buried their criminals.
406—418.“ Next Chemos," &c. For references to this god of the Moabites and to the places mentioned in the passage, see i Kings xi. 7; 2 Kings xxiii. 13; Numb. xxi. 25—29, xxv. 1-9; Deut. xxxii. 49; Isaiah xv. 1, 2, 4, 5, and xvi. 2, 8, 9; and Jerem. xlviii. 1–47. Chemosh or Chemos is supposed to be identical with BaalPeor, which is a name of associations like those with Priapus. The “ Asphaltic Pool” is the Dead Sea.
419-437. “ With these came they who," &c. Here, after Moloch and Chemos, are suggested, under the general names of Baalim and Ashtaroth, a number of the miscellaneous gods, male and female, of various parts of Syria, from the Euphrates to Egypt. The appended observation as to the pliability of the physical form of the Spirits is worthy of attention, as preparing for much that follows in the poem. The dilatability or compressibility of the Spirits at will is a postulate for the whole action of Paradise Lost.
437–446. “ With these, in troop, came Astoreth,” &c. : i.e. Along with the miscellaneous gods of Syria came that Astoreth who was more particularly the goddess of the Phoenicians. See Jer. vii. 18; 1 Kings xi. 4, 5; and 2 Kings xxiii. 13. The effigy of this goddess is found on coins of the ancient Phænician city of Sidon.
446—457: “ Thammuz came next,” &c. Thammuz, a Syrian love-god, originally of the parts about Lebanon. The legend was that he was killed by a wild boar in Lebanon ; and the phenomenon of the reddening at a particular season every year of the waters of the Adonis, a stream which flows from Lebanon to the sea near Byblos, was mythologically accounted for by supposing that the blood of Thammuz was then flowing afresh. There were annual festivals at Byblos in Phoenicia in honour of Thammuz, held every year at the season referred to. Women were the chief performers at these festivals—the first part of which consisted in lamentations for the death of Thammuz, and the rest in rejoicings over his revival. The worship spread over the East, and even into Greece, where Thammuz became the celebrated Adonis, the beloved of Venus. See Ezek. viii. 12–14.
457-466. “ Next came one who mourned in earnest,” &c. : i.e. Dagon, the god of the Philistines, whose cause for mourning, as related 1 Sam. v. 1-9, was more real than that of Thammuz. “ Azotus" is the Ashdod of this passage.
“Grunsel," i.e. "ground-sill” or “threshold.” 467-476. “ Him followed Rimmon,” &c. Rimmon, another Syrian god, worshipped at Damascus. The “leper” whom he lost is Naaman (see 2 Kings v.); for his gaining of King Ahaz, see 2 Kings xvi. 10—20.
v 476-489.“ After these appeared a crew . . Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train.” Here we have the gods of Egypt, who were represented in all manner of grotesque animal forms, and supposed even to inhabit or protect living animals-oxen, calves, tams, &c. Hence the phrases "wandering gods” and “bleating gods.”• _“ Borrowed gold"! It is with the gold borrowed from the Egyptians (Exod. xii. 35) that the Israelites are supposed to have made the golden calf (Exod. xxxii.). The “rebel king" who doubled that sin is Jeroboam (1 Kings xii. 26– 33). See also Psalm cvi. 19, 20.
490—505. “ Belial came last,” &c. Next to the first place in such a procession the last place is, at least in poetic custom, the post of honour; hence Belial, who closes the procession, is a hardly less important personage than Moloch who led it. He is, moreover, the exact opposite of Moloch in character, Moloch, defiant, fierce, and bloody ; Belial, soft, effeminate, and persuasive. According to Milton, he was not a local god; but, wherever there was Atheism and utter profligacy, there Belial had his sons. See Deut. xiii. 13; 1 Sam. ii. 12.
502. "flown with insolence,” &c. : i.e. flowed, flooded, flushed. Mr. Keightley quotes the phrase "overflown with wine” from a pamphlet by Nash.
503-505. The allusions here are to the narratives in Gen. xix. 8 and Judges xix. 22, 28. In the first edition the text stood thus :
“ Witness the streets of Sodom, and that night
In Gibeah, when hospitable doors
These words not being in strict accordance with the narratives referred to, Milton, for subsequent editions, altered the text to what it now is. 506-521. “ These were the prime in order and in might:
The rest were long to tell," &c. Having concluded his list of those great leading Spirits who afterwards became the chief gods of the Semitic nations, Milton does not think it necessary to mention those other inferior, though still not unimportant, Spirits, also holding commands in the rebel Host, who, contenting themselves afterwards with the meaner and more distant parts of the Earth for their prey, became the gods of the motley Polytheisms that surrounded and stretched away from the sacred circle of the Biblical lands. Even what we should now call the various Indo-European Polytheisms are tacitly assumed as the work of Spirits who, at the time of this first muster of the Fallen Angels in Hell, took but junior rank, as compared with the mighty leaders fore-mentioned. But at one of these Indo-European Polytheisms Milton, both on account of its renown, and also perhaps on account of his own fondness for it, cannot help glancing--that which