Page images

Lie thus astonished on the oblivious pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy mansion, or once more,
With rallied arms, to try what may be yet

Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell ?"
So Satan spake, and him Beëlzebub

Thus answered :- "Leader of those armies bright,
Which but the Omnipotent none could have foiled!
If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge
Of hope in fears and dangers, heard so oft
In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge
Of battle when it raged, in all assaults
Their surest signal, they will soon resume
New courage and revive, though now they lie
Grovelling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,
As we erewhile, astounded and amazed:
No wonder, fallen such a pernicious highth."

He scarce had ceased when the superior Fiend
Was moving toward the shore, his ponderous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,
Behind him cast. The broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening, from the top of Fesolè,


274. Pledge, that which has assured them of hope.

281. Astounded, stunned. Amazed, stupefied as by a blow.

282. Pernicious, harmful.


seen on his Italian journey.

289. Fesole, a village on a hill near Florence.


266. Oblivious pool. It was not, of course, the pool which forgot, but those lying upon it. Milton is thinking of Lethe, the river of forgetfulness in Hades, as afterward ii. 583-586.


268. Mansion, abiding place, as in John xiv. 2: "In my Father's house are many mansions."

283. Superior. Satan was and had always been the chief.

288. Optic glass, the telescope.

The Tuscan artist, Galileo, the astronomer, whom Milton had

Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine,
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand,
He walked with, to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marle, not like those steps
On Heaven's azure; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire:
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamèd sea he stood, and called
His legions, angel forms, who lay entranced,
Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades,
High over-arched embower; or scattered sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed
Hath vexed the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld

From the safe shore their floating carcases






290. Valdarno, the valley of the Arno, in which Florence is situated.

294. Ammiral. An obsolete form of "admiral"; an obsolete use also, meaning the ship and not the commander.

301. Entranced, a little different in meaning from our present use; in a stupor.

302-4. These lines are well known. Vallombrosa, "the shady vale," is not far from Florence. Etruria was the ancient name for

a great part of northern Italy. 305. Orion. The constellation was held to bring stormy weather. 307. Busiris, the Pharaoh of the Bible. Memphian, for Egyptian, Memphis having been a great city of Egypt.

308. Perfidious, because he had given the Israelities leave to go. Exod. xii. 31; cf. xiv. 5.

309. Sojourners of Goshen. The children of Israel had sojourned in the land of Goshen four hundred and thirty years according to Gen. xlvii. 27 and Exod. xii. 40.

And broken chariot wheels so thick bestrewn,
Abject and lost lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He called so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded: "Princes, Potentates,
Warriors, the flower of heaven, once yours, now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seize

Eternal spirits! Or have ye chosen this place
After the toil of battle to repose

Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here as in the vales of Heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conqueror-who now beholds
Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood,
With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from Heaven-gates discern
The advantage, and, descending, tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linkèd thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf?
Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!"

They heard and were abashed, and up they sprung
Upon the wing, as when men wont to watch,
On duty sleeping found by whom they dread,
Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake.
Nor did they not perceive the evil plight
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their General's voice they soon obeyed,
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day,
Waved round the coast, up called a pitchy cloud







312. Abject, hurled down.

317. Lost, if such astonishment

can seize Eternal spirits;

i. e., all chance of regaining heaven is gone if you are as you seem. 337. To. We say obedience to anything, to the law of God, for instance, as in xii. 397, but obey usually takes an object without a preposition. 339. Amram's son.


340. The plague of locusts is described in Ex. x.

Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darkened all the land of Nile :
So numberless were those bad angels seen
Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell,
"Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires:
Till, as a signal given, the uplifted spear
Of their great Sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain :
A multitude, like which the populous North
Poured never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the South, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.
Forthwith from every squadron and each band,
The heads and leaders thither haste, where stood
Their great Commander; godlike shapes, and forms
Excelling human, princely dignities,

And powers that erst in Heaven sat on thrones;
Though of their names in heavenly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and rased
By their rebellion from the Books of Life.
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names; till, wandering o'er the earth,


355. The Vandals passed through Spain into Africa.

359. Excelling, surpassing.

360. Powers





345. Cope. The word originally meant hood, mantle, and so covering, as of Heaven, whence transferred to Hell.

348. Sultan. Strictly speaking, an Oriental monarch, but Milton uses the word in a general sense. In 1. 378 we have Emperor.

351-355. Refers to the invasions of the Roman Empire by the Teutonic tribes beyond the Rhine and the Danube, which rivers formed the Roman boundary.

thrones. See note on 1. 128.

364-373. It was a legend that the fallen angels had, in process of time, become deities of the heathen nations. Milton in 11. 380-521 makes excellent use of it.

Through God's high sufferance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies, the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and the invisible

Glory of Him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorned
With gay religions full of pomp and gold,
And devils to adore for deities;


Then were they known to men by various names
And various idols through the heathen world.


Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last,
Roused from the slumber on that fiery couch,
At their great Emperor's call, as next in worth,
Came singly where he stood on the bare strand,
While the promiscuous crowd stood yet aloof.

The chief were those, who, from the pit of Hell
Roaming to seek their prey on earth, durst fix
Their seats long after next the seat of God,
Their altars by his altar, gods adored
Among the nations round, and durst abide
Jehovah thundering out of Sion, throned



376. Say, Muse. Cf. "Musa mihi causas memora," En. i. 6, and other such passages, also P. L., i. 27, and vii. 40, in Appendix A.

380. Promiscuous, mixed, and so common; ordinary.

381. The most constant temptation before the children of Israel was to imitate the idolatry of the neighbouring nations. Over and over again did they offend, taking sometimes the gods of one tribe, sometimes of another: the Old Testament from Exodus to Malachi is the record of constant stumbling. Milton follows a sort of traditional idea that the gods of the heathen were none other than the fallen angels, who had been cast out of heaven, and, as will appear in Book ii., he was able to work the idea into the structure of his poem. To illustrate the passages following, the student should read in Appendix C, p. 108, the extracts from Kings and Chronicles, and from Isaiah and Jeremiah. But no one can really enjoy Paradise Lost without constant reference to the Bible, and one should really read much See also the extract from The Hymn to the Nativity, p. 89.


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »