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Dove-like satstbrooding on the vast abyss,
1 From Genesis i. 2, “And the Spirit of God brooded upon the waters” (Hebrew).
As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames
1 Milton seems to have used these words to signify gloom: absolute darkness is, strictly speaking, invisible; but where there is a gloom only, there is so much light remaining as serves to show that there are objects, and yet that those objects cannot be distinctly seen. In this sense Milton seems to use the strong and bold expression, darkmess visible.—Pearce.
Seneca has a like expression, speaking of the Grotto of Pausilypo, Senec. Epist. lvii. Nihil illo carcere longius, nihil illis faucibus obscurius, quae nobis praestant, non ut per tenebras videamus, sed ut ipsas. And, as Mons. Voltaire observes, Antonio de Solis, in his excellent History of Mexico, has ventured on the same thought, when speaking of the place wherein Montezuma was wont to consult his deities; “It was a large dark subterraneous vault, says he, where some dismal tapers afforded just light enough to see the obscurity.” See his Essay on Epic Poetry, p. 44. So, too, Spenser, F. Q. i. 1. 14.
“A little glooming light, much like a shade.”—Newton.
* Dr. Bentley reads outer here, and in many other places of this poem, because it is in scripture, rôakóroc to #6 repov; but utter and outer are both the same word, differently spelled and pronounced. Milton, in the argument of this book, says, in a place of utter darkness, and nowhere throughout the poem does the poet use outer.—Pearce.
Spenser justifies the present reading by frequently using the word utter for outer, as in Faërie Queen, b. ii. cant. ii. st. 34–
“And inly grieve, as doth an hidden moth
* i. e. thrice as far as it is from the centre of the earth (which is the centre of the world according to Milton's system, ix. 103, x. 671) to the pole of the world; for it is the pole of the universe, far beyond the pole of the earth, which is here called the “utmost pole.”—Newton.
He soon discerns, and weltering by his side
1 The lord of flies, an idol worshipped at Ecron, a city of the Philistines, 2 Kings i. 2. He is called “prince of the devils,” Matt. xii. 24, therefore deservedly here made second to Satan himself—Hume.
2 Satan, in Hebrew, means an enemy.
* Rather, “and equal ruin,” as Bentley reads.