« PreviousContinue »
561. “Gabriel, to thee thy course by lot hath given charge and strict watch," &c. It was observed by Callander that Milton probably “took the idea of the Angels performing their ministry by lot, and in different courses, from the priests among the Jews who attended the altar in several courses."
See Luke i. 8, 9. 564. “my sphere." See note, IV. 39.
569. “But in the mount that lies from Eden north.” See note, IV. 210-214
590, 591. “ whose point now raised bore him," &c. While Uriel and Gabriel have been conversing, the Sun has fallen to the horizon, so that the sunbeam on which Uriel returns inclines from Paradise to the Sun.
592—597. “ whether the Prime Orb . . . had thither rolled . . . or this less volúbil Earth,” &c. A curious passage, as showing the uncertain state of Milton's astronomical belief. In the main, as we have seen abundantly, it is the Ptolemaic system of astronomy that he follows in the scheme of the Universe assumed in his poem. According to this system, the setting of the Sun in the west would be caused by the revolution westward of the Prime Orb, or Primum Mobile,i.e. the vast outward shell or sphere of space enclosing all the other spheres. But the astronomical system of Copernicus and Galileo-according to which the setting of the Sun in the west is more simply explained by the rotation of the Earth itself eastward--had by this time been pretty widely propagated. Milton had been impressed by this system, and was probably more of a convert to it than most of his contemporaries; and hence, though he retains for his general purposes the Ptolemaic system, he takes the precaution in this passage of suggesting, as perhaps more plausible scientifically, the Copernican alternative. See note ,VIII. 15 et seq.
603. “ her amorous descant." “Descant” is here used in its musical sense of “variation of theme."
605, 606. “ Hesperus that led the starry host”: the evening star. Bowle quotes Spenser's Epithalamium, where the Evening Star is addressed:
“Fayre childe of beauty, glorious lampe of love,
That all the host of heaven in ranks dost lead."
627. “Our walk at noon": so in the Second and subsequent editions ; but in the First “ walks."
628. our scant manuring": not in our present sense of the word “manure,” but in the original sense of “ tending with the hand” (manæuvre), cultivating. Richardson in his Dict. quotes this passage from Sir Thomas Smith's Commonwealth (1583), where manure means simply to manage : “It (the Commonwealth of England) is governed,
administered, and manured, by three sorts of persons"; but he quotes also a passage from Hall's Satires (1598), which shows that the word had by that time acquired also its present sense :
• Though many a load of marle and manure laid
640. “ All seasons”: not seasons of the year, but of the day.
642. “ With charm of earliest birds” " charm in its original sense of "song" (carmen).
661. “ Those have," &c. In most editions “these” is substituted for " those,” which is the reading in Milton's own editions. I see no good ground for the change.
671." Their stellar virtue”: a phrase embodying the astrological notion of an actual physical influence of the stars on terrestrial beings.
680-684. “How often . . . have we heard." See note, IV. 449. Dunster compares Tempest, III. ii. : “The isle is full of noises,” &c.
688. “Divide the night”-into watches, like the bugles or trumpets of soldiers relieving guard. “ Dividere noctem” was the Latin phrase for this; and Richardson quotes Silius Italicus, Pun. vii. 154: buccina noctem divideret.”
695-703. “on either side Acanthus," &c. Compare this description of Eve's bower with the similar enumeration of flowers for the bier of Lycidas (Lycidas, 134–151). Beautiful as this is, it falls short of that in richness and exquisiteness of colour. Was it that, after years of blindness, Milton's recollections of flowers and of the minutiæ of colour had grown dim? See Introd. p. 110.
703. “Of costliest emblem”: i.e. mosaic pattern.
716, 717. "the unwiser son of Japhet": i.e. Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus. In the ancient myth, Jupiter, to be avenged upon the wise Titan, Prometheus, the son of Iapetus, who had stolen the sacred fire from heaven, caused a woman to be created—the first mortal female that ever lived. All the gods vied in equipping her with graces and gifts ; and hence her name Pandora (“the all-gifted”).
She was sent to Earth under the conduct of Hermes or Mercury, carrying with her a box, which she was to present to whosoever married her. Pro metheus would have nothing to say to her ; but his less wise brother Epimetheus was captivated. He married her; and, when the box was opened, out few all the ills that flesh has since been heir to. Only Hope remained at the bottom of the box—the lid having been closed in time. 719.
“ stole" : so in the original ; though " stolen” would suit our present grammar, and also the ear, better. VOL. III.
722.“both.” Dunster objected to this third repetition of the word “both” in the course of three lines as weak and unpoetical; and Landor objected to it as ungrammatical, inasmuch as "both” can apply but to two objects, while here there are six. Both objections might be obviated by supposing that Milton meant a stop after“ both” in this line, in which case the word would designate Adam and Eve again, and the meaning would be, " They adored the God that made them both, and that made also Sky, Air, Earth, &c." There is, however, no comma after “ both” in Milton's editions; and the use of “both " with reference to more objects than two occurs elsewhere in Milton, e.g. “both, matter, form, and style" (Sonnet xi.).
735. “thy gift of sleep.” Todd quotes Psalm cxxvii. 2.
744-762. “Whatever hypocrites austerely talk," &c. It has been suggested by Mr. Keightley that in this passage Milton had in view not merely the general discouragement of the married state by the Roman Catholic advocates of monasticism, but also the opinion of some theologians that in the state of innocence there was no exercise of marriagerights. In combating either view, or both, Milton refers to Scriptural texts—Gen. i. 28; 1 Cor. vii. 28 and 36; 1 Tim. iv. 1-3; Heb. xiv. 4; &c.
751. “propriety": 1.e. property.
762. “ Present, or past, as saints and patriarchs used.” I am not sure but here Milton introduces a touch of his peculiar views of marriage. He seems to mean " whether in our present form of the institution, or in that known to saints and patriarchs in the old dispensation."
768. “Mixed dance, or wanton mask, or midnight ball.” The general Puritanism of this passage is obvious; but it is to be remembered that Milton had seen masques acted, and had himself written two of a peculiar kind, both acted--Arcades and Comus.
769. Or serenate." The Italian word is serenata, from Sera, “ Evening."
776, 777. "Now had Night measured with her shadowy cone half-way up-hill this vast sublunar vault." Night is really the shadow of the Earth cast by the Sun ; which shadow, could it be seen in its totality, would appear as a cone of darkness or gloom shot into the vault of space. Jean Paul, in a descriptive passage in one of his tales, realizes this fact very accurately to the imagination in these words : “The high shadow of the Earth, which reaches beyond the Moon, and which is our Night.” Milton, using a somewhat less correct phraseology, speaks as if the shadow extended only into the “sublunar vault” -i.e. as if the apex of the shadowy cone fell short of the Moon, or only just reached it. Either way, and whether on the supposition that the alternation of Day and Night is caused by the rotation of the Earth
itself, or on the old assumption that it is caused by the revolution of the Sun round the Earth, the progress of Night, as regards the inhabitants of the Earth, may be represented as the motion of the Earth's shadow round the circle of the starry heavens from east to west, exactly as the hour-hand of a twenty-four hours' clock would move round the dial-plate. This sublime image is before Milton. The clock by which he measures the hours as they passed in Paradise, while our first parents slept, is that vast astronomical clock, of which the great circle of the starry heavens was the dial-plate and the Earth's shadowy cone the moving hour-hand. At sunset in Paradise (which we are to suppose to have been about six o'clock, not only because of the geographical position of Eden, but also because there is evidence in the poem that the season of the year is assumed to have been Spring) the Earth's shadow would point to the eastern horizon; as the night advanced, it would mo nt in the heavens; at midnight, when the Sun was shining full on the opposite hemisphere, it would have clomb to its height, like the hour-hand of a clock pointing to twelve; and from midnight to sunrise it would descend the other quadrant to the western horizon. The time of night indicated in the present passage of the poem, accordingly—when the shadow had gone half-way up the sublunar vault-is midway between sunset and midnight. To be prosaic and precise, Milton means to say that it was about nine o'clock. By that early hour our first parents, after their evening walk to their bower and their conversation and adoration under the starry canopy, were already asleep. Milton himself, in his later days, or about the time when he wrote Paradise Lost, “went to bed about nine." So we learn from Aubrey, on the authority of Milton's widow.
779. "And from their ivory port the Cherubim forth issuing, at the accustomed hour," &c. This must mean that, at nine o'clock, with military precision, those Angels or Cherubim who, under the command of Gabriel, were entrusted with the guard of Paradise (see lines 550554), issued not out at the eastern gate of Paradise, so as to be beyond the walls, but only from one of the inner ports of that gate into a space within the walls, ready for the duties of the night-watch. They stand at arms, as in a courtyard, to receive Gabriel's orders. Gabriel has waited for this hour to take the measures suggested by Uriel's information at sunset.
782—784. “Uzziel, half these draw off," &c. The meaning of Gabriel's order is that his second in command, Uzziel (this name means “the Strength of God”: see note, III. 648—650), should lead half of the armed Angels round the walls of Paradise on the inside, taking the southern circuit from the eastern gate, while he himself, with the remaining half, would make the northern circuit inside from the same gate (observe that, as Satan had approached Eden by the northern
frontier, Gabriel reserves the more important circuit for himself). They would thus meet at the west, or at the point of the circumference of Paradise exactly opposite the gate from which they set out.
784, 785. “ As flame they part, half wheeling to the shield, half to the spear”-i.e. half to the left and half to the right—the shield being on the soldier's left arm, and the spear in his right hand. The phrase is a Latin one : “Declinare ad hastam, vel ad scutum" (" to turn to the spear or the shield ") occurring in Livy, as Hume notes, exactly in the sense of our “Right or Left wheel.” The Greeks had had a similar phrase.
786. “From these (i.e. from those that had wheeled right) two strong and subtle Spirits he (i.e. Gabriel) called.” Milton is singularly accurate in his military allusions. He here makes Gabriel take command of what would be called the right subdivision, while Uzziel, as his lieutenant, takes command of the left; which is what would take place with real troops in the circumstances. As the right subdivision was to take the northern circuit, and the left the southern circuit of Paradise, it is also suggested that, when the Angels were originally drawn up in parade, before they received the order to wheel in subdivisions right and left, they stood in line fronting Paradise, with their backs to the eastern gate. But this is not essential.
788. “Ithuriel and Zephon." See note, III. 648—650. Ithuriel, in Hebrew, means “Search-of-God”; Zephon, “Searcher."
797. “ So saying, on he led his radiant files." Here again we have military accuracy.
Gabriel's subdivision of the Angels, going their round on the north side of Paradise, within the walls, march in filei.e. two and two, behind each other, in a long string.
798. “these": i.e. Ithuriel and Zephon; who, while the other Angels are marching in file round Paradise, go, as special searchers, into the interior-straight to the bower of Adam and Eve.
804. “inspiring venom." Richardson quotes Æneid, viii. 351 : “ Vipeream inspirans animam."
Of force to its own likeness." See note, Book I. line 254, and account of the word Its in Essay on Milton's English.
814–819. “As, when a spark lights on a heap of nitrous powder," &c. This is one instance, out of many in the poem, of an image drawn from the luminous effects of fire. See remarks on the effects of Milton's blindness on his poetry, Introd. 104-111.
835, 836. “ Think not . thy shape the same, or undiminished brightness, to be known.” The construction is somewhat difficult; but