Page images

Against the Higheft, and fierce with grafped arms Clash'd on their founding fhields the din of war, Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.

There ftood a hill not far, whofe grifly top 670 Belch'd fire and rolling smoke; the rest entire Shone with a gloffy fcurf; undoubted fign

fourreaux qui jettoit moult grand clairte," occurs in Huon de Bourdeaux, as Mr. Bowle obferves. See alfo the Prologue to Fuimus Troes, 1633. Of "bold fouldiers in hell;

"Whofe glittering armes brighten thofe gloomy fhades, "In lieu of ftarry lights." Todd.

Ver. 667.

and fierce with grasped arms

Clafh'd on their founding fhields the din of war,

Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.] Grafped, joined to arms, determines the expreffion to mean fwords only, which were spoken of a little before, v. 664. PEARCE.

The known cuftom of the Roman foldiers, when they applauded a speech of their general, was to fmite their shields with their fwords. BENTLEY,

Milton here imitates both Spenfer and Shakspeare. See the Faer. Qu. i. iv. 40.

"Therewith they gan to hurlen greedily,

"Redoubted battaile ready to darraine,

"And clash their shields, and shake their swords on high."

And Julius Cefar, A. v. S. i.

Defiance, traitors, hurl we in your teeth."


Ver. 669.

toward the vault of Heaven.] So Spenfer, in Mother Hubbard's Tale,

"Whatfo the Heaven in his wide vault contains."


Milton again ufes the word vault by a fimilar figure, B. iv. 777 The fame image is beautifully used by Buchanan, Pfalm xix. 2.

[blocks in formation]

That in his womb was hid metallick ore,
The work of fulphur. Thither, wing'd with speed,
A numerous brigad haften'd: as when bands 675
Of pioneers, with spade and pickax arm'd,
Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field,
Or caft a rampart. Mammon led them on;
Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell
From Heaven; for e'en in Heaven his looks and


Ver. 673.

womb] Womb is here ufed in as large a fenfe as the Latin uterus, which Virgil applies to a ftag, En. vii. 490.

"Ille manum patiens, menfæque assuetus herili,” but afterwards Afcanius wounds him, v. 499.

"Pérque uterum fonitu, pérque ilia venit arundo." And fee En. xi. 813. NEWTON.

A more appropriate illustration may be drawn from our own poetry; the application of womb being made to the fame objec as that before us, in Chamberlayne's Pharonnida, 8vo. 1659. B. ii. 147.


a purling stream, whose spring did live,
"When from the hil's cool woмB broke forth, within
"A grotto." TODD.

Ver. 674. The work of fulphur.] Agricola fays it was the common opinion of chemifts, though erroneous, that metals were compofed of fulphur and quickfilver, De re metallica, p. 520. He mentions alfo burning mountains throwing ap maffes like iron, p. 562. STILLINGFLEET.

Ver. 678. Mammon] This name is Syriack, and fignifies riches. "Ye cannot ferve God and Mammon," Mat. vi. 24. Mammon is by fome supposed to be the god of riches; and is accordingly perfonified by Milton, and had been before by Spenfer; whose description of Mammon and his cave Milton feems to have had his eye upon in feveral places. NEWTON.

Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heaven's pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught, divine or holy, elfe enjoy'd
In vision beatifick: by him firft

Men alfo, and by his fuggeftion taught,


Ver. 682. The riches of Heaven's pavement,] So Homer, of Heaven's pavement, Il. iv. 2, xpvoiy in damidy." And St. John, of the heavenly Jerufalem," Rev. xxi. 21. "And the street of the city is pure gold." NEWTON.

Dr. Gillies well obferves, that Mammon could not have this fordid difpofition of admiring the gold of the fireet, rather than the bleffed vifion of God, before he finned. What is faid of him, therefore, from v. 679 to v. 684, though expreffed in general terms, must be understood only of the time he remained in Heaven after he joined Satan. TODD.

Ver. 684.

by him first

Men alfo, and by his fuggeftion taught,] Dr. Bentley fays, the poet affigns as two caufes him and his fuggeftion, which are one and the fame thing. This obfervation has the appearance of accuracy. But Milton is exact, and alludes in a beautiful manner to a fuperftitious opinion, generally believed amongst the miners: That there are a fort of Devils which converfe much in minerals, where they are frequently feen to bufy and employ themselves in all the operations of the workmen; they will dig, cleanfe, melt, and feparate the metals. See G. Agricola de Animantibus fubterraneis. So that Milton prophetically supposes Mammon and his clan to have taught the fons of earth by example and practical instruction, as well as precept and mental fuggeftion. WARBURTON.

Notwithstanding all the appearance of accuracy, Dr. Bentley's obfervation is a hypercritical mistake. "Him and his fuggeftion," mean, indeed, one and the fame thing; but are not affigned by the Poet as two causes, but as one only. We have the like expreffions commonly in profe; "It was you and your perfuafion that made me do fo or fo:" "It was he and his example which influenced others." And we meet with a paffage in Book xi. 261. very like this:

Ranfack'd the center, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother Earth
For treasures, better hid. Soon had his crew
Open'd into the hill a fpacious wound,
And digg'd out ribs of gold. Let none admire
That riches grow in Hell; that foil may best 691
Deferve the precious bane. And here let thofe,
Who boast in mortal things, and wondering tell
Of Babel, and the works of Memphian kings,
Learn how their greateft monuments of fame,
And firength, and art, are easily out-done 696

"To thefe that fober race of men, whofe lives
"Religious titled them the fons of God,

"Shall yield up all their virtue, all their fame
Ignobly, to the trains and to the fmiles


Of thefe fair atheifts." EDWARDS.

[ocr errors]

Ver. 686. Ranfack'd the center, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother Earth

For treasures, better hid.] Ovid, Met. i. 138.
"Itum cft in vifcera terræ,

"Quáfque recondiderat, Stygiifque admoverat umbris,
"Effodiuntur opes." HUME.

See alfo Hor. Od. III. iii. 49.


"Aurum irrepertum, et fic melius fitum." NEWTON. And compare Beaumont and Fletcher, King and no King: or were you hid "Where Earth hides all her riches, near her center." TODD. Ver. 695. Learn how their greatest monuments of fame, And firength, and art, &c.] This paffage has been mifunderstood by Dr. Bentley and others. Strength and art are not to be conftrued in the genitive cafe with fame, but in the nominative with monuments. And then the meaning is plainly thus, Learn how their greatest monuments of fame, and how their frength and art, are cofily outdone &c. NEWTON.

By Spirits reprobate, and in an hour
What in an age they with inceffant toil
And hands innumerable fcarce perform.
Nigh on the plain, in many cells prepar'd, 700
That underneath had veins of liquid fire
Sluc'd from the lake, a fecond multitude
With wonderous art founded the maffy ore,
Severing each kind, and fcumm'd the bullion

A third as foon had form'd within the ground 705
A various mould, and from the boiling cells
By ftrange conveyance fill'd each hollow nook;
As in an organ, from one blaft of wind,
Tomany a row of pipes the found-board breathes.
Anon, out of the earth, a fabrick huge


Ver. 699. There were 360,000 men employed for near twenty years upon one of the Pyramids, according to Diodorus Siculus, Lib. i. and Pliny, Lib. 36. c. 12. NEWTON.

Ver. 703. founded] So the first edition reads; but in the fucceeding editions, till Dr. Bentley's, it is found out. Founded, that is, melted the maffy ore. TODD.

Ver. 704. and fcumm'd the bullion drofs:] As one would fay, gold-drofs, or filver-drofs, the drofs which arofe from the melted metal in refining it. RICHARDSON.

See Spenfer, Faer. Qu. ii. vii. 36.

"Some fcumm'd the dros that from the metall came." STILLINGFLEET.

Ver. 708. As in an organ, &c.] This fimile is as exact, as it is new. And we may obferve, that Milton frequently fetches his images from mufick, more than any other English poet; as he was very fond of it, and was himself a performer upon the organ and other inftruments. NEWTON.

« PreviousContinue »