« PreviousContinue »
aromatic wood and gums, which were kindled by the rays of the sun. From the ashes there arose a full-grown young phænix, which bore the relics of the sire to Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt, and there deposited them in the temple of the sun, the other birds attending and gazing on him in his flight. See Pliny, Nat. Hist. x. 2; Ovid, Met. xv.; and Claudian, de Phænice. Tasso, Gier. Liber. xvii. 35, compares Armida to a phænix.-(N.)
275. There the gate was. A good angel (like the Good Shepherd) could enter at the gate ; not like Satan, who, as a thief climbing over the roof, flew over it. See iv. 181.-(N.)
276. i. e. Gathered up his wings, and looked in his proper character, an angel ; having no longer the appearance of a phænix.
277. See Isaiah vi. 2.-(N.)
284. Alluding to feathers on a bird lying short of one another, like plaits on a coat of mail.—“ Sky-tinctured” expresses beauty and durableness ; "grain," any dyed substance - (R.)
285. Homer, Il. xxiv. 333, &c. and Virgil, Æn. iv. 238, &c. have given elaborate descriptions of the flight of “ Maia's son,” Mercury, from heaven to earth, on a mission from the Almighty of benevolence to man, to guide and to warn him. Milton, who has exerted the whole force of his imagination, and lavished all the embellishments of imagery and diction, on his description of the flights of Raphael and Satan, has adopted, and as usual improved, every hint in the descriptions of his great architypes which was suited to his purpose. As these descriptions are referred to in my notes on other passages of the poem, and as the reader may wish to forin his own judgment, I quote at length :
- Τω δ' ου λαθον ευρυοπα Ζην Ες πεδιον προφανεντε' ιδων δ' ελεησε γεροντα Αιψα δ' αρ Ερμειαν υιον φιλον αντιον ηυδα, Ερμεια, σοι γαρ τε μαλιστα γε φιλτατον εστιν Ανδρι εταιρισσαι, και το εκλυες, ' θελησθα “Ως εφατ' ουδ' απιθησε διακτορος Αργειφoντης" Aυτικ' επειθ' υπο ποσσιν εδησατο καλα πεδιλα Αμβροσια, χρυσεια, τα μιν φερον ημεν εφ' υγρην Ηδ' επ' απειρονα γαιην, αμα πνoιης ανεμοιο Είλετο δε ραβδον, τη τ' ανδρων ομματα θελγει "Ων εθελει, τους δ' αντε και υπνωοντας εγείρει Την μετα χερσιν έχων πετετο κρατυς Αργειφoντης Αιψα δ' αρα Τροίην τε και Ελλησποντον έκανε, Βη δ' ιεναι κουρω αισυμνητηρι εοικως Πρωτον υπηνητη, του περ χαριστατη ήβη. Jupiter looking down from heaven, beholding with pity old Priam, the father of his people, soon about to be exposed to
danger from the direst enemy of his race, summons Mercury, his messenger, who on other occasions performed friendly offices to man, and despatches him to earth to hold social intercourse with the king, to advise and guide him. The winged messenger promptly obeys; and binding on his feet his wings, down speeds his flight. Compare with this 220, 221, 229, 230, 247, 248. It is uunecessary to point out the immeasurable superiority of Milton in his description of the progress of Raphael's flight – the spontancous opening of heaven's gates—the first view of earth, looking like a distant speck of land in the ocean-his sailing between worlds and worlds-his resemblance on his approach to earth, while high in the air, to a phenix- the gorgeous picinre of his wings, and his appearance in Paradise in his native majesty, (for it is in his graceful posture, after he alights, that he is chiefly compared to Mercury,) with that matchless accompaniment of his shaking his plumes, and diffusing a heavenly fragrance wide around. Compare Michael's descent, Gier Liber. ix. 60. “ Dixerat. Ille patris magni parere parabat
Imperio; et primum pedibus talaria nectit
cernit Atlantis duri, cælum qui vertice fulcit; Atlantis. cinctum assidue cui nubibus atris Piniferum caput et vento pulsatur et imbri Hic primum paribus nitens Cyllenius alis Constitit: hinc toto præceps se corpore ad
undas Misit, avi similis quæ circum littora, circum Piscosos scopulos, humilis volat æquora
Virgil, who labours to improve on Homer, represents Jupiter as sending Mercury to warn Æneas of his danger in disobeying the divine injunction, and neglecting the high destinies in store for him. Here Mercury "flies close by the surface of the sea.” So Satan (ii.634) “shaves with level wing the deep."
In Homer, Mercury's wings bear him "over moist and o'er the boundless earth.” In Virgil, they “bear him over sea and earth.” Milton embraces all; for (iii. 652) God's angels “bear his swift errands over moist and dry, o'er sea and land.” Mercury
lights on Mount Atlas, and thence throws himself headlong to the waves. Satan (iii. 70) does much more ; for he “ Down from the ecliptic, sped with hop'd suc
cess, Throws his steep flight in many an aery
wheel, Nor staid till on Nephates' top he lights.” Virgil represents “the pine capped head of Atlas, girt day by day with gloomy clouds, beat with the wind and rain." Milton (ii. 587) represents a whole “frozen continent dark and wild, beat with perpetual storm of whirlwind and dire hail.” Mercury drives " the winds, and swims through troubled clouds.” Raphael here “sails on the polar winds (the strongest of all winds, and) with steady wing;" and Satan does more, for he (ii. 1014) “ through the shock of fighting elements on all sides round environed wins his way.” Virgil compares Mercury to a sea-bird winging close along the cliffs ; but Raphael is like the phænix soaring in mid heaven. Thus the reader will see with what masterly power he embellishes whatever he touches, and how superior is his description to both those.
288. Virg. Ecl. vi. 66:· Utque viro Phæbi chorus assurrexerit omnis." Homer, alluding to the heavenly messenger Iris, ll. xxiii. 203—
- τοι δ' ως ιδον οφθαλμοισι Παντες ανοιξαν, καλεον δε.-(Cal.) 296. “ Pouring forth enormous bliss," which was the more sweet, as it was “ wild above rule or art.”—(N.)
299. See Gen. xviii. 1.
300. See 370. Milton frequently conveys the classical notion of the sun mounting up and descending in a chariot. Virg. Georg. iii. 359:“Nunc quum invectus equis altum petit æthe
ra, nunc quum Præcipitem oceani rubro lavit æquore cur
rum."-(Cal.) 326, 327. “ Boughs” refers to fruit trees; "plant,” what produces such fruit as strawberries; “brake," a shrub between trees and plants, producing currants, gooseberries, raspberries, &c.;
gourd,” every productive leafy thing that lies on the ground.”—(P.)
** Nam hinc scio mea solide solum gavisurum
gaudia." Æn. xii. 680 :
“ Hunc oro sine me furere ante furorem."
339—341. “ Middle shore," the Mediterranean shore.—“In Pontus," where the rich and powerful Mithridates reigned.
-“ Punic coast," the maritime country of the wealthy Carthaginians.—" Alcinous ;" Homer, in the Odyssey, has immortalized the gardens of Alcinous, king of the island Phæacia, or Corcyra, now Corfu.
345.“ Must," (mustum,) new wine; Milton adds, “inoffensive," not fermented, therefore not intoxicating: “Meaths,” pleasant drinks like mead. — (Th.)
349. “Unfumed.” Not burned, or emitting steam or smoke as in fumigation ; but it was natural odour.-(Heyl.)
351. Bentley says, that to avoid a solecism here, we should read “ with no more train than with," &c.
356. “ Besmear'd with gold." Hor. iv. Od. ix. 14:-"Aurum vestibus illitum."
361, 362. The sentiment and turn of words here resemble what Æneas says to Venus, Æn. i. 327 :“O quam te memorem, virgo, namque haud
tibi vultus Mortalis, nec vox hominem sonat, O Dea
certe."--(Th.) 369. i.e. To taste as you sit. See note on ii. 917.
371. " Angelic virtue," the angel; a Homeric expression: thus Homer uses, Tipiuuoio Benv, the strength of Priam, for Priam himself, Il. iii. 105; and 'Ektopos uevos, for Hector, Il. xiv. 418. So Virgil has “odora canum vis,” for scenting dogs, Æn. iv. 132 ; and “vimque deum infernam," for the infernal deities, Æn. xii. 149.-(H.)
378. The goddess of fruit trees, Po. mona, had not a more delightful arbour. See Oy. Met. xiv. 623.-(N.)
380. This calls to mind that memorable saying, “Induitur, formosa est; exuitur, ipsa forma est :” dressed, she beautiful ; undressed, she is beauty itself.” With the same elegance of expression, he said of Adam, 353, “In himself was all his state."-(N.).
382. Alluding to the contest for superiority of beauty in presence of Paris, as the appointed judge between Juno, Minerva, and Venus. 384.“ Proof," in the old poets, means
It is often used adjectively to
331. See Il. ix. 205.
333. “ What choice to choose." There are many instances of this jingling combination of words of the same signification in the best classic authors. Ter. And. v. 5.8:
signify, impenetrable, capable of resisting. See Johnson.
387. See Luke i. 28. Mary is called * second Eve," as Christ sometimes is called “second Adam."-(N.)
394. " Autumn," for the fruits of autumn. Georg. ii. 5 :
." pampineo gravidus autumno Floret ager."—N.) 396. “No fear lest dinner cool." These words have been censured as very undignified; but I think Milton, who was very temperate in his diet, wished to convey by them his low opinion of the luxurious and epicurean habits of his time. There are many allusions in Homer and Virgil more undignified.
406. “ Of," here, as in other passages, means by.
407. Mention being made in Scripture of angels' food, Psalm lxxviii. 25, was foundation enough for Milton to advance the notion of angels eating.-(N.)
413. The prosody of this line is remarkable; the first foot is a pyrrhic, and the second a trochee.
415–426. Though modern discoveries have proved that some of Milton's philosophy is not correct here—for instance, the “spots" in the moon do not proceed from “vapours not yet turned into her substance,” but from the inequalities of her surface, and the different nature of her constituent parts, land and wateryet, as a poet, and a man writing according to the ancient system of philosophy, he is excusable. It is allowed by all the old philosophers that the sun and fixed stars receive supplies of nourishment from other bodies: this thought runs through an ode of Anacreon, Od. xix. :
“Η γη μελαινα πινει,
Τον δ' ηλιον σεληνη. “ The dark earth imbibes, and the trees imbibe her, and the sea imbibes the air, and the sun the sea, and the moon the sun.” Pliny, ii. 9, gives the same account as Milton, of the spots in the moon.-(N.)
421. À classical idiom. See note on 548. Virg. Georg. i. 83:“ Nec nulla interea est inaratæ gratia terræ."
426, &c. In mentioning “trees of life," and "vines" in heaven, he is justi. fied by Scripture, Matt. xxvi. 29; Rev. ii. 2.- Afterwards “mellifluous dews,"
pearly grain," allude to manna,
which is called the bread of heaven, “and was like coriander seed, white ; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey," Exod. xvi.-(N.)
435. “ Gloss," from yawora, a coument. Several of the ancient doctors of divinity were of opinion that the angels did not eat in reality, but only seemed to do so; but Milton follows the account in Gen. xviii. and xix. where it is plainly stated that the angels entertained by Abraham and Lot did eat.-(N.)
438. “ Redounds." i. e. The superabundant part, which does not mix with the blood by way of nutriment, evaporates.
439. i.e. Nor is it any wonder that angels have concoctive heat within them to turn their food into their own substance, to
turn corporeal into incorporeal," if by fire the alchymist can turn, or imagines he can turn, basest metals to gold.* Empyric,” (εμπειρικος, from πειρα, An attempt,) one who makes trials without much skill, like a quack in physic.(N.)
445. The Greeks and Romans used the phrase " crown the cup," or the wine, to mean “to fill it up brim full." 1. i. 47:
Κουροι μεν κρητηρας επεστεψαντο ποτι So Virg. Æn. has "crateras coronant," and “vina coronant."
447. The repetition of “then,” adds great emphasis. See Gen. vi. 2, and note on iii. 463.
451. II. i. 469:Αυταρ επει πoσιος και εσητνος εξ ερον εντο. Milton adds a fine moral, “not burdened. nature." See xi. 530.-(N.)
452. “ Sudden mind arose in Adam," quite a classical mode of expression.
456. “ Excellence" is a general word, which he divides into two particulars, “radiant forms,” (which were the effulgence of the Deity) and their “high power."-(P.)
468. As the Almighty sent Raphael to “ bring on discourse" with Adam, in order to take that opportunity of pointing out to him his duty, and of warning him, Milton very judiciously represents Adam as at first framing a “wary speech," in order to elicit information, without exhibiting presumptuous inquisitiveness; and Raphael as taking the hint before any direct question is asked, and then commencing with a general dissertation. Had Raphael at once entered on the subject of his mission, it would appear harsli,
will and deed ; two negatives classically used, as constituting an increased affirmative. See note on i. 335.
551. i.e. The single or sole prohibition of eating the forbidden fruit.
557. i.e. Silence such as should be observed in religious rites. Hor. ii. Od. xiii. 29:
“ Utrumque sacro digna silentio
Mirantur umbræ dicere.”—(R.) 563. There are eleven syllables in this line : in the scansion, the e in “ me" is to be absorbed. According to the general rules of epic poetry, the principal events which happened before the action of the poem commences, are introduced by way of episode. Thus, as Homer's Ulysses relates his previous adventures to Alcinous, and Virgil's Æneas recounts to Dido the siege of Troy and his own travels, so the angel here relates to Adain the fall of angels and the creation of the world, and commences much in the same manner as Æneas does, Æn. ii. 3 :" Infandum regina jubes renovare dolorem."
(N.) 568. Æn. vi. 226 :“Sit mihi fas audita loqui, sit numine vestro Pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas."
(Stil.) 573. “Spiritual” here is a trisyllable ; and “corporal" a dissyllable.
and at once imply distrust in Adam's obedience and fidelity. ( Gr. and Ad.)
472. i.e. All being created perfect in their different kinds (not absolutely) and consisting of one first matter which is endued with various forms and degrees of substance and life.-(N.)
475, 476. Spenser, in his Hymn of Heavenly Beauty, has a similar thought. -(Th.) The word "spirituous" is here a trisyllable; spiritous is another reading.
478. Newton censures Milton's metaphysics here, as attributed to an archangel; but says that Milton may have meant a comment on the doctrine of a natural body changed into a spiritual, as in 1 Cor. xv.
482. “ Spirits" is here a dissyllable, though often, as in second next line, a monosyllable; and “odorous" has here the second syllable long, though elsewhere, as iv. 166, it has it short.-(N.)
488. “ Discourse" here means human reason (discursus, or running to and fro to arrive at a certain point; figuratively applied to the operations of the inind, in arriving from the premises at a result, through many stages.) Locke (Human Understanding) says, intuition, which requires no process of proofs, is peculiar to angels; whereas reasoning, which does require those intermediate operations, is characteristic of man.--" The latter," i. e. intuition (angelic reason), classically understood out of “intuitive."
498. “Tract of time," a long period of time, (tractu temporis.) Tractus sometimes is applied to length. Milton, in the commencement of his poem, says that Adam brought “ death” into the world, strictly speaking, and not figuratively. This was the opinion of many primitive fathers and of the best divines. -(N.)
504. “Your fill,” i. e. to your fill, like the Latin in plenum.
510, “ Centre," i. e. one first material centre, as expressed before, to the utmost limits of creation which the power of man can comprehend. He alludes to the Platonic philosophy, of rising gradually from the consideration of particular created beauty to that which is universal and uncreated.-( Th., R.)
520. He fully observes here the precept of Horace, Art. Poet. 335 : “Quicquid præcipies esto brevis ;" for the sentences are short, and split up into a number of distinct precepts.-(N.)
546. See iv. 680.
574. Milton, in order to make Adam comprehend these mysteries, represents Raphael as saying that he must liken things spiritual to things corporal ; and questioning whether there be not a greater resemblance between things in heaven and on earth, than most men comprehend. A similar doctrine is to be found in Cicero, Fragm. Timæus, ad initium. Thus the poet prepares the reader for receiving as facts many of his representations of these æthereal spirits, especially in the battle scenes.- -(N., T.) This palliating explanation of Milton the reader should bear in mind, as being a full answer to the cold cavils of some critics on parts of his representations of the angels, or his machines.
575. “ The shadow of heaven," in scansion, constitute only two feet.
579. See vii. 242. So Ovid, Met. i. 13, says of the earth, “Ponderibus librata suis,"—kept evenly balanced by her own weight.
583. See the same thought, 861. He seems to have in view Plato's great year of the heavens, or complete revolution of all the spheres, when every thing was to return to the same place whence it set
out. (Auson. Idyl. xviii. 15.) Virgil, Ecl. iv. 5:
Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo." The thought of this summoning of the heavenly host, Milton seems to have taken from Job i. 6; 1 Kings xxii. 19.(R., N.)
589. “ Gonfalons.” An Italian word for banners ; properly, the Pope's standard, which was displayed with great pomp. Milton, it is said, was fond of referring to the splendid scenes and exhibitions he witnessed in Italy. So, 592, 593, he is supposed to have had in view the procession, on the great festivals, of the banners of the saints, on which were inscribed or painted memorials of their believed miracles. I do not think that he had here these processions particularly in view, so much as he had generally the “well devised shield, and curious banner" of the heroes of chivalry. Thus, vi. 84, he mentions the “shields various with boastful argument portrayed.”
598, 599. This idea is taken from the Divine presence on Mount Sinai, Exod. xix. See note on iii. 380.
602, &c. Compare Psalm ii. 6,7; Gen. xxii. 16; Phil. ii. 10; Heb. i. 5; Isa. xlv. 23. So cautiously does Milton, when he represents the Almighty speaking, confine himself to the sentiments, and even phrases of Scripture.—(N.,7.) Compare Jupiter's address to the assembled deities, Il. viii. when he pronounces his irrevocable decree, and threatens the disobedient; which I think to the point:
Κεκλυτε μεν παντες τε θεοι, πασαι τε θεαιναι,
then the whole difficulty would be removed by a transposition of words, thus :
“I have begot whom I declare this day." This arrangement would not interfere with the account of the creation, nor with what Satan says, 856, &c. Satan's objection to Messiah was not on account of the recency or antiquity of his existence, but to the delegation of supreme power to him, which placed himself in a state of inferiority and dependence.
608, 609. The hymning and dancing all day long in honour of Apollo, and his listening delighted, in the first book of the Iliad, I think, did not escape Milton's recollection, 472:
Οι δε πανημεριoι μολπη θεον ιλασκοντο, Καλoν αειδοντες παιηονα, κουροι ΑχαιωνΜελποντες Εκάεργον' ο δε φρενα τερπετ'
I may observe, too, that helpoites means, singing and dancing together. 633-639. Odyss. v. 93:
παρεθηκε τραπεζαν Αμβροσιης πλησασα, κερασσε δε νεκταρ ερυθρον. This feast is in its description much richer than the banquet of the gods in Homer's Iliad, iv. Homer's nectar is ruddy, epvô pov; Milton's is “rubied." Homer's gods drink nectar in golden cups, κρυσεοις δεκαεσσι, but here the nectar flows “in pearl, in diamond, and massy gold.” Every image here is dignified, and suited to the occasion.--"Secure of surfeit," i.e. in no danger, or fear, of it; “ full measure only bounds excess," the utmost they are capable of containing is the only bound set to them.-(N. Ban.)
642. So Homer calls night "ambrosial," Il. ii. 97; and sleep, for the same reason, “ambrosial,” v. 19, because it strengthens and refreshes.—(N). Mr. Wyse, M.P. for Waterford, a great oriental traveller, and one of the best scholars I know, has told me that the word " ambrosial” (außpooin) applied to night in Homer, evidently refers to the delightful serenity of the air, and the fragrant exhalations from the flowers, during the summer nights in Ionia (the country of Homer), which have a composing and invigorating effect.
643. See vi. 4.
647. So Psalm cxxi. 4; so Homer, Il. ii. 1:Αλλοι μεν ρα θεοι Εύδον παννυχιοι Δια δ' ουκ εχε νηδυμος ύπνος.
656. Thus the Muses sing around the throne of Jove, in Hesiod, Theog. 36. See also the last Olympic Ode of Pindar.
603. “ This day I have begot whom I declare." This line strikes me as very objectionable. There appears a marked contradiction between it and 836, 837, and other passages. This the commentators have overlooked. If he was begotten on that day only,—the day before Satan's rebellion, how could he be called the Creator of all things, even the spirits of heaven, &c. ? It is no answer to say, that to the Almighty the past, present, and future are one; for we are only to consider whether the poet, who introduces these divisions of time in heaven, in order to make us comprehend the progress of events there by “likening things spiritual to temporal,” is consistent. I think