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335, 336. “though in my choice not to incur”: i.e. “dreadful, . . . though it be in my choice not to incur the danger.”
357. “purpose": discourse (Fr. Aropos), as at IV. 337.
379, 380. “Let not my words offend thee,” &c. Gen. xviii. 30. (Newton.)
384. “sort": issue, come to pass, succeed (Fr. sortir). Instances of the word in this sense, from Holinshed, Bacon, and others, are given in Richardson's Dictionary.
386–388. “but, in dissarity, the one intense,” &c. The meaning is, “but, in a state of inequality between two creatures, in which the one is intense (tensely wound up like a musical string), the other still remiss (slack), they cannot well suit or harmonize.”
395. “Much less,” &c. The force of this expression depends on what has gone before. “It is the pairs of each kind that are found rejoicing with each other—the lion with the lioness, the tiger with the tigress, &c.; much /ess, if you take individuals of different kinds, as an ox with an ape, a bird with a beast, or a fish with a fowl, can there be fit society between them ; and least of all can man and beast be companions.”
406, 407. “none I know second to me or like.” Newton quotes Horace (Od. I. xii. 17):—
“Unde nil majus generatur ipso,
410. “inferior infinite descents”: i.e. “inferior by infinite descents.”
412—414. “To attain,” &c. Rom. xi. 33. (Hume.)
421. “through all numbers absolute.” Bishop Newton quotes from Cicero the phrases “omnibus numeris absolutus,” and “expletum omnibus
sui's numeris,” as suggesting Milton's expression. Hume had preceded him in the first quotation.
465. “lost side.” This is an addition of the commentators, Scripture (Gen. ii. 21) not mentioning from which side the rib was taken. The left is chosen as nearest the heart; hence the significance of “cordial” in the next line.
534. “failed in me.”: made a slip in my creation.
540–559. “For wes/ / understand,” &c. For farther information as to Milton's views of the relations of the sexes see his Divorce Tracts. See also Samson Agonistes, Ioz 5–1033. The intellectual superiority of the Man over the Woman was one of Milton's characteristic tenets.
547. “absolute”: perfect.
555, 556. “As one infended first, not after made occasionally.” Hume recognises this as a contradiction of an opinion of Aristotle, who, according to an old commentator on Genesis ii. 18, calls woman “animal occasionatum, non for se cf. ex principali natura intentione generatum, sed ex occasione.”—“ occasionally,” for a supplenmentary purpose.
569. “Thy cherishing, thy honouring, and thy Zozo.” Ephes. v. 28; 1 Peter iii. 7. There is a recollection also of the words of the English Marriage Service.
This aphorism is peculiarly characteristic of Milton. His own life was, in a great measure, founded upon it; and he frequently asserts and expounds it.
576. “adorn ; ” an adjective for “adorned,” formed, as Mr. Keightley notes, from the Italian adorno.
578. “who sees when thou art seen least wise”: i.e. “who beholds thee in those moments when thou art to be seen in thy least wise condition.”
591. “judicious " : full of judgment or correct apprehension : “scale” ladder, from the Italian sca/a.
609, 610. “from the sense tariously representing”: i.e. objects brought before me from the senses, which represent things in all their varieties.
631, 632. “the Earth's green Cape and verdant Isles Hesperean.” Cape Verd and the Cape Verd Islands to the west of Africa. 1/cs/ercan so spelt in the original edition.
634. “whom to love is to obey.” I John v. 3. (Newton.)
645. “benediction." The word does not mean “blessing” here, but only “gracious speaking.” “Since to part": i.e. “Since we are to part.”
653. “Adam to his bower.” The conversation of Adam with Raphael had taken place in the bower; but Adam is to be supposed as having, at its close, fo//owed Raphael (line 645) to the entrance of the bower.
2. “as with his friend,” &c. Exod. xxxiii. 11. (Todd.)
13–19. “argument not less but more heroic than the wrath of stern Achi//es . . . or the rage of Zurnus . . . or Meptune's ire, or /uno's,” &c. Milton here asserts the theme of his poem to be more heroic than the themes of the three greatest Epics of past ages—the Iliad, the main subject of which, as the first line declares, is “the wrath of Achilles,” and one of the incidents of which is the pursuit of Hector by Achilles round the walls of Troy; the Æneid, the latter portion of which relates the anger of Turnus on account of the promise of Lavinia to AEneas, and much of the plot of which turns on the hostility of Juno to AEneas, the son of Cytherea, or Venus; the Odyssey, the hero of which, Ulysses, is an object of persecution to Neptune.
21. “my celestial Patroness": i.e. Urania. See Book VII. 1, 2, and note.
23, 24. “inspires easy my unpremeditated verse.” If this is to be understood literally, Milton's habits of composition had undergone a change since his earlier days. The manuscripts of his early poems show him to have been then, if not a laborious and slow writer, at least a most painstaking and fastidious one—erasing, altering, and correcting with extraordinary pains.
25, 26. “Since first this subject for heroic song Pleased me, long choosing and beginning late.” The subject had first pleased him in or about 1640, when it was thought
of for a Drama—after which there had been “long choosing” between it and other subjects; and not till about 1658, when Milton was fifty years of age, had the actual composition of the Epic been seriously begun. See the story in detail, Introd. pp. 40–50. 29, 30. “chief mastery to dissect . . . fabled Ansg//s.” For the con. struction of this, some ellipsis must be supposed between it and what precedes; thus “wars, hitherto deemed the only heroic argument, it being deemed chief mastery to dissect,” &c.—Dissect, “to cut and carve: ” an allusion to the minute descriptions of wounds in the Epic poets. 3–35. “races and games,” as in Iliad, xxiii. and Æneid, v. (Newton); “tilting furniture, emblazoned shields,” as in Malory's Morse d'Arthur, Spenser's Faery Queene, Ariosto, Boiardo, &c.
35. “impresses; ” spelt “impreses" in the original text; from the Italian impresa, a device or emblem used on a shield or otherwise. Among the prose remains of Drummond of Hawthornden is a little Discourse upon Impresas, in which he distinguishes the impresa proper from the emblem in general. “An impresa,” he says, “is a demonstration and manifestation of some notable and excellent thought of him that conceiveth it and useth it; and it belongs only to him, and is his property, and so properly that the successors may not use the impresa of their predecessor and parents, except the impresas be incorporated into the arms of the house of which they are descended, or they would show they have the self-same thought which they had which went before them. It is quite contrary with the emblem : emblems of the deceased may be used by others.” An impresa, he adds, may consist of some symbolical figure or figures only, or of such figures and some relative words or motto. 36. “Bases.” According to Todd, on the authority of Nares's Glossary, this word signifies the kilt which hung from the waist of knights on horseback to about the knees. It seems, in fact, a heroic word for lower garments.-" tinsel trappings.” Mr. Keightley quotes the exact phrase from Spenser, F. Q. III. i. 15. 37, 38. “marshalled feast . . . sewers and seneshals.” “Another allusion,” says Todd, “to the magnificence of elder days. The mars/a/ placed the guests according to their rank; the sewer marched in before the meats, and arranged them on the table, and was originally called asseour from the French asseoir, to set down; and the seneschal was the house-steward.” Hume had noted to the same effect. 39. “The skill of artifice (i.e. mere artizanship) or office mean,” &c. And yet writers of heroic poems of the kind described had been Spenser, Ariosto, and the like. 44–46. “unless an age too late, or cold climate, or years, dam/,” &c.: i.e. “unless the present late period of the world, or this cold climate of England, or my own years, now verging on sixty, damp,” &c. In his A'eason of Church Government, Milton similarly makes the probability
of his success in an epic dependent on there being “nothing adverse in our climate, or the fate of this age.” When the words were written (1641), it was not necessary to speak of his years.
52. “Aot's hemisphere.” One half of the Earth being in shadow constitutes night.
59. “From compassing the Earth.” Job i. 7. (Todd.)
60, 61. “Since Uriel . . . descried . . . and forewarned.” See Book IV. 555–575.
64–66. “thrice the eyuinocoq/ /ine he circled . . . each cosure.” Of the seven days during which Satan went round and round the Earth, always keeping himself on its dark side, three were spent in moving from east to west on the equatorial line ; four in moving round from pole to pole, or from north to south and back—in which second way of moving he would traverse (or go along) the two colures—i.e. two great circles, so named by astronomers, drawn from the poles. Originally all great circles passing through the poles were called cosures (köNovgot, curtailed); but the term was at length confined to the two great circles drawn from the poles through the equinoxes and the solstices respectively. The one was called the Equinoctial colure, the other the Solstitial. The term cosure is little used now.
67. “on the coast averse”: i.e. “on that side of Eden which was averse.”
76–82. “Sea he had searched . . . Ganges and /udus.” Milton here returns upon Satan's seven days of wandering round and round the Earth, already described astronomically, in order to describe them more geographically. The Fiend, on leaving Eden (Book IV. 861– 1o 15), had gone northward over the Pontus Euxinus or Black Sea, and over the Palus Maeotis or Sea of Azof, and so still northward, over what is now Russian territory, as far as beyond the Siberian river Ob or Obe, which flows into the Arctic sea; whence, continuing round the pole and descending on the other side of the globe, he had gone southward again as far as the Antarctic sea and pole. So much for his travels north and south. In /eng//, i.e. measured as longitude in an equatorial direction, his journeys had extended from the Syrian river, Orontes, west of Eden, to the Isthmus of Darien, and so still west, completing the great circle to India on the east of Eden. Observe how true to the imagined reality is the mention of Ganges here before Indus. In the circuit described Satan would come upon the Ganges first.
86–96. “The Ser/ent subf/est,” &c. Gen. iii. 1. Mr. Browne notes that Landor censured these lines as “some of the dullest in Milton,”