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46. “ruin and combustion.” Mr. Dyce found this phrase in a document of the Long Parliament in 1642: “And thereby to bring the whole kingdom into utter ruin and combustion." Mr. Keightley, accordingly, suggests that the phrase may have been a popular one about that time. Milton, however, here uses it with a precise significance-ruin referring to Satan's overthrow and expulsion from Heaven, and combustion to the flaming track of his descent.
50-53 “Nine times the space," &c. Commentators have fancied here a recollection of Hesiod, Theog: 722-5, where the poet, describing the defeat of the Titans by Zeus and their confinement in Tartarus, says that Tartarus is just as far below the Earth as the Earth is below Heaven, and that, as it would take a brass anvil nine days and nights to fall from Heaven to Earth, so it would take it nine days and nights more to fall from Earth to Tartarus. But, though Milton afterwards (Par. Lost, VI. 871) makes the fall of Satan and the other rebel Angels into Hell a matter of nine days, the nine days of the present passage are not those nine days of their fall, but nine subsequent days, during which he supposes the Angels to have lain in stupor in Hell after their fall. Nine, as Hume pointed out, was a mystical number, often used by the ancient poets, by way of a certain for an uncertain time. He gives instances from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Æneid.
57. “witnessed," in the sense of “testified” or “exhibited,” not in the modern sense of “saw."
59. as far as Angel's ken.” Printed in the original edition “as far as Angels kenn;" which, as it was not then the habit to indicate the possessive case by an apostrophe, leaves us uncertain whether ken is to be taken as a verb or as a noun. Some editors, accordingly, print “as far as Angels ken,"—i.e. as far as Angels extend their gaze or knowledge. With others, I prefer "as far as Angel's ken," 4.2. to the extent of the ken or gaze of an Angel.
62, 63. " from those flames no light; but rather darkness visible," &c. It seems to have been a common idea that the flames of Hell gave no light; and Mr. Keightley quotes from Walker's History of Independency (Part I. 1648) this example: “Their burning zeal without knowledge is like Hell-fire without light.” Newton quotes from Seneca's description of the grotto of Pausilipo (Epist. lvii.) this coincidence with the phrase “ darkness visible : " “Nihil illo carcere longius, nihil illis faucibus obscurius, quæ nobis præstant non ut per tenebras videamus, sed ut ipsas."
66, 67. "hope never comes," &c. A recollection of the famous inscription, in Dante (Inf. iii, 9), over the gate of Hell :
“ Lasciate ogni speranza voi che entrate.”
73, 74. “As far removed," &c. This passage has already been cited
, (Introd. p. 86) as fixing the distance down in Chaos where Hell proper, in Milton's imagination, is supposed to begin. “The centre" is the Earth, or the Earth's centre : "the utmost pole” is not the Earth's pole, but the pole of the entire Starry Universe. Homer (Iliad, viii. 16)
. makes Tartarus just as far beneath Hades as Earth is beneath Heaven; and so also Hesiod (see previous note, 50-53). Virgil (Æn. vi. 577) doubles the distance, and Milton, in his different cosmological scheme, keeps Virgil's proportions, making the distance from Heaven to Hell equal to three times the radius of the Starry Universe.
75. "Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell.” Not unlike one of the phrases in that passage of Cædmon's Anglo-Saxon Paraphrase which some suppose Milton to have consulted in the edition of Cædmon, with a Latin version by Francis Junius, published at Amsterdam in 1655 (see Introd. p. 39). Satan's soliloquy in Hell after his Fall opens thus in Cædmon :
“ Is bes änga stede ungelîc svíðe
bam ôdrum be ve ær cûdon
modernized by Mr. Thorpe thus :
“ This narrow place is most unlike
That other that we once knew
80, 81. “Long after known in Palestine, and named Beelzebub." The word “ Baal,” meaning "Lord," was a general name for "god" among the Semitic nations; and their different Baals or gods were designated by names compounded of this word and others either indicating localities or signifying qualities : as Baal. Gad, “the God of Gad; Baal-Berith, “the God of Treaties.” Baal-zebub, or Beelzebub, means literally “the God of Flies." This particular deity was worshipped at Ekron in Palestine, where the plague of flies or insects which afflicts hot countries seems to have been particularly felt (2 Kings i. 2, 3); and
i that he was an important deity of Palestine may be gathered from his being referred to afterwards (Matthew xii. 24) as “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils."
81, 82, “the Arch-Enemy, and thence in Heaven called Satan.” Satan, in Hebrew, means Enemy." Cædmon also makes name given by God to the chief of the rebel Angels after his fall.
84, 85. “Oh, how fallen, how changed from him !" &c. A coagulation, as Newton pointed out, of phrases from Isaiah xiv. 12 : “How art thou fallen from Heaven !” and Virgil, Æn. ii. 274, Quantum mutatus ab illo Hectore qui,” &c.
84–124. The syntax of this whole first speech of Satan to Beelzebub is very abrupt and irregular--approaching here and there the figures of speech known in books on Rhetoric as Anacolouth (unfinished clause or sentence), and Synathrasmus (hubbub). In this the reader will discern a poetical fitness.
From this involved construction of the passage, however, results some uncertainty here and there as to the punctuation.
86. “ didst outshine." The more usual construction would be "did outshine."
87–91. "whom mutual league, &c. joined with me once, now misery hath joined in equal ruin." Expression and syntax modelled, as Bentley pointed out, on Ovid, Met. i. 351-3:
“O soror, O conjux, O fæmina sola superstes,
Quam commune mihi genus et patruelis origo,
“ Yet not for those, &c. do I repent,” &c. Here, and in the sequel of Satan's speech (110–114), there are traces of the bold words of defiance to Zeus uttered by Prometheus in his dialogue with Hermes in the Prometheus Vinctus of Æschylus, 991 et seq.
109. “And what is else not to be overcome?" Todd and most of the editors print this not as an interrogation, but as a clause in continuation of the four preceding. But, in the original editions, and in all till Bishop Newton's in 1749, there is a distinct point of interrogation at the end of this verse, and it is disconnected from the preceding clauses by a colon. A clear enough meaning, indeed, may be got by the other reading “All is not lost,” Satan is then made to say; "the unconquerable will
, the study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield, and whatever else in a being like me is not to be overcome.” But the meaning thus given to the last clause is languid compared with any one of those meanings which it will bear if the original punctuation is preserved. “All is not lost," Satan then says; “the unconquerable will &c. . . . and courage never to subunit or yield : and what else is there that is not to be overcome ?” or “and what is there that else (i.e. without the fore
mentioned qualities) is not to be overcome ?" or and in what else does not to be overcome (i.e. invincibility) consist ? "
116, 117. "by Fate," &c. Satan here assumes the necessary, or at least, by decree, indestructible, existence of himself and the Angels.
Empyreal,” made of the element of fire. 125. “ Eternal Providence.” In the First Edition the phrase runs “assert th' eternal Providence; " but there is a direction among the Errata to delete thi.
128. “ tronèd Powers," i.e. those of the Angels that sat on thrones or had kingly rank in Heaven, as distinct from the multitude of the Seraphim.
152. "gloomy Deep." Deep is one of Milton's synonyms in the poem for Chaos. So is Abyss.
167. "if I fail not," i.e. “if I am not mistaken.” The common Latin phrase, ni fallor.
176. “his shafts." For “its shafts." See subsequent note, line 254.
180. " yon dreary plain,” &c. Imagine that Satan here sees at some distance a dark plain or extent of smoking ground (afterwards described more particularly), lying out of the burning and flaming element in the midst of which they still are.
198. “Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on ove." The Titans were the progeny of Ouranos (Heaven) and Ge (Earth), who made war on their father and had possession of Heaven for a time, but were at length defeated and expelled by Zeus after a ten years' war. By the “ Earth-born ” Milton seems to mean the Giants, a different brood from the Titans, though often confused with them ; represented by some as savage autochthones of certain volcanic countries, and by others as the offspring of Tartarus and Ge. They also assailed Heaven, and had to be put down by Zeus and the other Gods.
199. “ Briareos or Typhon,” &c. Briareos, in the Greek mythology, though not expressly named as a Titan, was of their race, being a hundred-handed, fifty-headed monster, son of Heaven and Earth. He aided Jupiter against a conspiracy of the Titans, but afterwards fought with the Giants in their war against him. Typhon, or Typhæus, a hundred-headed monster, son of Tartarus and the Earth, also warred against the Gods for their destruction of the Titans : he had his den, according to Pindar, in Cilicia, of which Tarsus was a city.
201—208. “ Leviathan," &c. Milton clearly had in view some of the published stories of whales or other sea-monsters found in the Scandinavian seas; and Todd quotes a passage in point from Olaus Magnus, telling how the whale has such a rough skin that, when he raises his back above the sea, sailors, sometimes mistake it for a small island, land upon it, light their fires, and cook their food, till the pain wakes the sleeping beast, and down he dives.
“ Created hugest that swim the Ocean-stream :" a line purposely of difficult sound. Either the third foot must be read as an anapæst, or the word "hugest” must be pronounced as one syllable, “hug'st.” As in the original text this word is spelt fully and not with the apostrophe, the first is probably the right way of reading. Ocean-stream" is a phrase from the ancient geography, which supposed a sea flowing round and round the habitable circle of Earth.
204. night-foundered.” Milton has this exact word once besidesComus, 483 : “Some one like us night-foundered here." In both places
he uses the word in the same sense, i.e. brought to a stand by the coming on of night. The usual meaning of the word is to sink, or go to the bottom (fundus); but one can see the idea of the metaphorswallowed up and lost in the darkness.
207. “ under the lee,” i.e. on that side of the monster which was protected from the wind.
224. "i' the midst.” The contraction of in occurs in the original edition, and for obvious reasons ought to be retained. Indeed, Milton prints";' th midst.” 232.
“ Pelorus :” “One of the three great promontories of Sicily, now called Cape Faro, not far from mount Ætna.”—TODD.
235. “Sublimed with mineral fury." Sublimation, in chemistry, is properly the conversion of solid substances by heat into vapour, in order that, in cooling, they may become solid again in a purer form. Thus, when crude sulphur is heated, the vapour adheres to the walls of the chamber and forms there the fine powder called Flower of Sulphur, or sublimed sulphur. Milton's use of the term seems proper enough.
242—244. “Is this the region . . . that we must change for Heaven ?” An unusual order in English, but occasional in Latin-the thing received in exchange being put first.
254. “ The mind is its own place,” &c. This is a memorable line for grammatical as well as for other reasons-being one of the only three places in all Milton's poetry (according to the original text) in which, as far as yet detected, he has used the word Its. The other two places are Par. Lost, IV. 813, and Ode on the Nativity, 106. On the history of the word Its, and Milton's use of it, and of his and her, in his poetry, see our Essay on Milton's English.
257. “ And what I should be, all but less than he": a phrase of difficult construction : meaning either" And what I should be-viz. all but just next to him," &c. ; or “And what I should be, all but (except) that I am less than he," &c. Were it safe to propose emendations (which it is not), one might suggest that Milton dictated albeit.
259, 26o. “ hath not built here for his envy," i.e. Hath not built here in such a manner as to make the place an object for his envy.
266. “oblivious pool”: i.e. pool causing oblivion. Compare Par. . Lost, II. 73, 74. Hume quotes Æn. vi. 714: “ Lethæi ad fluminis undam.” 279–281.
though now they' lie .... as we crewhile”: Satan and Beelzebub are on the solid plain beside the burning lake; but all the rest of the Angels are still in the lake.