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new altar in its stead, and offered thereon, 2 Kings xvi. 10, &c, and thenceforth gave himself up to idolatry; and, instead of the God of Israel," he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus," 2 Chron. xxviii. 23. whom he had subdued. Newton.
478. Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train, &c.] Osiris and Isis were the principal deities of the Egyptians; by which it is most probable, they originally meant the sun and moon. Orus was the son of Osiris and Isis, frequently confounded with Apollo: and these and the other gods of the Egyptians were worshipped in monstrous shapes; bulls, cats, dogs, &c.; and the reason alleged for this monstrous worship is derived from the fabulous tradition, that when the giants invaded Heaven, the gods were so affrighted that they fled into Egypt, and there concealed themselves in the shapes of various animals; and the Egyptians afterwards, out of gratitude, worshipped the creatures whose shapes the gods had assumed. Ovid. Met. v. 319, &c. where is an account of their transformations: and therefore Milton here calls them
Their wand'ring Gods disguis'd in brutish forms
Nor did Israel 'scape
Th' infection, &c.] The Israelites, by dwelling so long in Egypt, were infected with the superstitions of the Egyptians, and in all probability made the golden calf, or ox (for so it is differently called, Psal. cxvi. 19, 20.) in imitation of that which represented Osiris, and out of the golden ear-rings, which it is most likely they borrowed of the Egyptians, Exod. xii. 35. "the calf in Oreb :" and so the Psalmist: "they made a calf in Horeb," Psal. cvi. 19. while Moses was upon the mount with God. "And the rebel king" Jeroboam, made king by the Israelites who rebelled against Rehoboam, 1 Kings xii. doubled that sin, by making two golden calves, probably in imitation of the Egyptians with whom he had conversed, who had a couple of oxen which they worshipped; one called Apis, at Memphis, the metropolis of the Upper Egypt, and the other Mnevis, at Hierapolis, the chief city of the Lower Egypt: and he set them up in Bethel and in Dan, the two extremities of the kingdom of Israel; the former in the south, the latter in the north, "Lik'ning his Maker to the grazed ox," alluding to Psal. cvi. 20. "Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass: Jehovah,
who in one night when he passed from Egypt marching," for the children of Israel not only passed from Egypt, but marched in a warlike manner; and the Lord brought them out, the Lord went before them: 66 equall'd with one stroke both her first-born and all her bleating gods;" for the Lord slew "all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments." Exod. xii. 12. Numb. xxxiii. 4.; and Milton means all their gods in general, though he says bleating gods in particular, borrowing the metaphor from sheep, and using it for the cry of any sort of beasts. Dr. Bentley says, indeed, that the Egyptians did not worship sheep; they only abstained from eating them but (as Dr. Pearce replies) was not Jupiter Ammon wor shipped under a ram? hence "corniger Ammon." Clemens Alexandrinus tells us, that the people of Sais and Thebes, worshipped sheep; and R. Jarchi, upon Gen. xlvi. says, that a shepherd was therefore an abomination to the Egyptians, because the Egyptians worshipped sheep as Gods. We may farther add, that Onkelos, Jonathan, and several others, are of the same opinion, and say, that shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians, because they had no greater regard to those creatures which the Egyptians worshipped, than to breed them up to be eaten. These authorities are sufficient to justify our Poet for calling them "bleating gods." He might make use of that epithet as one of the most insignificant and contemptible, with the saır.e air of disdain as Virgil says, Æn. viii. 698. Omnigenûmque de ûm monstra & latrator Anubis; and so returns to his subject, and ends the passage as he began it, with the gods of Egypt. Newton.
490. Belial came last, &c.] The characters of Moloch and Belial prepare the reader's mind for their respective speeches and behaviour in the second and sixth book. Addison.
And they are very properly made, one the first, and the other the last, in this catalogue, as they both make so great a figure afterwards in the Poem. Moloch the first, as he was "the fiercest Spirit that fought in Heaven," ii. 44. and Belial the last, as he is represented as the most" timorous and slothful," ii. 117. It doth not appear that he was ever worshipped; but lewd profligate fellows, such as regard neither God nor man, are called in Scripture " the children of Belial,” Deut. xiii. 13. So the sons of Eli are called 1 Sam. ii. 12. "Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord."
So the men of Gibeah, who abused the Levite's wife (Judg. xix. 22.) are called likewise sons of Belial; which are the particular instances here given by our Author. Newton.
508. Th' Iönian Gods, of Javan's issue held
Gods, &c.] Javan, the fourth son of Japhet, and grandson. of Noah, is supposed to have settled in the south-west part of Asia Minor, about Iönia, which contains the radical letters of his name. His descendants were the Iönians and Grecians; and the principal of their gods were Heaven and Earth. Titan was their eldest son ; he was father of the Giants; and his empire was seized by his younger brother Saturn, as Saturn's was by Jupiter, son of Saturn and Rhea. These were first known in the island Crete, now Candia, in which is mount Ida, where Jupiter is said to have been born; thence passed over into Greece, and resided on mount Olympus in Thessaly: "the snowy top of cold Olympus," as Homer calls it Ολυμπον αγαννιφον, Iliad. i. 420. and xviii. 61 5. Ουλυμπε νιφόενος; which mountain afterwards became the name of Heaven among their worshippers; "or on the Delphian cliff," Parnassus, whereon was seated the city Delphini, famous for the temple and oracle of Apollo; "or in Dodona,"a city and wood adjoining, sacred to Jupiter; "and through all the bounds of Doric land;" that is of Greece, Doris being a part of Greece; or "fled over Adria," the Adriatic, "to th' Hesperian fields," to Italy, "and o'er the Celtic," France and the other countries over-run by the Celtes, "roam'd the utmost isles," Great Britain, Ireland, the Orkneys, Thulé or Iceland "ultima Thulé," as it is called, the utmost boundary of the world. Such explications are needless to those who are conversant with the claffic Authors; they are written for those who are not. Newton.
Perplexes monarchs.] It is said that this noble Poem was in danger of being suppressed by the Licencer on account of this simile, as if it contained some latent treason in it: but it is saying little more than poets have said under the most absolute monarchies; as Virgil, Georg. i. 464.
Ille etiam cæcos instare tumultus
Sæpe monet, fraudemque, et operta tumescere bella.
633. Hath empty'd Heav'n,] It is conceived that a third part of the Angels fell with Satan, according to Rev. xii. 4. "And his
tail drew the third part of the stars of Heaven, and cast them to the earth" and this opinion Milton hath expressed in several places, ii. 692. v. 710. vi. 156: but Satan here talks big, and magnifies their number, as if their "exile had empty'd Heav'n." Newton.
728. and blazing cressets, fed
With Naphtha and Asphaltus,] A cresset is any great blazing light; as a beacon. Naphtha is of so unctuous and fiery a nature, that it kindles at approaching the fire, or the sun-beams. Asphaltus, or bitumen, another pitchy substance. Richardson.
And the word Cresset, I find used likewise in Shakspeare, 1 Hen. IV. Act iii. Glendowr speaks,
at my nativity
The front of Heav'n was full of fiery shapes
Of burning cressets.
the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,] That is diamonds: a principal part of the wealth of India where they are found, and of the island Ormus (in the Persian gulf) which is the mart for them.
and could make the worse appear
The better reason,] Word for word from the known profession of the ancient sophists, Τον λόγον τον ητίω ηρειτίω ποιειν. Bentley.
185. Unrespited, unpity'd, unrepriev'd,] This way of introducing several adjectives beginning with the same letter, without any conjunction, is very frequent with the Greek tragedians, whom our Author, I fancy, imitated. What strength and beauty it adds, needs not to be mentioned. Thyer.
279. To peaceful counsels,] There are some things wonderfully fine in these speeches of the infernal Spirits, and in the different arguments, so suited to their different characters; but they have wandered from the point in debate, as is too common in other assemblies. Satan had declared in i. 660.
Peace is despair'd;
For who can think submission? War then, War
Open or understood, must be resolv'd.
Which was approved and confirmed by the whole host of Angels.
And accordingly, at the opening of the council, he proposes for the subject of their consideration, which way they would make choice of, ii. 41.
Whether of open war or covert guile,
We now debate:
Moloch speaks to the purpose, and declares for open war, ver. 51. My sentence is for open war: of wiles
More unexpert, I boast not, &c.
But Belial argues alike against war, open or concealed, ver. 187. War therefore, open or conceal'd, alike
My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile, &c.
Mammon carries on the same arguments, and is for "dismissing quite all thoughts of war." So that the question is changed in the course of the debate, whether through the inattention or intention of the Author, it is not easy to say.
306. With Atlantean shoulders] A metaphor to express his vast capacity. Atlas was so great an astronomer, that he is said to have borne Heaven on his shoulders. The whole picture, from ver. 299. to the end of the paragraph, is admirable! Richardson.
The happy isle?] The earth hanging in the sea of air, like a happy, or fortunate island, as the name is. And so Cicero de Nat. Deor. ii. 66. calls the earth "quasi magnam quandam insulam, quam nos orbem terræ vocamus." "Ere he arrive the happy isle ;" so the word arrive, is used by the Author in the Preface to the Judgment of Martin Bucer, p. 276. Edit. 1738." And he, if our things here below arrive him where he is," &c. and again, in his Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes, p. 553, "Let him also forbear force lest a worse woe arrive him." Shakspeare expresses himself in the same manner, 3 Hen. VI. Act v.
-Those powers that the Queen
Hath rais'd in Gallia," have arriv'd our coast."
432. Long is the way
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light;] He had
Virgil in mind, Æn. vi. 128.
Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est.