« PreviousContinue »
the famous fountain of Corinth. Mr. Keightley suggests that, as Pegasus came to drink at Pirene, the young poet probably confounded it with Hippocrene, produced by a stroke of the hoof of the same Pegasus on Mount Helicon. The suggestion seeins unnecessary, Pirene itself had reputation as a fountain favoured by the Muses, and might be associated with the Castalian Fount and Mount Parnassus. Thus Persius, in the Prologue to his Satires, which Milton may have had in his mind :
“Nec fonte labra prolui Caballino (Hippocrene),
Neque in bicipiti somniâsse Parnasso
Hederæ sequaces. 13 “ Penëide lauro”: with laurel from the Thessalian stream, Peneius.
19, 20. “ Intuiturque animus," &c. Todd very fitly compares the famous passage in Shakespeare (Mids. N. Dr. V. 1), “ The poei's eye, in a fine phrenzy,” &c.
25, 26. “ Philomcla . . . foliis adoperta novellis . . . dum silet omne nemus”: almost exactly the first two lines of the Sonnet“ To the Nightingale.”
27. “ Urbe ego," i.e. Milton is writing in London.
30. "perennis.” So in the edition of 1673. In that of 1645 the word was
quotannis”; which was a blunder of quantity, the last syllable being long. The blunder had not escaped Salmasius, and others interested in finding fault with Milton's Latinity.
31, 32. “Jam sol, Æthiopas . . . Tithoniaque arva ... ad Arctoas,” &c. As by "Æthiopas” Milton here meant the South, so, by “Tithonia arva” Mr. Keightley supposes he meant the East. "After the vernal equinox” adds Mr. Keightley, "the sun rises to the north of east.”. aurea lora” is quoted by Warton from Ovid (Art. Amat. I. 550).
35. “Lycaonius ... Bootes." Mr. Keightley remarks, “This is not a proper expression for Böötes, which had nothing to do with Lycaon, whose daughter was turned into the plaustrum cæleste.” But Milton had strict mythological authority. Although the northern constellation Böötes was represented by some as the stellified Icarus, by others he was represented as the stellified Arcas, the Eponymic hero of the Arcadians; and this Arcas, in some mythologies, was that very son of Lycaon whose flesh was served up by his father before Zeus, and whom the disgusted God restored to life, while he destroyed the rest of the house of Lycaon. In that case, he was a brother of Callisto alias Helice, daughter of Lycaon, who was stellified as the Greater Bear, or northern wain, or Arctos. Even if Arcas is taken, not as the son of Lycaon, but as the son of Callisto or Helice by Zeus (which is one
form of the myth), he was still Lycaonian, as being the grandson of Lycaon ; and so anyway Milton hits right in the jumble. Both Bootes (Arcas, son or grandson of Lycaon) and Arctos, the plaustrum cæleste or Northern Wain (Callisto or Helice, daughter of Lycaon and sister or mother of Arcas), were Lycaonian offshoots up in heaven; and the only question, in this passage, is whether Bootes regarded the "plaustrum cæleste ” which he was following as his sister or as his mother. See Ovid, Met. II. 466–507 ; also note to L'Allegro, line 80. Martial (iv. iii. 5, 6) conjoins the two constellations :
“ Sidus Hyperborei solitus lassare Bjötæ,
Et madidis Helicen dissimulare comis." 43. “caruisti.
puella.” Warton noted the expression as from Ovid, Art. Amat. 11. 249. 49--52.
« « Desere,' Phæbus ait,” &c. Warton compares this passage with Ovid, Amor. 1. xiii. 35-40. The aged husband of Aurora or Eos is Tithonus; her lover, the Æolides venator, is Cephalus, son of Æolus, the “Attic boy " of Penscroso, 124.
She saw him first hunting on Mount Hymettus. Ovid (Met. vi. 681) calls him “ Æolides Cephalus.”
58. “ Pandit ut omniferos luxuriosa sinus”: not unlike Buchanan's line in his Elegy on May above mentioned :
“Omniseros pandens copia larga sinus.” 61, 62. “ Ecce, coronatur ... Idæam pinea turris Opim": 1.c. the lofty forehead of the Earth is crowned with wood, as that of Ops, or Cybele, the goddess of fertility, the great all-bearing mother, is crowned with a tower of pines. For the “ towered Cybele” see note Arcaid. 20—25. Tibullus, as Warton noted, has the phrase “Idec Opis" (1. iv. 68); and this may have suggested the pines of Mount Ida for the crown of the goddess.
65, 66. “ Floribus Tænario placuit diva Sicana Deo.” The “ Tænarius Deus” is Pluto, so-called from the black cavern, in the promontory of Tænarus in Laconia, which was regarded as one of the mouths of Hell, and up through which Hercules dragged the hell-dog Cerberus. He carried off the diva Sicana, or Sicilian goddess, Proserpine, as she was gatliering flowers.
74. “hinc titulos adjuvat ipsa tuos”: because Phæbus was also the God of Medicine.
Tethy .. Tartesside lymphâ.” Tethys is the ocean generally ; the “ Tartessis lympha" is the Tartessian sea, the sea west of the Spanish Tartessus, the Atlantic. See note, Eleg. III. 33.
91. “ Semelőia fata": the fate of Semele, who was burnt up by the presence of Jove in his full godhead.
93. “sapientiùs”: i.e. more wisely than when you intrusted your chariot to Phaethon: an ingenious linking, as Warton remarked, of this speech of Tellus to Phoebus in Milton's Elegy with the speech of the same goddess to the same god in Ovid (Met. 11. 272 et seq.), where she complains of her horrible scorching by Phaethon's escapade. “Cum” in the same line is simply “when ;” and “tu” and “tuo" are slyly emphatic.
108. “ Puniceum . crocum." See L'Allegro, 124, and note there. 119. sera crepuscula.” Warton quotes Ovid, Met. I, 219
Ingredior, traherent cum sera crepuscula noctem.” 122. “ Semicaperque Deus, semideusque caper." Warton, quoting from Ovid, has “Semicaper Pan” (Met. xiv. 515), and “ Semicaperve Deus” (Fast. IV. 752); and Todd refers to Statius (Theb. vi. 112) for “ Semidcûmque pecus," and to Ovid (Art. Amat. II. 24) for the line
Semibovemque virum, semivirumque bovem." 125. “Manalius Pan.” Mænalus was a mountain in Arcadia, the principal country of Pan; and hence he is called Mænalius Deus” (Ovid, Fast. iv. 650). See Arcad., 102, and note there. 129. “cupit malè tecta videri”: from Virgil, Ecl. 11. 66:
“ Et fugit ad salices, et se cupit ante videri.” 135–140. “Te referant ... Jupiter.” As Mr. Keightley remarks, there seems to be a heightening of the strain in this close of the poem. O that the Golden Age might return to the Earth, and spring be perpetual there!
10. “Festaque celifugam quæ coluere Deum." Milton means simply “these December festivities of yours ;' but he recollects that the Roman Saturnalia, or festivities in honour of Saturn, and of the golden days of primitive equality when this god resided on earth, were held in the middle of December.
Sæpiùs Aoniis clamavit collibus EUÆ
Mista Thyoneo turba novena choro." More than once the nine Muses, in a crowd together, have shouted Euæ on the Aonian (Beotian) hills, mingled with the Bacchic dancerevel.” Thyoneus was one of the names of Bacchus, after his mother Semele, or Thyone ; and Boeotia or Aonia was the central seat of the Muses. They are represented as companions of Bacchus, in the legends : but Milton's particular fancy in these lines seems to be an invention oi his own for his purpose.
Naso Corallæis,” &c.: i.e. “ The poet Ovid (P. Ovidius Naso) sent bad verses from the scene of his banishment, the country of the savage Coralli ; and the reason was that there was no feasting there, and no vines planted.” The poems written by Ovid during his exile at Tomi on the Euxine sea (A.D. 8—18) were his Tristia, his Epistola ex Ponto, and his Ibis, besides parts of his Fasti; and these, in the judgment of critics, were not so good, or at least not so graceful, as his previous poems, all written in Rome, or elsewhere in Italy, amid the luxuries of civilized society. Ovid himself acknowledges something of this change. Thus, Epist. ex Ponto, iv. ii. 15—22 :
"Nec tamen ingenium nobis respondet ut ante ;
Sed siccum sterili vomere littus aro.
Læsaque suppresso fonte resistit aqua,
Et carmen venâ pauperiore fluit.
Esset, crede mihi, factus et ille Getes." He also speaks in other places of his hard fare in exile, the hardships of the climate, &c. Thus Epist. ex Ponto, 1. iii. 49–52 :
“ Orbis in extremi jaceo desertus arenis,
Fert ubi perpetuas obruta terra nives.
Non salices ripâ, robora monte virent." The Coralli, mentioned by Ovid as the “pelliti Coralli” or “fur-clad Coralli” (Epist. ex Ponto, iv. viii. 83), were not actually the people among whom he was living at Tomi, but one of those tribes of the Gétæ or Scythians of the Danube with whom he was brought into contact, and to whose visits the shores at Tomi were too subjeci (nimium subjecta). In Epist. ex Ponto, iv. ii. 37, 38, he says :
“ Hic mea cui recitem nisi flavis scripta Corallis,
Quasque alias gentes barbarus Ister habet ?" He did learn the language of these Getæ, and compose verses in it, which were received with applauses at Tomi.
“ Quid nisi vina . . . cantavit Teia Musa," &c. From Ovid he passes to Anacreon, a native of the Greek city of Teos or Teios on the Ægean coast of Asia Minor, and hence called “ Teia Musa." By “ brevibus modis" the short structure of the so-called Anacreontics is designated. Even in the mention of Anacreon Milion, as Warton noted, is guided by Ovid. Thus (Trist. 11. 363-365)
“Quid nisi cum multo Venerem confundere vino
Præcepit lyrici Tëia Musa senis?” 23--26. “ Pindaricosque infiat numeros," &c. Tcumesius Euan is the Bæotian Bacchus, called Euan, from the cry to him by his priestesses
in their revels, and Teu mesius, from Teumesus, a mountain in Baotia ; and the connexion of the passage is “Pindar's lyrics also, the Theban Pindar's, are inspired by the Bacchus of his native Baotia.”—“ Dum gravis,” &c., alludes to the subjects of Pindar's odes, especially the chariot-races at the Olympic games, near Elis in the Peloponnesus.
27, 28. “Quadrimoque madens Lyricen Romanus,” &c. Next in the list comes Horace, referred to. by his Odes to Glycera and Chloe (1. 19 and 23), and called Lyricen Romanus by a whim of Milton's, Mr. Keightley thinks, inasmuch as Lyricon is a hybrid word, and Horace's name for himself (Epist. 1. xix. 32, 33) is “ Latinus Fidicen.” The “quadrimo Iaccho," or "four years old Bacchus," is suggested by Horace himself (Od. 1. ix. 5-8)
“ Dissolve frigus, ligna super foco
Deprome quadrimum Sabina,
O Thaliarche, merum diotâ.” 37.
“ Thressa .. barbitos." Thracian, because Orpheus was Thracian.
39–48. “Auditurque chelys suspensa tapetia circum," &c. In the whole of this passage we have a charming picture of a room, as it might be on a winter-evening, in some English country mansion in Milton's time, well-lit, elegantly furnished, and full of young people gracefully enjoying themselves. We see the tapestried hangings, we hear the music, we see the fingers that make it at the instrument, and the bright eyes of the fair dancers. The psallit ebur almost modernizes all, by making us think of whatever, two hundred and fifty years ago, was likest to a piano and had ivory keys. It may have been about thirty years earlier that Shakespeare (Sonnet 128) wrote-
How ost, when thou, my music, music play'st
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand !” 55-66. “At qui bella refert, . . . augur iture Deos.” I have already called attention (Introd., II. 337) to the peculiarly Miltonic significance of this passage, coming so powerfully after the quiet grace of the preceding context. I can only repeat that the passage is worth getting by heart.—The “ Samius magister" is Pythagoras, born at Samos.
67–70.“ Hoc ritu vixisse ferunt,” &c. The mythical persons named are—Tiresias, the Theban prophet, struck blind in his old age ; the singer and philosopher Linus, also a Theban (hence called Oggian, from Ogygia, one of the names of Bæotia); the soothsayer and priest Calchas, who accompanied the Greeks to Troy; and Orpheus, the Thracian singer in his old age. See Introd. to Par. Lest, I. 104, 105.