Page images


provement upon Satan's speech to the infernal Spirits in Tasso, Cant. 4. St. 15. but seems to be expressed from Fairfax his translation rather than from the original.

We lost the field, yet lost we not our heart.

109. And what is else not to be overcome ;] Here should be no note of interrogation, but only a semi-colon. The words signify, and if any thing else (besides the particulars mentioned) is not to be overcome.

Prarce. 110. That glory, &c.] That refers to what went before;

unconquerable will and study of revenge," his “immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield, and what besides is not to be overcome;" these Satan e teems his glory, and that glory he says God never should extort from him. And then begins a new sentence according to all the best editions, “ To bow and sue for grace," &c.that were low indeed, &c. that still referring to what went be. fore; and by observing this punétuation, this whole passage, which has perplex'd and confounded so many readers and writers, is rendered plain and easy to be understood.

116.-since by fate, &c.] For Satan supposes the Angels to subsist by fate and necessity, and he represents them of an empyreal, that is, a fiery substance, as the Scripture itself doth; “ He maketh his Angels spirits, and his ministers a Aame of fire.” Psal. civ. 4. Heb. i. 7.

124.-mthe tyranny of Heaven.) the pcet speaking in his own person at ver. 42. of the supremacy of the Deity calls it “ the throne and monarchy of God;" but here very artfully alters it to the tyranny of Heaven." Thyer.

125. So spake th' apo tate Angel, though in pain, Vaunting aloud, but rack'd with deep despair.] The sense of the last verse rises finely above that of the former : in the first verse it is only said, that he spake though in pain : in the last the poet expresses a great deal more ; for Satan not only spake, bur he vaunted aloud, and yet at the same time he was not only in pain, but was rack'd with deep despair.

Pearce. The poet' had probably in view the passage of Virgil, Æn. i. 2120

131.-windanger'd Heavin's perpetual king,] The reader should remark here the propriety of the word perpetual:

Beelzebub doth not say eternal king, for then he could not have boasted of indangering his kingdom : but he endea. vours to detract as much as he can from God's everlasting dominion, and calls him only perper al king, king from time immemorial or without interruption, as Ovid says Perpetuum carmen, Met.i. 4.

What Beëlzebub means here is expressed more at large afterwards by Satan, ver. 637.

150.-bae'er his business be,] The business which God hath appointed for us to do. So in ii. 70. His tormenis are the torments which he hath appointed for us to suffer. Many instances of this way of speaking may be found in this poem Pearce. be weak is miserable

Doing or suffering :] Satan having in his speech boasted that the “ strength of Gods could not fail,” ver. 116. ana Beëlzebub having said, ver: 146. “ if God has left us this our strength entire to suffer pain strongly, or to do him mightier service as his thralls, what then can our strength avail us ?”. Satan here replies very properly, whether we are to suffer or to work, yet still it is some comfort to have our strength urdiminished; for it is a miserable thing, (says he) to be weak and without strength, whether we are doing or suffering. This is the sense of the place; and this is farther confirmed by what Belial says in ii. 199.

191. If not what resol: tion] What reinforcement; to which is returned if nuti a vicious syntax : but the Poet gave it if nine. Bentley.

103. With bead up-lift above the wave, and eyes That sparkling blaz'd, bis other parts besides

Prone on the flood,] Somewhat like those lines in Virgil of two mor strous serpents. Æn ii. 206.

196. Lay ficating many a rood,] A rood is the fourth part of an acre, so that the bulk of Satan is expressed by the same sort of measure, as that of one of the giants in Vire gil, Æn. vi. 5c6.

199.—or. Typhon -wbom the den

By ancient Tarsus beld,] Typhon is the same with Ty. phoëus.

That the den of Typhoëus was in Cilicia, of which Tarsus was a celebrated city, we are told by Pindar



and Pomponius Mela. I am much mistaken, if Milton did not make use of Farnaby's note on Ovid. Met. v. 347. to which I refer the reader. He took ancient Tarsus pero haps trom Nonnus: quoted in Lloyd's Dictionary. Fortin.

-tbat sea beast Leviathan,] The best critics seem now to be agreed, that the author of the book of Job by the leviathan meant the crocodile ; and Milton describes it in the same manner partiy as a fish and partiy as a beast, and attributes scales to it: and yet by some things one would think that he took it rather for a whale (as was the general opinion) there being no crocodiles upon the coasts of Norway, and wbat fole lows being related of the whale, but never, as I have heard, of the crocodile

205.- ---as sea-men tell,] Words well added to obviate the increcibility of casting anchor in this manner. Hume.

That some fishes on the coast of Norway have been taken for islands, I suppose Milton had learned from Olaus Magnus and other writers; and it is amply confirmed by Pontoppidan's description of the Kraken in his account of Norway, which are authorities sufficient to justify a poet, though pe baps not a natural historian.

Mors by his side under the lee,] Anchors by his side under wind. Mooring at sea is the laying out of anchors in a proper place for the secure riding of a ship.

-wbile night Invests the sea,] Milton in the same taste speaking of the moon, iv. 600,

And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.

209. So stretch'd cur huge in lengib the Arch-Fiend lay] The length of this verse, consisting of so many mono. syllables, and pronounced so slowly, is excellently adapted to the subject it would describe. The tone is upon the first syllable in this line, the " Arch Fiend lay;" whereas it was upon the last syllable of the word in ver. 156 " th' Arch-Fiend reply'd ;” a liherty that Milton sometimes takes to pronounce the same word with a different accent in different places. We have inarked such words with an accent as are to be prouounced different from the common



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



and spear.

221: Fortbwith upright he rear., &c.] The whole part of this great enemy of mankind is filled with such incidents as are very apt to raise and terrify the reader's imagination. Of this nature is his being the first that awakens out of the general trance, with his posture on the burning lake, his rising from it, and the description of his shield

But no single passage in the whole poem is worked up to a greater sublimity, than that wherein his per. son is described in those celebrated lines,

-He above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent
Stood like a tow'r, &c.

Addison 226.-_incumbent on the dusky air

That felt unusual weight] This conceit of the air's feeling unusual weight is borrowed from Spenser, speaking of the old dragon, B, i. Cant. 14. St. 18.

231. Of subterranean wind] Dr. Pearce conjectures that it should be read subterranean winds, because it is said aid the winds afterwards, and the conjecture seems probable and ingenious: the fuel d entrails, sublim'd with mineral fury, aid and increase tbe winds which first blew up the fire.

250. Hail borrors, bail, &c.] His sentiments are every way answerable to his character, and suitable to a created being of the most exalted and most depraved na. ture. Such is that in which he takes possession of his place of torments.

-Hail horrors, hail, &c. And afterwards

Here at least We shall be free ; &c.

Amid those impieties which this enraged Spirit utters in other places of the poem, the author has taken care to introduce none that is not big with absurdity, and incapable of shocking a religious reader ; his words, as the poet himself describes them, bearing only a semblance of worth, not sub:tance. He is likewise with great art described as owning his adversary to be almighty. Whatever perverse interpretation he puts on the justice, mercy, and other altributes of the Supreme Being, he frequenily confesses his omnipotence, that being the perfection he was forced to al. low him, and the only consideration which could support his pride under the shame of his defeat. Nor must I omit that beautiful circumstance of his bursting out into tears, upon his survey of those innumerable Spirits whom he had involved in the same guilt and ruin with himself. Addison.

252. Receive thy new possessor ;] This passage seems to be an improvement upon Sophocles, Ajax, 395.

253 by place or time.] Milton is excellent in plac cing his words : invert them only, and say by time or place, and if the reader has any ear, he will perceive huw much the alteration is for the worse. For the pause failing upon place in the first line by time or place, and again upor place in the 1' xt line The mind is iis own place, would offend the ear, and therefore is artfully varied.

254. The mind is its own place.) These are some of the extravagancies of the Stoics, and could not be better ridia culed than they are here by being put in the mouth of Satan in his present situation.

259.-tb' d migbty bath not built

Here for bis e.vy.] This is not a place that God should envy us, or think it too good for us; and in this sense the word envy is used in several places of the poem, anc particularly in iv. 517. viii. 494. and ix. 70.

263 Better to reign in Heil, than serve in Heaven.) This is a wonderfully fine improvement upon Prometheus's answer to Mercury in Æschylus. Prom. Vinet. 965. It was a memorable sayir.g of Julius Cæsar, that he had rather be the first man in a country-village than the second at Rome. The reader will observe how properly the saying is here applied and accommodated to the speaker. It is liere made a sentiment worthy of Satan, and of him only.

276. on the per ilcus edge

Of bartle.] It has been observed to me by a person of very fine taste, that Shakespear has an expression very like this in . Hen, iv, ali i.

You knew, he walk'd o’er perils, on an edge

More likely to fall in, than to gei o'er : and something like it in i Hen. iv, act 1.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »