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That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the heav'ns and earth

could find no water; from whence Dr. Bentley concludes, that Horeb had no clouds or mists about its top; and that therefore secret top cannot be here meant as implying that high mountains against rainy weather have their heads surrounded with mists. I never thought that any reader of Milton would have understood secret top in this sense. The words of Horeb or of Sinai imply a doubt of the poet, which name was properest to be given to that mountain, on the top of which Moses received his inspiration; because Horeb and Sinai are used for one another in Scripture, as may be seen by comparing Exod. iii. 1. with Acts vii. 30. but by naming Sinai last, he seems to incline rather to that. Now it is well known from Exod. xix. 16. Ecclus. xlv. 5. and other places of Scripture, that when God gave his laws to Moses on the top of Sinai, it was covered with clouds, dark clouds, and thick smoke; it was therefore secret at that time in a peculiar sense : and the same thing seems intended by the epithet which our poet uses upon the very same occasion in xii. 227.

God from the mount of Sinai, whose gray top

Shall tremble, he descending, &c. Dr. Bentley shews that sucred hill is common among the poets in several languages; from whence I should conclude that sacred is a general epithet;

whereas secret, in the sense which I have given it, is the most peculiar one that can be; and therefore (to use Dr. Bentley's words) if, as the best poets have adjudged, a proper epithet is to be preferred to a general one, I have such an esteem for our poet, that which of the two words is the better, that I say (viz. secret) was dictated by Milton. Pearce.

We have given this excellent note at length, as we have met with several persons who have approved of Dr. Bentley's emendation. It may be too that the poet had a farther meaning in the use of this epithet in this place; for being accustomed to make use of words in the signification that they bear in the learned languages, he may very well be supposed to use the word secret in the same sense as the Latin secretus, set apart or separate, like the secretosque pios in Virgil, Æn. viii. 670. and it appears from Scripture, that while Moses was with God in the mount, the people were not to come near it or touch it, till after a signal given, and then they were only to approach, and not to ascend it, nor pass the bounds set for them upon pain of death, Exod. xix. So that upon all accounts secret is the most proper epithet, that could have been chosen.

8. That shepherd, who first &c.] For Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law. Exod. iii. 1.

9. In the beginning how the

Rose out of chaos: or, if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhime.

heav'ns and earth] Alluding to the first words of Genesis.

11. and Silva's brook] Siloa was a small river that flowed near the temple at Jerusalem. It is mentioned Isa. viii. 6. So that in effect he invokes the heavenly Muse, that inspired David and the Prophets on mount Sion, and at Jerusalem, as well as Moses on mount Sinai.

15. Above th' Aonian mount,] A poetical expression for soaring to a height above other poets. The mountains of Boeotia, anciently called Aonia, were the haunt of the Muses; and thus Virgil, Ecl. vi. 65.

Aonas in montes ut duxerit una sororum,

And again, Georg. iii. 11.

Aonio rediens deducam vertice Mu


though afterwards, I know not by what fatality, that country was famous for the dulness of its inhabitants.

16. Things unattempted yet in prose or rhime.] Milton appears to have meant a different thing by rhime here, from rime in his preface, where it is six times



mentioned, and always spelt without an h; whereas in all the editions, till Dr. Bentley's ap peared, rhime in this place of the poem was spelt with an h. Milton probably meant a difference in the thing, by making so constant a difference in the spelling; and intended that we should here understand by rhime, not the jingling sound of like endings, but verse in general; the word being derived from rythmus, jueues. Ariosto had said

Cosa non detta in prosa mai, ne in rima, which is word for word the same with what Milton says here.

So in Lycidas v. 11.

He knew


Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhime.

The sense of the word rhyme in both places in unquestionably "verse."

It is wonderful that Bentley, with all his Grecian predilections, and his critical knowledge of the precise original meaning of putus, should have wished to substitute, in this passage of the Paradise Lost, song for rhime.

And chiefly Thou, O Spi'rit, that dost prefer
Before all temples th' upright heart and pure,

Gray, who studied and copied
Milton with true penetration and
taste, in his music-ode uses rhyme
in Milton's sense.

Meek Newton's self bends from his state sublime

And nods his hoary head, and listens to the rhime.

T. Warton.

Milton probably thought it would sound too low and familiar to the ear to say in prose or verse, and therefore chose rather to say in prose or rhime. When he says in prose or verse, he adds an epithet to take off from the commonness of the expression, as in v. 150.

such prompt eloquence Flow'd from their lips, in prose or

numerous verse.

It is said that Milton took the first hint of this poem from an Italian tragedy called Il Paradiso perso; and it is pretended that he has borrowed largely from Masenius, a German Jesuit, and other modern authors; but it is all a pretence; he made use of all authors, such was his learning; but such is his genius, he is no copyer; his poem is plainly an original, if ever there was one. His subject indeed of the fall of Man, together with the principal episodes, may be said to be as old as Scripture, but his manner of handling them is entirely new, with new illustrations and new beauties of his own; and he may as justly boast of the novelty of his poem, as

any of the ancient poets bestow that recommendation upon their works; as Lucretius, i. 925.

Avia Pieridum peragro loca, nullius


Trita solo: &c.

and Virgil, Georg. iii. 3.

Cætera quæ vacuas tenuissent car-
mina mentes

Omnia jam vulgata.—————
Primus ego in patriam &c.

iii. 292.

Juvat ire jugis, qua nulla priorum. Castaliam molli divertitur orbita clivo.

17. And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, &c.] Invoking the Muse is commonly a matter of mere form, wherein the poets neither mean, nor desire to be thought to mean, any thing seriously. But the Holy Ghost here invoked is too solemn a name to be used insignificantly: and besides, our author, in the beginning of his next work, Paradise Regained, scruples not to say to the same divine person,


As thou art wont, my prompted song, else mute.

This address therefore is no mere formality. Yet some may think that he incurs a worse charge of enthusiasm, or even profaneness, in vouching inspiration for his performance: but the Scriptures represent inspiration as of a much larger extent than is commonly apprehended, teaching that every good gift, in naturals as well as in morals, de

Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast abyss,
And mad'st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

scendeth from the great Father of
lights, Jam. i. 17. And an ex-
traordinary skill even in me-
chanical arts is there ascribed
to the illumination of the Holy
Ghost. It is said of Bezaleël
who was to make the furniture
of the tabernacle, that the Lord
had filled him with the Spirit of God,
in wisdom, in understanding, and
in knowledge, and in all manner
of workmanship, and to devise
curious works, &c. Exod. xxxv.
31. Heylin.

It may be observed too in justification of our author, that other sacred poems are not without the like invocations, and particularly Spenser's Hymns of heavenly love and heavenly beauty, as well as some modern Latin poems. But I conceive that Milton intended something more; for I have been informed by those, who had opportunities of conversing with his widow, that she was wont to say that he did really look upon himself as inspired, and I think his works are not without a spirit of enthusiasm. In the beginning of his 2d book of The Reason of Church Government, speaking of his design of writing a poem

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in the English language, he says, "It was not to be ob"tained by the invocation of "dame Memory and her Siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit "who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and "sends out his Seraphim, with "the hallowed fire of his altar, "to touch and purify the lips "of whom he pleases," p. 61. edit. 1738.

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19. Instruct me, for Thou know'st ;] Theocrit. Idyll. xxii. 116.

Είπε θεα, συ γαρ οισία.

21. Dove-like satst brooding] Alluding to Gen. i. 2. the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters; for the word that we translate moved signifies properly brooded, as a bird doth upon her eggs; and he says like a dove rather than any other bird, because the descent of the Holy Ghost is compared to a dove in Scripture, Luke iii. 22. As Milton studied the Scriptures in the original languages, his images and expressions are oftener copied from them, than from our translation.

26. And justify the ways of

Say first, for heav'n hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of hell, say first what cause
Mov'd our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favour'd of heav'n so highly, to fall-off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the world besides?
Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt?
Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirr'd with envy
and revenge, deceiv'd
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from heav'n, with all his host

God to men.] A verse, which Mr. Pope has thought fit to bor. row with some little variation, in the beginning of his Essay on Man,

But vindicate the ways of God to


It is not easy to conceive any good reason for Mr. Pope's preferring the word vindicate, but Milton makes use of the word justify, as it is the Scripture word, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, Rom. iii. 4. And the ways of God to men are justified in the many argumentative discourses throughout the poem, and particularly in the conferences between God the Father and the Son.

27. Say first, for heav'n hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of hell,] The poets attribute a kind of omniscience to the Muse, and very rightly, as it enables them to speak of things which could not otherwise be supposed to come to



their knowledge. Thus Homer, Iliad. ii. 485.

Ύμεις γαρ θεαι επι, παρισι τι, και τι


And Virgil, Æn. vii. 645.

Et meministis enim, Divæ, et me

morare potestis.

Milton's Muse, being the Holy Spirit, must of course be omniscient. And the mention of

heaven and hell is very proper in this place, as the scene of so great a part of the poem is laid sometimes in hell, and sometimes in heaven.

32. For one restraint,] For one thing that was restrained, every thing else being freely indulged to them, and only the tree of knowledge forbidden.

33. Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt? Th' infernal Serpent ;] Homer, Iliad. i. 8.

Τις σ' ας σφων θεων τρίδι ξυνέηκε μαχι
Λητής και Διος υἱος.

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