« PreviousContinue »
which Milton supposes Christ gradually straying after having been led on step by step (line 193) from Bethabara, was either this Wilderness of Engedi, or (as that is more than a day's journey south from Bethabara) possibly some desert part of the valley of the Jordan itself higher up. But it is clear from the sequel of the poem that he supposes that Christ, in his forty days of wandering, may have penetrated farther south into the Wilderness of Judea, and even reached the great Arabian desert itself; for he identifies the scene of the temptation with the desert through which the Israelites were led on their way to Canaan, and where Elijah spent forty days (see seq. 350-354). Indeed there are some topographical difficulties in the poem, arising from this very general use of the term Desert or Wilderness; and it is possible that Milton's recollections of the maps and distances had somewhat failed him.
201—206. “When I was yet a child," &c. It is difficult to avoid feeling that here Milton may have had thoughts of his own childhood; and, accordingly, these lines were printed under Cipriani's etching in 1760 from the original portrait of Milton as a boy of ten.
205. “Born to that end," &c. John xviii. 37. (Newton.)
207, 208. “ The Law of God,” &c. Psalm cxix. 103, and Psalm i. 2. (Dunster.) 214. “And was admired," &c. Luke ii. 47.
“ Yet held,” for “yet I held,” a Latinism similar to that noted
in line 137
226. “subdue.” In the original text the word was "destroy"; but there was a direction among the Errata to change the word into “subdue.” 240.
“ Thou shouldst," &c. Luke i. 32, 33. 242—244. “a glorious quire," &c. See Par. Lost, XII. 364 et seq. 248. “ For in the inn," &c. Luke ii. 7. 249–251. “A star," &c. See Par. Lost, XII. 360 et seq.
254. "thee king," &c. This is the reading in the First Edition, and is the correct one. In the Second “the” was substituted for “thee," and the error has been continued in subsequent editions.
255-258. "Just Simeon," &c. Luke il. 25 and 36. 257.
" wested" : i.e. clad in his vestments. 269. "waited":i.e, waited for.
271. "Not knew by sight.” Peculiar syntax for “but whom I knew not by sight.” See John i. 31–33.
287. “ Now full." Gal. iv. 4. (Newton.)
292, 293 “ I learn not yet,” &c. In the spirit of such texts as Luke ii. 52, and Mark xiii. 32, and in accordance with the view of some theologians, Milton makes Christ as Man not omniscient, but acquiring knowledge gradually.
294. our Morning Star." Rev. xxii. 16. (Newton.)
297, 298. “ The way he came,” &c. In the original edition these two lines are pointed thus :
“ The way he came not having mark'd, return
Was difficult, by humane steps untrod ;' and this pointing has been retained. It seems to me, however, clearly erroneous, yielding a bad syntax and a clumsy sense. I have therefore altered it. 299.
" still on was led": 1.e. farther into the desert. See note to
Such solitude," &c. A line with twelve syllables, or a whole supernumerary foot; as has also the line Par. Lost, IX. 249, so similarly worded.
307. “is not revealed." And yet the supposition that Christ "harboured in one cave" all the forty nights of his stay in the desert, implying as it would that he kept near one spot, would appear to be inconsistent with what Milton himself assumes in the story. See note to line 193
310. Among wild beasts." Mark i. 13.
313. “ The lion and fierce tiger," &c. Dunster compares Par. Lost, IV. 401--403
314--320. “But now an aged man," &c. Note the manner of Satan's first appearance here, and how stealthy and mean-looking he is, as compared with the fallen Archangel of Paradise Lost. It is as if, in the interval, the great Satan of that poem had been shrinking into the Mephistopheles of the modern world.
320.“ Perused him.” Dunster quotes Par. Lost, VIII. 267, for a similar use of the word peruse, and also instances from Shakespeare : e.g. Romeo anil Juliet, V. 3, “ Let me peruse this face.”
333, 334. “aught . what,” for “aught that” or “aught which"; an obsolete use now of "what,” except as a vulgarism.
334. "fame also finds us out”: i.e. not only do we hear what is passing in the world by occasionally going to the nearest towns, but rumours are wafted to us even here in the desert.
339. “stubs ": i.e. anything of stunted growth sticking up from the ground. The word is used by Chaucer. In A.-S. it is styb. 347–350.
“Is it not written ? " &c. Deut. viii. 3.
350, 351. "who fed cur fathers here with manna ?" Either Christ is here made to connect the Desert of Judea in which he was being tempted (see note to line 193) with the Great Desert through which the Israelites had come from Egypt towards Canaan, or the word “here" is to be supposed as only part of the quotation from Deut. viii. 3.
353, 354. “ Elijah,” &c. This name occurs four times in the poem. Twice it is spelt Eliah in the original edition--viz. here and at II. 19; and twice Elijah-viz. at II. 268, and II. 277.--" IVandered this burren waste." Elijah's wanderings were from Beersheba into the Great Desert as far as Horeb (1 Kings xix. 1-8), and therefore not strictly in that Desert of Judea which is usually supposed to have been the scene of Christ's temptation. But see notes antè, lines 193 and 307.
368, 369. “I came," &c. Job. i. 6. 371–376. “And, when ... King Ahab,” &c. 1 Kings xxii. 19—23.
375. "glibbed": made glib or voluble. Milton seems to have coined the verb.
377-382. “Though I have lost," &c. See Par. Lost, I. 97 and 591. 385. “attent," a word used by Spenser and other old poets.
400. “Niarer.” In the original edition the word is “ Ncer"; but there is a direction among the Errata to change it into “Nearer."
414. "gased" : 1.c. gazed at. See Par. Lost, V. 272.
417. "imparts,".printed " imports" in the First Edition ; where, however, there is a direction in the Errata to change the word to imparts." The direction remained unattended to till Tonson's edition of 1747.
428. “four hundred mouthis." i Kings xxii. 6. (Dunster.)
435. Ambiguous, and with double sense deluding." Thyer thinks that Milton may have had in view what Eusebius says on the subject of the Heathen Oracles in the Fifth Book of his Præparatio Evangelica. He doubtless recollected famous instances of ambiguous answers said to have been given by the Delphic Oracle: such as that to Cresus, • Cræsus, crossing the Halys, will destroy a great Empire," and that to King Pyrrhus, "Aio te, Lacida, Romanos vincere posse." Todd quotes Shakespeare, Macb. V. 8
“ An:l be these juggling fiends no more believed
That palter with us in a double sense." But, on ambiguous prophecies and oracles, see also 2 Henry VI, I. 4.
439. "instruct," instructed.
446–451. “Whence hast thou,” &c. Both the notions involved in this passage-to wit the notion that, whenever a pagan oracle spoke truth, it was derivatively and by permission, and the notion that different
parts of the earth had special or presiding Angels—were entertained by theologians. Thyer quotes Tertullian and St. Augustine ; and Warburton refers to the Septuagint version of Deut. xxxii. 8.
456. "henceforth oracles are ceased." See Hymn on the Nativity, 173 et seg.
460. “his living oracle." Acts vii. 38. (Dunster.)
463 an inward oracle." Mr. Keightley says that in Milton's own edition there was here the misprint of “and” for “an.” This is a mistake. The misprint was in the edition of 1680; in the First Edition the reading is an as now.
480. “tunable.” The word occurs in Par. Lost, V. 151, and in Shakespeare, Mid. N. Dr. I. 1. “More tunable than lark to shepherd's ear." 488. "to tread his sacred courts.” Isaiah i. 12. (Dunster.)
“ His grey dissimulation.” Satan had appeared in the guise of an aged man. See antè, 314-320. Dunster compares Milton's In Quintum Novembris, 77 et seq.
499. " Into thin air diffused.” Newton quotes Æn. IV. 278 -"In tenuem ex oculis evanuit auram”; and Dunster quotes Prospero's speech in the Tempest (IV. 2): “ Are melted into air, into thin air.”
500. "wings.” In the First Edition "wing"; but “wings," which is the better reading, occurs in the Second.—“ double-shade”: i.e. doubly to shade.
1, 2. "who yet remained at Jordan with the Baptist”: i.e. near Bethabara. See Book I. 184. 7.
“ Andrew and Simon,” &c. See John, chap i.
“ Moses .... missing long." Exod. xxxii. 1. 16. " the great Thisbite”: i.e. Elijah, the Tishbite, so called as being a native of Tishbe, or Thisbe, in Gilead, to the east of Jordan (1 Kings xvii. 1). Milton disliked the sound sh, and avoided it when he could; and this may be an instance.
17. " yet once again to come." Malachi iv. 5, and Matt. xvii. 11. (Newton.) On these texts the Early Church grounded an opinion that there was to be a new appearance of Elijah before the second coming of Christ. VOL. III.
19-24. "so in each place these nigh to Bethabara," &c.: i.e. so the first disciples sought Christ in all places along the Jordan from Bethabara. (See note, I. 184.) The places named are : Jericho, which was called “the City of Palms” (Deut. xxxiv. 3), and which was to the west of the Jordan, a little north of the Dead Sea; Ænon, a town on the Jordan, considerably higher up and nearer the Lake Gennesareth, and mentioned in John iii. 23 as one of the places where John baptized; Salem, mentioned in the same text as near to Ænon, and mentioned also in 1 Sam. ix. 4 as Shalim, in the country round which Saul sought his father's asses, and under the same name in Gen. xxxiii. 18 as a dwelling-place of Jacob (hence probably called “Salem old " by Milton, and not because, as some suppose, he identified it with the Salem of Melchizedek, Gen. xiv, 18); and finally Machærus, on the east of the northern angle of the Dead Sea. But they searched not these places only, but also every other town or city between the Lake Genezaret and the Dead Sea—whether on the west of the Jordan, or in the country called Perea on the eastern side of that river. With regard to the distances of the places named from Bethabara, it may be mentioned that there is a dispute as to the site of Bethabara-some placing it, as at note, I. 184, on the eastern side of the Jordan, in the upper part of its course from the Lake of Gennesareth (in which case Ænon and Salem would be quite near it); but others maintaining that it was at a more southern point of the Jordan, not far north of the Dead Sea (in which case Jericho and Machærus would be the nearest to it of the four places named). If, as is possible, Milton took the latter view, and made Bethabara near Jericho, some of the difficulties of the topography of the poem mentioned in notes, I. 193, but by no means all, would be obviated.
24. “returned in vain”: i.e. it is to be supposed, to Bethabara.
27. “ Plain fishermen (no greater men them call"). Newton quotes from Spenser (Shep. Cal. i. 1) the similar line :
“A shepherd's boy (no better do him call)."
30.“ Alas, from what high hope," &c. Newton quotes Terence (Heaut., II. 2): "Væ misero mihi, quantâ de spe decidi. ”
34. "full of grace and truth.” John i. 14. (Newton.)
44-47 “ Behold the kings," &c. Psalm ii. 2, and Neh. ix. 26. (Dunster.)
60-65. “But to his mother Mary,” &c. The construction of the word “to” in this sentence is rather difficult. Most probably it is “ But motherly c?res and fears got head, within her breast, to his mother Mary," &c.
83. “ Full grown," &c.; construe “he being full-grown,” &c.