« AnteriorContinuar »
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 itkindles 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,
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, Tov Noyov toy ntle apertle Wovely. 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.
Tbyer. 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;
Open or understood, must be resolv'd.
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! Ricbardson. 409. ere he arrive
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, him also forbear force lest a worse woe arrive him." And Shakspeare expresses himself in the same manner, 3 Hen. VI. Act v.
--Those powers that the Queen
Newton. 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,
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
Dryden. 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.
Newton. 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.
Tbyer. 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
Dryden. "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
Newton. 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.
Hume. 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.
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.
628. Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimæras dire.] Our Author fixes all these monsters in Hell, in imitation of Virgil. Æn. vi. 287.
Quinquaginta atris immanis hiaribus Hydra. 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.
Fairfax. But how much better has Milton comprehended them in one line ?
Newton. 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 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 al. most forgot that Hesiod's Echidna is described half-woman and halfserpent, as well as Spenser's. Theog. 298.
Ημισυ μεν νυμφην, ελικωπιδα, καλλιπαρηον,
Newton. 678. 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
Or as when clouds together crush'd and bruis'd,
Newton, 846. Grinn's horrible a ghastly smile,] Several poets have en. deavoured to express much the same image. Thus Homer says of Ajax, Iliad. vii. 212.
Μειδιοων βλοσυροισι προσωπασί. . And Statius of Tydeus, Thebaid. viii. 582.
formidabile ridens. And Cowley of Goliah, Davideis, B. iii.
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.