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RAPHAEL at the request of Adam relates how and wherefore this world was first created; that God, after the expelling of Satan and his angels out of heaven, declared his pleasure to create another world and other creatures to dwell therein; sends his Son with glory and attendance of angels to perform the work of creation in six days: the angels celebrate with hymns the performance thereof, and his reascension into heaven.
DESCEND from heav'n, Urania, by that name
The meaning, not the name I call for thou
1. Descend from heav'n, Urania,] Descende coelo, Hor. Od. iii. iv. 1. but here it is better applied, as now his subject leads him from heaven to earth. The word Urania in Greek signifies heavenly; and he invokes the heavenly Muse as he had done before, i. 6. and as he had said in the beginning that he intended to soar above the Aonian mount, so now he says very truly that he had effected what he intended, and soars above the Olympian hill, above the flight of Pegaséan wing, that is, his subject was more sublime than the loftiest flights of the heathen poets. The mountain Olympus is celebrated for the seat of the Muses, who were therefore called Olympiades, as in Homer, Iliad. ii.
Thou with eternal Wisdom didst converse,
when there were no fountains abounding with water: Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: Then was 1 by him as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, or playing according to the Vulgar Latin (ludens coram eo omni tempore), to which Milton alludes, when he says, and with her didst play, &c. And so he quotes it likewise in his Tetrachordon, p. 222. vol. i. edit. 1738. "God himself conceals not his
own recreations before the "world was built; I was, saith "the eternal Wisdom, daily his "delight, playing always before "him."
and drawn empyreal air, Thy temp'ring ;] Spenser, Faery Queen, b. ii. cant. ii. st. 39.
too pure and fine for him, but
(as once Bellerophon, &c.] Bellerophon was a beautiful and valiant youth, son of Glaucus ; who refusing the amorous applications of Antea wife of Præteus king of Argos, was by her false suggestions, like those of Joseph's mistress to her husband, sent into Lycia with letters desiring his destruction; where he was put on several enterprises full of hazard, in which however he came off conqueror: but attempting vain-gloriously to mount up to heaven on the winged horse Pegasus, he fell and wander'd in the Aleian plains till he died. Hume and Richard
His story is related at large in the sixth book of Homer's Iliad ; but it is to the latter part of it
Bellerophon, though from a lower clime,)
The plain truth of the story seems to be, that in his latter days he grew mad with his poetry, which Milton begs may never be his own case: Lest from this flying steed &c. He says this to distinguish his from the common Pegasus, above the flight of whose wing he soared, as he speaks, ver. 4.
21. Half yet remains unsung,] I understand this with Mr. Richardson, that it is the half of the episode, not of the whole work, that is here meant; for when the poem was divided into but ten books, that edition
had this passage at the beginning of the seventh as now. The episode has two principal parts, the war in heaven, and the new creation; the one was sung, but the other remained unsung, and he is now entering upon it but narrower bound. Bound here seems to be a participle as well as unsung. Half yet remains unsung; but this other half is not rapt so much into the invisible world as the former, it is confined in narrower compass, and bound within the visible sphere of day.
21. It is however half of the whole work which has been treated, as well as half of the Episode. It is equally true with respect to the whole subject that the latter half of it is much more bound within the visible diurnal sphere than the former portion; and in point of actual length half still remained, when the poem was divided into ten books, as well as now that it is distributed into twelve. It is remarkable too that he invokes the Muse only in this place and at the beginning of the Poem. There appears to be therefore a considerable probability, that Milton meant that half of his whole subject remained unsung. E.
More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchang'd
25.-though fall'n on evil days,] The repetition and turn of the words is very beautiful,
though fall'n on evil days, On evil days though fall'n, and evil tongues ; &c.
A lively picture this in a few lines of the Poet's wretched condition. In darkness, though is still understood; he was not become hoarse or mute though in darkness, though he was blind, and with dangers compass'd round, and solitude, obnoxious to the government, and having a world of enemies among the royal party, and therefore obliged to live very much in privacy and alone. And what strength of mind was it, that could not only support him under the weight of these misfortunes, but enable him to soar to such heights, as no human genius ever reached before?
31.and fit audience find, though few.] He had Horace in mind, Sat. i. x. 73.
-neque te ut miretur turba, labores, Contentus paucis lectoribus.
32. But drive far off the barbarous dissonance
Of Bacchus and his revelers,
Compare Comus, 550. where the
The wonted roar was up amidst the
T. Warton. 33. Of Bacchus and his revelers,] It is not improbable that the poet intended this as an oblique satire upon the dissoluteness of Charles the Second and his court; from whom he seems to apprehend the fate of Orpheus, a famous poet of Thrace, who though he is said to have charmed woods and rocks with his divine songs, yet was torn to pieces by the Bacchanalian women on Rhodope, a mountain of Thrace, nor could the Muse Calliope his mother defend him. So fail not thou, who thee implores; nor was his wish ineffectual, for the government suf