Page images

"With splendour, arm'd with pow'r, if aught propos'd
"And judg'd of public moment in the shape
"Of difficulty, or danger, could deter

"Me from attempting.1 Wherefore do I assume
"These royalties, and not refuse to reign,
"Refusing to accept as great a share

"Of hazard as of honour, due alike

"To him who reigns, and so much to him due
"Of hazard more, as he above the rest

"High honour'd sits? Go, therefore, mighty powers,
"Terror of heaven, though fall'n! intend at home,

[ocr errors]

(While here shall be our home,) what best may ease
"The present misery, and render hell

"More tolerable; if there be cure, or charm,
"To respite, or deceive, or slack the pain

"Of this ill mansion. Intermit no watch



Against a wakeful foe; while I abroad,


Through all the coasts of dark destruction, seek
"Deliverance for us all this enterprise
"None shall partake with me."

Thus saying, rose

The monarch, and prevented all reply;
Prudent, lest, from his resolution rais'd,
Others among the chief might offer now
(Certain to be refus'd) what erst they fear'd;
And, so refus'd, might in opinion stand
His rivals; winning cheap the high repute,
Which he, through hazard huge, must earn.
Dreaded not more the adventure, than his voice
Forbidding; and at once with him they rose.
Their rising all at once was as the sound


But they

Of thunder heard remote. Towards him they bend 4r8 With awful reverence prone; 8 and as a god

i Thus Sarpcdon, in Homer, II. lii. 310, says that a king, being most honoured, should likewise expose himself most to danger. But Milton has so dressed up the sentiment with all the rhetorical artilice of Demosthenes, that Homer cannot be recognised in it. The whole speech from this line is wonderfully beautiful.—{Monb.)

« If I refuse.

3 In the sense or intendere, to pay attention to, to strain or stretch the mind to any thing. So, "intendere animum." Intend and attend, as derived from the same root, had originally the same meaning.-(Monb.; Stev,)

This is more appropriate than if he said loud thunder; for "thunder heard remote" has a sound, not loud or strong, but awful, and very like that produced by the movement of a great multitude.—(Monbod.)

s So Hesiod, Theog. xci. :

Ερχομενου οι ανα αστυ θεον ως ελάσκονται
Λιδοι μειλιχτή.

Hom. II. vii. 214 :-

Τον δε παι Αργείοι μεγ' εγηθείν εισορόωντες.(Stil.)

Extol him equal to the Highest in heaven :

Nor fail'd they to express how much they prais'd
That for the general safety he despis'd

His own for neither do the spirits damn'd

Lose all their vir ue; lest 1 bad men should boast
Their specious deeds on earth, which glory excites,
Or close * ambition varnish'd o'er with zeal.
Thus they their doubtful consultations dark
Ended, rejoicing in their matchless chief;
As when from mountain-tops the dusky clouds
Ascending, while the north wind sleeps, o'erspread
Heaven's cheerful face, the lowering element
Scowls o'er the darken'd landscape snow, or shower;
If chance the radiant sun with farewell sweet
Extend his evening beam, the fields revive,
The birds their notes renew, and bleating herds
Attest their joy, that hill and valley ring.3

0 shame to men! devil with devil damn'd
Firm concord holds: men only disagree
Of creatures rational, though under hope
499 Of heavenly grace; and, God proclaiming peace,

1 "Lest, here, like μ in Greek, and ne in Latin, implies an ellipsis: "I make the remark, lest," etc. Ephes. ii. 8, 9: "By grace are ye saved through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast.”—P., T.)

"Close," designing, cunning, like uzvo; sometimes; as pndex xvx, Homer, Il. iii.

202, 208.

8 The north wind generally clears the sky and drives away the clouds. This simile is considered one of the most beautiful within the whole range of poetry. The mists rising from the tops of mountains, and overspreading the horizon in a mass of stormy clouds, express the gloom and dismay of the angels (420, etc.), and of their “doubtful consultations dark ;" and the illumination of the sky is a picture of their joy at Satan's proposition. There are two similes in the Iliad, but applied on occasions different from this, from which Milton took some of the expressions and sentiments here. II. v. 524 :

Αλλ' εμενον, νεφελησιν εοικότες, ας τε Κρονίων
Νηνεμίης έστησεν επ' ακροπολοισιν ορεσσιν

Ατρεμας, οφρ' ενδησι μενος Βορέαο, και αλλων
Ζαχρείων ανέμων, είτε νέφεα σκιόεντα

Πνοιήσιν λιγυρῃσι διασκεδνασιν αεντες.

Here, the Greeks, standing firmly in one compact menacing body, are compared to a mass of dark clouds overhanging the mountain-tops in a calm; and, in the other comparison, after they have repulsed the furious onset of the Trojans and saved their ships, their joy is compared to a burst of sunshine. Il. xvi. 297:

Ως δ' οτ' αφ' υψηλης κορυφής ορεος μεγάλοιο

Κίνηση πυκίνην νεφέλην στεροπηγερέτα Ζευς
Εκ τ' ἔρανον πάσαι σκοπιας και Πρωινες ακρο

Και ναπαι, ουρανόθεν δ' αρ υπερραγή ασπετος αιθήρ

Ως Δαναοι νηών μεν απωσάμενοι δήιον πυρ

Τυτθόν ανέπνευσαν.

"Bleating herds." Both these words are used in a general sense, herds to express all sorts of cattle, and bleating to express their different sounds or noises; in this sense he uses "bleating gods" (i. 489), when alluding to the Egyptian idols under the forms of various animals.-(N., P.)

Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife
Among themselves, and levy cruel wars,
Wasting the earth, each other to destroy;
As if (which might induce us to accord)
Man had not hellish foes enow besides,
That day and night for his destruction wait.
The Stygian council thus dissolv'd; and forth
In order came the grand infernal peers:
Midst came their mighty Paramount, and seem'd
Alone the antagonist of heaven, nor less
Than hell's dread emperor, with pomp supremo,
And god-like imitated state: him round
A globe of fiery Seraphim enclos'd,
With bright emblazonry, and horrent arms.*
Then of their session ended they bid cry
With trumpets' regal sound the great result:
Toward the four winds four speedy Cherubim
Put to their mouths the sounding alchymy,'
By herald's voice explain'd: the hollow abyss
Heard far and wide, and all the host of hell
With deafening shout return'd them loud acclaim.

Thence more at ease their minds, and somewhat rais'd
By false presumptuous hope, the ranged powers
Disband, and wandering each his several way
Pursues, as inclination, or sad choice,

Leads him; perplex'd where he may likeliest find
Truce to his restless thoughts, and entertain


The irksome hours/ till his great chief return.
Part on the plain, or in the air sublime,
Upon the wing, or in swift race, contend,
As at the Olympian games, or Pythian fields:


Part curb their fiery steeds, or shun the goal

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


1 "Globe," a body of persons formed in a circle. En. x. 373 : Qua globus illt virum densissimus urget. Milton uses the word also in an incomparably beaulitul passage; Par. Reg. iv. 581 :—

----" And straight a fiery globe

Of angels on full sail of wing flew nigh,

Who wi their plumy vans received him soft

From his uneasy station, and uphoro

As on a floating couch through the blithe air;
Then in a flowery valley sot him down."

2" Horrenlia martis arma. Mn. i. "Horrenlia pilis agmina." Hor. 2 Sat. i. 13. "Horrent," bristled, prickly, also includes the idea of terrible. See note, b. i. 563. 3" Alchymy" here means mixed metal, used for trumpet. It properly means that part of chemistry which refers to the transmutation of metals.—(«.)

Homer, 11. ii. 774, represents the Myrmidons during the absenco of their chief Achilles from war, and Virgil, Mn. vi. 642, represents the departed heroes in Elysium, as entertaining themselves with their former favourite pursuits and exercises.

5 Plainly taken from Horace i. Od. i. 4: "Melaque fervidis evilata rotis." But, wilh great judgment, he says rapid, not fervid; because, in these hell games, the wheels, Irom the lire under and all about tbem, were fervid even before the race.-(B),

With rapid wheels, or fronted brigades form:
As when, to warn proud cities,1 war appears
Waged in the troubled sky, and armies rush
To battle in the clouds; before each van

Prick forth the aery knights, and couch their spears,8
Till thickest legions close; with feats of arms
From either end of heaven the welkin 3 burns.
Others, with vast Typhoan rage, more fell,
Rend up both rocks and hills, and ride the air
In whirlwind: hell scarce holds the wild uproar:
As when Alcides,4 from OEchalia crown'd

With conquest, felt the envenom'd robe, and tore
Through pain up by the roots Thessalian pines,
And Lichas from the top of OEta threw
Into the Euboïc sea. Others, more mild,
Retreated in a silent valley, sing

With notes angelical to many a harp
Their own heroic deeds, and hapless fall
Ry doom of battle; and complain that fate
Free virtue should inthral to force or chance.
55i Their song was partial; but the harmony

l The belief of these portentous signs was very ancient. Ovid. Met. xv. 782:—

"Signa tamen luctus dant baud incerta roturl.
Arma ferunt nigra3 inter erepltanlia nubes,
Terribilesque tubas, anditaque cornua cœlo,
Præmonuisse nefas."

(See Tibullus II. v. 71.) So Virgil, Georg. i. 474 :—

"Armorum sonitum toto Germanla colo

Audiit, insolltis tremuernnt motibns Alpes."

2" Prick forth," i.e. forward with the spur, in full career. Fairy Queen, Introduction:

"A goodly knight was pricking o'er tbc plain."

"Couch," i.e. fix them in their rests, which were receptacles made for the end of the spear in the breast of the armour.

3 The vault of heaven.

The madness of Hercules was a frequent subject for tragedy among the ancients. Milton has been censured for this comparison, as sinking ielow the subject. The same objection, I think, would apply to any illustration drawn from the exercise of earthly power, as being inadequate; and he could not have selected a more appropriate one than the last furious act of the most powerful being recorded in history. See the Hercules of Euripides; and Ovid. Met. ix. 136,

s This passage will recall to the classical reader's recollection Achilles entertaining bis hours of retirement in the same way. II. ix. 186

Τον δ' εύρον φρενα τερπόμενον φόρμιγγι λιγείη,

Τι εγε θυμον ετερπεν· αει δε δι' αρα κλέα ανδρων.

6 This is taken from the famous distich of Euripides, which Brutus quoted when he slew himself :

Ω τλήμον αρετή, λογος αρ' ησθ', εγω δε σε
Ως έργον ήσκουον, συ δ' αρεθουλευσας βια

In some editions, for B force, is quoted a fortune. Milton has well comprehended both:

"enthrall to force or chance."—(B.)

"Partial," i.e. to themselves; it dwelt only on the sad consequences of their conduct, not on its guilt.—(Cowper.)


(What could it less, when spirits immortal sing?)
Suspended hell, and took with ravishment

The thronging audience.1 In discourse more sweet,
(For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense,)
Others apart sat on a hill retir'd,*

In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate—
Fix'd fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute;'
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.
Or good and evil much they argued then
Of happiness, and final misery,

Passion and apathy, and glory and shame;
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!
Yet, with a pleasing sorcery, could charm
Pain for a while, or anguish, and excite
Fallacious hope, or arm the obdured breast
With stubborn patience, as with triple steel.1
Another part, in squadrons and gross band?,
On bold adventure to discover wide
That dismal world, (if any clime perhaps
Might yield them easier habitation,) bend
Four ways their flying march, along the banks
Of four infernal rivers, that disgorge
Into the burning lake their baleful streams;
Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate;
Sad Acheron, of sorrow, black and deep;
Cocytus, nam'd of lamentation loud


Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon,

1 So Virgil, Georg. iv. 481, describing the effect of the music of Orpheus:—

"Quin ipsæ stupuere domus, atquo intima lethi
Tarlara, cæruleosque Implexæ crinibus angues
Eumenldes, tenuitque Inbians tria Cerberus ora,
Atqoe Ixionii vento rota constitit orbis."

Newton says the parenthesis, which here suspends the attention and event, gives an additional beauty.

2 This mode of expression is Homeric. II. xi. 80 :—

Ο δε νοσφιλιασθείς

Των αλλων απανευθε καθέζετο κυθεί γαιων.

3 The turn of these words, rendered more beautiful by the addition of an epithet to each, very well expresses the mazes of these disquisitions. He refers to the studies of the schoolmen and metaphysicians, and the subjects of disputation among the heathen philosophers.—(N., Gil.)

* Hor. i. Od. iii. 9 :

Ili robur, et as trip\ex,
Circa pectus erat."

This elegant description gives a correct Greek definition of the meaning of these five rivers mentioned by the Greek and Latin writers as flowing through hell. Styx or Slygt, from stugeo, to abhor; Acheron, from acheo, to sorrow; Cocytus, from cocuo. lo lament; Phlegethon, from phlego, to inflame; Lethe, oblivion. Dante, Inferno xiv. ISO, describes Lethe as rolling at a distance from the other infernal rivers.

« PreviousContinue »