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6 What recks it them? What need they? They are
“ And when they list, their lean and fashy fongs s Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw; « The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed, 125 " But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw, “ Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread : “Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
Daily deyours apace, and nothing fed :
berdman (not herdsman) has a general sense in our old writers ; and, as Mr. Bowle remarks, often occurs in Sydney's ARCADIA, a book well known to Milton. As thus, vol. i. p. 151. edit. 1724.
A HERDMAN rich, of much account was he. In our old Pastorals, Heard-groome sometimes occurs for Shepherd,
122. See Note on Com. V. 404. He might here use reck as a paftoral word, occurring in Spenser's KALENDAR, Decemb. “What "RECKED I of wintry age's wafte."
124. Scrannel is thin, lean, meagre. " A scrannel - pipe of " ftraw” is contemptuously for Virgil's “ tenuis avena.”
128. Besides what the grim wolf, &c.] It has been conjectured, that Milton in this passage has copied the sentiments of Piers, a, protestant controversial shepherd, in Spenser's Eclogue Max. Of this there can be no doubt : for our author, in another of his puritanical tracts, written 164!, illustrates his arguments for purging the church of its rapacious hirelings and insidious wolves, by a quotation of almost the whole of Piers's speech ; observing, that Spenfer puts
these words into the mouth of his righteous shepherd, “ not without some presage of these reFORMING times.” ANIMADV. ON THE RE-MONSTR. Der. ubi supr. vol. i. p. 98.
129. Daily devours apace, and nothing fed ] In edition 1638, it is á little faid.” For which reading, nothing is blotted out in the margin with his own hand. But in the edition 1645, nothing Jed appears. I have hence adopted fed. This Spelling was cul tomary for the sake of the rhyme. So in L'ALLEGRO, edit. 1645. v. 101.
She was pinch'd and pull'd she sed,
And he by friers lantern led. And in our author's EPITAP# on Hobson, of the fame edition, V. 17. " It shall be sed." In Harrington's ARIOSTO, we have
“ But that two-handed engin at the door 130 “ Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.”
“ As before I sep.” vii. 64. Again, « Those wofull words he
Each fot impugning order saith, and doth his fantasie ;
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.] In these
did not choose to name in plain terms. The sense therefore of the context seems to be, “ But there will soon be an end of “ all these evils: the ax is at hand, to take off the head of him “ who has been the great abettor of these corruptions of the gospel. “ This will be done by one stroke."
In the mean time, it coincides just as well with the tenour of Milton's doctrine, to suppose, that he alludes in a more general acceptation to our Saviour's metaphorical ax in the gospel, which was to be laid to the root of the tree, and whose stroke was to be
Return, Alpheus, the dread voice is past,
135 Ye valleys low, where the mild whispers use Of shades, and wanton winds, and gushing brooks,
66 And now
quick and decisive. Matt. ii. 10. Luke, iii. 9. " the ax is laid to the root of the tree : therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, &c.” That is,
Things are now brought to a crisis. There is no room for a “moment's delay. God is now about to offer the last dispensation " of his mercy. If ye reject these terms, no others will be offered " afterwards : but ye shall suffer ONE FINAL sentence of destruc“tion, as a tree, &c.” All false religions were at once to be done
away by the appearance of christianity, as when an ax is applied to a barren tree: so now an ax was to be applied to the corruptions of chriftianity, which in a similar process were to be defroyed by a single and speedy blow. The time was ripe for this business: the instrument was at hand. Our author has the same metaphor in a treatise written 1641. “They feeling the ax of “God's REFORMATION HEWING at the old and hollow TRUNK “ of
popery: ” PROSE-WORKS, ut fupr. vol. i. 17. Where he also says, that “ the painted battlements, and gaudy rottenness, of " Prelatry, want but ONE PUFF of the king's to blow them down, “ like a paste-board house built of court-cards.” ib. 18. But he is rather unhappy in his comparison, which follows, of episcopacy to a large wen growing on the head : for allowing such a wen, on his own principles, to be an excrefcence and a deformity, to cut it off may prove a dangerous operation ; and perhaps it had better remain untouched, with all its inconveniencies.
It is matter of surprise, that this violent invective against the : church of England and the hierarchy, couched indeed in terms a little mysterious yet sufficiently intelligible, and covered only by a transparent veil of allegory, thould have been published under the sanction and from the press of one of our universities; or that it hould afterwards have escaped the severest animadversions, at a period when the profcriptions of the Star-chamber, and the power of Laud, were at their height. Milton, under pretence of expofing the faults or abuses of the episcopal clergy, attacks their establishment, and strikes at their existence.
133. That forunk thy streams.-] In other words, “ that fi“ lenced my paftoral poetry.
The Sicilian Muse is now to return, with all her her store of rural imagery.
On whose fresh lap the swart-star sparely looks
138. On whole fresh lap the swart-ftar sparely looks.) Swart or fwarth. “ Yoar frwarth Cymerian.” TIT. ANDR. ii. ii. The dog-star is called the swAR’T-Star, by turning the effect into the cause. Swart is swarthy, brown; &c. Shakespeare, Com. Err. A. iiiS. ii. “ Ant. What complexion is she of? S. SWART, “ like my shoe, but her face nothing like so cleane kept.” And in First P. K. Hen. vi. A.i. $. ii.
And whereas I was black and swART before. And in King John, A. iii. S. i.
Lame, foolish, crooked, SWART, prodigious. And in Shakespeare's Sonn. xxviii. “The SWART-complexion'd
night.” And in Browne's BRITANNIA'S PASTORALS, B. iv. S. iv. p. 71. edit. ut supr.
And the swart plowman for his breakfast staid. In ENGLAND'S HELICON, we find “ Swarthe clouds with“ drawne.” edit. 1614. Signat. B. 4. In Browne, ubi supr. B.ü. S.i. p. 22.
The tyred bodie of the SWARTIE cloune. Hence we see the process to the present word SWARTHY. In Leland's ITINERARY, this word denominates a dark-coloured fort of stone. “ The castel is waullid with a very hard suArt stone “ hewid.” vol.i. fol. 39. Of the fame complexion is the “ SWART “ faery of the mine,” in our author's MASK, v. 435. The word occurs both in Chaucer and Spenser. Perhaps Looks is a term from astrology. So in ARCADES, v.51.
Or what the cross dire-LOOKING planet smites.
There's fome ill planet reigns ;
With an ASPECT more favourable.-
-Whofe ftill shades
Free from the SIRIAN STAR, 139. ---Eyes.] The term Eyes, is technical in the Botany of Aowers.
Y CI D A S. That on the green turf suck the honied showers, And purple all the ground with vernal flowers. 141 Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,
142. Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies.] It is obvious, that the general texture and sentiment of this line is from the Win. TER'S TALE, A. iv. S. v.
---Pale primroses That die unmarried, &c. Especially as he had first written UNWEDDED for forsaken, which appears in the edition of 1638. But the particular combination of “ Rathe primrose” is perhaps from a Pastoral called a PALINODE by E. B. probably Edmond Bolton, in ENGLAND's HELICON, edit. 1614. Signat. B. 4.
And made the RATHE and timely PRIMROSE grow. In the west of England, there is an early species of apple called the Rathe-ripe. We have “ rathe and late,” in a Pastoral, in Davison's Poems, edit. 4. Lond. 1621. p. 177. In Bastard's Epigrams, printed 1598, I find “ The RASHED Primrose, and “ the violet." Lib. i. Epigr. 34. p. 21. 12mo. Perhaps RASHED is a provincial corruption from Rathe. But why does the Primrose die UNMARRIED? Not because it blooms and decays before the appearance
of other flowers; as in a state of folitude, and without fociety. Shakespeare's reason, which follows his lines just quoted, why it dies unmarried, is unintelligible, or rather is such as I do not wish to understand. The true reason is, because it grows in the shade, uncherished or unseen by the sun, which was supposed to be in love with some sorts of flowers. Thus in Drayton, Ecl. ix. vol. iv. p. 1432.
Than roses richer to behold
Tho' Phebus' PARAMOURS.
And spreadft thee like the MORN-Lou'd marigold. And in Shakespeare's SONNETS, xxv.
Great princes FAVOURITES their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold in the sun's eye, &c.
And winking mary-buds begin
To ope their golden eyes. VOL. I.