Imágenes de páginas

But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labour lies:


as in what follows of the fire immuring them round ninefold, and of "the gates of burning adamant," he alludes to what Virgil says in the same book, of Styx flowing nine times round the damned, and of the gates of Hell.

novies Styx interfusa coercet.

Ver. 439.

Ver. 552.


Porta adversa ingens solidoque adamante columnæ.

496. O shame to men! &c.] This reflection will appear the more pertinent and natural, when one considers the contentious age in which Milton lived and wrote.


554. Suspended Hell,] The effect of their singing is somewhat like that of Orpheus in Hell. Virg. Georg. iv. 481.

Quin ipsæ stupuere domus, atque intima lethi
Tartara, cæruleosque implexæ crinibus angues
Eumenides, tenuitque inhians tria Cerberus ora,
Atque Ixionii vento rota constitit orbis.

E'en from the depths of Hell the damn'd advance;
Th'infernal mansions nodding, seem to dance;
The gaping three-mouth'd dog forgets to snarl,
The furies hearken, and their snakes uncurl;
Ixion seems no more his pain to feel,

But leans attentive on his standing wheel.


"The harmony suspended Hell;" but is it not much better with the parenthesis coming between? which suspends as it were the event, raises the reader's attention, and gives a greater force to the sentence. -but the harmony

(What could it less when Sp'rits immortal sing?)
Suspended Hell, &c.


555. In discourse more sweet] Our Poet so justly prefers discourse to the highest harmony, that he has seated his reasoning Angels on a hill as high and elevated as their thoughts, leaving the songsters in their humble valley.

559. foreknowledge, will, and fate.


Fix'd fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,] The turn of the words here is admirable, and very well expresses the wanderings and mazes of their discourse; and the turn of the words is greatly

improved, and rendered still more beautiful, by the addition of an epithet to each of them. Newton.

565. Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy :] "Good and evil,” and de finibus bonorum et malorem, &c. were more particularly the subjects of disputation among the philosophers and sophists of old, as "providence, free will," &c. were among the school-men and divines of later times, especially upon the introduction of the free notions of Arminius upon these subjects: and our Author shows herein what an opinion he had of all books and learning of this kind. Newton.

628. Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.] fixes all these monsters in Hell, in imitation of Virgil.

bellua Lernæ

Horrendum stridens, flammisque armata Chimæra,
Gorgones, &c.

Quinquaginta atris immanis hiatibus Hydra.

Our Author

Æn. vi. 287.

Ver. 576.

Tasso has likewise given them a place in his description of Hell;

or rather, he copies Virgil's description. Cant. 4. St. 5.

Qui mille immonde Arpie vedresti, e mille
Centauri, e Sfingi, e pallide Gorgoni, &c.

There were Celano's foul and loathsome rout;

There Sphinges, Centaurs, there were Gorgons fell;

There howling Scyllas, yawling round about;

There serpents hiss, there sev'n-mouth'd Hydras yell;
Chimæra there spews fire and brimstone out.


But how much better has Milton comprehended them in one line?


649. On either side a formidable shape;] The figure of Death is pretty well fixed and agreed upon by poets and painters: but the description of Sin seems to be an improvement upon that thought in Horace. De Art. Poet. 4.

Definit in piscem mulier formosa superne.

And it is not improbable that the Author might have in mind too Spenser's description of Error, in the mixed shape of a woman and a serpent. Faery Queen, B. 1. C. 1. St. 14.

Half like a serpent horribly display'd;

But th' other half did woman's shape retain, &c.

And also the image of Echidna. B. 6. C. 6. St. 10.

Yet did her face and former parts profess
A fair young maiden, full of comely glee :
But all her hinder parts did plain express

A monstrous dragon, full of fearful ugliness.

The addition of the Hell-hounds about her middle, is plainly copied from Scylla, as appears from the following simile. I had almost forgot that Hesiod's Echidna is described half-woman and halfserpent, as well as Spenser's. Theog. 298.


Ημισυ μεν νύμφην, ἱλικωπιδα, καλλιπάρηον,
Ημισυ δ' αυτε πελωρον οφιν, δεινον τε μεγαλε.

God and his Son except,


Created thing nought valued he nor shunn'd ;] This appears at first sight, to reckon God and his Son among created things; but EXCEPT is used here with the same liberty as BUT, ver. 333 and 336; and Milton has a like passage in his prose works, p. 277. Edit. Tol. "No place in Heaven and Earth, except Hell"- Richardson.

716. Over the Caspian ;] That sea being particularly noted for storms and tempests. So Horace, Od. ii. ix. 2.

Non mare Caspium

Vexant inæquales procellæ

And so Fairfax, in Tasso, Cant. 6. St. 38.

Or as when clouds together crush'd and bruis'd,
Pour down a tempest by the Caspian shore.


846. Grinn'd horrible a ghastly smile,] Several poets have endeavoured to express much the same image.

Ajax, Iliad. vii. 212.

Μειδίοων βλοσυροίσι προσωπασι.

And Statius of Tydeus, Thebaid. viii. 582.

formidabile ridens.

And Cowley of Goliah, Davideis, B. iii.

Thus Homer says of

Th' uncircumcis'd smil'd grimly with disdain.

And as Mr. Thyer observes, Ariosto and Tasso express it very prettily thus: " Aspramente sorrise," and "Sorrise amaramente." But I believe it will be readily allowed, that Milton has greatly ex. ceeded them all. Newton.

[blocks in formation]

Harsh thunder,] How much stronger and more poetical is

this than Virgil's, En. i. 449.

or Æn. vi. 573.

foribus cardo stridebat aënis:

horrisono stridentes cardine sarcæ Panduntur portæ ?

The ingenious Author of the Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, remarks that this expression is copied from the History of Don Bellianis, where, when one of the knights approaches the castle of Brandezar, the gates are said to open "grating harsh thunder upon their brazen hinges." And it is not improbable that Milton might take it from thence, as he was a reader of all kinds of romances. Newton.

1052. This pendent world, in bigness as a star

Of smallest magnitude close by the moon.] By "this pendent world," is not meant the Earth, but the new creation, Heaven and Earth, the whole orb of fixed stars immensely bigger than the Earth; a mere point in comparison. This is sure from what Chaos had lately said, ver. 1004.

Now lately Heav'n and Earth, another world,

Hung o'er my realm, link'd in a golden chain.

Besides, Satan did not see the Earth yet; he was afterwards surprized "at the sudden view of all this world at once," iii. 542. and wandered long on the outside of it; till at last he saw our sun, and learned there of the Arch-Angel Uriel, where the Earth and Paradise were. See iii. 722. "This pendent world" therefore must mean the whole world, the new created universe; and beheld far off, it ap peared in comparison with the empyreal Heaven, no bigger than “a star of smallest magnitude;" nay not so large; it appeared no bigger than such a star appears to be when it is "close by the moon," the superior light whereof makes any star that happens to be near her disk to seem exceedingly small, and almost disappear. Dr. Bentley has strangely mistaken the sense of this passage, understanding that the Earth was meant, and yet arguing very justly that the Earth could not be meant: and Mr. Addison has fallen into the like mistake, as appears from his words; "The glimmering light which shot into the Chaos, from the utmost verge of the creation; with the distant discovery of the Earth, that hung close by the moon, are

are wonderfully beautiful and poetical." But how much more wonderful is the imagination of such prodigious distance, that after Satan had travelled on so far, and comes within view of the whole world, it should still appear in comparison with the empyreal Hea ven no bigger than the smallest star, and that star appearing yet smaller by its proximity to the moon! And how much more beautiful and poetical is it to open the scene thus by degrees! Satan at first descries the whole world at a distance, in book the second, and then, in book the third, he discovers our planetary system and the sun, and afterwards, by the direction of Uriel, the earth and neighbouring moon. Newton.


Horace advises a poet to consider thoroughly the nature and force of his genius. Milton seems to have known perfectly well wherein his strength lay, and has therefore chosen a subject entirely conformable to those talents, of which he was master. As his genius was wonderfully turned to the sublime, his subject is the noblest that could have entered into the thoughts of man. Every thing that is truly great and astonishing, has a place in it. The whole system of the intellectual world; the Chaos and the creation; Heaven, Earth, and Hell, enter into the constitution of this Poem. Having in the first and second books represented the infernal world with all its horrors, the thread of this fable naturally leads him into the opposite regions of bliss and glory. Addison.

1. Hail holy light, &c.] Our Author's address to light, and lamentation of his own blindness, may perhaps be censured as an excrescence, or digression, not agreeable to the rules of epic poetry; but yet this is so charming a part of the Poem, that the most critical reader, I imagine, cannot wish it were omitted. One is even pleased with a fault (if it be a fault) that is the occasion of so many beauties, and acquaints us so much with the circumstances and character of the Author,

2. Or of th' Eternal coeternal beam

May I express thee unblam'd?] Or, may I, without blame, call thee the coeternal beam of the eternal God? The antients were very cautious and curious by what names they addressed their deities; and Milton, in imitation of them, questions whether he should

« AnteriorContinuar »