Page images

But else in deep of night, when drowsiness
Hath lock'd up mortal sense, then listen I
To the celestial Sirens' harmony,
That sit upon the nine infolded spheres,

62. Hath lock'd up mortal sense,] He had written at first Hath chain'd mortality.

64. the nine infolded spheres,] According to the doctrine of the ancients, as it is explained by Cicero. Somnium Scipionis 4. Novem tibi orbibus, vel potius globis, connexa sunt omnia: and then he enumerates them in this order, heaven or the sphere of the stars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, the Moon, and the Earth. And in the next chapter he speaks of the music of the spheres. Quid? hic, inquam, quis est, qui complet aures meas tantus et tam dulcis sonus? and describes it, and accounts for mankind's not hearing it. Hic vero tantus est totius mundi incitatissima conversione sonitus, ut eum aures hominum capere non possint: sicut intueri solem adversum nequitis, ejusque radiis acies vestra sensusque vincitur. See also Macrobius In Somn. Scip. lib. ii. cap. 4. Ergo universi mundani corporis sphæræ novem sunt, &c.

64. This is Plato's system. Fate, or Necessity, holds a spindle of adamant: and, with her three daughters, Lachesis, Clotho, and Atropos, who handle the vital web wound about the spindle, she conducts or turns the heavenly bodies. Nine Muses, or Syrens, sit on the summit of the spheres; which, in their revolutions produce the most ravishing musical harmony. To this har

mony, the three daughters of Necessity perpetually sing in correspondent tones. In the mean time, the adamantine spindle, which is placed in the lap or on the knees of Necessity, and on which the fate of men and gods is wound, is also revolved. This music of the spheres, proceeding from the rapid motion of the heavens, is so loud, various, and sweet, as to exceed all aptitude or proportion of the human ear, and therefore is not heard by men. Moreover, this spherical music consists of eight unisonous melodies: the ninth is a concentration of all the rest, or a diapason of all those eight melodies; which diapason, or concentus, the nine Sirens sing or address to the supreme Being. This last circumstance, while it justifies a doubtful reading, illustrates or rather explains a passage in these lines, At a solemn Music, v. 6.

That undisturbed song of pure con-

Aye sung before the sapphire-colour'd
To Him that sits thereon.

Milton, full of these Platonic
ideas, has here a reference to
this consummate or concentual
Song of the ninth sphere, which
is undisturbed and pure, that is,
unallayed and perfect. The Pla-
tonism is here, however, in some
degree christianized.

These notions are to be found in the tenth book of Plato's Re

And sing to those that hold the vital sheers,
And turn the adamantine spindle round,
On which the fate of gods and men is wound.
Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie,
To lull the daughters of Necessity,
And keep unsteady Nature to her law,

And the low world in measur'd motion draw
After the heav'nly tune, which none can hear

public, in his Timæus, and other
parts of his works; but they
cannot be well understood or
digested without the assistance
of Proclus, who yet has partly
clouded the system with new
refinements. Hence we are to
interpret Spenser in the Platonic
Hymne in Honour of Beautie.

For Love is a celestiall harmonie
Of likewise hearts, composed of starres

T. Warton.

72. After the heav'nly tune, which none can hear &c.] To the same purpose Shakespeare speaking likewise of the music of the spheres. Merchant of Venice,

act v. sc. 1.

There's not the smallest orb, which thou behold'st,

But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-ey'd cherubims;

Such harmony is in immortal sounds! But whilst this muddy vesture of decay

Doth grossly close us in, we cannot hear it.

72. After the heav'nly tune,

which none can hear

Of human mould, with gross un-
purged ear.]

I do not recollect this reason in
Plato, the Somnium Scipionis, or
Macrobius. But our author, in
an academic Prolusion on the



Music of the Spheres, having explained Plato's theory, assigns a similar reason. 66 Quod autem "nos hanc minime audiamus har"moniam, sane in causa videtur σε esse, furacis Promethei auda"cia, quæ tot mala hominibus "invexit, et simul hanc felicita"tem nobis abstulit, qua nec


unquam frui licebit, dum sce"leribus cooperti belluinis, cu"piditatibus obrutescimus.-At "si pura, si nivea gestaremus

[ocr errors]

pectora-tum quidem suavis"sima illa stellarum circum"euntium musica personarent "aures nostræ et opplerentur." Prose Works, vol. ii. 588. See Observat. on Spenser's F. Q. ii. 32. On the same principle, the airy music which the waking poet hears in Il Penseroso, was sent only "by some spirit to "mortals good." v. 153. And in his Prose Works, he mentions those "celestial songs to others "inapprehensible, but not to those "who were not defiled with

women, &c." Apol. Smectymn. p. 178. edit. Tol. It is the same philosophy in Comus, v. 457.

And in clear thought, and solemn vision,

Tell her of things which no gross ear can hear.

T. Warton.

Of human mould with gross unpurged ear;

And yet such music worthiest were to blaze
The peerless height of her immortal praise,
Whose lustre leads us, and for her most fit,

my inferior hand or voice could hit
Inimitable sounds, yet as we go,

Whate'er the skill of lesser gods can show,

I will assay, her worth to celebrate,

And so attend ye toward her glittering state:
Where ye may all that are of noble stem
Approach, and kiss her sacred vesture's hem.


O'ER the smooth enamell'd green,
Where no print of step hath been,

73. With gross unpurged ear;] Compare Shakespeare, Mids. N. Dr. a. iii. s. 1.

And I will purge thy mortal grossness


[blocks in formation]




cred vesture's hem.] Fairfax, in the metrical dedication of his Tasso to Queen Elizabeth, bids his Muse not approach too boldly,

nor soil

-her vesture's hem.

I must not quit Milton's Genius without observing, that a Genius is more than once introduced in See the poems on Lord Bacon's Jonson's Underwoods and Masques. birth-day, written 1620, vol. vi. 425. and in " Part of the King's "Entertainment passing to his "Coronation," the Genius of London appears. Ed. fol. 1616. ment at Theobald's, 1607, the diap. 849. And in the Entertainlogue is chiefly supported by a Genius, p. 887. And the Fates are represented teaching future things to the Genius of this piece, who is the Genius of the palace of Theobald's, p. 888. T. Warton.

84. enamell'd green.] Ena

Follow me as I sing,

And touch the warbled string,

Under the shady roof

Of branching elm star-proof.

Follow me,

I will bring you where she sits,

Clad in splendor as befits
Her deity.

Such a rural Queen

All Arcadia hath not seen.


NYMPHS and Shepherds dance no more
By sandy Ladon's lilied banks,

melled, with this application, occurs repeatedly in Sylvester's Du Bartas. And in Drayton, Sydney, and Peele. T. Warton. 87.-warbled string.] That is, the lute accompanied with the voice. T. Warton.

89.-branching elm star-proof.] That is, which will resist the evil

[blocks in formation]

See Peacham's Minerva Britanna, p. 182. edit. 1612. 4to. But literally the same line is applied to a grove in the Faerie Queene, i. i. 7. Where Spenser seems to have imitated Statius, Theb. 1. x. 85.

-Nulli penetrabilis astro
Lucus iners.-

influence of the planets. It is a Compare our author, P. L. b. ix.

vulgar superstition that one species of elm has this virtue. Warburton.

But I believe he means no more than, proof against the rays of the sun; impenetrable to star or sun-light, as he says P. L. ix. 1086. where see the note. Hurd.

One of Peacham's Emblems is the picture of a large and lofty grove, which defies the influence of the moon and stars appearing over it. This grove, in the verses affixed, is said to be,

Not pierceable to power of

any starre.


Where highest woods impenetrable To star, or sun-light, spread their umbrage broad.

Sylvester has "Sun-proof ar"bours," Du Bartas, p. 171. edit. 1621. Works. But starproof is astrological, as in Martin's Dumbe Knight, 1608. Reed's Old. Pl. iv. 479.

Or else star-cross'd with some hagg's hellishness. T. Warton. 97. By sandy Ladon's lilied banks, &c.] This was the most


On old Lycæus or Cyllene hoar

Trip no more in twilight ranks,

Though Erymanth your loss deplore,

A better soil shall give ye thanks.

From the stony Mænalus

Bring your flocks, and live with us,
Here ye shall have greater grace,

To serve the Lady of this place.

Though Syrinx your Pan's mistress were,
Yet Syrinx well might wait on her.

Such a rural Queen

All Arcadia hath not seen.

beautiful river of Arcadia, and the others are famous mountains of that country: and the poet calls it sandy Ladon after Ovid, Met. i. 702.

Donec arenosi placitum Ladonis ad



and it might properly be said to have lilied banks, since Dionysius, as I find him quoted by Farnaby, has called it Ευκαλαμον ποταμον και εὔστεφανον Λαδωνα.

97. I know not that Dionysius mentions the river Ladon any where, but in the following verse of the Periegesis, v. 417. Ηχι δε

ωγυγιος μηκυνεται ὕδασι Λαδων. Ovid mentions Ladon more than once, but without its lilies. Compare Statius, Theb. ix. 573. And Callimachus, Hymn. Jov. v. 18.

Festus Avienus, I believe, is the only ancient Latin poet, if he deserves the name, who speaks of the fertility of the fields washed by Ladon. Descript. Orb. v. 574.




Hic distentus aqua sata lambit pinguia

But by lilied banks we are perhaps only to understand waterlilies. Lilied seems to have been no uncommon epithet for the banks of a river. So in Sylvester, cited in England's Parnassus, 1600. p. 479. [Works, ut supr. p. 1201.]

By some cleare river's lillie-paved side.
T. Warton.

*Alice, Countess Dowager of Derby, was the lady before whom this Mask was presented at Harefield. She married Ferdinando Lord Strange; who on the death of his father Henry, in 1594, became Earl of Derby, but died the next year. She was the sixth daughter of Sir John Spenser of Althorpe in Northamptonshire. She was afterwards married to Lord Chancellor Egerton, who died in 1617. See Prelim. N. on Comus. And Dugd. Baron. iii. 414, 251. She died Jan. 26, 1635-6, and was buried at Hare

« PreviousContinue »