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was killed unwittingly by Apollo at a game of quoits, and from his blood sprang the flower that bears his name.
31. “wormy bed." Warton cites the phrase from Shakespeare, Mid. Sum. N. Dr. III. 2. " Already to their wormy beds are gone."
39. “ that high first-moving sphere”: i.e. the primum mobile, or the outermost shell or sphere, enclosing, according to the Ptolemaic astronomy, all the other spheres of the mundane system, and separating that system from the unknown. See Introd. to Par. Lost, pp. 89-92.
44. “shaked Olympus.” Shaked was not an uncommon form. Todd quotes the instance in Shakespeare, Troil. and Cress. I. 3: “O, when degree is shaked.”
48. "and thou," &c. The word “wert" is implied before " thou.”
50, 51. “ that just Maid who," &c. : i.e. Astræa or Justice. Astræa, the daughter of Zeus and Themis, dwelt on earth during the golden age, when men were just, but at length forsook it, in disgust, for her true home among the stars.
52. " camest.” Observe the curious change of person from forsook to camest. Yet it is natural and indeed inevitable ; came would not have done. Possibly, however, who is not the nominative to camest, but the construction intended is camest (thou)?
53. “ Or wert thou (Mercy), that sweet smiling Youth ?” In the original this line is short of the just length by two syllables: evidently a word had dropt out in the printing. The suggestion of the word “ Mercy” to fill the blank was first made in a periodical, about 1750, by a Mr. John Heskin, of Christ Church, Oxford, “who published,” says Warton,
an elegant edition of Bion and Moschus." It is almost certainly correct, making the three personages of the stanza Justice (the maiden), Mercy (the young man), and Truth (the matron); which is the triad also in stanza 15 of the Ode on the Nativity.
54. “crowned Matron.” In the original it is “cowned Matron,"clearly a misprint.
59. "prefixèd”: i.e. "pre-appointed."
68. " Or drive away the slaughtering pestilence." An allusion to the prevalence of the Plague in London and England when the poem was written. See Introduction.
76, 77. “ he will an offspring give;" &c. One cannot say that this prophecy was fulfilled in either Edward Phillips or John Phillips, the two sons of Milton's sister by her first marriage, born after the loss of the little infant girl of the poem ; unless it be that we remember them through their uncle, and Edward Phillips especially for his Life of that uncle.
AT A VACATION EXERCISE IN THE COLLEGE.
It is particularly necessary, in this case, that the Introduction to the piece (pp. 190—196) should be read. It throws a light over the whole, and saves many notes.
6. “ two years before." The reader may like to construe this into an information that Milton began to speak at two years old.
7--14. “thy pardon ask . . . served up last." Milton here apologises to his Native Language for employing her only in the end of his long academic oration, the earlier and larger part of which had been in Latin prose (see Introd.). That Latin part, he explains, had been the worst in quality, and what was now coming in English would be better.
18. “thy wardrobe.” Here, and on to line 32, the quaint image is that of a wardrobe, or receptacle of all kinds of wearing apparel, possessed by the English Language, and from which she may select any variety of clothing, plain or rich, common or rare, according to the thought that is to be dressed. Sometimes, when the thought is very great and peculiar, she may have to rummage the whole wardrobe, and open all its drawers or “coffers ” (lines 31, 32) before she finds the suitable articles. In Milton's edition of 1673 the word is spelt “ wardrope."
19. “ new-fangled." This is the only occurrence of the word in Milton's poetry; but it is a good old English word. Chaucer has it, in the form newfangle, (Squire's Tale) =
" So newefangel ben they of hir meete;” and also the noun newfangleness (ibid.) :
“Men loven of proper kind newfangelnesse;" and instances, in later old writers, of the adjective newfangle or newfangled, the noun netfangleness or newfangledness, and even the adverb newfangły, are quoted in Richardson's English Dictionary. In Shakespeare's Cymbeline (V. 4) the word fangled occurs
Be not, as is our fangled world, a garment
Richardson quotes from Udall an example of fangle as a noun : "fullgrown age, which is not apt to swerve easily into new fangles.” The derivation of the word fangle, whether noun or verb, seems uncertain. The word survives among us only in combination with new.
our late fantastics": i.e. our recent literary coxcombs. The commentators have supposed a reference to John Lyly and his famous Euphuism; but Lyly had been dead since about 1601, and there were surely later “ fantastics" in the English speech than he.
28. “this fair assembly's ears." The assembly meant is that of the undergraduates and graduates of Christ's College, with guests from all the other colleges, met uproariously in Christ's College Hall to hear the speeches (see Introd.).
33-44. “ Such where . . . all his waves." Here breaks out the true poet. I hardly know a passage in Milton's earlier poetry in which the difference between poetic imagination and ordinary thinking may be more clearly seen. It is curious to note also the identity of the cosmological conception here with that in Paradise Lost. Heaven is represented as above the “wheeling poles," i.e. above or outside all the ten Ptolemaic spheres that compose our mundane system ; and the poet is supposed to mount through and beyond these spheres to the very aperture of Heaven. (See Introd. to Par. Lost, 95, 96.) Looking in, he can behold the gods stretched at ease before the thunderous throne, listening to the singing of the unshorn Apollo, while Hebe brings nectar to Zeus. Then, descending again into the mundane system, and passing through its “spheres of watchful fire "-i.e. through the sphere of the Fixed Stars, and then successively through those of the seven Ptolemaic planets in their order earthwards (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon)-he reaches the atmosphere round our Earth. There are the “misty regions," where there are the "hills of snow” and “lofts of pilèd thunder.” These too passed, he reaches at length the level surface of the ocean, the realm of Neptune.“Such where." Such refers to “graver subject"; and the construction is “a subject such in which (i.e. such that in it) the deep transported mind may," &c. The term “unshorn" for Apollo is a literal translation of the epithet for that god in Greek and Latin poets (avepoexojing, intonsus); and “green-eyed ” (ylavkál) is also a classical epithet, but rather of Proteus than of Neptune.—“Watchful fire ” (vigil fiamma) is from Ovid. In the passage about the “misty regions of wide air” there may be a recollection of some of Sylvester's meteorological descriptions; and Dunster quotes Sylvester's
Cellars of wind and shops of sulphury thunder." 46.
“beldam Nature"; i.e. “the old lady, Nature." “ Hag,” our present meaning of “beldam,” is a curious degeneracy from the original meaning of belle dame, "fair lady.”
48–52. “ Such as the wise Demodocus," &c. The recollection here is of the beautiful passage in the Odyssey (Book viu.) where Demodocus, the blind bard of Alcinous, King of the Phæacians, is brought
in, by the order of Alcinous, to sing before the assembly of the Phæacians and the stranger Ulysses. While he sang of the Trojan War and its heroes, Ulysses, deeply moved, but ashamed to let the assembly see his emotion, covered his face with a veil, while the tears rolled down his cheeks. Alcinous alone marked his discomposure, and wondered who he could be.—This is an early instance of what is frequent in Milton's poetry, a fascination of his memory round the stories of great Bards and Prophets of the old world that had been blind. One can hardly call it less than a presentiment of his own later condition.
52. “In willing chains and sweet captivity.” Todd quotes from Sylvester's Du Bartas :
“ The willing chains of my captivity.” 56. “To keep in compass of the Predicament”: i.c. to keep within the part assigned thee in this present College Extravaganza; which is that of representing Ens or BEING IN GENERAL, the supreme Predicament or Category in Aristotle's logical system, and the father of all the Predicaments usually so-called (see Introd.).
58. “ to the next" : i.e. to the next speaker or actor in the Extravaganza.
59. “Good luck befriend thee, Son," Here begins the speech of Milton, as the leader of the Extravaganza, or old father Ens, to that undergraduate of Christ's College who “stood for SUBSTANCE with his Canons,” i.e. who acted the part of SUBSTANCE, the eldest of the ten Predicaments, or sons of Ens, and kept to the rules of that Predicament. The reader must distinctly fancy Milton in person turning at this point to some booby of a student, and addressing him in mockheroics.
59–66. “at thy birth the faery ladies," &c. In the mythology of all the Teutonic nations fairies take an interest in child-birth, and secretly visit the chambers of new-born babies, to confer gifts, or the reverse, upon them. And so Milton makes them present at the birth of SUBSTANCE. There may be some pertinence to that category, or to its representative for the nonce, that now escapes us, in what the fairies are said to have done on the occasion. One thing they did is perfectly intelligible. They made SUBSTANCE invisible to mortals (lines 65, 66). Mortals cannot know the substance of things, or existence per se; they can know only phænomena, or substance as modified by relation to themselves.
74–88. “ Shall subject be to many an Accident,” &c. A prolonged pun on the logical doctrine that Substance, or Being in itself, underlies or is subject to its Accidents, i.e. the modifying conditions that translate it into phænomena. Accident, in fact, is the conjunct name for all the
nine Predicaments after SUBSTANCE itself-viz. Quantity, Quality, Relation, Where, When, Posture, Habit, Action, Passion. These are the brethren of SUBSTANCE, and his inferiors really; but yet they are his masters and treat him as they like, though they all depend upon him and are reconciled in him. 89, 90.
“What power . . . if not your learned hands," &c. The speech of the Sibyl about SUBSTANCE has ended in the previous line ; and Milton now addresses his learned audience, saying it is for them to interpret the enigmatic speech.
91. “Rivers, arise.” On this phrase and the poetical enumeration of English rivers which it introduces (91-100) Warton remarked : “ It is hard to say in what sense, or in what manner, this introduction of the rivers was to be applied to the subject.” It was a very natural remark, but is now unnecessary. The mystery has been explained, and very simply. Rivers was the name of Milton's fellow-student in Christ's College who acted the part of RELATION in the Extravaganza ; and the whole passage is a prolonged poetical jest on that fact. The merit of this neat little discovery belongs to Mr. W. G. Clark, Vice-Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and one of the editors of the Cambridge Shakespeare. Chancing, early in 1859, to read this piece of Milton's with some care, and fastening on the little bit of prose with which this concluding speech in it is introduced—“ The next, QUANTITY and QUALITY, spake in prose: then RELATION was called by his name”-Mr. Clark made the acute guess that the explanation was to be understood literally, i.e. that, after the students personating the second and third of the ten Predicaments, QUANTITY and Quality, had said something in prose, the student who personated the fourth Predicament, RELATION, was called by his surname to take his turn. A reference to the Admission Book of Christ's College verified the guess by disclosing the Latin entry of which this is a translation : “ May 10, A.D. 1628, GEORGE and NiZELL “Rivers, sons of Sir John Rivers, Knight, born at Westerham, in the “county of Kent, and also grounded in letters there by Mr. Walter, “ were admitted into Christ's College as Lesser Pensioners, the former “in the fifteenth year of his age and the latter in the fourteenth, under “the tutorship of Mr. Gell.” It was one of these two boys, freshmen in the College, that had to stand for RELATION and have his name played upon by Milton. I ascertained one or two particulars of their subsequent history (see Athenæum for April 23, 1859); but it is enough here to say that they were sons of Sir John Rivers, of Chafford, co. Kent, Bart., by his wife Dorothy Potter of Westerham, and that the family and the baronetcy still exist.
92-100. utmost Tweed or Ouse," &c. In this passage Milton must have had in view Spenser's poetical enumerations of rivers (see especialiy F. C., iv. xi. 20 et seq.), but may have been indebted also to Drayton's Polyolbion. “ Utmost Tweed” is plain ; the Ouse and the