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714. More lovely than Pandora, &c.] The story is this: Prometheus the son of Japhet (or Japetus) had stolen fire from Heaven, Jove's "authentic fire," the original and prototype of all earthly fire; which Jupiter being angry at, to be revenged, sent him Pandora; so called, because all the Gods had contributed their gifts to make her more charming (for so the word signifies). She was brought by Hermes (Mercury) but was not received by Prometheus, the wiser son of Japhet (as the name implies) but by his brother Epimetheus, "th' unwiser son." She enticed his foolish curiosity to open a box which she brought, wherein were contained all manner of evils. Richardson.
The epithet unwiser, does not imply that his brother Prometheus was unwise. Milton uses unwiser, as any Latin writer would " imprudentior," for "not so wise as he should have been." So "audacior, timidior, vehementior, iracundior," &c. mean bolder, &c. 66 quam par est," than is right and fit, and imply less than “audax, timidus," &c. in the positive degree. Fortin.
788. Ithuriel and Zephon,] Two Angels, having their names as indication of their offices. Ithuriel, in Hebrew, "the discovery of God." Zephon, in Hebrew " a secret or searcher of secrets."
819. So started up in his own shape the Fiend.] His planting himself at the ear of Eve under the form of a toad, in order to produce vain dreams and imaginations, is a circumstance that surprizes the reader; as his starting up in his own form is wonderfully fine, both in the literal description, and in the moral which is concealed under it. His answer, upon his being discovered and demanded to give an account of himself, is conformable to the pride and intrepidity of his character. Zephon's rebuke, with the influence it had on Satan, is exquisitely graceful and moral.
835. Think not, revolted Sp'rit, thy shape the same,
Or undiminish'd brightness to be known,] Dr. Bentley judges rightly enough that the present reading is faulty; for if the words "thy shape the same" are in the ablative case put absolutely, it is necessary that " undiminish'd" should follow "brightness :" and accordingly the Doctor reads, "Or brightness undiminished:" which order of the words we must follow, unless it may be thought as small an alteration to read thus:
Think not, revolted Sp'rit, by shape the same
Or undiminish'd brightness to be known:
just as in i. 732. we have
his hand was known
In Heav'n by many a tow'r'd structure high.
But, without any alteration, may we not understand shape and brightness as in the accusative case, after the verb think? Think not thy shape the same, or undiminish'd brightness to be known now, as it was formerly in Heaven. Newton.
987. Like Teneriff or Atlas, unremov'd:] Well may Satan be likened to the greatest mountains, and be said to stand as firm and immoveable as they, when Virgil has applied the same comparison to his hero, Æn. xii. 701.
Quantus Athos, aut Quantus Eryx, aut ipse coruscis
Or father Appennine, when white with snows,
And shakes the sounding forest on his sides.
Mr. Hume says that the Peak of Teneriff is 15 miles high; and Mr. Richardson asserts that it is 45 miles perpendicular, if that be not a false print, 45 for 15: but the utmost that we can suppose is, that it is 15 miles from the very first ascent of the hill, till you come through the various turnings and windings to the top of all; for I have been assured from a gentleman who measured it, that the perpendicular height of it is no more than one mile and three quarters.
In various stile ;] As it is very well known that our Author was no friend to set forms of prayer, it is no wonder that he ascribes extemporary effusions to our first parents; but even while he attributes strains unmeditated to them, he himself imitates the Psalmist.
153. These are thy glorious works, &c.] The morning hymn is written in imitation of one of those Psalms where, in the overflowings of gratitude and praise, the Psalmist calls not only upon the Angels, but upon the most conspicuous parts of the inanimate creation, to
join with him in extolling their common Maker. Invocations of this nature fill the mind with glorious ideas of God's works, and awaken that divine enthusiasm which is so natural to devotion. But if this calling upon the dead parts of nature is at all times a proper kind of worship, it was in a particular manner suitable to our first parents, who had the creation fresh upon their minds, and had not seen the various dispensations of Providence; nor consequently could be acquainted with those many topics of praise which might afford matter to the devotions of their posterity. I need not remark the beautiful spirit of poetry which runs through this whole hymn, nor the holiness of that resolution with which it concludes.
The Author has raised our expectation, by commending the various stile, holy rapture, and prompt eloquence of our first parents; and indeed the hymn is truly divine, and will fully answer all that we expected. It is an imitation, or rather a sort of paraphrase of the 148th Psalm, and (of what is a paraphrase upon that) the Canticle placed after TE DEUM in the Liturgy, “O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord," &c. which is the Song of the Three Children, in the Apocrypha.
160. Speak ye who best can tell, &c.] He is unspeakable, ver. 156.; no creature can speak worthily of him, as he is; but speak, ve who are best able, ye Angels, ye in Heaven; on Earth, join all ye Creatures, &c. Newton.
165. Him first, him last, him midst,] Theocrit. Idyl. xvii. 3.
And then how has Milton improved it, by adding "and without end!" as he is celebrating God, and Theocritus only a man.
198. That singing up to Heaven-gate ascend,] We meet with the like hyperbole in Shakspeare, Cymbeline, Act 2.
Hark, Hark! the lark, at Heav'n's gate sings;
and again, in his 29th sonnet,
Like as the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at Heav'n's gate:
and not unlike is that in Homer, Od. xii. 73, of a very high rock,
Βρανον ευρυν ικανει
And, with its pointed top, to Heav'n ascends.
On whom the Angel Hail, &c.] The natural majesty
of Adam, and at the same time his submissive behaviour to the superior being, who had vouchsafed to be his guest; the solemn Hail which the Angel bestows upon the mother of mankind, with the figure of Eve ministering at the table, are circumstances which de serve to be admired.
From centre to circumference,] The scale or ladder of na ture ascends by steps from a point, a centre, to the whole circumfe ience of what mankind can see or comprehend. The metaphor is bold and vastly expressive. "Matter, one first matter," in this centre; nature infinitely diversifyed, is the scale which reaches to the utmost of our conceptions all round. We are thus led to God; whose circumference "who can tell? Uncircumscrib'd, he fills infinitude," vii. 170.
583. As Heav'n's great year] Our Poet seems to have had Plato's great year in his thoughts.
Magnus ab integro seclorum nascitur ordo. Virg. Ecl. iv. 5. Et incipient magni procedere menses. Ecl. iv. 12. Plato's great year of the Heavens, is the revolution of all the spheres. Every thing returns to where it set out when their motion first began. See Auson. Idyl. xviii. 15. A proper time for the declaration of the vicegerency of the Son of God. Milton has the same thought for the birth of the Angels (ver. 861.) imagining such kind of revolutions long before the Angels or the worlds were in being. So far back into eternity did the vast mind of this Poet carry him. Richardson.
710. Drew after him the third part of Heav'n's host.] "Behold a great red dragon, and his tail drew the third part of the stars of Heaven, and did cast them to the earth." Rev. xii. 3, 4. Dr. Bentley finds fault with this verse, as very bad measure: but as a person of much better taste observes, there is a great beauty in the fall of the numbers in this line, after the majesty of those before and after it, occasioned principally by the change of the fourth foot
from an iambic, into a trochaic: an artifice often made use of by Milton, to vary his numbers by those discords.
Drew him after the third part of Heav'n's host.
746. Or stars of morning, dew-drops,] Innumerable as the stars, is an old simile; but this of the stars of morning, dew-drops, seems as new as it is beautiful: And the sun impearls them, turns them by his reflected beams, to seeming pearls; as the morn was said before, to sow the earth "with orient pearl," ver. 2. Newton.
896. So spake the Seraph Abdiel, faithful found, &c.] The part of Abdiel, who was the only Spirit that in this infinite host of Angels preserved his allegiance to his Maker, exhibits to us a noble. moral of religious singularity. The zeal of the Seraphim breaks forth in a becoming warmth of sentiments and expressions; as the character which is given us of him, denotes that generous scorn and intrepidity which attends heroic virtue. The Author, doubtless, designed it as a pattern to those who live among mankind in their present state of degeneracy and corruption. Addison.
We are now entering upon the sixth book of PARADISE Lost, in which the Poet describes the battle of Angels; having raised his reader's expectation, and prepared him for it by several passages in the preceding books. I omitted quoting these passages in my observations upon the former books, having purposely reserved them for the opening of this; the subject of which gave occasion to them. The Author's imagination was so inflamed with this great scene of action, that wherever he speaks of it, he rises, if possible, above himself. Thus where he mentions Satan in the beginning of his Poem, i. 44, &c.
Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky,
To bottomless perdition; there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th' Omnipotent to arms.
We have likewise several noble hints of it in the infernal confer
ence, i. 128, &c.