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40–57. “which Eve perceiving . . . rose,” &c. One may perhaps discern in this whole passage something characteristic of Milton's ideal of woman in her relations to man.
61. “Aomp”: train, escort, procession (tropiirii). So in Z'All. 127.
70, 71. “This to attain, whether . . . imports not.” The meaning is, “In order to attain to this learning that I spoke of the learning of God's seasons—it matters not whether Heaven move or Earth.” Another construction of the passage has been given, less consistent with the original pointing. 81, 82. “build, unbuild, contrive, to save appearances.” A very exact description of the growth of the Ptolemaic system to its complete state —addition of orb after orb being made, and ingenious suppositions respecting each orb resorted to, as each new set of appearances presented themselves for explanation. 82—84. “gird the Sphere With Centric and Eccentric scribbled o'er, Cycle and Epicycle, Orb in Orb.”
The fundamental notion of the ancient astronomers was that all the motions of the heavenly bodies were in circles, the strictly circular motion being the most perfect kind. The simplest and most primitive system of celestial mechanics, therefore, was that which imagined the eight successive spheres of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Fixed Stars, revolving variously round the Earth as their common centre ; and this system, with the addition of the two extra spheres, called the Crystalline or Ninth and the Primum Mobile or Tenth, remained substantially in force, and affected both scientific and popular speech, till it was superseded by the Copernican. (Introd. pp. 89–92.) From very remote antiquity, however, it had been perceived that the simple circular motions of eight or even ten spheres round the Earth, with whatever variety of rates and times among themselves, would not account for all the observed phenomena of the heavens—would not account, for example, for the fact that the motion of the Sun is faster or slower according to the season (acceleration and retardation), or for the fact that the motions of the planets are sometimes direct or in the order of the signs of the Zodiac, and sometimes retrograde (progression and regression). To remedy this defect, “to save these appearances,” two devices had been introduced, that of the Joccentric and that of the Epicycle. Let it be supposed that, while the Earth is the centre of the Primum Mobile and consequently of the whole mundane system, the inclosed planetary spheres, or at all events that of the Sun, need not be strictly concentric, i.e. need not strictly have this centre, but may be eccentric, i.e. may revolve round a point somewhat to the side of the Earth ; then, as the Earth would sometimes be nearer to the moving body, and sometimes farther off, the acceleration or retardation of the motion would be sufficiently accounted for. Again, let it be supposed that the body of a planet is not fixed strictly in its cycle, or the circumference of its wheeling sphere, but moves flylike in an epicycle, or small circle revolving round a fixed point in that wheeling circumference; then, according as the planet was in that part of its epicyle which is beyond, or in that part which is within, its cycle, its motion would for the time be progressive, i.e. with its cycle, or retrograde, i.e. against its cycle. Actually, by a complicated use of these two devices, in aid of the simpler and earlier device of mere multiplication of general orbs, the Ptolemaic astronomers had contrived, with a tolerable approach to completeness, to account for all the phenomena of the solar and planetary motions, but only by such a dizzying intricacy of conceived wheels within wheels (“centric and eccentric") and wheels upon wheels (“cycle and epicycle”) as Milton describes. Observe how exactly his language hits off the three devices of the Ptolemaists for meeting all difficulties consistently with their axiom of perfectly circular motions in the Universe. They “gird the Sphere” (i.e. belt in the total round of the Cosmos from the Empyrean and Chaos), having previously, in their maps of its interior, scribbled it over (1) with “centric and eccentric" (i.e. inner circles, some concentric with the outermost, others not quite concentric) and (2) with “cycle and epicycle" (i.e. some of the said circles not burdened with any subordinate circles on their circumferences, but others carrying such little ornaments),-all the while, however, faithful on the whole (3) to that primitive notion of “orb in orb " (i.e. of the Cosmos as consisting of a succession of wheeling main spheres) which had itself been mended into sufficiency from time to time by multiplying the number of the supposed spheres, till from eight they had become ten.—The following is a rather interesting passage from Bacon's De Augmentis (1623), showing both Bacon's dissatisfaction with the Ptolemaic system, and the hopeless, or rather hopeful, confusion of his own aspirations after a better:-‘‘Certainly Astronomy offers to the human intellect a “victim like that which Prometheus offered in deceit to Jupiter. “Prometheus, in the place of a real ox, brought to the altar the hide of “an ox of great size and beauty, stuffed with straw and leaves and “twigs. In like manner Astronomy presents only the exterior of the “heavenly bodies (I mean the number of the stars, their positions, “motions, and periods), as it were the hide of the heavens; beautiful “indeed and skilfully arranged into systems: but the interior (namely “the physical reasons) is wanting, out of which (with the help of astro“nomical hypotheses) a theory might be devised which would not “merely satisfy the phenomena (of which kind many might with a little “ingenuity be contrived), but which would set forth the substance, “motion, and influence of the heavenly bodies as they really are. For “long ago have those doctrines been exploded of the force of the First “Mover and the Solidity of the Heaven—the stars being supposed to “ be fixed in their orbs like nails in a roof. And with no better reason “is it affirmed that there are different poles of the Zodiac and of the “World; that there is a Second Mover of counteraction to the force of “the First ; that all the heavenly bodies move in perfect circles; that “there are eccentrics and epicycles whereby the constancy of motions “in perfect circles is preserved; that the Moon works no change or “violence in the regions above it; and the like. And it is the “absurdity of these opinions that has driven men to the diurnal motion “of the Earth; which I am convinced is most false. But there is “scarcely any one who has made inquiries into the physical causes, as “well of the substance of the heavens both stellar and interstellar as of “the relative velocity and slowness of the heavenly bodies; of the “different velocity of motion in the same planet ; of the course of “motions from east to west and contrary; of their progressions, “stationary positions and retrogressions ; of the elevation and fall of “motions in apogee and perigee ; of the obliquity of motions, either “by spirals winding and unwinding towards the Tropics, or by those “curves which they call Dragons; of the poles of rotation, why they “are fixed in such part of the heaven rather than in any other; and of “some planets being fixed at a certain distance from the Sun :-such an “inquiry as this (I say) has hardly been attempted ; but all the labour “is spent in mathematical observations and demonstrations” (Bacon's Works: Spedding's Edit. iv. 347-8: Translation of the De Aug.).
1oz. “his line stretched out so far.” Job xxxviii. 5. (Hume.)
Io'7. “attribute,” accented on the first syllable, as it is also in line 12 of this Book.
128. “In six thou seest': i.e. in the Moon, and in Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
130. “three several motions.” These three motions of the Earth are (1) her diurnal rotation on her axis, (2) her annual orbit round the Sun, (3) the libration or oscillation of her axis during her orbit. These three motions are exemplified in a top spinning—the spinning of the top being the first motion; the circle it describes while spinning being the second ; and its balancing of itself, while circling, from a more or less slant to a more or less upright position, the third. This last motion is the “trepidation talked” of Book III. 483 (see note there). There it is assigned, in accordance with the Ptolemaic system, to the Ninth or Crystalline Sphere close to the Primum Mobile; but here, according to the Copernican doctrine, it is transferred, with the two other motions, to the Earth itself.
131—140. “Which else,” &c. The construction of these ten lines is somewhat difficult, owing to the peculiar use of the word “else,” which here means “either.” They may be explained thus:—Which (i.e. the three motions of the Earth just spoken of) you must either ascribe, as in the Ptolemaic system, to several spheres moving in contrary directions and obliquely crossing each other, or you must, as has just been hinted, credit the Earth herself with the motions, and so save the Sun his labour and at the same time save (i.e. get rid of) that supposed swift nocturnal and diurnal Rhomb (6.6/1/3oc, a wheel) of the Ptolemaists, otherwise invisible (i.e. invisible except in supposition) beyond all stars, and known as the Tenth Sphere or Primum Mobile, whose diurnal revolution carries round all the inner spheres—which (i.e. the existence of which Rhomb) needs not thy belief if Earth, herself taking the trouble to rotate on her axis from west to east, fetches Day by travelling east, being always luminous on that side of her rotund mass which is turned towards the Sun, while her averse side is dipped in Night or Shadow.
143. “Enlightening her”: i.e. the Moon.
144. “reciprocal, if,” &c. : i.e. doing mutual good service if we are to suppose the Moon inhabited.
145, 146. “Her spots thou seest as clouds.” In Milton's time the notions as to the constitution of the Moon were not what they are at present, and atmosphere, vapour, and clouds were supposed in it as in the Earth.
148, 149. “other Suns, perhaps, with their attendant Moons.” A reference to Galileo's discovery that Jupiter and Saturn have satellites. To their moons or satellites these planets would be as suns.
150. “male and female light”: i.e. direct and reflected.
152. “Stored in each Orb perhaps with some that live.” I believe that “stored” here qualifies “World,” and that the meaning is “Which two great sexes animate the World—a World stored perhaps in each of its orbs with some living things.” But it is possible that “stored" refers to “sexes” or to “suns and moons,” in either of which connexions an intelligible meaning would arise.
155. “contribute”: accented on the first syllable. See note, line Io?.
157. “this habitable.” A literal translation of the Greek phrase "joixovačvn for Earth.
164. “inoffensive”: not striking against any obstacle.
173. “Be lowly wise”: “Humile sapiamus,” “Let us be lowly wise,” is a phrase of Milton's own in one of his Familiar Epistles, addressed to
his friend Diodati Sept. 23, 1637. Todd noted this; and Hume quotes the Latin phrase “Noli altum sapere.”
183—197. “nor with perp/exing thoughts to interrupt the sweet of life . . . to know that which before us lies in daily life is the prime wisdom,” &c. Hume quotes Eccles. vi. 11, 12, and vii. 16, and Coloss. ii. 8 ; and Mr. Browne compares Sams. Ag. 3oo—306. Mr. Keightley notes that the whole doctrine of the passage is directly opposed to the teaching and philosophy of Bacon. Indeed, so far as it would stop inquisitiveness into the farthest secrets of Physical Nature, it is opposed to the whole tenor of Modern Philosophy; though Comte's discouragement of Sidereal Astronomy is somewhat in the same spirit. To qualify the impression of the passage in this respect, however, see Milton's enthusiastic outburst on the pleasures of scientific research and speculation in the third of his Pro/usiones Oratorie, and also his advocacy of Physical Science in his ZYact on Zducation. His real meaning in the present passage is probably the same as Goethe's in his famous aphorism (though that was uttered with reference rather to metaphysical than to physical speculations): “Man is born not to solve the problem of the Universe, but to find out where the problem begins, and then to restrain himself within the limits of the comprehensible.”
229. “I that day was absent": i.e. on the Sixth Day of the Creation; on which day, as Man was to be created on it, a special guard was kept at Hell-gates, lest any of the fallen Angels should emerge on an evil errand.
238–24o. “Eut us he sends,” &c. Mr. Browne compares Sonnet xix. I 1–14.
246. “Are Sabbath-evening.” I believe this means here not what we call usually Sabbath evening, but the evening before Sabbath, evening being used as it is in the phrase “Christmas Eve.” The Angels sent to Hell-gate to watch were released from that duty as soon as Man was created, i.e. at the close of the Sixth Day, and returned to Heaven for the Sabbath.
251. “who himself beginning knew 2° i.e. “who ever knew himself as beginning or commencing to exist P”
269. “as lively vigour led.” So in the First Edition, but in the Second it is “and lively vigour led,” which seems to be a misprint.
292–296. “When suddenly stood at my head a dream . . . One came, methought, . . . and said.” Mr. Keightley notes thus: “The idea of seeing in a dream what really was taking place seems to have been suggested by the dream of Æacus in Ovid (Mct. vii. 634 seq.). So also Dante dreams that he is carried up by an eagle, and on awakening finds that he had in effect been carried up a part of the mountain of Purgatory during his sleep (Purg. ix. 7 seq.).”
3o?. “Zoaden with fairest fruit.” See IV. 147, and note there.