« PreviousContinue »
Destruction to the rest: this pause between
As both their deeds compar'd this day shall prove. 170
Or Nature: God and Nature bid the same,
Yet lewdly dar'st our minist'ring upbraid.
Reign thou in hell thy kingdom; let me serve
Yet chains in hell, not realms expect: mean while
So say'ing, a noble stroke he lifted high,
He back recoil'd; the tenth on bended knee
thyself inthrall'd;] So Horace, sat. ii. vii. 81.
Tu mihi qui imperitas, aliis servis miser
Quisnam igitur liber? sapiens, sibi qui imperiosus.
And as to what is here said of servitude, see Aristotle's Politics, b. i. c. 3, and 4.
183. —in hell thy kingdom;] Not that it was so at present. This is said by way of anticipation. God had ordered him to be cast out, ver. 52. and what the Almighty had pronounced, the good angel looks upon as done. And this sentiment,
187. From me return'd, as erst thou saidst, from flight,
This greeting &c.]
So Ascanius in Virgil retorts his adversary's term of reproach, En. ix. 685.
Bis capti Phryges hæc Rutulis responsa remittunt,
alluding to ver. 599.
189. So "say'ing, &c.] Saying is here contracted into one syllable, or is to be pronounced as two short ones, which very well expresses the eagerness of the angel. He struck at his foe before he had finished his speech, while he was speaking, which is
Reign thou in hell thy kingdom; let much better than Dr. Bentley's
In heav'n God ever blest,
is designed as a contrast to Satan's vaunt in i. 263.
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.
reading So said, as if he had not aimed his blow, till after he had spoken.
195. -as if on earth
Winds under ground, &c.] Hesiod compares the fall of
Winds under ground, or waters forcing way
Thus foil'd their mightiest; ours joy fill'd, and shout, Presage of victory, and fierce desire
Of battle: whereat Michäel bid sound
Th' archangel trumpet; through the vast of heaven
Cygnus to an oak or a rock
Ηριπε δ', ὡς ὅτε τις δρυς ήριπεν, η ότι πέτρη
Ηλίβατος, πληγείσα Διος ψολοεντι πεgaura.
And similes of this kind are very frequent amongst the ancient poets, but though our author might take the hint of his from thence, yet we must allow, that he has with great art and judgment heightened it in proportion to the superior dignity of his subject. But perhaps he might rather more probably allude to Spenser's description of the fall of the old dragon, under which allegory he intended to represent a Christian's victory over the devil. Faery Queen, b. i. cant. xi. st. 54.
Whose false foundation waves have wash'd away,
With dreadful poise is from the main land rift, &c.
210.-and the madding wheels] What strong and daring figures are here! Every thing is alive and animated. The very chariot wheels are mad and raging. And how rough and jarring are the verses, and how admirably do they bray the horrible discord they would describe! The word bray (probably from the Greek Beaxa strepo) signifies to make any kind of noise. It is applied by Spenser to the sound of a trumpet, Faery Queen, b. iii. cant. xii. st. 6.
And when it ceas'd, shrill trumpets loud did bray.
But it usually signifies any dis
So down he fell, as an huge rocky agreeable noise, as b. i. cant. vi.
Of brazen chariots rag'd; dire was the noise
Of fiery darts in flaming vollies flew,
Her shrill outcries and shrieks so
and b. i. cant. viii. st. 11.
He loudly bray'd with beastly yelling sound:
and sometimes it is used as a verb active, as here in Milton; Faery Queen, b. v. cant. xi. st. 20.
Even blasphemous words, which she doth bray:
and in Shakespeare's Hamlet, act i.
hosts with fire: the author may be fairly thought to have given it
-over head with dismal hiss The fiery darts in flaming vollies flew. Bentley.
But if there be any place in this poem, where the sublimity of the thought will allow the accuracy of expression to give way to the strength of it, it is here. There is a peculiar force sometimes in ascribing that to a circumstance of the thing, which more properly belongs to the
The kettle drum and trumpet thus thing itself; to the hiss, which
belongs to the darts. See my note on ii. 654. Pearce.
As the learned Mr. Upton remarks in his Critical Observations on Shakespeare, the substantive is sometimes to be construed adjectively when governing a genitive case. Aristophanes in Plut. 268. N xguroi myyrıλas nav, O thou who tellest me a gold of words, that is, golden words. Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, p. 2. opening the cherry of her lips, that is, cherry lips. So here the hiss of darts is hissing darts.
214. And flying vaulted either host with fire.] Our author has frequently had his eye upon Hesiod's giant-war as well as upon Homer, and has imitated several passages; but commonly exceeds his original, as he has done in this particular. Hesiod says that the Titans were overshadowed with darts, Theog. 716.
So under fiery cope together rush'd
Both battles main, with ruinous assault
And inextinguishable rage; all heaven
Resounded, and had earth been then, all earth
-κατα δ' εσκίασαν βελεῖσσι Tirnvas,
but Milton has improved the horror of the description, and a shade of darts is not near so great and dreadful an image as a fiery cope or vault of flaming darts.
229. though number'd such &c.] Each legion was in number like an army, each single warrior was in strength like a legion, and though led in fight