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Their lighter wings. To whom these most adhere. Chaos umpire sits,
He rules a moment
And by decision move embroils the fray
By which he reigns: next him high arbiter
Stood on the brink of Hell and look'd a while,
The stedfast earth. At last his sail-broad vans
A vast vacuity: all unawares
Flutt'ring his pennons vain, plumb down he drops
Down had been falling, had not by ill chance,
Nor good dry land: nigh founder'd on he fares, 940
As when a gryphon through the wilderness
933. Pennons, commonly spelt pinions.
941. There is much in this description similar to that in Spenser of the dragon.
943. A grypho. is a fabulous creature said to guard gold mines, in its upper part it was like an eagle, in its lower like a lion. The Arimaspians were a one-eyed people of Scythia.
With winged course, o'er hill or moory dale,
Of stunning sounds and voices all confused,
Might in that noise reside, of whom to ask
And Discord, with a thousand various mouths.
T'whom Satan turning boldly, thus: Ye Pow'rs And Spirits of this nethermost abyss,
Chaos and ancient Night, I come no spy,
With purpose to explore or to disturb
The secrets of your realm, but by constraint
Wand'ring this darksome desert, as my way
I travel this profound; direct my course;
964. Orcus or Pluto, so called by the ancients. Ades may be taken for any dark place.
965. A deity among the ancients whose name they supposed capable of producing the most terrible effects.
To her original darkness and your sway
(Which is my present journey), and once more 983
Made head against Heav'n's King, though over
I saw and heard; for such a num'rous host
Confusion worse confounded; and Heav'n gates
Encroach'd on still through your intestine broils,
He ceased, and Satan stay'd not to reply; But glad that now his sea should find a shore, With fresh alacrity and force renew'd, Springs upward like a pyramid of fire
Into the wild expanse, and through the shock
1005. Homer mentions a golden chain by which Jupiter could draw up the earth, &c.-See Iliad, book 8.
1011. A metaphor to express his satisfaction at concluding his journey.
1017. Argo was the ship in which Jason and his companions sailed to Colchis, in seach of the golden fleece. Bosphorus is the nane of the Straits of Constantinople, or the channel of the Black Sea.
Charybdis, and by th' other whirlpool steer'd. 1020 So he with difficulty and labour hard
Moved on, with difficulty and labour he;
But he once past, soon after when man fell,
Following his track, such was the will of Heav'n,
To tempt or punish mortals, except whom
Of light appears, and from the walls of Heav'n 1035
A glimm'ring dawn. Here Nature first begins
Gladly the port, though shrouds and tackle torn;
1020. Charybdis, a dangerous part of the sea between Messina and Italy.
1023. Dr. Bentley supposes eleven lines to be inserted here by the Editor of Milton; but if the passage be examined, it will be scen they cannot be an interpolation. His strongest objection is, that the bridge is described again in Book X.
1052. By the pendent world is meant the whole new creation of heaven and earth. See verse 1004.
God, sitting on his throne, sees Satan flying towards this world, then newly created; shews him to the Son who sat at his right hand; foretells the success of Satan in perverting mankind; clears his own justice and wisdom from all imputation, having created Man free and able enough to have withstood his tempter; yet declares his purpose of grace towards him, in regard he fell not of his own malice, as did Satan, but by hím seduced. The Son of God renders praises to his Father for the manifestation of his gracious purpose towards Man; but God again declares, that grace cannot be extended towards Man without the satisfaction of divine justice: Man hath offended the Majesty of God by aspiring to Godhead, and therefore, with all his progeny, devoted to death, must die, unless some one can be found sufficient to answer for his offence, and undergo his punishment. The Son of God freely offers himself a ransom for Man: the Father accepts him, ordains his incarnation, pronounces his exaitation above all names in Heaven and Earth; commands all the Angels to adore him: they obey, and hymning to their harps in full choir, celebrate the Father and the Son. Meanwhile Satan alights upon the bare convex of this world's outermost orb; where wandering he first finds a place, since called the Limbo of Vanity: what persons and things fly up thither: thence comes to the gate of Heaven, described ascending by stairs, and the waters above the firmament that flow about it: His passage thence to the orb of the Sun; he finds there Uriel, the regent of that orb, but first changes himself into the shape of a meaner Angel; and pretending a zealous desire to behold the new creation, and Man whom God had placed here, inquires of him the place of his habitation, and is directed: alights first on Mount Niphates.
HAIL, holy Light, offspring of Heav'n first-born,
May I express thee unblamed? since God is Light,
1. This transition from the fearful gloom and confusion of Hell and Chaos to the worlds of light has a magnificent effect upon the mind. The touch of sweet and holy feeling with which the Author alludes to his own personal sorrow heightens, rather than diminishes, the impression of awe and delight.
3. See John i. 5. and 1 Tim. vi. 16.