Page images

Upon the wing, or in swift race contend,
As at th' Olympian games or Pythian fields ; 520
Part curb their fiery steeds, or shun the goal
With rapid wheels, or fronted brigades form.
As when to warn proud cities war appears
Waged in the troubled sky, and armies rush
To battle in the clouds, before each van

Prick forth the airy knights, and couch their spears
Till thickest legions close; with feats of arms
From either end of Heav'n the welkin burns.
Others, with vast Typhæan rage more fell,
Rend up both rocks and hills, and ride the air 540
In whirlwind; Hell scarce holds the wild uproar.
As when Alcides, from Oechalia crown'd
With conquest, felt th' envenom'd robe, and tore
Througe pain up by the roots Thessalian pines,
And Lichas from the top of Oeta threw

545 Into th' Euboic soa. Others more mild, Retreated in a silent valley, sing With notes angelical to many a harp Their own heroic deeds and hapless fall By doom of battle ; and complain that Fate 550 Free virtue should inthrall to force or chance. Their song was partial, but the harmony (What could it less when Spirits immortal sing ?) Suspended Hell, and took with ravishment The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet 555 (For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense) Others apart sat on a hill retired, In thoughts more elerate, and reason's high Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate, Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute, 560 And found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost. Of good and evil much they argued then, Of happiness and final misery,

539. Typhean-Typhæus was one of the giants who warred against heaven.

542. Alcides-Hercules, so named from his ancestor Alcæus The allusion here made is familiar to every reader.

555. It has been observed, that Milton has here shewn the superiority of discourse and reasoning to song. 'The angels who reason are on a hill; those who sing are in a valley.---But it should have been observed, at the same time, that it is only when Hong is what Milton calls partial, or confined to selfish or ambitious themes, that it is thus inferior to, or different from wgh philosophy

Passion and apathy, glory and shame,
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy:

Yet with a pleasing sorcery could charm
Pain for a while, or anguish, and excite
Fallacious hope, or arm th' obdured breast
With stubborn patience as with triple steel.
Another part in squadrons and gross bands, 570
On bold adventure to discover wide
That dismal world, if any clime perhaps
Might yield them easier habitation, bend
Four ways their flying march, along the banks
Of four infernal rivers, that disgorge

575 Into the burning lake their baleful streams; Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate; Sad Acheron of sorrow, black and deep; Cocytus, named of lamentation loud Heard on the rueful stream ; fierce Phlegethon, 580 Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage. Far off from these a slow and silent stream, Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls Her wat’ry labyrinth; whereof who drinks, Forth with his former state and being forgets, 585 Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain. Beyond this flood a frozen continent Lies dark and wild, beat with perpetual storms Of whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm land Thaws not, but gathers heap, and ruin seems

590 Of ancient pile; all else deep snow and ice A gulf profound as that Serbonian bog Petwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old, Where armies whole have sunk: the parching air Burns frore, and cold performs th' effect of fire. 595 Thither, by harpy-footed furies haled,

577. Milton follows the Greeks in this description of the in. fernal rivers; but, as usual, improves upon the classical idea, as he represents them as emptying themselves into a vast and fearful lake of fire. Styx, according to its derivation, signifies hate; Acheron, flowing with pain; Cocytus, lamentation; Phlegethon, burning, and Lethe, forgetfulness.

592. Serbonis was a lake two hundred furlongs long, and one thousand round, between Mount Casius and Damiata, a city in Egypt. It was sometimes so covered by the loose sand of the reighbouring hills, as not to be distinguished from the land.See Herod. 1. 3. and Lucan. viii. 539.

595. Frore, frosty. See Virgil, Georg. i. 93. Ecclus. xlii. 20, 21. Ps. cxxi. 6.

At certain revolutions, all the damn'd
Are brought; and feel by turns the bitter change
Of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce,
From beds of raging fire to starve in ice

Their soft ethereal warmth, and there to pine
Immoveable, infix'd, and frozen round,
Periods of time, thence hurried back to fire.
They ferry over this Lethean gound
Both to and fro, their sorrow to augment,

605 And wish and struggle, as they pass, to reach The tempting stream, with one small drop to lose In sweet forgetfulness all pain and woe, All in one moment, and so near the brink; But Fate withstands, and to oppose th' attempt 610 Medusa with Gorgonian terror guards The ford, and of itself the water flies All taste of living wight, as once it fled The lip of Tantalus. Thus roving on In confused march forlorn, th' advent'rous bands 615 With shudd'ring horror pale, and eyes aghast, View'd first their lamentable lot, and found No rest. Through many a dark and dreary vale They pass'd, and many a region dolorous, O'er many a frozen, many a fiery Alp,

620 Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of

death, A universe of death, which God by curse Created evil, for evil only good, Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds, Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things, 625 Abominable, inutterable, and worse Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceived, Gorgons and Hydras, and Chimæras dire.

Meanwhile the adversary of God and Man, Satan, with thoughts inflamed of high'st design, 636 Puts on swift wings, and tow'rds the gates of Hell Explores his solitary flight. Sometimes He scours the right hand coast, sometimes the left, Now shaves with level wing the deep, then soars Up to the fiery concave tow'ring high.


603. See Job xxiv. in the Vulgate translation.-See also Shakspeare Measure for Measure, Act iii.

611. Medusa, one of the Gorgon monsters.

As when far off at sea a fleet descry'd
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
Close sailing from Bengala, or the isles
Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring
Their spicy drugs; they on the trading flood 640
Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape
Ply stemming nightly tow'rd the pole. So seem'd
Far off the flying Fiend: at last appear
Hell bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof,
And thrice threefold the gates; three folds were brass,
Three iron, three of adamantine rock,

Impenetrable, impaled with circling fire,
Yet unconsumed. Before the gates there sat
On either side a formidable shape;
The one seem'd woman to the waist, and fair, 650
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
Voluminous and vast, a serpent arm'd
With mortal sting: about her middle round
A cry of Hell-hounds never ceasing, bark'd
With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung 655
A hideous peal: yet, when they list, would creep,
If aught disturb'd their noise, into her womb,
And kennel there, yet there still bark'd and howl'd,
Within unseen. Far less abhorr'd than these
Vex'd Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts 660
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore ;
Nor uglier follow the night-hag, when call'd
In secret, riding through tře air she comes,
Lured with the smell of intant blood, to dance

636. A noble comparison. But Dr. Bentley asks why would not one ship do as well as a fleet! It has been answered, that many ships are a more noble figure than one. This, however, is only the case when so seen at a distance, that they may appear as one grand, dark, and sublime object. Ternate and Tidore are two of the Molucca Islands.

648. This is one of the most sublime passages in the poem. Addison is generally ingenious in his criticisms, but not elevated, and when he objected to Milton's having introduced an allegory he shews he was incapable of entering into the magnificent conceptions of his author. Sin and Death are not allegorical Deings in Paradise Lost; but real and active existences. They would have been allegorical, speaking or contending anong men, but are not so in an abode of spirits, and addressing the Prince of darkness, sce James i. 15.

661. Calabria, the extreme part of Italy towards the Mediter. rauean. Trinacria, an ancient name of Sicily,

D 2

With Lapland witches, while the lab'ring moon 665
Eclipses at their charms. The other shape,
If shape it might be call’d that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night, 670
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful dart. What seem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
Satan was now at hand, and from his seat,
The monster moving onward, came as fast 675
With horrid strides, Hell trembled as he strode.
Th' undaunted Fiend what this might be admired-
Admired, not fear'd : God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valued he nor shunn'd;
And with disdainful look thus first began : 680

Whence and what art thou, execrable shape,
That darest, though grim and terrible, advance
Thy miscreated front ath wart my way
To yonder gates? Through them I mean to pass,
That be assured, without leave ask'd of thee: 683
Retire or taste thy folly, and learn by proof,
Hell-born, not to contend with Spirits of Heav'n.

To whom the goblin full of wrath reply'd, Art thou that traitor Angel, art thou He, Who first broke peace in Heav'n and faith, till thed Unbroken, and in proud rebellious arms

691 Drew after him the third part of Heav'n's sons, Conjured against the High’st, for which both thou And they, outcast from God, are here condemn'd To waste eternal days in woe and pain?

695 And reckon'st thou thyself with Spirits of Heav'n, Hell-doom'd, and breath'st defiance here and scorn Where I reign king, and to enrage thee more, Thy king and lord ? Back to thy punishment, False fugitive, and to thy speed add wings, 700

665. It was formerly believed that the moon might be affected by incantations. 666. See Spenser, Faery Queen, Book vii. C. 7. 46.

678. The word ercept is here used with the same latitude as but m ver. 333. 336.

693. Conjured, from the Latin conjurare, to conspire or leagu. together.

« PreviousContinue »