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Ay.me! I fondly dream!
been there, for what could that have done?
The Dee has been made the scene of a variety of antient British traditions. The city of Chester was called by the Britons the Fortress upor Dee; which was feigned to have been founded by the giant Leon, and to have been the place of king Arthur's magnificent coronation.
But there is another and perhaps a better reason, why Deva's is a WISARD stream. In Drayton, this river is styled the hallowed, and th: holy, and the ominous flood. POLYOLB. S. x. vol. ij. p. 848. S. ix. vol. iii. p. 287. S. iv. vol. ii. p. 731. Again, “ holy
Dee,” HEROICALL Epist. vol. i. p. 293. And in his IDEAS, vol. iv. p. 1271.
Carlegion Chefter boasts her holy Dee, Compare Spenser as above, iv. xi. 39.
Dee which Britons long ygone
Did call DIUINE.And Browne, in his BRITANNIA'S PASTORALS, B. ü. S. v. P. 117. edit. 1616.
Never more let HOLY Dee
Ore other riuers braue, &c. In our author's AT A VACATION EXERCISE, Dee is charac. terised, “ ancient HALLOWED Dee.” v. 91. Where see the Note.
Much superstition was founded on the circumstance of its being the antient boundary between England and Wales : and Drayton, in his tenth SONG, having recited this part of its history, adds, that by changing its fords, it foretold good or evil, war or peace, dearth or plenty, to either country. He then introduces the Dee, over which king Edgar had been rowed by eight kings, relating the Story of Brutus. See also S. iii. vol. ii. p. 711. S. xii. vol. ii. p. 901, But in the Eleventh Song, Drayton calls the Weever, a river of Cheshire, “ The WISARD river,” and immediately subjoins, that in Prophetick Skill it vies with the Dee. s. xi. vol. ïi. p. 861. Here we seem to have the origin and the precise meaning of Milton's appellation. In Comus, WISARD also fignifies a Diviner where it is applied to Proteus,
By the Carpathian WISARD's hook. Milton appears to have taken a particular pleasure in mentioning this venerable river. In the beginning of his first Elegy, he almost goes out of his way to specify his friend's residence on the banks of the Dee; which he describes with the picturesque and
What could the Muse herself that Orpheus bore, The Mufe herself, for her inchanting lon;
real circumstance of its tumbling headlong over rocks and preci. pices into the Irish fea. El. i. 1.
Tandem, care, tuæ mihi pervenere tabellæ,
Pertulit et voces nuntia charta tuas,
Vergivium prono qua petit amne salum. But to return home to the text immediately lying before us. In the midst of this wild imagery, the tombs of the Druids, dispersed over the folitary mountains of Denbighshire, the shaggy summits of Mona, and the wisard waters of Deva, Milton was in his favourite track of poetry. He delighted in the old British traditions and fabulous histories. But his imagination seems to have been in some measure warmed, and perhaps directed to these objects, by reading Drayton ; who in the Ninth and Tenth Songs of his POLYOLBION has very copiously enlarged, and almost at one view, on this scenery. It is, however, with great force and felicity of fancy, that Milton, in transferring the classical seats of the Muses to Britain, has substituted places of the most romantic kind, inhabited by Druids, and consecrated by the visions of British bards. And it has been justly remarked, how coldly and unpoetically Pope, in his very correct pastorals, has on the same occasion selected only the fair fields of Isis, and the winding vales of Cam.
But at the same time there is an immediate propriety in the fubftitution of these places, which should not be forgotten, and is not I believe obvious to every reader. The mountains of Denbighshire, the isle of Man, and the banks of the Dee, are in the vicinity of the Irish seas where Lycidas was shipwrecked. It iş thus Theocritus alks the Nymphs, how it came to pass, that when Daphnis died, they were not in the delicious vales of Peneus, or on the banks of the great torrent Anapus, the sacred water of Acis, or on the summits of mount Etna : because all these were the haunts or the habitation of the shepherd Daphnis. These rivers and rocks have a real connection with the poet's subject. 56. Ay me, I fondly dream!
Had ye been there for what could that have done?] So these lines stand in editions 1638, 1645, and 1673, the two last of which were printed under Milton's eye. Doctor Newton thus exhibits the passage.
Ay me! I fondly dream
Whom universal nature did lament,
And adds this note. “ We have here followed the pointing of “ Milton's manuscript in preference to all the editions : and the “ meaning plainly is, I fondly dream of your having been there, for “ what would that have signified ?” But furely the words, I fondly dream had
ye been there, will not bear this construction. The reading which I have adopted, to say nothing of its authority, has an abruptạess which heightens the present sentiment, and more ftrongly marks the distraction of the speaker's mind.
“ Ah me! “ I am fondly dreaming ! I will suppose you had been there---but “ why should I suppose it, for what would that have availed ?” The context is broken and confused, and contains a sudden elleipsis which I have fupplied with the words in Italics.
58. What could the Mufe, &c.] PARAD. L. vü. 37. Of Or. pheus torn in pieces by the Bacchanalians.
-Nor could the Muse defend Her son. And his murtherers are called “ that wild rout,” v. 34. Calliope was the mother of Orpheus. Lycidas, as a poet, is here tacitly compared with Orpheus. They were both victims of the water.
60. –Universal nature.-) So “ universal Pan,” PARAD. L. iv. 266.
63. Down the swift Hebrus to the Lepian Shore.] In calling He, brus swift, Milton, who is avaricious of classical authority, appears to have followed a verse in the Eneid, i. 321.
-VOLUCREMQUE fuga prævertitur Hebrum.
-Volucremque fuga prævertitur EURUM.
Alas! what boots it with inceffant care
See also HUETIANA, lxiv. If, however, a river was here to be made a subject of comparison, there was a local propriety and an elegance, in the poet's selection of the Thracian river Hebrus.
When Milton copies- the antients, it is not that he wants matter of his own, but because he is fond of shewing his learning ; or rather, because the imagery of the antients was so familiar to his thoughts. 68. To Sport with Amaryllis in the sbade,
Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair.] In the first edition, 1638, as in the manuscript.
Hip in the tangles of Neæra's hair. See Note at the end of the Elegies.
70. Fame is the spur, &c.] These noble sentiments he afterwards dilated or improved in PARADISE REGAINED, B. iii. 24.
Glory the reward
All treasures and all gain esteem as dross. 71. That last infirmity of noble mind.] Mr. Bowle observes, that Abate Grillo, in his Lettere, has called “ Questa sete di fama do
et gloria, ordinaria infirmita de gli ANIMI GENEROSI.” Lib. ii. p. 210. edit. Ven. 1604. 4to. 74. And think to burst out into sudden blaze.] He is speaking of
So in PARAD. REG. B. iii. 47.
Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorred shears, 75 And Nits the thin-spun life. “But not the praise,” Phoebus reply'd, and touch'd my trembling ears ; “Fame is no plant that grows on mortal foil, « Nor in the glift'ring foil
75. Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorred spears.] In Shakespeare are the shears of Destiny, with more propriety. K. JOHN, A. iv. S. ï. The king says to Pembroke, Think
I bear the SHEARS OF DESTINY? Milton, however, does not here confound the Fates and the Furies. He only calls Destiny a Fury. In Spenser, we have BLIND Fury. Ruins of Rome, St. xxiv.
If the BLINDE FURIE which warrès breedeth oft. And in Sackville's GORDOBUCKE, A. v. $. iii.
O Joue, how are these peoples hearts abvs’d,
And what BLIND FURY headlong carries them? See OBSERVATIONS on Spenser Faerie QUEENE, vol. ii. p. 255. edit. 2.
76. -But not the praise, &c.] “ But the praise is not inter"cepted.” From hence, I have arbitrarily thrown the remainder of the paragraph, but not without good reason, into inverted
While the poet, in the character of a shepherd, is moralifing on the uncertainty of human life, Phebus interposes with a sublime strain, above the tone of pastoral poetry. He then, in an abrupt and elleiptical apostrophe, at O fountain Arethuse, hastily recollects himself, and apologises to his rural Muse, or, in other words, to Arethusa and Minicius, the celebrated streams of bucolic fong, for having so fuddenly departed from pastoral allusions, and the tenour of his subject. << But I could not, he adds, resist the "sudden and aweful impulse of the god of verse, who interrupted me with a strain of a higher mood, and forced me to quit for a
my pastoral ideas :-But I now resume my rural oaten pipe, and proceed as I began.” In the same manner, he reverts to his rural strain, after S. Peter's dread voice, with “ Return " Alpheus," v. 132. infr.
78. Fame is no plant, &c.] I think I remember the fublime morality of part of this allegory in Pindar. But I cannot readily turn to the passage. 79. Nor in the glift'ring foil
Set off to th' world.-] Perhaps with a remembrance of Shakespeare, Part I. Henr.iv. A. i. S. ii.