Page images

Inftruct me, for Thou know'ft; Thou from the


Inftances of the word, in the fame fenfe, being written both ways in Milton's time, may, however, be produced. See P. Fletcher's Poet. Mifcell. 1633. p. 3. "And rais'd my rime to fing." Again, p. 82. "Some wanton rhyme." TODD.

Ver. 17. And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, &c.] Invoking the Mufe is commonly a matter of mere form, wherein the poets neither mean, nor defire to be thought to mean any thing seriously. But the Holy Ghoft, here invoked, is too foleinn a name to be used infignificantly and, befides, our author, in the beginning of his next work Paradife Regained, fcruples not to fay to the fame Divine Perfon


"As thou art wont, my prompted fong, elfe mute."

This addrefs therefore is no mere formality. Yet fome may think that he incurs a worfe charge of enthufiafm, or even profanenefs, in vouching inspiration for his performance: but the Scriptures reprefent infpiration as of a much larger extent than is commonly apprehended, teaching that " every good gift," in naturals as well `as in morals, " defcendeth from the great Father of lights," Jam. i. 17. And an extraordinary skill even in mechanical arts is there afcribed to the illumination of the Holy Ghoft. It is faid 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 devife curious works, &c." Exod. xxxv. 31. HEYLIN.

It may be obferved too in juftification of our author, that other facred poems are not without the like invocations, and particularly Spenfer's Hymns of Heavenly Love and Heavenly Beauty, as well as fome modern Latin poems. But I conceive that Milton intended fomething more, for I have been informed by those who had opportunities of converfing with his widow, that she was wont to fay that he did really look upon himself as infpired; and I think his works are not without a spirit of enthusiasm. In the beginning of his fecond Book of The Reason of Church Government, speaking of his defign of writing a poem

Waft prefent, and with mighty wings outspread Dove-like fat'st brooding on the vast abyss, 21 And mad'ft it pregnant: What in me is dark,

in the English language, he fays, "It was not to be obtained 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 fends out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleafes." p. 61, Edit. 1738. NEWTON.

Ver. 19. Infruct me, for Thou know'j;] Theocritus, Idyl. xxii. 116.

Εἰπὲ θεα· σὺ γὰρ οἶσθα. NEWTON.

In Sylvefter's Du Bartas, the poet, proceeding to narrate the hiftory of the Ifraelites after they were brought out of Egypt, fimilarly invokes the infpiration of that Holy Spirit who, having conducted them through the wilderness, had been an immediate witnefs of the facts to be related, edit. 1621, p. 365.

"Tell, for I know thou know'ft-"

Ver. 21.

The fame phrafe occurs, ib. p. 346. We may alfo compare Taffo's addrefs to the Holy Spirit in the opening of his Il Mondo Creato, and to the Mufe in his Gier. Lib. C. iv. 19. DUNSTER. Dove-like fut't brooding] Alluding to Gen. i. 2. "The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters:" For the word that we translate moved, fignifies properly brooded, as a bird doth upon her eggs; and Milton fays like a dove rather than any other bird, because the defcent of the Holy Ghoft is compared to a dove, Luke iii. 22. As Milton ftudied the Scriptures in the original languages, his images and expreffions are oftener copied from them, than from our tranflations. NEWTON.

Perhaps Milton fays "dove-like," knowing that the Talmudifts had thus critically illuftrated the original word, brooded: “QUEMADMODUM COLUMBA incumbit pullis fuis, neque eos attingit aut lædit alis fuis." Vid. Hottinger. Thejaur. Phil. p. 275, and p. 350. TODD.

Ver. 22.

What in me is dark,
Illumine; He calls the Holy Ghoft "the illumining

Illumine; what is low, raise and support;
That to the highth of this great argument
may affert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.


Say firft, for Heaven hides nothing from thy

Nor the deep tract of Hell; fay first, what cause
Mov'd our grand Parents, in that happy state,
Favour'd of Heaven fo highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and tranfgrefs his will
For one restraint, lords of the world befides?



Spirit," in his Profe-Works, vol. i. p. 273. edit. 1698. Compare Fairfax's Tajo, B. viii. ft. 76.

"Illumine their dark foules with light diuine." TODD.

Ver. 26. And juftify the ways of God to men.] Pope has thought fit to borrow this verfe, with fome little variation, Ejay on Man, Ep. i. 16. "But vindicate the ways of God to Man." It is not eafy to conceive any good reafon for Pope's preferring vindicate; but Milton ufes juftify, as it is the Scripture word, "That thou mighteft be justified in thy fayings," Rom. iii. 4. And the ways of God to men" are juftified in the many argumentative difcourfes throughout the Poem, particularly in the conferences between God the Father and the Son. NEWTON.

Ver. 27. Say firft, for Heaven hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell ;] The poets attribute a kind of omniscience to the Mufe, and very rightly, as it enables them to speak of things, which could not otherwife be fuppofed to come to their knowledge. Thus Homer, I. ii. 485.

Ὑμεῖς γὰρ θεαί ἐσε, πάρεσέ τε, ἴσε τὶ πάνα.

And fee Virgil, En. viii. 645. Milton's Mufe being the Holy Spirit, muft of course be omnifcient. And the mention of Heaven and Hell is very proper in this place, as the scene of fo great a part of the Poem is laid fometimes in Hell, and fometimes in Heaven. NEWTON.

Who firft feduc'd them to that foul revolt?
The infernal Serpent; he it was, whofe guile,
Stirr'd up with envy and revenge, deceiv'd
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had caft him out from Heaven, with all his hoft
Of rebel Angels; by whofe aid, afpiring
To fet himself in glory above his peers,
He trufted to have equall'd the Moft High, 40
If he oppos'd; and, with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,

Iliad i. 8.

Ver. 33. Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt?
The infernal Serpent ;] ́An imitation of Homer,

Τίς τ ̓ ἄρ σφῶς θεῶν ἔριδι ξυνέηκε μάχεσθαι;
Ληᾶς καὶ Διὸς υἱός. ΗUME.

Ver. 38.


by whofe aid, afpiring

To fet 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 B. v. 812. But, though this be true, Milton may be right here; for the force of the words feems, not that Satan aspired to fet himself above his peers, but that he afpired to fet himself in glory, that is, in divine glory, in fuch glory as God and his Son were fet in. Here was his crime; and this is what God charges him with, in B. v. 725.


"who intends to erect his throne Equal to ours,"—

and, in B. vi. 88, Milton fays, that the rebel Angels hoped

"To win the mount of God, and on his throne
"To fet the envier of his ftate, the proud

See alfo, to the fame purpose, B. vii. 140, &c. PEARCE.

Ver. 40. He trusted to have equall'd the Moft High,] Sce Ifaiah, Ch. xiv. 13. STILLINGFLEET.

Rais'd impious war in Heaven, and battle proud,
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down 46
To bottomlefs perdition; there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,

Ver. 43. - impious war in Heaven, and battle proud,] See Virgil, En. vi. 613.

[merged small][ocr errors]

"bello profugos egere fuperbo." DUNSTER.

Ver. 45. Hurl'd headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,] Dr. Newton here refers to Homer, Il. i. 591. And Mr. Stillingfleet, to Hefiod, Theog. 717. But, as Mr. Boyd the learned translator of the Divina Commedia of Dante remarks, Milton feems to have here particularly remembered the description of the Italian poet, Purgat. C. xii. 25.

quique arma fecuti

"Vedea colui, che fu nobil creato,

"Più d' altra creatura, giù dal cielo,

Folgoreggiando, fcender da un lato."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Compare alfo Heywood's Hierarchie of Angels, fol. 1635, p. 412, where Lucifer is reprefented as having felected

"Legions of Angels, with like pride infected

Against Jehovah; and with expedition

"Hurl'd them with himfelfe headlong to perdition." TODD. Ver. 48. In adamantine chains] This phrafe has been cited from Æfchylus by Dr. Newton. It occurs alfo in Ariofto, and in Fulvio Tefti. But it was a common phrafe in English. Thus, in Spenfer's Hymn, In Honour of Love.

"Together linkt with adamantine chaines.”

And in P. Fletcher's Purp. Ifland, 1633, c. xii. ft. 64, of the old Dragon :

"So now he's bound in adamantine chain;

"He ftorms, he roars, he yells for high dijdain."

« PreviousContinue »