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Angels just spoken of to the Aurora Borealis ; and then the poet pursues the description of that phenomenon for its own sake, first the appearance of streamers or spears shooting out singly, and again that of dense legions closing till there is a perfect flickering arch in the northern sky.
539.“ Typhæan.” See note, Book I. 199.
542—546. As when Alcides the Euboic sea." Alcides is Hercules; and the allusions are to the legend of his death, as told by Ovid, Metam. ix. Returning from a victorious expedition into Echalia in the Peloponnesus, accompanied by his love Lole, daughter of the king of Echalia, Hercules goes to Eta, a mountain between Thessaly and Macedonia, to sacrifice to Jupiter. His wife Dejanira sends him, by his servant Lichas, the poisoned shirt which she had received from the centaur Nessus, and which, if worn by her husband, was to have the effect, Nessus had made her believe, of recovering his lost affection. Hercules puts it on; then, in the agony of his pain, tears up pines, and hurls Lichas into the Eubean sea, where he is changed into a rock; and finally, causing a funeral pile to be raised on Eta, lays himself on it and is burnt to ashes. In the First Edition “ (Echalia” is mis-spelt “(Ealia ; " but this is corrected in the Second Edition.
556. (“For Eloquence the Soul, Song charms the Sense.") A distinction is here drawn between Eloquence, or the free form of prose discourse, addressing itself to the intellect, and Song or Lyric Poetry, the effects of which are more purely sensuous.
570. “ Another part,” &c. This is the fourth (or, if we count differently, the sixth) of the great divisions of the Angels whose divers recreations or modes of occupying themselves during Satan's absence Milton thinks fit to mention. One portion (subdivided into three) betake themselves to Games, military evolutions, and feats of strength; a second to Music and Song; a third to Oratory, Philosophy, and Metaphysics ; and now a fourth, whose occupations are described more at large, devote themselves to adventure and expeditions of discovery.
There can be no doubt that Milton, though it is the world of demons he is describing, had in view the ruling passions and chief pastimes of humanity.
577–581. “Styx . . Acheron . . Cocytus . . Phlegeton." In enumerating these four rivers of Hell, after the classic mythology, Milton gives the exact significance of their names severally in Greek-Styx being connected with a verb meaning “to hate," Acheron with a verb meaning "to grieve," Cocytus with one meaning “to lament," and Phlegeton with one meaning “ to burn." 583.
« Lethe.” This name means Oblivion" in Greek. 589. “ dire hail.” From Horace, Od. i. 2. 1-2, "dira grandinis," as Newton pointed out.
591. "all else." This is the text in the original editions ; but Todd prints or else," and later editors have followed him. The error almost spoils the meaning of the passage. Milton is here adding to his previous descriptions of Hell. We have already had the Burning Lake, and the solid sulphury plain forming its shore, whereon, between the hill and the lake, Pandemonium has been built. But now we have an extension of the geographical view, if we may so call it, of the infernal world. There are the four rivers flowing into the Lake ; along the courses of which the four several bands of Angels pursue their exploring expeditions, from the lake upwards far beyond the horizon of the plain. Beyond even the regions so reached is the great river Lethe; on the other side of which is a frozen continent—the nearer portion of which is beat with perpetual storms of whirlwind and hail, while all else (i.e. all the impenetrable ulterior) is an Arctic solitude of deep snow and ice.
592, 593. " that Serbonian bog betwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old.” Damiata or Damietta is a town in Egypt close to the eastermost or Damietta mouth of the Nile ; Mount Casius, now Cape Kareroon, is also on the coast of Egypt, farther to the east, towards Syria ; and the Serbonian Bog is the ancient Lake Serbonis in that vicinity, which was said to be sometimes so thickened with sands blown upon it that whole armies marching upon it, and thinking it solid, were engulphed.
595. “Burns frore": i.e. "burns frozen;" frore being an old form of our “froze” or “frozen," German frieren, gefroren.
600-603. to starve in ice,” &c. The pain of intense cold seems to have entered most powerfully into the Northern conceptions of Hell, and figures much in the Scandinavian mythology : hence probably the Mediæval theologians allowed it to mingle freely with the more Oriental conception of Hell's torment as consisting in intense heat. Newton aptly quotes Shakespeare's lines in Measure for Measure :
"And the delighted spirit
617. “ Viewed first”: i.e. for the first time. 618. No rest." Dunster cites Matt. xii. 43. 631.
“ toward” in First Edition ; “ towards” in Second. 634. " Now shaves with level wing the Jeep”: i.e. the surface of the Burning Lake and the mainland, forming the floor of Hell. Newton quotes from Virgil (Æn. v. 217), “ Radit iter liquidum,” &c.
638, 639. “ from Bengala, or the isles of Ternate and Tidore," Bengala, or Bengal, was not in Milton's time so familiar to his readers as now when it is part of the British Empire ; Ternate and Tidore are two of the Moluccas, still retaining those names.
641, 642. “Through the wide Ethiopian”: i.e. through the Indian Ocean on its African side ; “ to the Cape,” i.e. to the Cape of Good Hope ; “ply stemming nightly toward the pole,” i.e. towards the South Pole, till they round the Cape—the word " nightly” suggesting the Southern Cross that would then be directing their course.
648—673. “ Before the gates there sat on either side a formidable Shape. The one,” &c. Here begins Milton's famous Allegory of Sin and Death, on which there has been so much comment. To some the introduction of such an Allegory at all, mixing merely Metaphysical Beings, or Personified Abstractions, with what may be called in a sense the Real or Historical persons of the Epic, has appeared in questionable taste; while some of the particulars of the Allegory in the sequel have seemed to not a few little short of disgusting. It may be said that Milton, for the action of his poem, required Sin and Death to be Personages, and had a view to the subsequent use of them as such ; and also that, if they were to be so introduced and to have corporeal form and a geneaology, the disgusting was inevitable and was even to be studied. Leaving such criticism, and accepting what Milton has given us as done deliberately in thorough poetic conviction, we may inquire with interest into the sources from which he drew particulars for his Allegory. The whole passage, as the commentators have pointed out, may be considered as a paraphrase of the Scriptural text (James i. 15), “ Then, when Lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth Sin; and Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth Death ;” but in Milton Lust, as the Father of Sin, is identified with Satan, who thereafter, in union with his own daughter, Sin, begets Death-this confused relationship of the three Entities being still farther complicated by the marriage of Death with his mother Sin. The commentators also cite passages from previous poets which Milton may have had in view, and some of which (so close is the imitation) he must have had in view, in his description of Sin. See particularly Spenser's personification of Error in the Faery Queene, Book i. canto i., stanzas 14, 15; and Phineas Fletcher's description of Hamartia or Sin in the Purple Island, xii. 27. Here, as through all Milton's poetry, we see shreds and recollections of his varied readings rising accurately to his memory, and coming forth fused and incorporate with the stream of his own language. 654. "A cry of Hell-hounds,” the word "cry” here meaning “pack.”
a cry of hounds” in the same sense, from Sylvester's Du Bartas; and Mr. Keightley “ You common cry of curs” from Shakespeare's Coriolanus, III. iii.
659–661. “ Far less abhorred" (i.e. “ to be abhorred”) “ than these z'exed Scylla.” The legend, as told in Ovid, was that Circe, being jealous of the nymph Scylla, beloved by Glaucus, poured poisonous juice into the waters where she bathed, so that, when the nymph touched them, all her body beneath the waist was changed into hideous barking
dogs." The sea that parts Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore." Scylla, after her metamorphosis, threw herself into the sea between the Calabrian coast of Italy and the island of Sicily, one of the names for which was Trinacria. Here she was changed into the famous rock bearing her name.
662-666. " the night-hag," &c. Having given one simile from the Classic mythology, Milton gives another from the Scandinavian ; in which night-hags, riding through the air, and requiring infants' blood for their incantations, are common, and Lapland is their favourite region. " Labouring moon” is classical-" lunæque labores " for eclipses, Virgil
, Georg. ii. 478 ; and “laboranti lunæ,” Juvenal, Sat. vi. 443. Hume quotes this last.
672. “his head." See note Book I. 254. Here, if anywhere, we might have expected Milton to use the rare form its, seeing that he has twice in the sentence used the nominative it, and seems to be purposely avoiding for the moment any distinct masculine name for the monster.
673. “a kingly crown.” Job xviii. 14; Rev. vi. 2.
678. God and his Son except,” &c. A curious construction, inasmuch as, taken exactly, it would include God and his Son among “created things.” But there are examples of this sort of construction elsewhere in Milton, and in other poets.
692. “the third part,” &c. See note, Book I. 632-3. 693. “ Conjur'd”: i.e. conjuratos, banded by oath.
709.“ Ophiuchus," called also Anguitenens, or Serpentarius (all which names mean “the serpent-bearer”), a large constellation in the northern heaven stretching forty degrees.
715. “Heaven's artillery.” Todd cites the phrase from Crawshaw, Habington, and Shakespeare (Tam. of Shrew, I. ii.) ; but Hume had quoted substantially the same from Juvenal—"armamentaria cæli” (Sat. xiii. 83).
716. “Over the Caspian." This sea is chosen either merely for the sake of a name, or because it is “remarkably tempestuous.”
721, 722. “ For never but once more . . so great a foe": i.e. Christ, who is to destroy both Death and the Devil (see 1 Cor. xv. 26, and Heb. ii. 14).
730. “And know'st for whom": printed in some editions with a point of interrogation ; but wrongly. Death did know for whom, as his previous speech shows; and the meaning is “though thou knowest for whom.” There is a semicolon only in the original editions.
752--758." All on a sudden," &c. An adaptation of the Grecian myth of the birth of Minerva or Athene; who was delivered, with birthpains, from the head of Jupiter. The allegory here, if translated, would mean that Sin first came into being in the mind of Satan when he conceived his rebellion-the Universe till then having known no such thing.
These yelling monsters," &c. So far as this part of the allegory is explicable, Mr. Keightley's explanation is certainly sound.
“ These are the mental torments that are the consequences of sin, and they are rendered more grievous by the idea of death."
814. Save He": an unusual construction.
830-837. The construction is intricate ; and the passage may be pointed in different ways, each giving a consistent meaning. By the pointing I have adopted (which seems to be that suggested by the original text) the phrase "a place foretold should be” (i.e. foretold as about to be) is complete in itself, ending emphatically in the word “be ;” and the words “and, by concurring signs, ere now created vası and round" are a parenthetical guess thrown in before further description of the place. But the parenthesis might end after the words
ere now';" in which case now” would be emphatic, and “ should be” would run on with “created.” Still other readings might be proposed.
833. “purlieus " : 'spelt "pourlieuss” in the original editions, and meaning “suburbs.” Purlieu, say some, was originally the outskirt of a forest “free from trees” (pur lieu); but others derive it from "pour aller,” space to walk in.
842.“buxom air." “ Buxom," now meaning “ handsome," meant originally "flexible" or "easily bowed," and is from the A.-S. beogan, to bow. Hume quotes the exact phrase from Spenser (F. Q. 1, xi. 37); and it is, as Mr. Keightley notes, a kind of translation of Horace's “cedentem aera” (Sat. ii. 2. 13).
855. "by living might”: so in the First Edition and the Second ; but the Third (1678) reads "wight,"
868. “ The gods who live at ease.” “Word for word from Homer, Oeoi peia Ewórtes."— Bentley
880. “With impetuous recoil and jarring sound.” A line of purposely anomalous metre. But in all this passage there is a studied harmony of sound with the thing signified.
881, 882: "on their hinges grate harsh thunder": "great" in the First Edition, corrected into “grate" in the Second.
891-916. “ the hoary Deep, a dark illimitable ocean," &c. Every part of this description of the Deep of Chaos, as seen upwards from Hell-gates,