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This, on a hasty reading, might seem to be the meaning ; and even Addison, in his celebrated criticism of Paradise Lost, fell into the error. He speaks of Satan's distant discovery" of the Earth that hung close by the Moon” as a “wonderfully beautiful and poetical” passage. But Milton's notion, in the passage, is very different. Satan as yet knows nothing of our Earth ; nor, at the distance at which he yet is, has the starry Universe resolved itself into its diversity of orbs. Besides, if the Earth was seen as a star of smallest magnitude," the Moon could not be seen along with her; and the pointing of the original requires the phrase "as a star of smallest magnitude close by the moon” to be read continuously and as a simile. The “pendent World," in short, is the whole starry Universe as suspended from the Infinite or original Heaven over Chaos; and its proportions to the eye of Satan as yet are suggested by saying that, if Heaven were represented by the Moon's disc, the pendent Universe seemed but as a small star on the Moon's lower edge. Observe also that it is implied by this image that Satan was approaching the new Universe, and preparing to light upon it, not at its nadir or undermost part, which would have been the part reached first had his ascent from Hell been in a direct line, but somewhere on its upper hemisphere near the zenith, where it was hung from the Empyrean Heaven. This has indeed already been suggested in lines 1034-1039, where Satan is described as having arrived so near the walls of Heaven as to be able to perceive a glimmering dawn of light shooting down into Chaos and making it less turbid—which would not have been the case unless he had by that time made a circuit round the lower half of the outmost shell of the Universe, and come into the angle made by its upper arc and the boundary-line of Heaven. But the present image makes the fact clearer. Only to such a side-view of the new Universe as would present it hanging totally clear of the Heaven to which it was mystically suspended would it appear like a star on the full-moon's edge ; and, had Satan been approaching the Universe at or near its nadir, its rotundity would have been between him and Heaven. That this observation is not unimportant will be seen in the sequel. The phrase "pendent World” occurs in Claudio's celebrated speech in Measure for Measure (III. i.); which, we have already seen, was familiar to Milton.
BOOK III. 5. 1–55. “Hail, holy Light,” &c. A noble passage, which will always be read with peculiar interest as containing Milton's grand lamentation of his own blindness ! But observe, at the same time, how fit is such an opening for the Third Book, and how, while forming a kind of lyric by
itself, it also serves the purpose of the Epic at the point at which it has now arrived. The story having hitherto lain in Hell and in Chaos, it is but natural that the poet and his readers, following Satan in his flight upwards from those lurid and darksome regions, and emerging with him at last into the Upper Universe, brilliant with the light of Heaven, should, ere proceeding farther with the narrative in the new scenes now disclosing themselves, feel the novelty of the blaze, and be delayed by the strange sensation.
2, 3. “Or of the Eternal coeternal beam may I express thee unblamed ? " i.e. may I rather, without blame, call thee the coeternal beam of the Eternal Himself?
3-5. “since God is light, and never,” &c. See, for Milton's warrant for these expressions, 1 John i. 5, and í Tim. vi. 16. (Hume.)
7-12 “Or hear'st thou rather pure Ethereal stream, whose,” &c. : i.e. “dost thou rather prefer to be called the pure Ethereal stream, whose,” &c. : a Latinism, of which there are other instances in Milton.
“ Matutine Pater, seu Jane libentius audis ?” (Morning Father, or dost thou rather hear Janus ? i.e. wouldst thou rather be called Janus ?) is an example, cited by Bentley from Horace, Sat. 2, vi. 20. Uncertain what to call Light, Milton gives the option of three names—the firstborn of Heaven; or the eternal effluence and dwelling of Eternal Deity; or, finally, that pure ethereal stream whose origin is unknown, because (according to Genesis, chap. i.) Light preceded our Heavens and the Sun. Hume quotes also Job xxxviii. 19.
11. “The rising World of waters dark and deep." Newton quotes Spenser (F. Q. 1. i. 39): "And through the world of waters wide and deep.”
14-18. “ Escaped the Stygian Pool" (i.e. Hell); "though long detained in that obscure , sojourn” (i.e. in Chaos). —“ Through utter and through middle Darkness borne": i.e. through the two stages of Chaosthe nethermost, before the court and throne of Chaos were reached ; and the upper." While . . . with other notes than to the Orphean lyre I sung,” &c. : i.e. “while, under a different inspiration from that which taught Orpheus when he sang his ‘Hymn to Night,' and also, as is said, of the creation of the World out of Chaos, I sung,” &c. 19. “Taught by the Heavenly Muse," &c. See Book I. 6, et seq.
drop serene ... or dim suffusion.” Two phrases from the medical science of Milton's day, when diseases of the eye, as well as other diseases, were supposed to arise from affections of what were called “the humours." Gutta serena, or “the drop serene,” was that form of total blindness which left the eyes perfectly clear or serene, without outward speck or blemish. Such was Milton's blindness (see his Sonnet to Cyriack Skinner); but, as he was not perfectly certain that his case was one of gutta serena, he brings in the other medical term, “dim suffusion.”
25, 26. "
29. “ Smit with the love," &c. Virgil, Georg. ii. 476 : "percussus amore." (Hume.)
30. the flowery brooks beneath." Kidron and Siloah. See Book I. 10-12, and the note on that passage. In calling them "flowery brooks Milton uses his fancy, rather than the strict truth, as to these Eastern scenes.
33–36. “ those other two ... blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides, and Tiresias and Phineus.” Instead of two, Milton gives us four of his great predecessors in blindness; but the two are the first two-who were poets, whereas the other two were prophets. Mæonides is Homer himself, reputed by some to have been the son of Mæon. Thamyris, or Thamyras, was a mythical poet and musician of Thrace, of whom the story was that he challenged the Muses to a trial of skill, and was struck blind by them for his presumption : he is mentioned several times in Homer. Tiresias, the blind prophet of Thebes, was a great character in the legends of the Greeks, and figures as the oracle of his time in the " Edipus Tyrannus” of Sophocles and in other celebrated dramas. Phineus, a blind king and prophet, is made by some a Thracian, by others an Arcadian, contemporary with the Argonauts. It is notable that Milton, even before his blindness, had a kind of fascination for the instances supplied by legend or history of men of noble intellect suffering under this calamity, and that, next perhaps to Homer, Tiresias was his favourite instance. See the Sixth of his Latin Elegies (lines 67, 68), and his poem De Ideå Platonica (lines 25, 26).
38, 39. “the wakeful bird (the nightingale) sings darkling": i.e, in the dark. On the word “darkling” Hume noted, “A word by our author coined, and which I have nowhere else met-with.” It occurs, however, in Shakespeare (Lear, I. iv.)—“So out went the candle, and we were left darkling ;” and Richardson, in his Dict., quotes it from Milton's contemporary, Dr. Hammond—“ He is fain to go to bed darkling.” According to Dr. Morris (Hist. Outlines of English Accidence), “ there were some adverbs in Old English, originally dative feminine singular, ending in inga, unga, linga, lunga,” and “a few of these, without the dative suffix,” exist still under the form of ling or long : e.g. sideling, sidelong Darkling is of the same ,group. In Scotch we have still darklins, “in the dark," backlins, “in a backward manner," and the like: and this genitive adverbial form, says Morris, is found also in the English of the 14th century.
40-50. • Thus with the year Seasons return ; but not to me returns," &c. Compare the longer passage in Samson Agonistes (67–109), where Samson laments his blindness.
47–49. "and, for the book of knowledge fair, presented with a universal blank of Nature's works, to me expunged and rased." The meaning is :-presented with a universal blank page or surface (tabula rasa) of
Nature's works, instead of the matter or printed book. Nay, as "blank," in the original text, is spelt "blanc," there may be a reference to the whiteness of the page. For Milton himself tells us, in a letter written on the subject of his blindness (Epist. Fam. 15; Leonardo Philara Atheniensi), that the darkness in which he was involved seemed nearer to whitish or greyish in colour than to absolute blackness.
Hume was puzzled by the passage, and suggested “blot” for “blank," but most needlessly.
50—55. “So much the rather thou, Celestial Light,” &c. As Milton, even before his blindness, had a fascination, as if by presentiment, for the subject of blindness, so a very familiar thought with him was of the increase of real insight, and the development of a higher and more prophetic vision, that might come to those to whom terrestrial vision was denied. When he himself became blind, the thought that it might be so in his own case became his constant consolation. See, in addition to the passages from his other works referred to in the immediately preceding notes, a long passage in his Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano, in which, in answer to the inhuman jests of his opponents to the effect that his blindness was a judgment upon him for his Regicide opinions, he discusses the whole subject of blindness and its compensations, and enumerates, besides Tiresias and Phineus, many splendid examples of blindness undeserved by crime and ennobled by grand intellectual and moral endowment.
59. “ His own works and their works”: i.e." and the works, or proceedings, of those works.”
62–64. on his right ... his only Son." See Heb. i. 2—9. 70–72.
"and Satan there," &c. : i.e. still in the "gulf between," or Chaos, but now in the upper belt of it, coasting the wall of Heaven, on this side of Night or absolute Darkness, in a region as of dun or yellowish brown air.
74. “On the bare outside of this World, that seemed," &c. The meaning here is that Satan was then just alighting on the outer boss or shell of this Universe ; which outer boss, approached from Chaos, seemed like firm land-only not land overhung, as that of our Earth is, by a firmament of stars, but land imbosomed in a gloomier element that might either be water or cloud. In short, let the reader fancy an opaque hollow shell, the interior of which consists of the vast azure space, or telescopic universe, in which all the stars and planets wheel, while its outside rests or moves in a turbid brown, or wine-coloured element, totally starless, and consisting of the matter of Chaos attenuated by approach to Light; and he will have the poet's idea at this point. Satan is on the outside of the huge sphere, as yet but coming up to it, and, as it were, feeling for it, as a fly or moth (let the distinctness of the illustration excuse its homeliness)
may be seen striking against the glass globe of a lamp. Indeed, if we suppose a lamp-globe not transparent, but of some opaque or dull substance, so that, while there is a bright luminous sphere within, the room outside is dun or darkish, then the image will be exact.
81. “Our Adversary.” See note on Book I. 81, 82.
84. " interrupt”: the past participle passive (interruptus), " thrown ruggedly between.” 100, 101.
“ Such I created all the Ethereal Powers," &c. : 2.2. in this respect there is an identity of constitution between these new creatures, Men, and their predecessors in existence, the Angels.
108. (“ Reason also is Choice.") Bishop Newton here gives an apt quotation from Milton's Areopagitica : “Many there be that complain of Divine Providence for suffering Adam to transgress. Foolish tongues ! When God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose ; for reason is but choosing." In other words, as Stillingfleet points out, Reason is speculative, and Will is practical, choosing.
In this whole passage Milton would seem to attach himself rather to the Libertarian than to the Necessitarian side in the great metaphysical controversy.
129. “The first sort": i.e. the Angels. 153.
“ With his own folly The sentence here breaks off innperfect, by the figure of speech called Aposiopesis. What follows, to the end of line 164, may be considered as matter interjaculated ; and the connexion is resumed at line 165. In the original text, indeed, there is a point of interrogation after “ folly ;” with which the sentence may be read as complete. The reading which Milton intended, however, is, almost certainly, the other.
153-155. “That be from thee far," &c. See Gen. xviii. 25. (Newton.) 168–170. “O Son," &c.
O Son," &c. All the names for Christ here introduced are, as Bishop Newton points out, Scriptural : see Matt. iii. 17, John i. 18, Rev. xix. 13, 1 Cor. i. 24.
176. “ His lapsed powers”: a legal expression.
196. Light after light well used they shall attain.” The construction is “they shall attain to light after light well used ;” and, in reading, this might be indicated by a slight pause before “after," and one after “ used."
217. "all the Heavenly Quire stood mute." It is noted here, by Bishop Newton, as more than a coincidence, that so the Fallen Angels had "sat mute in Hell, when the mission was proposed which Satan alone undertook see Book II. 417 et seq.).
231. “unprevented”: i.e. unanticipated.