« PreviousContinue »
river divides Negroland into two parts“ Mount Atlas," the most western part of Africa ; "the kingdoms of Almansor," namely, Fez, Sus, Morocco, Algiers, and Tremisen, all in Barbary. After barely glancing at Europe, as it was well known, the poet mentions the most important empires in America. (“In spirit, perhaps, he also saw;" he could not see it otherwise, as it was on the opposite side of the globe.) “Rich Mexico," the seat of Montezeume, the last emperor, subdued by the Spanish general Cortes; “Cusco," the capital of “ Peru,” the richer seat of “Atabalipa,” its last emperor, subdued by the Spanish general Pizarro ; "yet unspoiled Guiana,” another country of South America, not then invaded and spoiled, whose great city, Manhoa, the Spaniards, “ Geryon's sons,' (Geryon, an ancient king of Spain, and in classic authors synonymous with powerful robber) called “El Dorado," or the golden city, on account of its riches and extent. The poet having thus represented the angel as showing Adam the chief places of the earth, makes him show him"nobler sights,” i.e. the principal actions of men to the consummation of all things. The angel “removed the film from Adam's eyes," as Minerva removed the mist from Diomede's, (II. v. 127,) and Venus from Æneas's, (Æn. ii. 604); and also as does the same angel from those of Godfrey (Gier. Lib. xviii. 93).
Tasso has, says Thyer, employed (c. xv.) thirty or forty stanzas in a digressive description of this sort.
414. “Rue" was used in exorcisms, and is called by Shakspeare “herb of grace;" "euphrasy," or eye-bright, so named from its healing virtue.-(H., N.)
420. Newton says this is copied from Rev. i. 17, or from Dan. x. 8.
427. “ Nor sinned thy sin." This mode of expression is scriptural, Greck, and Latin. " Ye have sinned a great sin," Exod. xxxii. 30; mirai noe ameianu, servit servitutem, when a substantive of a kindred nature is used as the accusative after a verb generally neuter.-(N.)
429–449. This scene represents the murder of Abel, a shepherd, by his brother Cain, an agriculturist. See Gen. iv. 2, &c. Tilth," tilled. “Sord," the old word for sward, turf. The poet makes them offer both sacrifices on the same altar, for the word brought in Scripture, which he retains, is understood of their bringing their offerings to the same place of worship. This altar he makes of green
turf, as the first altars are represented tu be, and describes the sacrifice somewhat in the manner of Homer. Cain makes no selection in the choice of the things offered; but Abel does; and in this some scriptural commentators say the guilt of Cain mainly consisted, which rendered his offering not acceptable, as being insincere or careless. The "midriff,” or diaphragm, is a nervous muscle separating the breast from the belly.-(See N.) In the first editions the word was written “sord," but Johnson says this is a corruption of “sward," turf.
457. * Acceptance," i. e. by fire coming from heaven to consume his offering, as Milton said before, and as the best Hebrew and Christian commentators understand the passage.—(N.)
482. “ All feverous kinds." Febrium cohors.-(Hor., T.)
485_487. These lines were introduced in the second edition, and Bentley would reject them. He objects to “phrensy, melancholy, and lunacy” being made shapes of death, as they are often attended with long life; but Pearce replies, that they are attended with misery, and so explain line 476.
“Marasmus,” uupao uos, consumption accompanied by fever gradually wasting the body.
• Atrophy," atpopla, a disease in which food has no power to sustain the body.
489. This is entirely in the picturesque manner of Spenser, and seems particularly to allude to that beautiful passage, (Fairy Queen, II. vii. 21-24), when describing the passage to " Pluto's grisly reign," he represents Pain, Strife, Revenge, &c. as so many persons assembled; and over them sat Horrour soaring with grim
hue, and beating his iron wings, &c.—( Th.)
494. See Tibull. Eleg. I. i. 63, where there is the combination of "heart of rock” and “ dry eyed."—(D.)
496, 497. Whalley and Dunster have remarked that Milton's mind must have been impressed with the following passages from Shakspeare's Macbeth, " And thou oppos'd be not of roman born
For it hath cow'd my belter part of man." Hen. V. “ But all my mother came unto my eyes And
gave me up to tears." 499. “ And” couples “renewed" here
Μη φύναι τον άπαντα νι-
518. “ His image.” The image of natural philosophy, especially of astroAppetite, the brutish vice, which is here nomy.-(N.) personified as a carnal demon.-(N.) 582. “A bevy." A company; a word 519. “Inductive." Leading to, from
often used by the old English poets. induco.
590, &c. The description of the shield 524. See Rom. i. 21, 24.-( Gil.) of Achilles is one of the finest and most
531. “Not too much.” Ne quid nimis ; admired pieces of poetry in the whole an old maxim of philosophy.
Iliad; and Milton has plainly shown his 538. How much more dignified and admiration and affection for it by intropoetic is this summary than the shocking ducing in this visionary part of his work details of the miseries of old age which so many analogous scenes and images ; Juvenal gives, Sat. x.
but they exceed the originals, and receive 544. Damp” here means depression this additional beauty, that they are most of spirits, dejection.
of them made representations of real his550. Job xiv. 14.-(Gil.)
tories and matters of fact. Thus, this 553. “What thou livest." A Latinism,
passage, and ver. 583 and 584quod vivis, whatever life you live. “Nor
_" To the harp they sung love thy life, nor hate." Martial, x.- Soft amorous ditties, and in dance came on;" “Summum nec metuas diem, nec optes."-(N.)
is a beautiful copy of Homer, Il. xviii. 554. “ Permit to heaven.” Permitte 491:Divis. Hor. i. Od. ix.-(N.)
- Εν τη μεν ρα γαμοι τ' εσαν, ειλαπιναι τε, 563. A "fugue" is in music the cor- Νυμφας δ' εκ θαλαμων, δαιδων υπο λαμπoμεναων, respondency of parts, answering one an
Ηγινεον ανα αστυ" πολυς δ' υμεναιος ορωρει, other in the same notes either above or
Κουροι δ' ορχηστηρες εδινεον, εν δ' αρα τοισιν
Αυλοι φορμιγγες τε βοην εχον. below, therefore elegantly styled resonant, as sounding the same notes over again. (See also Hesiod, Scut. Hercul. 272.-(H.)
Stil.) So ver. 429-431 and 556—558, 565–568. From Lucretius, v. 1240:
before, are taken from Homer, ver. 550,
&c. :“Quod superest, æs atque aurum, ferrumque Εν δ' ετιθει τεμενος βαθυ ληίον ενθα δ' εριθοι . repertum est,
“Ημων, οξειας δρεπανας εν χερσιν έχοντες Et simul argenti pondus, plumbique, potestas Δραγματα δ' αλλα μετ' ογμον επητριμα πιπτον Ignis ubi ingentes sylvas ardore cremárat Montibus in magnis."
Αλλα δ' αμαλλοδετηρες εν ελλεβανοισι δεοντο. . Potestas ignis expresses the consuming And ver. 587, &c. :power of fire. So "potentia solis.” Virg.
Εν δε νομον ποιησε περικλυτος Αμφιγυηεις - Jortin.) Gliding hot to some cave's
Εν καλη βησση μεγαν οιων αργενναων, mouth," Boiling up from the recesses of Σταθμους τε, κλισιας τε, κατηρεφεας ιδε σηκους. the earth to the mouth of some cave, where the smith first found it; the heat
In like manner, the driving away of the of the burned wood above working into
sheep and oxen from pasture, and the the earth, and there melting
battle that ensues thereupon (ver. 646, which boiled
&c.), may be compared with the following up 574–580. The descendants of Cain
passage in Homer, ver. 527, &c. :are first mentioned ; after these, the de- Οι μεν τα προϊδοντε επεδραμον, ωκα δ' επειτα scendants of the younger brother Seth,
Ταμνοντ’ αμφι βοων αγελας και πωεα καλα
Αργεννων οιων κτεινον δ' επι μηλοβοτηρας. who were righteous men, and therefore of
Οι δ' ως ουν επυθοντο πολυν κελαδον αμφι a different sort; these came from the hills
βουσιν, adjacent to Paradise, where their resi- Ιραων προπαροιθε καθημενοι, αυτικο
ίππων dence was, to the plain where the de
Βαντες αερσιποδων μετεκιαθν' αιφα δ' έκοντο. .
έμαχοντο μαχην ποταμοίο παρ scendants of Cain dwelt, (Cain having οχθας. been banished far off into the low country,) Βαλλον δ' αλληλους χαλκηρεσιν εγχειησι.
. and there became corrupted by their in
The representation of the city besieged, tercourse with the female descendants of
in Milton, ver. 655, &c. is a great imCain. See Gen. iv. 20, &c. Though
provement on that in Homer, ver. 509, this account of the Sethites be in general
&c. :conformable to Scripture, yet these particulars Milton seems to have taken from Τηνδ' ετέρην πολιν αμφι δυο στρατοι είατο λαων
Τευχεσι λαμπoμενοι. . the oriental writers, particularly the annals of Eutychius. Josephus, Antiq. bi. c. So the council, in Milton, ver. 660, &c 2, says they were addicted to the study of is much more elaborately described, and
appears more important than that in
(See N.) 614. Bentley, in place of “for” would read ev'n. Pearce thinks “for” introduces a proof of their acknowledging none of their Maker's gifts, and that the construction of 616 is " yet were empty," &c. Newton says “the construction is * thou saw'st that fair female troop that seemed,' &c. which is a sufficient proof of the posterity of Cain begetting a beauteous offspring." This explanation is adopted by Todd: but I cannot see its propriety. Does it mean that they would beget a beauteous offspring, because he saw them; or because he saw them to be fair ? (He does not explain the force or application of " for"); either sense is not satisfactory. According to the explanation of Pearce, we must take the preceding line parenthetically. In my opinion this is a specimen of Greek construction, where the subject of a clause is used elliptically, and is governed by a preposition understood, kata; thus here, “ for as to that fair female troop, whom thou saw'st, that seemed of goddesses so fair (in the style of goddesses)—to these,” &c. Sometimes, in Greek, the nominative is used without its verb, the structure of the sentence being changed, and the next clause referring to it and explaining it. Sometimes the accusative, in this way; however the peculiarity here and elsewhere in English poetry, can be accommodated to either Greek mode. Of this there is a striking example, 694, “ He, whom thou beheld'st--him the Most High did receive.”
620. “ Troll the tongue." Todd thinks the word “troll,” here, is used in a satirical sense, applicable to the voluble or affected tongue of these fair atheists. See note on iii. 463.
626. In allusion to the deluge.
638. Warburton observes, that cannot perceive the pertinence of this, without supposing that it hinted at the circumstances of the land army, at the time Cromwell and the royalists were so hotly engaged.” Every reader must perceive that these descriptions of the military preparation, of the scenery, of the encounter, of the siege, and of the council, are immeasurably superior to those of Homer.
642. “ Emprise." An old word, the same as enterprise.
660. "Sceptered heralds." EknTTOVXOU 661. “ To council in the city gates." For there assemblies were anciently held, and judges used to sit. Gen. xxxiv. 20; Deut. xvi. 18; xxi. 19; Zech. viii. 16.– (N.)
665. Enoch, said to be of the middle age, because he was translated to heaven, when he was but 365 years old; a middle age at that time (Gen. v. 23). He remonstrated against the wickedness of mankind, and denounced the heavy judgment of God against them, Jude 14. See ver. 704.-(R., N.) “ Who of themselves abhor to join," i. e. the good with the good; the bad with the bad.
687. As there are two interpretations of the word “giants,” (Gen. vi. 4,) some conceiving them to have been men of great stature; others, tyrants and robbers; Milton includes both.-(N.)
689. The poet here gives the original meaning of virtus, “virtue," before it came, in the progress of civilization, to be taken in a moral sense.
694, 695. “And for glory done of triumph." Newton says, " this is one of the most difficult passages.” Bentley proposes, “For glory won, or triumph.” Pearce approves of changing “done"
but not of “of” into or. Newton thus explains the passage, "To overcome, to spoil, shall be the highest pitch of glory, and shall be done for glory of triumph, i.e. shall be achieved for that end and purpose, to be styled great conquerors," &c. Stillingfleet observes, that the construction is, "to overcome in battle, &c. shall be held the highest pitch of glory, i.e. of glorious deeds, and of triumph, for that glory done, i. e. for those glorious deeds done." This, I think, the meaning of the passage. Let the passage be printed thus, and it will be quite
"Shall be held the highest pitch of human glory, and (for glory done)
of triumph, to be held great conquerors." “ For glory done,” means, on account of glory achieved.
711. The construction is remarkable ; " which" is not governed by the next verb, but by the last.-(N.) See note on v. 369.
Triumphs,” here, means processions. Newton says that the account of Noah's preaching is founded chiefly
on 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20, and of his removing to a distant country, when he found his preaching ineffectual, on Josephus, Antiq. i. 3.
730. See Gen. vi. 14, &c. A cubit is a foot and a half.-(N.)
732. “ Laid in large,” largely; the adjective used adverbially, as he often does, in imitation of the Latins.
735. “Sevens of clean creatures, and pairs of unclean," Gen. vii.-(N.)
738. Addison and Newton have noticed the superiority of the English poet to Ovid, in the description of the Deluge, in condensation and chasteness of imagery. Homer, who is supposed by Eustathius to have alluded to the Mosaic account in the following fine verses, appears to have escaped their notice, Il. xvi. 384:Ως δ' υπο λαιλαπι πασα κελαινη βε βριθε χθων Ηματ’ οπωρινω, ότε λαβροτατον χεει ύδωρ Ζευς, ότε δη ρ ανδροσσι κοτεσσάμενος χαλεπήνη, Οι βιη ειν αγορη σκολιας κρινωσι θεμιστας, Εκ δε δικην ελασωσι, θεων όπιν ουκ αλεγοντες. Των δε τε παντες μεν ποταμοι πληθoυσι ρεοντες, , Πολλας δε κλιτύς τοτ' αποτμητουσι χαραδροι Ες δ' άλα πορφυρε ην μεγαλα στεναχονσι ρέουσαι Εξ ορέων επι καρ' μινυθει δε τε εργ' ανθρωπων.
(T.) 750—752. Lycophron, Cassandra, ver. 83:Φαλαι τε, και δελφινες, αι τ' επ' αρσενων
Φερβοντο φωκαι λεκτρα θουμωσαι βρωτων. . Compare Isaiah xiii. 22.-(T.)
760. Homer compares the grief of Achilles to that of a father, Il. xxiii. 222. Sce Jer. xxxi. 15, &c.—(Cal., D.)
763. As Tiresias exclaims, Sophocl. Ed. Tyran. 324:
Φεν φευ" φρονειν ως δεινον, ενθα μη τελη
766. “Dispensed," i.e. dealt out as it were in parcels, to be the load of many ages. This word is used here with great propriety, and in its true antique sense. To dispense is to distribute their tasks to every one. Pensum, from penso, to weigh, was the quantity of wool weighed out to the maids to spin. See iii. 579.-(R.)
773, 774. “ Neither .... and." An elegant Latinism. “ Neither" is not always followed by nor, but sometimes by and, like neque in Latin.
“ Vide quid agas, ne neque illi prosis, et tu pereas." Ter. Eun. “ Homo neque meo judicio stultus, et suo valde sapiens.” Cic. de Or. -(N.)
798. Aristotle, and other masters in politics, inculcate this sentiment, that the loss of liberty is soon followed by the loss of virtue and religion.—(N.)
824. Gen. vi. * The same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” Milton here follows the Syriac and Arabic, the Septuagint and vulgar Latin versions, in which the windows of heaven are translated cataracts. Those who have seen water-spouts descending in hot countries can best understand “cataracts " here. The "great deep" is the vast abyss of waters contained within the bowels of the earth as well as in the sea.(N.)
831. The classic authors often compare rivers to bulls, whether because, when they meet with any obstruction to their passage, they divide themselves and become horned as it were; or from their roaring noise ; or from their power, horns being used as symbols of power. So Hor. iv. Od. xiv. 25, “Sic tauriformis volvitur Aufidus." See Virg. Georg. iv. 371, Æn, viii. 77.
833. The Euphrates is particularly called in Scripture (Gen. xv. 18), “the great river:" "the opening gulf,” the Persian gulf. Thus the Grecian wall is described as dislodged by an inundation, Il. xii. 24:Των παντων ομοσε στοματ’ ετραπε Φοιβος Απολ.
λων, , Eννημαρ δ' ες τειχος λεει ροον· υε δ' αρα Ζευς Συνεχες, οφρ' κε θασσον άλιπλοα τειχεα θειη.
(N.) 835. “ Orcs," a species of whale, with a round mouth, ab ore.-(T.) Karyn, and clangor, were generally used to express the rustling flight of large flocks of birds, and also their screams.
“ Clang," sider it highly descriptive and poetic. As the water became more shallow it lost its long full roll, and became more rippled and curled. The Greek and Latin poets are very fond of personifying water. Milton, in imitation of them, does so twice within five lines - here and ver. 847; here, when the deluge, or collected body of water, is becoming powerless, still, and shallow, he compares it with its barely ruffled surface to a wrinkled old man ; thus he (x. 654,) called winter" decrepit ;" (in imitation of Spenser's inimitable personification of winter as a grey old man. --Fairy Queen, VII. vii. 31.) There, he compares the different currents retiring to their usual bed, to young persons stepping lightly upon the toes, tripping,” (from tripudiare, to dance,)“ with soft foot towards the deep," as Hor. Epod. xvi. 47 :
778, 779. Ov. Met. i. 311 :“ Maxima pars unda rapitur ; quibus unda pe
percit, Illos longa domant inopi jejunia victu."
840. “Hull” is here a verb, to float to and fro without sail or rudder. See Johns.
841. The Scripture says only that God
Et cælo terras ostendit, et æthera terris.
842. “ Wrinkled the face of deluge, as decayed.” Thyer censures this comparison as far-fetched and boyish. I con
1. These five lines were inserted in the second edition.
5. “ Transition.” Dunster remarks, that this word is here used in the classical sense of transitus, or transitio orationis, which was a high rhetorical beauty. In the Rhetorica ad Herennium, iv. 35, it is thus defined : “Transition showeth briefly what hath been said, and proposeth likewise in brief what followeth. This embellishment contributes to two things, it reminds the reader of what hath been spoken, and prepares him for what is to come.” Quintillian often speaks of transition as
a graceful decoration to speech.
** Montibus altis
849. See Gen. viii.
" Listed,” striped. He calls it (897) “the triple coloured bow," on account of the three principal colours.
884. The reader will easily observe how much of this speech is built upon Scripture,--Gen. vi. 6 - 12 ; viii. 22 ; ix. 11, 14, 16. 2 Pet. iii. 12, 13.-(N.)
895. “Beast," here, includes birds too. The poet (ver. 733 and 822) has spoken of the inhabitants of the ark under the title of man and beast. In Scripture, “man and beast” comprehend all living creatures. See Psalm xxxvi. 6; Jer. xxi. 6, and xxxii. 43.-(P.)
901. The phrase "heaven and earth," signifies the world. See iii. 335.-(P.)
24. It is generally believed that Nimrod was the first who laid the foundation of kingly government among mankind; the primitive government being by families and tribes. In Gen. x. 9 it is said, that “ he was a mighty hunter before the Lord.” Milton, on the authority of several learned commentators, understands this in the worst sense, of hunting men, not beasts, (ver. 30.) The words " before the Lord,” openly in the face of God, St. Augustine translates “ against the Lord,” and Vatablus and others interpret them as meaning "under the Lord,"'usurping all authority to himself next under
God, and claiming it jure divino, as was done in Milton's own time. Milton takes in both interpretations (ver. 34, 35), as he often does when quoting a scriptural passage of various meaning. So he adopts the most unfavourable derivation of “ Nimrod,” which some give, from the Hebrew marad, to rebel, ver. 36.-(N.)
40. This narration of the erection of Babel is closely borrowed from Gen. xi. What our translation calls slime is in the Latin bitumen, in the Greek, asphaltos. It boiled up in fountains out of the ground in large quantities in the plain of Babylon, and was the cement used for the brickwork. Newton says, the poet calls this pool “the mouth of hell,” by the same poetic figure by which the ancient poets called Tænarus or Avernus, the jaws and gates of hell.-(N.)
51. So Gen. xi. 5. Scripture speaks here after the manner of men ; thus the heathen gods are often represented as coming down to observe the actions of men, as in the stories of Lycaon, Baucis and Philemon, &c.-(N.)
53. “ A various spirit,” i. e. a spirit producing variety of language, and consequently confusion, and the eventual failure of the work.-(R.)
59. Some critics rail at this and the