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Wallowing unwieldy', enormous in their gate
And how smooth is the verfe that defcribes the feal and dolphin fporting upon the fmooth water!
on fmooth the feal, And bended dolphins play: It is much finer than if it had all been exprefs'd in a fingle line. The verfe is bent, as I may fay, to be better fuited to the bended dolphin: as in the rough measures following one almoft fees porpoifes and other unwieldy creatures tumbling about in the ocean.
412. Tempeft the ocean:] Milton has here with very great art and propriety adopted the Italian verb tempeftare. He could not poffibly have expreffed this idea in mere English without fome kind of circumlocution, which would have weaken'd and enervated that energy of expreffion which this part of his defcription requir'd. Befides no word could be more proper in the beginning of the verfe to make it labor like the troubled ocean, which he is painting out. Thyer.
there leviathan,] The
In profpeat;] That is, the birds were fo many that the ground, from whence they rofe, would have appeared to be under a cloud, if one had feen it at a diftance: in this fense we have ver. 555 how it (the world) Show'd
Bursting with kindly rupture forth disclos'd
Their callow young, but feather'd foon and fledge 420
in profpect from his throne. Pearce. dentibus: feffos duces ad terga reciUnder a cloud, the ground being fhaded by the multitude of birds feem'd as when a cloud paffes over it.
Richardfon. 423.there the eagle and the fork On cliffs and cedar tops their eyries build:] Thefe birds build their eyries, that is their nefts in fuch high places. In Job XXXIX, 27, 28. it is faid particularly of the eagle, Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her neft on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the frong place. And Pliny fays of them, Nidificant in petris et arboribus. L. 10. Sect. 4.
piunt. Nat. Hift. L. 10. Sect. 32. But as this migration of birds is one of the most wonderful inftincts of nature, it may be proper to add fome better authorities to explain and juftify our author than PlinyJerem. VIII. 7. takes notice of this remarkable inftinct; Yea the ftork in the Heaven knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and the fwallow observe the time of their coming, &c. So very intelligent are they of feafons. And as Milton inftances in the crane particularly, we will quote what the ingenious author of Spectacle de la Nature fays upon this occafion. Dial. XI. “ Ás "to wild ducks and cranes, both the their way,] Pliny has de- "one and the other at the approach fcribed certain birds of paffage, fly. "of winter fly in queft of more ing in the form of a wedge, and "favorable climates. They all affpreading wider and wider. Those "femble at a certain day like fwalbehind reft upon thofe before, till "lows and quails. They decamp the leaders being tir'd are in their "at the fame time, and 'tis very turn receiv'd into the rear. A tergo agreeable to observe their flight. fenfim dilatante fe cuneo porrigitur "They generally range themselves agmen, largèque impellenti præbe- "in a long column like an I, or tur aura. Colla imponunt præce- "in two lines united in a point like
426.rang'd in figure wedge
Intelligent of feasons, and fet forth
Their aery caravan high over feas
Flying, and over lands with mutual wing
Eafing their flight; fo fteers the prudent crane 430 Her annual voyage, borne on winds; the air
"a V reverfed." And fo as Milton
Harmonious numbers; as the wake
-rang'd in figure wedge their way. Sings darkling, and in fhadieft co
"The duck or quail, who forms "the point, cuts the air, and faci"litates a paffage to those who "follow; but he is charged with "this commiffion only for a certain "time, at the conclufion of which "he wheels into the rear, and ano"ther takes his poft." And thus as Milton fays,
with mutual wing Eafing their flight. 435.-nor then the folemn nightin
gale &c.] Of all finging birds, we fee that he inftances in the nightingale particularly; and his fondness for this little bird is very remarkable, and he expreffes it upon every occafion. If the reader has not taken particular notice of it, he will be furpris'd as well as pleas'd to fee in how many paffages and with what admiration he speaks of this charming fongfter. He compares his own making verfes in his blindness to the nightingale's finging in the dark. III. 37.
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntary move
Tunes her nocturnal note.
In that charming description of evening, IV. 598. nothing can be more charming than what is faid of the nightingale.
Silence accompanied; for beaft and bird,
They to their graffy couch, thefe to their nefts
Were flunk; all but the wakeful nightingale ;
She all night long her amorous de fcant fung; Silence was pleas'd.
In that tender fpeech of Eve's to Adam, IV. 639.
With thee converfing I forget all time, &'c
amongst other pleafing images he mentions twice
the filent night With this her folemn bird.
And Adam and Eve are made to flcep lall'd by nightingales, IV. 771. Thefe, lull'd by nightingales, embracing flept,
Flotes, as they pass, fann'd with unnumber'd plumes:
The amorous bird of night Sung fpoufal, and bid hafte the evening ftar
On his hill-top to light the bridal lamp.
Other pocts mention the nightingale
And the mute filence hift along,
Sweet bird that fhunn'ft the noise
Moft mufical, most melancholy!
I woo to hear thy even-fong;
And in his fonnets the firft is ad
Others on filver lakes and rivers bath'd
Their downy breaft; the fwan with arched neck
The dank, and rifing on stiff pennons, tower
The mid aereal sky: Others on ground
Walk'd firm; the crested cock whofe clarion founds
Of rainbows and ftarry' eyes. The waters thus
438.-the fwan with arched neck] The ancient poets have not hit upon this beauty, fo lavish as they have been in their defcriptions of the fwan. Homer calls the fwan longneck'd exodespor, but how much more pittorefque if he had arched this length of neck! her wings mantling proudly, her wings are then a little detach'd from her fides, rais'd and spread as a mantle, which she does with an apparent pride, as is also seen in her whole figure, attitude, and motion. Richardfon. Dr. Bentley wonders that he fhould make the fwan of the feminine gender, contrary to both Greek and Latin. I fuppofe he did it, because be thought it would be more agreeable to the ear. Rows his ftate founds rather too rough.
450 when God faid, &c.] So Gen. I. 24. And God faid, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing, and beaft of the earth after his kind.
We obferv'd before, that when Milton makes the divine Perfon fpeak, he keeps clofely to Scripture. Now what we render living creature is living foul in the Hebrew, which Milton ufually follows rather than our tranflation; and foul ̃ít fhould be here as in ver. 388. living foul, and 392. foul living. It is indeed fowl in all the printed copies, Let th' earth bring forth forw/ living
in her kind:
but Dr. Bentley, Dr. Pearce, Mr. Richardfon, and common fenfe, all condemn this reading; it is mani