Page images
PDF
EPUB

150

11

153

100

163

Our number may affright: some virgin sure
(For so I can distinguish by mine art)
Benighted in these woods. Now to my charms,
And to my wily trains : I shall ere long
Be well stock'd with as fair a herd as grazed
About my mother Circe. Thus 1 hurl
My dazzling spellse into the spungy air,
Of power to cheat the eye with blear illusion',
And give it false presentments, lest the place
And my quaint habits breed & astonishment,
And put the damsel to suspicious flight;
Which must not be, for that's against my course :
I, under fair pretence of friendly ends,
And well-placed words of glozing" courtesy
Baited with reasons not unplausible,
Wind me into the easy-hearted man,
And hug him into snares. When once her eye
Hath met the virtue of this magick dust,
I shall appear some harmless villager),
Whom thrift keeps up about his country gear.
But here she comes : I fairly k step aside,

And hearken, if I may, her business here. We have the verb, “ Par. Reg." b. iv. 419, and below in “ Comus," v. 316, where the last line is written in the manuscript, “ Within these shroudic limits.” Whence we are led to suspect, that our author, in some of these instances, has an equivocal reference to shrouds in the sense of the branches of a tree, now often used. — T. Warton.

e My dazzling spells. See Fletcher, “ Faith. Shep.' a. iii. s. I.

Adam says, that in his conversation with the angel, his earthly nature was overpowered by the hearenly, and, as with an object that excels the sense, “ dazzled and spent."" Par. Lost," b. viii. 457.-T. Warton.

1 To cheat the eye with blear illusion, In our author's “ Reformation," &c. “ If our understanding have a film of ignorance over it, or be blear with gazing on other false glisterings,” &c. “ Pr. W.”i. 12. But “blear-eyed " is a common and well-known phiase.-T. Warton.

& And my quaint habits breed, &c. That is, my strange habits, as Mr. Warton has observed ; in which sense, “quaint” is often used by Spenser. But Milton here illustrates himself in the Preface to his “ Hist. of Moscovia :" « Long stories of absurd superstitions, ceremonies, quaint habits,”' &c. -TODD.

b Glozing. Flattering, deceitful. As in “ Par. Lost," b. iii. 93. “ Glozing lies.” Perhaps from Spenser, “ Faer. Qu." iii. viii. 14. “ Could well his glozing speeches frame.”—T. WARTON.

i When once her eye

Hath met the virtue of this magick dust. This refers to a previous line,“ my powder'd spells," v. 154. But “powder'd” was afterwards altered into the present reading “ dazzling.” When a poet corrects, he is apt to forget and destroy his original train of thought.-T. WARTON.

i Some harmless villager.
So Satan appeared to our Saviour in the “ Paradise Regained."

Is Fainly.

That is, softly.-HURD.

N N 2

170

169

183

The Lady enters.
Lad. This way the noise was, if mine ear be true,
My best guide now: methought it was the sound
Of riot and ill-managed merriment,
Such as the jocund flute, or gamesome pipe,
Stirs up among the loose unletter'd hinds,
When for their teeming flocks and granges full,
In wanton dance they praise the bounteous Pan,
And thank the gods amiss. I should be loath
To meet the rudeness and swill'd insolence
Of such late wassailers'; yet, O! where else
Shall I inform my unacquainted feet m
In the blind mazes of this tangled wood "?
My brothers, when they saw me wearied out
With this long way, resolving here to lodge
Under the spreading favour of these pines',
Stepp'd, as they said, to the next thicket-side,
To bring me berries, or such cooling fruit
As the kind hospitable woods provide P.
They left me then, when the gray-hooded Even,
Like a sad votarist 4 in palmer's weed',

I To meet the rudeness and suill'd insolence

Of such late wassailers. In some parts of England, especially in the west, it is still customary for a company of mummers, in the evening of the Christmas holydays, to go about carousing from honse to house, who are called the wassailers. In Macbeth, “ Wine and wassel," mean, in general terms, feasting and drunkenness, a. i. s. 7.— T. Warton.

m Shall I inform my unacquainted feel. In the “ Faithful Shepherdess," Amoret wanders through a wild wood in the night, but under different circumstances, yet not without some apprehensions of danger. We have a parallel expression in “Sams. Agon.” v. 335 :-

hither hath inform'd
Your younger feet.-T. WARTON.

n Tangled rood. “ They seek the dark, the bushy, the tangled forest," Prose W. vol. i. p. 13. And we “ Par. Lost," b. iv. 176.-T. Warton,

Under the spreading favour of these pines. This is like Virgil's “ Hospitiis teneat frondentibus arbos,” Geory, iv. 24. An inrersion of the same sort occurs in Cicero, in a Latin version from Sophocles, “ Trachinis," of the shirt of Nessus. Tusc. Disp." i. 8.—“ Ipse inligatus peste interimor textili." T. WARTON.

P To bring me berries, or such cooling fruit

As the kind hospitable woods provide. So Fletcher, " Faith. Shep." a. i. s. 1, where, says the virgin-shepherdess Clorin,

My meat shall be what these wild woods afford,

Berries and chesnuts, &c. By laying the scene of his Mask in a wild forest, Milton secured to himself a perpetual fund of picturesque description, which, resulting from situation, was always at hand. He was not obliged to go out of his way for this striking embellishmcut: it was suggested of necessity by present circumstances.-T. Warton.

9 When the gray-hooded Even,

Like a sad votarist, &c. Milton, notwithstanding his abhorrence of everything that related to superstition, ofteb dresses his imaginary beings in the habits of popery : but poetry is of all religions ; and

190

195

200

205

Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phæbus' wain.
But where they are, and why they came not back,
Is now the labour of my thoughts ; 'tis likeliest
They had engaged their wandering steps s too far;
And envious darkness, ere they could return,
Had stole them from me: else, O thievish Night',
Why shouldst thou, but for some felonious end,
In thy dark lantern thus close up the stars,
That Nature hung in heaven, and fill’d their lamps
With everlasting oil, to give due light
To the misled and lonely traveller?
This is the place, as well as I may guess,
Whence even now the tumult of loud mirth
Was rife, and perfect in my listening ear ;
Yet naught but single darkness do I find.
What might this be? A thousand fantasies

Begin to throng into my memory“, popery is a very poetical one. A votarist is one who had made a religious vow, here perhaps for a pilgrimage, being in “palmer's weeds."— T. Warton.

r Palmer's reed.
Spenser, “ Faer. Qu.” ii. i. 52. “I wrapt myself in palmer's weed."—Newton.

Their wandering steps.
So, in those beautiful and impressive lines, which close the “ Paradise Lost :”—

They hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.-TODD.

10 thierish Night. Ph. Fletcher's “ Pisc. Ecl." p. 34, edit. 1633 :

the thievish night

Steals on the world, and robs our eyes of light. In the present age, in which almost every common writer avoids palpable absurdities, at least monstrous and unnatural conceits, would Milton have introduced this passage, where thievish Night is supposed, for some felonious purpose, to shut up the stars in her dark lantern ? Certainly not. But in the present age, correct and rational as it is, had “ Comus” been written, we should not perhaps have had some of the greatest beauties of its wild and romantic imagery.-T. WAKTON.

U A thousand fantasies

Begin to throng into my memory, &c.
Milton had here perhaps a remembrance of Shakspeare, “ King Johu,” a. v. s. 7.

With many legions of strange fantasies,
Which, in their throng and press to that last hold,

Confound themselves.-T. WARTON. Much of our own island superstition is crowded into these lines : it is true that in a city guarded by a regular police and lighted by patent gas, and infested by sharpers and piek pockets, man, even though inclined to superstitious dread, cannot feel fearful of * calling shapes,” and “beckoning shadows,” and “airy tongues :" but let him have a haunted road-such as that along which Tam o' Shanter rode—to travel on at midnight : let his local knowledge supply him with the recollection of all the misdeeds and murders perpetrated for three miles round : let there be a gloomy wood on one side of the way, and an old desolate burial-ground on the other : let him hear a sound advancing behind Lim, and let him see before him a doddered tree, between him and the blue sky, on which some man within his own memory hanged himself; and if he feels not something like dread upon him, he is either a very bold man or a very unimaginative one. The writer of this has beard an old gentleman, who had served with distinction in the British army, assert, oftener than once, that on riding one night past an old churchyard in a lonely part

Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows
And aery tongues that syllable men's n
On sands, and shores, and desert wilderne
These thoughts may startle well, but not
The virtuous mind, that ever walks atten
By a strong-siding champion, Conscience
O, welcome, pure-eyed Faith; white-han
Thou hovering angel girt with golden wi
And thou, unblemish'd form of Chastity
I see ye visibly, and now believe
That He, the Supreme Good, to whom a
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistering guardian, if need
To keep my life and honour unassail'd.
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud ?
Turn forth her silver lining on the night
I did not err; there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night

And casts a gleam over this tufted grove of the country, a white phantom started up from among long pale skinny hand towards the bridle of his horse. application of the spur, freed himn from all danger ; but it sight he saw was of the other world, and not supplied by creative fit by the solemn hour and haunted place.-C.

"Of calling shapes, and beckoning shad I remember these superstitions, wbich are here finely a Marco Paolo the Venetian : he is speaking of the vast an * Cernuntur et audiuntur in eo, interdiu, et sæpius no unde viatoribus summe cavendum est, ne multum ab invi a tergo sese diutius impediat : alioquin, quamprimum pi comitum suorum aspectum perdiderit, non facile ad eo voces dæmonum, qui solitarie incedentes propriis appel illorum quos comitari se putant, ut a recto itinere abducta Regionib. Oriental. I. i. c. 44.-T. WARTON.

w Syllable. Pronounce distinctly. As in Ph, Fletcher's “ Poct. M flesh-spell’d characters."-T. Warton.

* Thou hovering angel, girt with goli Thus, in Shakspeare's “ Lover's Complaint,' hoverd.” But“ hovering" is here applied with peculiar sight, on the wing; and if not approaching, yet not flying plation soars on golden wings, II. Pens," v. 5: ano host," in the "Ode on the Death of an Infant," st. ix.

5 And thou, unblemish'd form of Cha In the same strain, Fletcher's Shepherdess in the solilo

Then, strongest Chastity,
Bo thou my strongest guard ; for here
In opposition against fate and hell. ---]

* Was I deceiver, or did a sable ck These lines are turned like that verse of Ovid, “ Fast." sonant? non fallimur: arma sonabant.” – Hurd.

See also note on Eleg. v. 5. The repetition, arising fro of an unaccusing conscience, is inimitably beautiful. Wh Heaven unexpectedly presents the silver lining of a sab WARTON.

"“ Whic

b

230

I cannot halloo to my brothers, but
Such noise as I can make to be heard farthest,
I 'll venture; for my new-enliven'd spirits
Prompt me : and they perhaps are not far off.

SONG
Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that livest unseen

Within thy aery shell,

By slow Meander's margent green,
And in the violet-embroider'de vale,

Where the love-lorn nightingale
Nightly to thee her sad

song

mourneth welle; Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair'

That likest thy Narcissus are ?

O, if thou have
Hid them in some flowery cave",

Tell me but where",
Sweet queen of parly, daughter of the sphere'!

235

2.10

* I cannot halloo to my brothers, &c. So the jailer's daughter in Beaumont and Fletcher, benighted also and alone in a wood, whose character affords one of the finest female mad scenes in our language, “ Two Noble Kins." a. üi. s. 2. She is in search of Palamon.

I cannot halloo, &c.

I have heard
Strange howls this livelong night, &c.-T. WARTON.

b That livest unseen. So Sylvester, “Du Bartas,”p. 1210.

Babbling echo, voice of vallies,
Aierie elfe exempt from view.-TODD.

c Violel-einbroider'd. This is a beautiful compound epithet, and the combination of the two words that compose it, natural and easy.- Jos. WARTON.

d Lore-lorn. Deprived of her matc; as “ Jass-lorn”in the “ Tempest,” a. iv. 8. 2.-T. Warton.

e Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well. Compare Virgil, “ Georg." iv. 513.

illa
Flet noctem, ramoque sedens miserabile carmen
Integrat, &C.-TODD.

1 A gentle pair. So Fletcher,;" Faith. Shep.” a. i. s. 1.

A gentle pair
Have promised equal love.-T. WARTON.
60, if thou have

Hid them in some flowery care. Here is a sceming inaccuracy for the sake of the rhyme : but the sense being hypothetical and contingent, we will suppose an ellipsis of " shouldest” before “ have.” A verse in St. John affords an apposite illustration : -" If thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid bim,” xx. 15.-T. Warton.

h Tell me but where. Mr. Steevens suggests that part of the address to the sun, which Southern has put into the mouth of Oroonoko, is evidently copied from this passage :

Or, if thy sister goddess has preferr'd

beauty to the skies to be a star,
0, tell me where she shines.-T. WARTON.

i Daughter of the sphere. Milton has given her a much nobler and more poetical original than any of the ancient

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »