Page images
PDF
EPUB

Of rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in glory' above his peers,

He trusted to have equall'd the Most High,
If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God
Rais'd impious war in heav'n and battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky,

38. by whose aid aspiring To set himself in glory' above his peers,] Here Dr. Bentley objects, that Satan's crime was not, his aiming above his peers: he was in place high above them before, as the Doctor proves from v. 812. But though this be true, yet Milton may be right here; for the force of the words seems, not that Satan aspired to set himself above his peers, but that he aspired to set himself in glory, &c. that is in divine glory, in such glory as God and his Son were set in. Here was his crime; and this is what God charges him with in v. 725.

[blocks in formation]

aspiring

40

45

To place and glory above the Son of
God.

Pearce.

Besides the other methods which Milton has employed to diversify and improve his numbers, he takes the same liberties as Shakespeare and others of our old poets, and in imitation of the Greeks and Latins often cuts off the vowel at the end of a word, when the next word he does not like the Greeks begins with a vowel; though wholly drop the vowel, but still retains it in writing like the Latins. Another liberty, that he takes likewise for the greater improvement and variety of his versification, is pronouncing the same word sometimes as two

And in vi. 88. Milton says that syllables, and sometimes as only

the rebel angels hoped

To win the mount of God, and on his throne

To set the envier of his state, the proud

Aspirer.

See also to the same purpose vii. 140, &c. From these passages it appears that there is no occasion for Dr. Bentley's alteration, which is this,

We

one syllable or two short ones.
We have frequent instances in
spirit, ruin, riot, reason, highest,
and several other words.
shall take care throughout this
edition to mark such vowels as
are to be cut off, and such as
are to be contracted and abbre-
viated, thus'.

45. Hurl'd headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky,] Hom. Iliad. i. 591.

With hideous ruin and combustion, down

To bottomless perdition, there to dwell

In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th' Omnipotent to arms.

Nine times the space that measures day and night 50
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew

Lay vanquish'd, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded though immortal: but his doom
Reserv'd him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him; round he throws his baleful
That witness'd huge affliction and dismay
Mix'd with obdurate pride and stedfast hate :
At once, as far as angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild;

A dungeon horrible on all sides round

eyes,

As one great furnace flam'd, yet from those flames

Ριψε, ποδος πελαγων, απο βηλου θεσπε

01010.

Hurl'd headlong downward from th' ethereal height. Pope.

46. With hideous ruin and combustion,] Ruin is derived from ruo, and includes the idea of falling with violence and precipitation, and combustion is more than flaming in the foregoing verse, it is burning in a dreadful manner. So that he was not only hurl'd headlong flaming, but he was hurled headlong flaming with hideous ruin and combustion; and what occasion is there then for reading with Dr. Bentley confusion instead of combustion?

55

60

48. In adamantine chains] Eschylus, Prometh. 6.

Αδαμαντινων δεσμών εν αῤῥηκίοις πέδαις.

50. Nine times, &c.] The nine days' astonishment, in which the angels lay intranced after their dreadful overthrow and fall from heaven before they could recover either the use of thought or speech, is a noble circumstance, and very finely imagined. The division of hell into seas of fire, and into firm ground impregnant with the same furious element, with that particular circumstance of the exclusion of hope from those infernal regions, are instances of the same great and fruitful invention. Addison.

No light, but rather darkness visible

Serv'd only to discover sights of woe,

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes

That comes to all; but torture without end
and a fiery deluge, fed

Still
urges,
With ever-burning sulphur unconsum'd:

Such place eternal Justice had prepar'd

For those rebellious, here their pris❜on ordain'd
In utter darkness, and their portion set

63. -darkness visible] Seneca has a like expression, speaking of the Grotta of Pausilipo, Epist. Ivii. Nihil illo carcere longius, nihil illis faucibus obscurius, quæ nobis præstant, non ut per tenebras videamus, sed ut ipsas. And, as Mons. Voltaire observes, Antonio de Solis, in his excellent history of Mexico, hath ventured on the same thought, when speaking of the place wherein Montezuma was wont to consult his deities 66 s; 'Twas a large dark subterraneous vault, says he, where some dismal

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

tapers afforded just light enough to see the obscurity." See his Essay on Epic Poetry, p. 44. Euripides too expresses himself in the same poetical manner. Bac. 510.

πώς αν σκοτιον είσορα κνεφας. There is much the same image in Spenser, but not so bold. Faery Queen, b. i. cant. i. st. 14.

A little glooming light, much like a shade.

Or, after all, the author might

65

70

perhaps take the hint from himself in his Il Penseroso,

Where glowing embers through the

room

Teach light to counterfeit a gloom.

72. In utter darkness.] Dr. Bentley reads outer here and in because it is in Scripture to oxoTos many other places of this poem, tell me that utter and outer are το εξωτερον: but my dictionaries both the same word, differently spelt and pronounced. Milton, in the argument of this book, says, in a place of utter darkness, and no where throughout the Pearce. poem does the poet use outer.

reading, by frequently using the Spenser justifies the present word utter for outer; as in Faery Queen, b. ii. cant. ii. st. 34.

And inly grieve, as doth an hidden moth

The inner garment fret, not th' utter touch.

And again, b. iv. cant. 10. st. 11.

Till to the bridge's utter gate I

came.

Thyer.

As far remov'd from God and light of heav'n,
As from the centre thrice to th' utmost pole.
O how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelm'd
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns, and welt'ring by his side
One next himself in pow'r, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and nam'd

Beelzebub. To whom th' arch-enemy,

And thence in heav'n call'd Satan, with bold words Breaking the horrid silence thus began.

74. As from the centre thrice to th' utmost pole.] Thrice as far as it is from the centre of the earth (which is the centre of the world according to Milton's system, ix. 103. and x. 671.) to the pole of the world; for it is the pole of the universe, far beyond the pole of the earth, which is here called the utmost pole. It is observable that Homer makes the seat of hell as far beneath the deepest pit of earth, as the heaven is above the earth,

Τόσσον ενερθ αϊδίω, όσον ουρανος ἐπ ̓ από yans. Iliad. viii. 16.

Virgil makes it twice as far,

Tum Tartarus ipse
Bis patet in præceps tantum tendit-
que sub umbras,
Quantus ad æthereum cœli suspectus
Olympum. Æn. vi. 577.

And Milton thrice as far,

75

80

But Milton's whole description of hell as much exceeds theirs. as in this single circumstance of the depth of it. And how cool and unaffecting is the ragragor Egoera, the cdngssalte zuhai xat xaxov ovdos of Homer, and the lugentes campi, the ferrea turris, and horrisono stridentes cardine porta of Virgil, in comparison with this description by Milton, concluding with that artful contrast,

O how unlike the place from whence they fell!

81. Beelzebub.] The lord of flies, an idol worshipped at Ekron, a city of the Philistines, 2 Kings i. 2. He is called prince of the devils, Matt. xii. 24. therefore deservedly here made second to Satan himself. Hume.

82. And thence in heav'n called Satan,] For the word Satan in

As far remov'd from God and light of Hebrew signifies an enemy; he

beaven,

As from the centre thrice to th' ut

most pole.

is the enemy by way of eminence, the chief enemy of God and man.

If thou beest he; but O how fall'n! how chang'd
From him, who in the happy realms of light
Cloth'd with transcendent brightness didst outshine
Myriads though bright! If he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope

And hazard in the glorious enterprise,

Join'd with me once, now misery hath join'd
In equal ru'in: into what pit thou seest

son.

84.

85

90

but O how fall'n! how chang'd From him,]

He imitates Isaiah and Virgil at the same time. Isaiah xiv. 12. How art thou fallen, &c. and Virgil's Æn. ii. 274.

84. If thou beest he; &c.] The proud unrelenting mind. Richardthoughts in the first speech and description of Satan, who is one of the principal actors in this poem, are wonderfully proper to give us a full idea of him. His pride, envy, and revenge, obstinacy, despair, and impenitence, are all of them very artfully inIn short, his first speech is a complication of all those passions, which discover themselves separately in several other of his speeches in the poem. Addison.

terwoven.

The change and confusion of these enemies of God is most artfully expressed in the abruptness of the beginning of this speech: If thou art be, that Beëlzebub He stops, and falls into a bitter reflection on their present condition, compared with that in which they lately were. He attempts again to open his mind; cannot proceed on what he intends to say, but returns to those sad thoughts; still doubting whether it is really his associate in the revolt, as now in misery and ruin; by that time he had expatiated on this (his heart was oppressed with it) he is assured to whom he speaks, and goes on to declare his

VOL. I.

Hei mihi qualis erat! quantum mutatus ab illo !

86. Cloth'd with transcendent brightness didst outshine Myriads though bright !] Imitated from Homer, Odyss. vi. 110. where Diana excels all her nymphs in beauty, though all of them be beautiful.

Ρεια δ' αρίγνωτη πέλεται, καλαι δε τε

πασαι.

Bentley.

91. In equal ruin :] So it is in all the editions. And equal ruin is Dr. Bentley's emendation, which Dr. Pearce allows (and I believe every body must allow) to be just and proper; it being very easy to mistake one of these words for the other; and other instances perhaps may occur in the course of this work. Equal ruin hath joined now, as equal hope joined before; somewhat like that in Ovid's Metamorphosis, i. 351.

C

« PreviousContinue »