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And not well understood as good not known?
Who ever by consulting at thy shrine
Return'd the wiser, or the more instruct,
To fly or follow what concern'd him most,
And run not sooner to his fatal snare?
For God hath justly given the nations up
To thy delusions; justly, since they fell
Idolatrous: but, when his purpose is
Among them to declare his providence
To thee not known, whence hast thou then thy truth,
But from him, or his angels president
In every province ®, who themselves disdaining
To approach thy temples, give thee in command
What, to the smallest tittle, thou shalt say
To thy adorers ? Thou with trembling fear,
Or like a fawning parasite, obey'st :
Then to thyself ascribest the truth foretold'.
But this thy glory shall be soon retrench'd ;
No more shalt thou by oracling abuse
The Gentiles; henceforth oracles are ceased,

d Instruct.
Thus, b. ii. ver. 399, he writes suspect for suspected. In the “ Paradise Lost” he
always writes the participles at length; but in this poem he has in every respect condensed
his style, which may be one reason why it does not please the million.—DUNSTER.

e But from him, or his angels president

In every province. * Utitur etiam eis Deus (dæmonibus) ad veritatis manifestationem per ipsos fiendam, duu divina mysteria eis per angelos revelantur.” The words are quoted from Aquinas. (2da 2dæ Quæst. 172, Art. 6.) --Calton.

This notion Milton very probably had from Tertullian and St. Austin. Tertullian, speaking of the gods of the heathens and their oracles, says,—“ Dispositiones etiam Dei et tunc prophetis concionantibus exceperunt, et nunc lectionibus resonantibus carpunt : ita et bine sumentes quasdam temporum sortes æmulantur divinitatem, dum furantur divinationem : in oraculis autem, quo ingenio ambiguitates temperent in eventus, sciunt Cræsi, sciunt Pyrrhi.” Apol. c. 22. St. Austin, more appositely to our present purpose, ays wering the heathen boasts of their oracles, says,—" tamen nec ista ipsa, quæ ab eis vix raro et clanculo proferuntur, movere nos debent, si cuiquam dæmonum extortum est id prodere cultoribus suis quod didicerat ex eloquiis prophetarum, vel ex oraculis angelorum." Aug.“ De Div. Dæmonum," sect. 12, tom. 6, ed. Bened. And again :-“ Cum enim vult Deus etiam per infimos infernosque spiritus aliquem vera cognoscere, temporalia dumtaxat atque ad istam mortalitatem pertinentia ; facile est, et non incongruum, ut Omnipotens et Justus, ad eorum pænam, quibus ista prædicuntur, ut malum quod eis impendet ante quam veniat prænoscendo patientur ; occulto apparatu ministeriorum suorum etiam spiritibus talibus aliquid divinationis impertiat, ut quod audiunt ab angelis prænuntient hominibus.” De Div. Quæst. ad Simp. l. 11. s. iii. tom. 6.—THYER.

Then to thyself ascribest the truth foretold. The demons, Lactantius says, could certainly foresee, and truly foretel, many future events, from the knowledge they had of the dispositions of Providence before their fall; and then they assumed all the honour to themselves; pretending to be the authors and doers of what they predicted.

“ Nam cum dispositiones Dei præsentiant, quippe qui ministri ejus fuerunt, interponunt se in his rebus ; ut quæcunque a Deo vel facta sunt vel fiunt, ipsi potissimum facere aut fecisse videantur.” Div. Inst. ii. 16.-CALTON.

& Henceforth oracles are ceased, &c. A. Milton had before adopted the ancient opinion of oracles being the operations of the fallen angels ; so here again he follows the same authority, in making them cease at the

And thou no more with pomp or sacrifice
Shalt be inquired at Delphos, or elsewhere;
At least in vain, for they shall find thee mute.
God hath now sent his living oracleh
Into the world to teach his final will;
And sends his Spirit of truth henceforth to dwell
In pious hearts, an inward oracle
To all truth requisite for men to know.

So spake our Saviour; but the subtle fiend,
Though inly stung with anger and disdain,
Dissembled, and this answer smooth return'd:
Sharply thou hast insistedi on rebuke,
And urged me hard with doings, which not will,
But misery hath wrested from me. Where
Easily canst thou find one miserable,
And not enforced oft-times to part from truth,
If it may stand him more in stead to lie,
Say and unsay, feign, flatter, or abjure?
But thou art placed above me, thou art Lord;
From thee I can, and must, submiss, endure

Check or reproof, and glad to 'scape so quit. coming of our Saviour. See the matter fully discussed in Fontenelle's “ History of Oracles," and father. Baltus's answer to him.—THYER. Thus Juvenal, Sat. vi. 554:

Delphis oracula cessant.
And in the fifth book of Lucan's “ Pharsalia," where Appius is desirous to consult the
Delphic oracle, but finds it dumb, the priestess tells him :-

Muto Parnassus hiatu
Conticuit, pressitque Deum ; seu spiritus istas
Destituit fauces, mundique in devia versum
Duxit iter:-

seu sponte Deorum
Cyrrha silet.
Thus also Milton, in his “ Hymn on the Nativity:"-

The oracles are dumb, &c.
And before him, Giles Fletcher, in his “ Christ's Victory in Heaven," st. 82:-

The angels caroli'd loud their song of peace;
The cursed oracles were strucken dumb.-DUXSTER.

h His living oracle. Christ is styled by the Greek fathers, “essential life,” the “living counsel," and "the living word of God: and St. John says, that “in liiin was life, and the life was the light of men," i. 4.-Calton.

And in Acts, vii. 38. where it is said, “Who received the lively (or living) oracles to give unto us."— Dunster.

i Sharply thou hast insisted, &c. The smoothness and hypocrisy of this speech of Satan arc artful in the extreme, and cannot be passed over unobserved.-Jos. Warton.

į Say and unsay, feign, flatler, or abjure Might not Milton possibly intend here, and particularly by the word " abjure," to lash some of his complying friends, who renounced their republican principles at the Restoration? - THYER.

480

485

490

Hard are the ways of truth, and rough to walkk,
Smooth on the tongue discoursed, pleasing to the ear,
And tunable as sylvan pipe or song':
What wonder then if I delight to hear
Her dictates from thy mouth ? Most men admire
Virtue, who follow not her lore" : permit me
To hear thee when I come, (since no man comes)
And talk at least, though I despair to attain.
Thy Father, who is holy, wise, and pure,
Suffers the hypocrite or atheous" priest
To tread his sacred courts, and minister
About his altar, handling holy things,
Praying or vowing"; and vouchsafed his voice
To Balaam reprobate, a prophet yet
Inspired : disdain not such access to me.

Hard are the ways of truth, and rough to walk.
Thus Silius Italicus, b. xv, where Virtue is the speaker :-

Casta mihi domus, et celso stant colle penates;
Ardua saxoso perducit semita clivo;
Asper principio, (nec enim mihi fallere mos est)

Prosequitur labor. Adnitendum intrare volenti.-DUNSTER.
We must not here overpass Milton's “ Preface to his Reason of Church Government,”
&c. b. i. :—" Those--who will not so much as look upon Truth herself, unless they
nec ber elegantly dressed ; that whereas the paths of honesty and good life appear now
rugged and difficult, theugh they be indeed easy and pleasant; they will then appear to all
men both casy and pleasant, though they were rugged and difficult indeed.” Compare
also " Comus," ver. 476. et seq.—Todd.

1 Tunable as sylvan pipe or song.
So, in “ Paradise Lost," v. 149:

Such prompt eloquence
Flow'd from their lips in prose or numerous verse,
More tunable than needed lute or harp

To add more sweetness.
And Shakespeare, “ Midsummer Night's Dream," a. i. s. 14 :-

More tunable than lark to shepherd's ear.-DUNSTER,

m Most men admire

Virtue, who follow not her lore.
Imitated from the well-known saying of Medea, Ovid, “ Met." viii. 20 :

Video meliora proboque;
Deteriora sequor.-NEWTON.

n Atheous.
Ciccro, speaking of Diagoras, says, “ Atheos quidictus est,” De Nat. Deor.i. 23.—Dunster.

" Atheous" may have hence been coined by the poet. Atheal,” which has the raine aignification, is not uncommon in Old English.—Todd.

Praying or vowing. Besides sacrifices of prayer and thanksgiving, the Jews had vow-sacrifices, (Lev. vii. 16.) oblations for vows, (xxii. 18.) and sacrifices in performing their vows. (Numb. xv. 3. 8.) -DUXSTER.

P And vouchsafed his voice

To Balaam reprobate. An argument more plausible and more fallacious could not have been put into the mouth of the tempter. Perfectly to enter into all the circumstances of this remarkable piece of scripture history, and clearly to apprehend this judicious application of it by the poet in this place, We may refer to bishop Butler's excellent “Sermon on the Character of Balaam," or to Shuckford's account of it in the twelfth book of his “ Connection of Sacred and Profano History,"—DUNSTER.

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To whom our Saviour, with unalter'd brow:
Thy coming hither, though I know thy scope,
I bid not, or forbid; do as thou find'st
Permission from above; thou canst not more?.

He added not; and Satan, bowing low
His gray dissimulation, disappear’d,
Into thin air diffused": for now began
Night with her sullen wings to double-shadet
The desert; fowls in their clay nests were couch'd;
And now wild beasts came forth the woods to roam".

a Thou canst not more.
So Gabriel replies to Satan, “ Paradise Lost," b. iv. 1006 :-

Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know'st mine;
Neither our own, but given : what folly then
To boast what arms can do! since thine no more
Than Heaven permits.—TODD.

5 Into thin air diffused. So Virgil, “ Æn." iv. 278:

Et procul in tenuem ex oculis evanuit auram.--NEWTON.
And Shakspeare, “ Tempest," a. iv. 8. 2:-

These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air.-DUNSTER.

* Her sullen ring. Virgil, “ Æn." viï. 369:

Nox ruit, et fuscis tellurem amplectitur alis. And Tasso describes Night covering the sky "with her wings," Gier. Lib. c. viii. st. 57:

Sorgea la Notte in tanto, e sotto l'ali

Recopriva del cielo i campi immensj.
Compare Spenser also, “Faery Queen," vi. viii. 54 :-

And now the even-tide
His broad black wings had through the heavens wide

By this dispread.
Allegro," ver. 6.-DUNSTER.

t To double-shade. i. e. to double the natural shade and darkness of the place. This is more fully expressed in Hogæus's translation of this passage :

Nam nunc obscuras Nox atra expandere pennas

Cæperat, atque nigras nemorum geminare tenebras. Thus in “Comus," ver. 335:-

In double night of darkness and of shades. In a note on which last verse, in Mr. Warton's edition of the “ Juvenile Poems,” the following line of Pacuvius, cited by Cicero, (“De Divinat." i. 14.) is exhibited :

Tenebræ conduplicantur, noctisque et nimborum occæcat nigror,
We may also compare Ovid, “Met." xi, 548:-

Tanta vertigine pontus
Fervet, et inducta piceis a nubibus umbra

Omne latet cælum, duplicataque noctis imago est.
And see ibid. 521.-DUNSTER.

u And now wild beasts came forth the woods to roam. This brief description of night coming on in the desert is singularly fine : it is a small but exquisite sketch, which so immmediately shows the hand of the master, that his larger and more finished pieces can bardly be rated higher. The commencement of this description,

And see

both in respect of its beginning with an hemistich, and also in the sort of instantaneous coming on of night which it represents, resembles much a passage in Tasso, “ Gier. Lib." c. iž. st. 71 :

Cosi diss' egli;-e gia la Notte oscura

Havea tutti del giorno i raggi spenti.-DUNSTER. The description of the probable manner of our Lord's passing the forty days in the wilderness is very picturesque ; and the return of the wild beasts to their paradisiacal mildness is finely touched. The appearance of the tempter in his assumed character ; the deep art of his first two speeches, covered, but not totally concealed, by a semblance of simplieity; his bold avowal and plausible vindication of himself; the subsequent detection of his fallacies, and the pointed reproofs of his impudence and hypocrisy ou the part of our blessed Lord, cannot be too much admired. Indeed, the whole conclusion of this book abounds so much in closeness of reasoning, grandeur of sentiment, elevation of style, and harmony of numbers, that it may well be questioned, whether poetry on such a subject, and especially in the form of dialogue, ever produced any thing superior to it.

The singular beauty of the brief description of night coming on in the desert, closes the book with such admirable effect, that it leaves us con la bocca dolce.-DUNSTER.

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