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Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven
So Satan spake, and him Beelzebub
He scarce had ceased when the superior fiend
1 From the Latin acies, which signifies both the edge of a weapon and an army drawn up in battle array. Or we may, with Newton, compare 2 Henry IV. act i.—
"You knew, he walked o'er perils, on an edge
And 1 Henry IV. act i.—
"I'll read yon matter, deep and dangerous;
s The shield of Satan was large as the moon seen through a telescope, an instrument first applied to celestial observations by Galileo, a native of Tuscany, whom he means here by " the Tuscan artist," and afterwards mentions by name in v. 262; a testimony of his honour for ao great a man, whom he had known and visited in Italy, as himself informs us in his "Areopagitica."—Newton.
Or in Valdarno,1 to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast3
Of some great ammiral,3 were but a wand,
He walked with to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marl, not like those steps
On Heaven's azure, and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire;
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and called
His legions, angel forms, who lay entranced
Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa,4 where the Etrurian shades
High over-arched imbower; or scattered sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion5 armed
Hath vexed the Red Sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris6 and his Memphian chivalry,7
1 i. e. the valley of the Arao, in Tuscany.
2 "These sons of Mavors bore (instead of spears),
Two knotty masts which none but they could lift."
Fairfax's Tatio, vi. 40.
3 According to its German extraction, amiral, or amirael, says Hume; from the Italian ammiraglio, says Richardson, more probably. Our author made choice of this, as thinking it of a better sound than admiral: and in Latin he writes, ammiralatus curia, the court of admiralty.
4 A valley of Tuscany, remarkable for its cool and delightful shades.
5 Orion is a constellation represented in the figure of an armed man, and supposed to be attended with stormy weather, assurgens fluctu nimbosus Orion, Virg. jEn. i. 539. And the Red Sea abounds so much with sedge, that in the Hebrew Scripture it is called the Sedgy Sea. And he says "hath vexed the Red Sea coast" particularly, because the wind usually drives the sedge in great quantities towards the shore.—Newton.
6 There is no historical authority for making Pharaoh Busiris; but Milton was at liberty to borrow a common tradition respecting that king, and adapt it to his verse.
^ Chivalry (from the French chevalerie) signifies not only knighthood, but those who use horses in fight, both such as ride on horses and such as ride in chariots drawn by them. In the sense of riding and fighting on horseback this word chivalry is used in verse 765, and in many places of Fairfax's Tasso, as in Cant. 5, St. 9. Cant. 8. st. 67. Cant. 20. st. 61. In the sense of riding and fighting in chariots drawn by horses, Milton uses the word chivalry in Farad. Reg. iii. ver. 348. compared with ver. 328.—Pearce.
While with perfidious hatred1 they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who heheld
From the safe shore their floating carcasses
And broken chariot wheels: so thick bestrown,
Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He called so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded. "Princes, potentates,
Warriors, the flower of Heaven, once yours, now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seize
Eternal spirits; or have ye chosen this place
After the toil of battle to repose
Your wearied virtue, for the ease ye find
To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conqueror? who now beholds
Cherub and seraph rolling in the flood
With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from Heaven gates discern
The advantage, and descending tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!"
They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung
1 Because Pharaoh, after leave given to the Israelites to depart, followed after them like fugitives.—Hume. 3 See Exod. x. 13, sqq. * Working themselves forward: a sea phrase.
Till, at a signal given, the uplifted spear
Of their great sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain;
A multitude, like which the populous north1
Poured never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the south, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Lybian sands.
Forthwith from every squadron and each band
The heads and leaders thither haste where stood
Their great commander; godlike shapes and forms
Excelling human, princely dignities,
And powers that erst in Heaven sat on thrones;
Though of their names in heavenly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and rased
By their rebellion from the books of life
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names, till wandering o'er the earth,
Through God's high sufferance, for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies the greatest part
1 This comparison does not fall below the rest, as some have imagined. They were thick as the leaves, and numberless as the locusts, but such a multitude the north never poured forth; and we may observe that the subject of this comparison rises very much above the others, leaves and locusts. The populous north, as the northern parts of the world are observed to be more fruitful of people than the hotter countries: Sir William Temple calls it "the northern hive." "Poured never," a very proper word to express the inundations of these northern nations. ;' From her frozen loins ;" it is the Scripture expression of children and descendants "coming out of the loins," as Gen. xxxv. 11, "Kings shall come out of thy loins;" and these are called frozen loins only on account of the coldness of the climate. "To pass Khene or the Danaw." He might have said, consistently with his verse. The Rhine or Danube, but he chose the more uncommon names, Ehene, of the Latin, and Danaw, of the German, both which words are used too in Spenser. "When her barbarous sons," &c. They were truly barbarous ; for besides exercising several cruelties, they destroyed all the monuments of learning and politeness wherever they came. "Came like a deluge." Spenser, describing the same people, has the same simile. Faerie Queen, B. ii. cant. 10. st. 15.
"And overflowed all countries far away,
They were the Goths, and Huns, and Vandals, who overran all the southern provinces of Europe.—Newton.
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and the invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorned
With gay religions full of pomp and gold,
And devils to adore for deities;
Then were they known to men by various names,
And various idols through the heathen world.
Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last, Roused from the slumber, on that fiery couch, At their great emperor's call, as next in worth Came singly where he stood on the bare strand, While the promiscuous crowd stood yet aloof. The chief were those who from the pit of Hell, Roaming to seek their prey on earth, durst fix Their seats long after next the seat of God, Their altars by his altar, God's adored Among the nations round, and durst abide Jehovah thundering out of Sion, throned Between the cherubim j1 yea, often placed Within his sanctuary itself their shrines,2 Abominations; and with cursed things His holy rites and solemn feasts profaned, And with their darkness durst affront his light. First Moloch,3 horrid king besmeared with blood
1 The ark of the covenant was placed between the golden cherubim. Compare 2 Kings xix. 15, "O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubim."
2 See 2 Kings xri. 4; Jer. vii. 30; Ezek. vii. 20, viii. 5, sq.
3 The name Moloch signifies king, and he is called "horrid" king, because of the human sacrifices which were made to him This idol is supposed by some to be the same as Saturn, to whom the heathens (especially the Carthaginians, See Porphyr. de Abstin. ii. 27.) sacrificed their children, and by others to be the sun. When it is said in Scripture that the children " passed through the fire to Moloch," we must not understand that they always actually burnt their children in honour of this idol, but sometimes made them only leap over the flames, or pass nimbly between two fires, to purify them by that lustration, and consecrate them to this false deity. He was the god of the Ammonites, and is called "the abomination of the children of Ammon," 1 Kings xi. 7, and was worshipped in Rabba. their capital ckv, which David conquered. This Babba being called the " city of *aters," 2 Sam. xi. 27, it is here said, " Babba and her watery plain;" and, likewise, "in Argob and in Basan," neighbouring countries to Eabba, and subject to the Ammonites, as far as "to the stream of "tmost Arnon," which river was the boundary of their country on the south.—Newton.