Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

the meaning seems to be, “Think not thy shape the same, or thy brightness undiminished, so as to be known.”

847–849. saw Virtue in her shape how lovely-saw and pined his loss”: a distinct recollection, with almost literal translation, of Persius Sat. iii. 35-38:

“ Magne pater divům, sævos punire tyrannos

Haud aliâ ratione velis, cum dira libido
Moverit ingenium, ferventi tincta veneno,
Virtutem videant, intabescantque relictâ.”

This appropriation, pointed out first by Hume, has been mentioned to me by Professor Seeley as one of the most striking instances of Milton's fitting of flakes from the classics into his own text.

861-864. “ Now drew they nigh the western point,&c. Here again Milton keeps military exactness in his description. Gabriel's subdivision of the Angels and Uzziel's subdivision, marching each in file and each its half round of Paradise—the one on the north side and the other on the south—have by this time met, as was appointed (line 784), at the west point of the circuit, opposite the eastern gate, whence they had set out. The subdivisions have joined (by the military act known as closing), and are standing in line, as before, facing Paradise, Gabriel in front, when Ithuriel and Zephon arrive with their prisoner.

866–874. “O friends, I hear, &c. . . . He scarce had ended, when," &c. The commentators have marked the similarity here to the passage in the Iliad (x. 533 et seq.), describing Nestor receiving Ulysses and Diomede on their return from the Trojan camp.

885–901. To whom thus Satan," &c. There is a strain of courtesy throughout this speech of Satan to Gabriel, as of a coequal to a coequal whom he has not seen for some time; but, as it is spoken “ with contemptuous brow” (line 885) and “in scorn (902), the courtesy must be supposed ironical.

894.Dole with delight." Todd quotes Hamlet, I. ii. “In equal scale weighing delight and dole.”

904, 905 O loss of one in Heaven to judge of wise, since Satan fell.Said ironically by Gabriel, and meaning "o the loss that there has been in Heaven, since Satan fell, of one able to judge what wisdom is.”

906. “And now returns him." Mr. Keightley suggests that “Satan," not “ folly,” is the nom. to returns." 911.

However": i.e. in whatever manner. 927.

" Thy fiercest" : understand “enemy." 928. The blasting": so in First Edition ; changed, perhaps by misprint, into “Thy blasting” in Second and Third.

945. " practised distances to cringe": i.e. to cringe, going backwards, at practised distances from the throne, like Oriental courtiers. Todd compares the taunt of Prometheus to the Chorus (Prom. Vinct. 945).

949, 950. Argues no leader . . . and couldst thou 'faithful' add ?Gabriel here retorts sarcastically on Satan's phrase in line 933.

953-956. “ Army of fiends," &c. In these four lines Gabriel apostrophises the absent host of Rebel Angels ; in line 957 he reverts to Satan personally

962. “areed: i.e. "advise” or “decree for.” Originally the word meant to divine, to guess, to interpret, to read a riddle.

966. And seal thee," &c. Rev. xx. 3. (Hume.)

972. Proud limitary Cherub." In Latin “ milites limitaneiare soldiers in garrison on a frontier for the purpose of guarding it; and it is suggested that Milton formed the word “limitary” in this sense. Gabriel having (line 964) referred to the “hallowed limits” he was set to guard, Satan retorts sneeringly “Proud limitary Cherub." It is as if he said “Proud Cherub of those limits you speak so much of.”

977-979. the angelic squadron bright turned fiery red, sharpening in mooned horns their phalanx." Another instance is here furnished of what has already been noticed (note, lines 814–819)—the frequency with which Milton, probably because of his blindness, draws his descriptive images from the mere effects of light. See Introd. p. 111.

980. with ported spears.Another instance of Milton's correct use of military terms. See antè, I. 565, 618; IV. 784, 786, 797, 861, and notes there.

“ Port arms is still one of the words of conimand in our army. On receiving this command the soldier brings his weapon—.e. the rifle with the bayonet attached—to a slanting position across his body, holding it with both hands, so that the barrel and the bayonet are in a line crossing the point of the left shoulder. He is thus in a position to attack an enemy; for, on receiving a farther word of command, an easy movement from this position enables him to bring down his weapon firmly to the “ charge," i.e. with its point turned out horizontally or nearly so against whoever might meet it. In Milton's time, before bayonets were invented, the drill or manual exercise for pikes or spears was not greatly different from that now in use for the rifle and bayonet; and a body of men " with ported spears ” meant, therefore, not (as most of the editors have fancied in their notes on this passage) a body of men with their spears thrust straight out against an enemy, but a body of men with their spears held in their hands across their breasts and slanting beyond the left shoulder, ready to be brought down to the “charge” if necessary. The Angels have not the points of their spears tumed to Satan; they have them only grasped in the position preparatory to turning them against him. This explains the subsequent image ; for a series of spears so “ported " over the left shoulders of a body of men, being parallel to

each other and aslant, would resemble, to a spectator, cornstalks in a field blown all one way by the wind.

985. alarmed: i.e. on his guard : ” fear is not implied.

986. dilated stood: i.e. actually expanded in bulk to a vast degree. Ithuriel had caught him shrunk to the dimensions of a toad ; touched by Ithuriel's spear, he had resumed the ordinary angelic stature ; but now he towers to his utmost.

987. "unremoved: incapable of being removed. See note, IV. 492.

988, 989. "on his crest sat Horror plumed." A personification terrible in its very vagueness. The poet, imagining Satan, sees as it were the plumed crest of his helmet, but gives only this visionary metaphor of it, of which Hume finely says: “Šat Horror plumedhas something in it quod nequeo monstrare et sentio tantum. Horror has been frequently personified by the poets. Thus Spenser (F. Q. 11. vii. 23)

“And over them sad Horrour with grim hew

Did alwaies soar beating his iron wings.' Shakespeare has "Victory sits on our helms” (Rich. III., V. iii.), and similar phrases which Mr. Keightley quotes.

990. What seemed both spear and shield.Dunster and others after him object to the hesitancy here as spoiling the picture. “The intimation that Satan's arms were a mere semblance,” says Dunster, “has a bad effect;”and Mr. Browne supposes that Milton here yielded to a sudden feeling that he was too material in his representations of spiritual beings. Nothing of the sort. Satan has just shot up to such vast stature that it is impossible to give precise visual descriptions of his helmet (see last note) or his arms. That is the true reason for the vague

“ what seemed.” 992, 993 " the starry cope of Heaven, perhaps, or all the Elements at least, had gone to wrack.” Milton distinguishes here between the distant sphere of the fixed stars and the elements of fire, air, earth, and water, employed in the composition of the terrestrial world itself.

996, 997. Hung forth in Heaven his golden scales," &c. Milton, as Hume noted, must here have had in view the passage in Homer (Iliad, viii. 69) where Jupiter weighs the issues of uncertain events in golden scales, and that in Virgil (Æneid, xii. 725) where there is a similar image. But Milton makes the balance the actual constellation Libra, and in other respects he makes the image entirely his own.

999—1002. Wherein all things created first he weighed," &c. Hume cites Isaiah xl. 12, Job xxviii. 25 and xxxvii. 16; and Newton adds Daniel v. 26, 27-" ponders," in the literal sense of “ weighs.”

1003 The sequel each of parting and of fight.The word " sequel here has puzzled commentators, and Bentley proposed to read “ signal.”

[ocr errors]

But the meaning is plain enough, if we take “sequel" in its ordinary sense of “consequence : one weight is or represents the consequence, or result, or advantage to Satan of "parting" or abstaining from the combat ; the other represents the consequence to him of actually engaging in the fight. The scales are hung out, not to show, as between Satan and Gabriel, which will win, but to show to Satan himself which will be the better for him of two courses of action. As the scale in which the sequel, or result, or advantage of fighting was placed proved the lighter and kicked the beam, this showed him that that course of action was the less desirable for him.

1010-1014. To trample thee as mire(Isaiah x. 6). look up . . . His mounted scale aloft.Although the poet at first imagines the scales as weighing for Satan the "sequel " or consequence of one course of action against the “sequel ” or consequence of another, yet now, by a very natural variation of thought, not involving an inconsistency, he speaks of Satan's whole power as being the thing weighed. His scale mounts—i.e. his whole power is light in comparison with what is opposed to it.

For proof

BOOK V.

2.

Sowed the earth with orient pearl: i.e. with dew-drops. Lucretius says of the sun (ii. 211) Lumine conserit arva.” (Newton).

3-5. “his sleep was aery light, from pure digestion bred, and temperate vapours bland, which," &c. : i.e. his sleep was light, being produced by pure digestion, and by the bland temperate cloudiness (not the cloudi. ness of excess) consequently rising to the brain, which, &c. Newton and subsequent commentators make “sleep” the antecedent of which"; but it seems more natural, and more consistent with the subsequent image, to take temperate vapours blandas the antecedent.

5. "the only sound": i.e. the sound alone, no other being heard. Thyer quotes the phrase from Spenser (F. Q. v. ii. 30), “ As if the only sound thereof she feared.”

6. " fuming rills: i.e. either, as Hume interpreted, rills purling as if angry, or perhaps, as Newton suggested, rills literally fuming, with the morning mists rising from them.

7, 8. " the shrill matin song of birds on every bough.Hume quotes Æneid, viii. 456 :

Evandrum ex humili lecto lux suscitat alma,

Et matutini volucrum sub culmine cantus.

22.

17-25 · Awake, my fairest,” &c. There may be a recollection here of the Song of Solomon, ii. 10–13.

our tended plants: so in the original text; but corrupted in later editions into tender."

44. Heaven wakes with all his eyes.” See note, Book I. line 254. Milton generally uses the feminine possessive form her along with Heaven. Thus Book VII. 205, 206, Heaven opened wide her ever-during gates ;” and, again, lines 574, 575, Heaven that opened wide her blazing portals.” In the present instance, however, there is a fitness in the masculine form-if it be the masculine by personification, and not simply the old neuter his. The eyes of Heaven wake to behold Eve; to have said “ her eyes,” therefore, would not have been in keeping. From the same instinct it may be that the poet, in the preceding lines 40, 41, has made the nightingale masculine—his love-laboured song - whereas he usually makes this bird (though it is the male that sings) feminine. Thus Book III. 40, "tunes her nocturnal note ; ” Book IV. 602, 603, the tuneful nightingale: she all night long her amorous descant sung,&c. Todd fancies that Milton in this passage may have remembered Giles Fletcher's lines (Christ's Victory, stanza 78)

“ Heaven awakèd all his eyes

To see another sun at midnight rise."

[ocr errors]

64. with venturous arm.In the original text“ ventrous.

But know that in the soul are many lesser faculties,” &c. It may be interesting to compare this little bit of Milton's psychology, introduced in explanation of Dreaming, with the corresponding parts of Sir John Davies's philosophical poem on the Soul (1599). In that poem, after describing the Five organs of Sense, Davies proceeds :

“ These are the outward instruments of sense ;

These are the guards which everything does pass,
Ere it approach the mind's intelligence,

Or touch the Fantasy, Wit's looking-glass
And yet these porters, which all things admit,

Themselves perceive not, nor discern the things :
One common power doth in the forehead sit

Which all their proper forms together brings.” The function of this common power, or recipient and percipient of the informations of the various senses, is to transmit them to a still higher region of the brain,

“Where Fantasy, near handmaid to the mind,

Sits and beholds, and doth discern them all ;
Compounds in one things different in their kind;

Compares the black and white, the great and small.

« PreviousContinue »