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Due search and consultation will disclose.
He sat; and in th' assembly next upstood
Valour or strength, though matchless, quell'd with pain
Of mightiest? Sense of pleasure we may well
All patience. He who therefore can invent
447. Nisroch,] A god of the Assyrians, in whose temple at Nineveh, Sennacherib was killed by his two sons, 2 Kings xix. 37. and Isaiah xxxvii. 37. It is not known who this god Nisroch was. The Seventy call him Meserach in Kings, and Nasarach in Isaiah; Josephus calls him Araskes. He must have been a principal idol, being worshipped by so great a prince, and at the capital city Nineveh; which may justify Milton in calling him of
Principalities the prime.
Nisroch is made to talk agreeably to the sentiments of Hieronymus and those philosophers, who maintained that pain was the greatest of evils; there might be a possibility of living without pleasure, but there was no living in pain. A notion suitable enough to a deity of the effeminate Assyrians.
Our yet unwounded enemies, or arm
Whereto with look compos'd Satan replied. Not uninvented that, which thou aright Believ'st so main to our success, I bring. Which of us who beholds the bright surface Of this ethereous mould whereon we stand, This continent of spacious heav'n, adorn'd
With plant, fruit, flow'r ambrosial, gems and gold; 475 Whose eye so superficially surveys
These things, as not to mind from whence they grow
Of spirituous and fiery spume, till touch'd
Nisroch is speaking; he had complimented Satan (ver. 451.) with the title of Deliverer; here he ventures to say, that whoever could invent the new engine of war would be equal to him in his estimation. Milton has taken care that this deliverer should also have this merit, and be without a competitor; Satan is both the one and the other as it follows immediately. Richardson. 472. Which of us who beholds
the bright surfáce
Of this ethereous mould &c.] Dr. Bentley, for the sake of a better accent, reads súrface bright; but surface is to be read
with the accent upon the last syllable, and not as it is commonly pronounced, for Milton would hardly use a trochaic foot at the end of the verse. Dr. Bentley reads likewise this ethereal mould; and it is true Milton commonly uses the word ethereal, but that is no reason why he may not say likewise ethereous, which is nearer the Latin ethereus. The construction of this sentence is, Which of us who beholds &c. so superficially surveys these things: but as the nominative case which of us is mentioned so many lines before the verb surveys, he throws in another nominative case,
Whose eye so superficially surveys
These in their dark nativity the deep
Shall yield us pregnant with infernal flame;
Which into hollow engines long and round
Thick-ramm'd, at th' other bore with touch of fire 485
From far with thund'ring noise among our foes
482. -the deep] It is commonly used for hell, but here is only opposed to surface, ver. 472. and is the same as deep under ground, ver. 478. which may likewise explain the word infernal in the next line. Not but infernal flame may mean flame like that of hell, hell having been frequently mentioned before by the angels, and the idea being very well known.
484. Which into hollow &c.] Which, that is, the materials, ver. 478. These ver. 482. the deep shall yield, which into hollow engines rammed, with touch of fire shall send forth &c. Hollow engines, great guns, the first invention whereof is very properly ascribed to the author of all evil. And Ariosto has described them in the same manner in his Orlando Furioso, cant. ix. st. 28, or 24 of Harrington's translation; and attributes the invention to the devil.
The bullet flies with such a furious wind,
As though from clouds a bolt of
And whatever in the way it find
No doubt some fiend of hell or
Devised it to do mankind a spite. And again, st. 84.
O curst devise found out by some foul fiend,
And fram❜d below by Belzebub in hell &c. And Spenser has the same thought, Faery Queen, b. i. cant. vii. st. 13.
As when that devilish iron engine wrought
In deepest hell, and fram'd by furies' skill,
With windy nitre and quiek sulphur fraught,
And ramm'd with bullet round, ordain'd to kill &c. But though the poets have agreed to attribute the invention to the devil, from a notion of its being so destructive to mankind, yet many authors have observed, that since the use of artillery there has less slaughter been made in battles than was before, when the engagements were Whereat no sooner taken is the flame, closer, and lasted longer.
Un ferro bugio, &c.
A trunk of iron hollow made within,
All closed save a little hole behind,
The Thund'rer of his only dreaded bolt.
He ended, and his words their drooping cheer
In future days, if malice should abound,
502. In future days-Some one intent &c.] This speaking in the spirit of prophecy adds great dignity to poetry. It is in the same spirit that Dido makes the imprecation, Virg. Æn. iv. 625.
Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus
ultor &c. This here very properly comes
from the mouth of an angel.
507. Forthwith from council to the work they flew ;] This and the two following lines are admirably contrived to express the hurry of the angels; and consist therefore of short periods, without any particles to connect them.
Concocted and adusted they reduc'd
To blackest grain, and into store convey'd ;
Provide, pernicious with one touch to fire.
With silent circumspection unespied.
Now when fair morn orient in heav'n appear'd, Up rose the victor angels, and to arms
The matin trumpet sung: in arms they stood
516. Part hidden veins digg'd up (nor hath this earth Entrails unlike) of mineral and stone,]
Dr. Bentley has carried on the mark of parenthesis to the end of the verse; but it should be placed after unlike: and the stone may have been mentioned here as what they used for balls. That stone-bullets have been in use, see Chambers's Univ. Dict. in Cannon. Or Milton by the word stone here would express more distinctly that the metal, of which they made their engines and balls, was inclosed in and mixed with a stony substance in the mine. See Furetiere's French Dictionary upon the word mineral. Pearce.
520. -pernicious with one touch to fire.] The incentive reed is indeed pernicious as the engines