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541. “Sad”: i.e. “serious,” “steady,” in which sense the word is used by Chaucer and Spenser. Todd quotes from Chaucer (Clerke's Tale, v. 8923) the line—
“And she aye sad and constant as a wall.”
544. “Borne even or high '': i.e. held either straight out from the body, or high to protect the head.
547. “warned he them, aware themselves.” Todd quotes Lucretius (iii. Ios3), “Admonuit memorem ; ” but that reading is doubtful.
55o. “move.” So in First and Second Editions: converted into moved in most modern editions without reason. 552. “hollow cube.” See note to line 399. 553. “Training,” &c. : drawing in train. Compare Spenser, F. .Q 1. vii. 13. 558–567. “ Vanguard, to right and left,” &c. The reader will notice the irony of this speech of Satan, and the string of puns it contains— “our overture,” “discharge our part,” “do as you have in charge,” “briefly touch,” &c. Newton notes similar jesting in Homer, in a speech of AEneas and one of Patroclus, in Iliad xvi.
572—578. “A triple-mounted row,” &c. It has been suggested that this must mean that there were three rows of cannon, one behind the other. But the poet seems clearly to imagine the rows one over another vertically, as they might be in a ship's side, and such an arrangement of the cannon is consistent with the notion of the rebel host as forming a hollow cube. The van of this cube having been wheeled to right and left, the triple row of cannon would be unmasked in the interior hollow. —The construction of the passage is rendered very intricate by the parenthesis. It seems to be this: “ discovered to our eyes a new and strange sight—what we should have taken to be a triple-mounted row of pillars, brass, iron, or of stony substance, laid on wheels (for they seemed most like to pillars, or hollowed trunks of oak or fir from which the branches had been lopped), but that their open mouths gaping on us convinced us they could not be pillars.” Mr. Keightley thinks the reference to felled trees an anachronism here, as, while Raphael was speaking, the felling of trees had not been begun on Earth.
578. “Portending hollow truce.” Even Raphael puns.
579–581. “A Seraph stood . . . a reed stood waving . . . collected stood.” Bishop Newton not unnaturally supposes that this repetition of “stood * is an awkwardness which escaped Milton's notice. The difficulty is with the second “stood.” If “Seraph” is the nominative to it, as one would naturally read, then the passage runs thus, “At each a Seraph stood, and stood waving in his hand a reed, &c., while we stood collected.” But Mr. Keightley proposes to make “reed” the nominative to the second “stood;” in which case “waving” would become a neuter
verb, and the passage would run thus, “At each stood a Seraph, and a reed stood waving in his hand,” &c. Either reading seems awkward. Bentley, as usual, mends the passage by at once supposing a misprint, and substituting “held " for the second “stood.”
595—599. “Unarmed, they might,” &c. Here we seem to have an afterthought of Milton, correcting his prevalent notion of the dilatability or contractibility of the spirits at will (see notes, I. 419 and 789). Remembering this notion, and yet resolved to keep his representation of the effect of the cannon on the Angelic host, he resorts to the imagination that the arms of the Angels, not being of the Angelic substance, but of more ordinary matter, hung about them and impeded the exercise of their elasticity. This is one of the shifts to which Milton is driven by the nature of his subject, and is perhaps hardly consistent with other passages in the poem. Is it consistent, for example, with the description of the assembly of the fallen Angels in Pandemonium, I. 777 et seq. P. There the Angels are armed, and yet they contract themselves into the smallest bulk with ease.
599. “serried files.” See note, I. 548.
699–619. “O friends,” &c. In this speech of Satan we have more ironical punning—“open front,” “terms of composition,” “proposals Aeard,” &c.
656–661. “ Their armour helped their harm,” &c. See note to lines 595–599. There is an advance in this passage on the supposition made in the other. In the case of the rebel Angels not only does the armour impede the exercise of the spiritual elasticity, but, crushed in upon the bodies of the Spirits, it causes pain. This difference of the rebel from the loyal Angels is accounted for by the deterioration of the being of the former caused by their sin.—Observe the jingle armour and Aarm.
664–667. “So hills . . . infernal noise.” The meaning is “Hills encountered hills amid the air so (to such an extent) that the Angels were actually fighting underground, in a darkness that was dismal and a noise that might properly be called infernal, as being roofed over by the flying masses of earth.”
673. “Consulting on the sum of things.” Almost a translation of an expression of Milton's own in his Academic Latin Poem Maturam non Aati Senium, where (lines 33, 34) he says—
681, 682. “in whose face invisible is beheld visibly, what by Deity / am ” : i.e. “in whose face a thing in its own nature invisible—to wit, what by my Deity I am—is beheld visibly.”
691, 692. “which yet hath wrought insensibly.” The most probable meaning is, “The indecisiveness of the fight as yet has arisen from the equality of the original constitution of the Angels on either side. This equality has been somewhat disturbed to the disadvantage of the rebel Angels by the impairing effects of sin upon them, causing them to feel pain, &c.; which (i.e. which disturbance to the disadvantage of the rebel Angels) has as yet produced no very sensible effect on the state of the battle.” In this reading the antecedent to “which " is the whole clause “what sin hath impaired" (i.e. the amount of injury to one side done by sin). But there may be another, and obvious, reading of the passage, if the single word “sin” is made the antecedent. I prefer the former reading.
698. “the main '': i.e. the total Universe, of which Heaven is the half.
709. “By sacred unction.” See Psalm xlv. 7. (Newton.)
723–745. “O Father, O Supreme,” &c. In this speech of the Son, as in other such speeches of the Divine Persons, Milton is careful to avail himself exactly of the language of Scriptural texts. Among the texts involved are John xvii. 4, 5; Matthew xvii. 5; 1 Cor. xv. 28; John xvii. 21 ; Psalm crxxix. 21 ; 2 Peter ii. 4; Isaiah lxvi. 24; Mark ix. 44. The merit of tracing of these texts, and of the others that follow to the end of the book, belongs to various commentators ; but it is needless to name each.
748. “the third sacred morn.” It has been supposed that in making the Messiah's triumph take place on the third day Milton may have had the Resurrection in view.
750–759. “The chariot of Paternal Deity . . . showery arch.” In this description Milton has in view throughout the first chapter of Ezekiel ; which see. Mr. Keightley has a special little dissertation in connexion with this passage and the chapter of Ezekiel. It is appended to his Life of Milton under the title of “Cherubic Car of Jehovah.”
760, 761. “in celestial panoply all armed of radiant Urim.” Ephes. vi. 11, and Exod. xxviii. 15–30. Urim means lights or flashing jewels.
765. “rolled ”: in original “rowld.” See Essay on Milton's English.
766. “bickering ”: i.e. struggling. To bicker is to fight irregularly and incessantly, as with a succession of picks or sharp blows. It is still used provincially in that sense. A “bicker” in Scotland is a fight of schoolboys, with stones for missiles.
767—770. “ten thousand thousand Saints . . . twenty thousand . . . chariots.” Jude xiv.; and Psalm lxviii. 17 : “The chariots of God are twenty thousand.”
771. “IHe on the wings of Cherub,” &c. Psalm xviii. 10. Cherub is used here for the plural, Cherubim.
776. “his sign in Heaven.” Matthew xxiv. 30. (Gillies.) 781—784. “At his command,” &c. Habak. iii. 6. (Todd.)
788. “In Heavenly Spirits could such perverseness dwell ?” Hume quotes Virgil's words (AEn. i. 11), “Tantaene animis coelestibus irae?” 801. “Stand still,” &c. See Exod. xiv. 13, 14. (Gillies.) 808. “Wengeance is his.” Deut. xxxii. 35, and Rom. xii. 19. 812, 813. “By me,” &c. “Me,” being used emphatically three times in these two lines, is in each case spelt “mee” in the original texts, according to Milton's practice; and the same spelling is kept up throughout the rest of the passage. 826. “wrath; ” spelt “wrauth” in the original text. 829. “rolled; ” “rowld” in the original. See Essay on Milton's English. 842. “That wished,” &c. Rev. vi. 16. (Newton.)
862. “IJeep': i.e. Chaos. 862—866. “The monstrous sight . . . bottomless pit.” The rebel Angels, it is to be noted, do not fall from Heaven in our sense of “fell.” They were not subject to gravitation, and there was no proper element towards which they could gravitate. The passage recollects this, and makes the Angels “urged" or driven from Heaven, down through Chaos—forced down and still down by the fire of the Divine wrath burning after them. 866. “Burnt after them to the bottomless pit.” A verse of strikingly unusual construction, introduced purposely to suggest the thing described. . 867–869. “JHell heard,” &c. See Book II. 993. 871. “Mine days they fello”: as the Titans do in Hesiod (Theog. 722). 882–892. “To meet him all his Saints,” &c. Rev. xii. Io, iv. 11, 1 Tim. iii. 16, Heb. i. 3. 893. “Thus, measuring things in Heaven by things on Earth.” Milton evidently feels the necessity, after his description of the wars in Heaven, of making Raphael repeat his caution that such things could only be described symbolically. See Book V. 563 el seq. 900. “he who envies.” Strict syntax would require “him " instead of “he.” unless we were to read “he who" as elliptical for “he it is who.” In the original text the spelling is “hee,” for emphasis.
912. “Yet sell,” &c. The metre of the line is peculiar, but winds up the Book very fitly.
VOL. III. - P
1, 2. “Urania, by that name if rightly thou art called,” &c. Urania, as the name itself implies, is the same “Heavenly Muse” whom he had invoked at the beginning of the poem (Book I. line 6). But, as the name is also that of one of the nine Grecian Muses, and as his flight has been into higher regions than the Olympus of Greek poetry, he doubts whether Urania is altogether the fit name for his Muse. It is the meaning (“Heavenly"), he goes on to say, and not the mere name (as that of one of the Muses), that he calls.
8–11. “Before the hills appeared,” &c. Proverbs viii. 24–30. (Newton.)
15. “Thy tempering”: i.e. “tempered or made fit for my earthly constitution by thee.” Bentley thinks “thy” a printer's error for “thee.”
17–20. “from this flying steed unreined (as once Bellerophon).” &c. By “this flying steed” Milton means his Pegasus—soaring much higher than that Pegasus from which, according to the fable, Bellerophon fell in his attempt to reach Heaven. Falling from the winged horse, Bellerophon wandered all the rest of his life in the Aleian fields—i.e. the Fields of Error.
22. “the visible Diurnal Sphere": i.e. the Astronomical Universe of Man, which appears to revolve round the Earth daily, in twenty-four hours.
23. “the Pole”: i.e. that topmost point of the Astronomical Universe where, according to Milton's cosmology in the poem, it hangs from the eternal and unimaginable Heaven in which most of the history has as yet been laid.
24–28. “unchanged to hoarse or mute, though fallen on evil days . . . and solitude.” Note the touching reference to Milton's personal condition after the Restoration—solitary, blind, and calumniated, and seeing all that he thought worst in the ascendancy. Yet his voice, he says, is changed neither to hoarse nor to mute—i.e. he can still make himself heard, and in a clear strain.
31. “fit audience find, though few.” Newton quotes Horace, Sat.1. x. 74:—
“Contentus paucis lectoribus.”
32—38. “But drive far off,” &c. An evident allusion to the dissolute courtiers of Charles II., from whom he might expect a fate not unlike