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Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven
So Satan spake, and him Beëlzebub
He scarce had ceased when the superior fiend
1 From the Latin acies, which signifies both the edge of a weapon and an army drawn up in battle array. Or we may, with Newton, compare 2 Henry IV. act i.
“ You knew, he walked o'er perils, on an edge
More likely to fall in than to get o'er."
“ I'll read you matter, deep and dangerous ;
Hot. If he fall in, good night, or sink or swim." 2 The shield of Satan was large as the moon seen through a tele. scope, an instrument first applied to celestial observations by Galileo, a native of Tuscany, whom he means here by “the Tuscan artist," and afterwards mentions by name in v. 262; a testimony of his honour for so great a man, whom he had known and visited in Italy, as himself informs us in his “ Areopagitica."—Newton.
Or in Valdarno,' to descry new lands,
Fairfax's Tasso, vi. 40. 3 According to its German extraction, amiral, or amirael, says Hume; from the Italian ammiraglio, says Richardson, more probably. Our author made choice of this, as thinking it of a better sound than admiral : and in Latin he writes, ammiralatus curia, the court of admiralty.
4 A valley of Tuscany, remarkable for its cool and delightful shades.
5 Orion is a constellation represented in the figure of an armed man, and supposed to be attended with stormy weather, assurgens fluctu nimbosus Orion, Virg. Æn. i. 539. And the Red Sea abounds so much with sedge, that in the Hebrew Scripture it is called the Sedgy Sea. And he says “ hath vexed the Red Sea coast” particularly, because the wind usually drives the sedge in great quantities towards the shore.-Newton.
6 There is no historical authority for making Pharaoh Busiris ; but Milton was at liberty to borrow a common tradition respecting that king, and adapt it to his verse.
7 Chivalry (from the French chevalerie) signifies not only knighthood, but those who use horses in fight, both such as ride on horses and such as ride in chariots drawn by them. In the sense of riding and fighting on horseback this word chivalry is used in verse 765, and in many places of Fairfax's Tasso, as in Cant. 5, st. 9. Cant. 8. st. 67. Cant. 20. st. 61. In the sense of riding and fighting in chariots drawn by horses, Milton uses the word chivalry in Parad. Reg. üi. ver. 343. compared with ver. 328.—Pearce.
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung
| Because Pharaoh, after leave given to the Israelites to depart, fol. lowed after them like fugitives.-Hume.
2 See Exod. x. 13, sqq.
Till, at a signal given, the uplifted spear
1 This comparison does not fall below the rest, as some have imagined. They were thick as the leaves, and numberless as the locusts, but such a multitude the north never poured forth; and we may observe that the subject of this comparison rises very much above the others, leaves and locusts. The populous north, as the northern parts of the world are observed to be more fruitful of people than the hotter countries : Sir William Temple calls it "the northern hive." “ Poured never," a very proper word to express the inundations of these northern nations. · From her frozen loins;" it is the Scripture expression of children and descendants “coming out of the loins," as Gen. xxxv. 11, “Kings shall come out of thy loins;” and these are called frozen loins only on account of the coldness of the climate. “To pass Rhene or the Danaw." He might have said, consistently with his verse, The Rhine or Danube, but he chose the more uncommon names, Rhene, of the Latin, and Danaw, of the German, both which words are used too in Spenser. “When her barbarous sons, &c. They were truly barbarous ; for besides exercising several cruel. ties, they destroyed all the monuments of learning and politeness wherever they came. “ Came like a deluge.” Spenser, describing the same people, has the same simile. Faërie Queen, B. ii. cant. 10. st. 15.
And overflowed all countries far away,
Like Noye's great flood, with their importune sway." They were the Goths, and Huns, and Vandals, who overran all the southern provinces of Europe.-Newton.
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last,
1 The ark of the covenant was placed between the golden cherubim. Compare 2 Kings xix. 15, “O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubim."
2 See 2 Kings xxi. 4; Jer. vii. 30; Ezek. vii. 20, viii. 5, sq.
3 The name Moloch signifies king, and he is called “horrid” king, because of the human sacrifices which were made to him This idol is supposed by some to be the same as Saturn, to whom the heathens (especially the Carthaginians, See Porphyr. de Abstin. ii. 27.) sacri. ficed their children, and by others to be the sun. When it is said in Scripture that the children “passed through the fire to Moloch,” we must not understand that they always actually burnt their children in honour of this idol, but sometimes made them only leap over the flames, or pass nimbly between two fires, to purify them by that lustration, and consecrate them to this false deity. He was the god of the Ammonites, and is called “the abomination of the children of Ammon," 1 Kings xi. 7, and was worshipped in Rabba, their capital city, which David conquered. This Rabba being called the “city of waters," 2 Sam. xi. 27, it is here said, “Rabba and her watery plain;" and, likewise, “ in Argob and in Basan,” neighbouring countries to Rabba, and subject to the Ammonites, as far as “ to the stream of utmost Arnon," which river was the boundary of their country on the south.--Newton.