« AnteriorContinuar »
looking round upon the glories of the creation, is filled with sentiments different from those which he discovered while he was in Hell. The place inspires him with thoughts more adapted to it: he reflects upon the happy condition from whence he fell, and breaks forth into a speech that is softened with several transient touches of remorse and self-accusation; but at length he confirms himself in impenitence, and in his design of drawing man into his own state of guilt and misery. This conflict of passions is raised with a great deal of art, as the opening of his speech to the sun is very bold and noble. This speech is, I think, the finest that is ascribed to Satan in the whole Poem. Addison.
When Milton designed to have made only a tragedy of the PARADISE LOST, it was his intention to have begun it with the first ten lines of the following speech, which he showed to his nephew, Edward Philips, and others (as Philips informs us in his account of the life of his uncle). And what a noble opening of a play would this have been! The lines were certainly too good to be lost, and the Author has done well to employ them here; they could not have been better employed anywhere. Satan is made to address the sun, as it was the most conspicuous part of the creation; and the thought is very natural of addressing it like the God of this world, when so many of the Heathen nations have worshipped and adored it as such. Newton.
50. I sdeign'd] For disdain'd: an imitation of the Italian sdegnare. Hume. The same word is used by Spenser. Faery Queen, B. 5. Cant. 5. St. 44. and other places.
158. and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils.] This fine passage is undoubtedly taken from asfine a one in Shakspeare's Twelfth Night, at the beginning:
like the sweet south
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.
But much improved (as Dr. Greenwood remarks) by the addition of that beautiful metaphor, included in the word Whisper, which conveys to us a soft idea of the gentle manner in which they are communicated. Mr. Thyer is still of opinion that Milton rather alluded to the following lines of Ariosto's description of Paradise, where, speaking of the "dolce aura," he says,
E quella à i fiori, à i pomi, e à la verzura
E di tutti facera una mistura,
Che di soavità à l'alma notriva.
Orl. Fur. C. 34. St. 51.
The two first of these lines express the air's stealing of the native perfumes; and the two latter, that vernal delight which they give to the mind. Besides, it may be further observed, that this expression of the air's stealing and dispersing the sweets of flowers, is very common in the best Italian poets. To instance only in one more:
Dolce confusion di mille odori
Sparge, e 'nvola volando aura predace.
Adon. di Marino, C. 1. St. 15.
168. Than Asmodeus with, &c.] Asmodeus was the evil Spirit, enamoured of Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, whose seven husbands he destroyed; but after she was married to the son of Tobit, he was driven away by the fumes of the heart and liver of a fish; "the which smell, when the evil spirit had smelled, be fled into the utmost parts of Egypt; and the Angel bound him." See the book of Tobit, Chap. viii. Newton.
195. The middle tree and highest there that grew,] "The tree of life also in the midst of the garden," Gen. ii. 9. "In the midst," is a Hebrew phrase, expressing not only the local situation of this enlivening tree, but denoting its excellency, as being the most considerable, the tallest, goodliest, and most lovely tree in that beauteous garden, planted by God himself. So Scotus, Duran, Valesius, &c. whom our Poet follows, affirming it the "highest there that grew." ""To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." Rev. ii. 7.
196. Sat like a cormorant ;] The thought of Satan's transformation into a cormorant, and placing himself on the tree of life, seems raised upon that passage in the Iliad, where two deities are described as perching on the top of an oak, in the shape of vultures. Addison.
The Poet had compared Satan to a vulture before (iii. 431.) and here again he is well likened to a cormorant; which being a very voracious sea-fowl, is a proper emblem of this destroyer of mankind.
209. Of God the garden was, by him in th' east
Of Eden planted ;] So the sacred text, Gen. ii. 8. " And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden;" that is, eastward of the place where Moses writ his history, tho' Milton says "in th east of Eden;" and then we have in a few lines our Author's topography of Eden. This province (in which the terrestrial Paradise was planted) extended from Auran or Aaran, or Charran, or Charræ, a city of Mesopotamia, near the river Euphrates, extended, I say, from thence eastward to Seleucia: a city built by Seleucus, one of the successors of Alexander the Great, upon the river Tigris. Or in other words, this province was the same, where the children of Eden dwelt in Telassar (as Isaiah says, Chap. xxxvii. 12.); which Telassar, or Talatha, was a province, and a city of the children of Eden, placed by Ptolemy in Babylonia, upon the common streams of Tigris and Euphrates. See Sir Isaac Newton's Chronol. p. 275. So that our Author places Eden, agreeably to the accounts in Scripture, somewhere in Mesopotamia. Newton.
223. Southward through Eden went a river large,] This is most probably the river formed by the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris, which flows southward, and must needs be "a river large," by the joining of two such mighty rivers. Upon this river it is supposed by the best commentators, that the terrestrial Paradise was situated. Milton calls this river Tigris, in book ix. 71. Newton.
233. And now divided into four main streams,] This is grounded upon the words of Moses, Gen. ii. 10. “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads." Now the most probable account that is given of these four rivers, we conceive to be this: The river that watered the garden of Eden was, as we think, the river formed by the junction of Euphrates and Tigris; and this river was parted into four other main streams or rivers; two above the garden, namely Euphrates and Tigris, before they are joined; and two below the garden, namely Euphrates and Tigris, after they are parted again; for Euphrates and Tigris they were still called by the Greeks and Romans, though in the time of Moses they were named Pison and Gihon. Our Poet expresses it, as if the river had been parted into four other rivers below the garden; but there is no being certain of these particulars; and Milton, sensible of the great uncertainty of them, wisely avoids giving any farther description of the countries
through which the rivers flowed, and says in the general, that no account needs to be given of them here. Newton.
238. Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold,] Pactolus, Hermus, and other rivers, are described by the Poets as having golden sands; but the description is made richer here, and the water rolls on "the choicest pearls," as well as "sands of gold." So in iii. 507. we have orient gems. We have likewise orient pearl in Shakspeare, Richard III. Act 4. and in Beaumont and Fletcher, The Faithful Shepherdess, Act 3. And in the Fox, Mosca asks Corvino, who had brought a rich pearl as a present to old Vol pone, "Is your pearl orient, Sir ?" Act 1. Newton.
288. Two of far nobler shape, &c.] The description of Adam and Eve, as they first appeared to Satan, is exquisitely drawn, and sufficient to make the fallen Angel gaze upon them with all that astonishment, and those emotions of envy, in which he is represented. There is a fine spirit of poetry in the lines which follow; wherein they are described as sitting on a bed of flowers by the side of a fountain, amidst a mixed assembly of animals. Addison.
297. For contemplation he and valour form'd ;
For softness she and sweet attractive grace ;] The curious reader may please to observe upon these two charming lines, how the numbers are varied, and how artfully he and she are placed in each verse, so as the tone may fall upon them, and yet fall upon them differently. The Author might have given both exactly the same tone; but every ear may judge this alteration to be much for the worse.
For valour he and contemplation form'd;
299. He for God only, she for God in him:] The Author gave it thus, says Dr. Bentley,
He for God only, she for God and him.
The opposition demonstrates this; and ver. 440. Eve speaks to Adam,
O thou for whom
And from whom I was form'd
Dr. Pearce approves this reading of Dr. Bentley, and to the proof which he brings, adds x. 150.
made of thee,
And for thee,
And indeed, though some have endeavoured to justify the common reading, yet this is so much better, that we cannot but wish it was admitted into the text. Newton.
411. Sole partner, &c.] The speeches of these two first lovers, flow equally from passion and sincerity. The professions they make to one another are full of warmth, but at the same time founded upon truth. In a word, they are the gallantries of Paradise. Addison.
Sole partner, and sole part, of all these joys,
So the passage ought to be read (I think) with a comma after PART; and of here signifies AMONG. The sense is, Among all these joys, Thou alone art my partner, and (what is more) Thou alone art part of me; as in ver. 487.
Part of my soul I seek thee, and thee claim
Or in Milton, frequently signifies AMONG. The want of observing this, made Dr. Bentley read BEST PART for SOLE PART, thinking that sole part is a contradiction; and so it is, as he understands or here to be the mark of the genitive case governed of part. Pearce.
635. My Author and Disposer,]
"For whom and from whom
I was form'd," in our Poet's own words, ver. 440. My Author, the Author of my being; out of whom I was made. Hume.
We have another view of our first parents in their evening dis courses; which are full of pleasing images and sentiments, suitable to their condition and characters. The speech of Eve, in particular, is dressed up in such a soft and natural turn of the words, as cannot be sufficiently admired. Addison.
660. Daughter of God and Man, accomplish'd Eve,] Mr. Pope, in his excellent Notes upon Homer, B. 1. ver. 97. observes, that those appellations of praise and honour with which the heroes in Homer so frequently salute each other, were agreeable to the stile of the ancient times, as appears from several of the like nature in Scripture. Milton has not been wanting to give his Poem this cast of antiquity; throughout which our first parents almost always accost each other with some title that expresses a respect to the dignity of human nature.