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721. “the rest”: i.e. that residue of Light, or the Fifth Essence, which had not been coagulated into stars and other luminaries, but remained in a diffused state. As Newton remarked, there is a recollection here of Lucretius, v. 450—472 ; and the phrase in that passage “magni mænia mundi” may have suggested the wording of this line.
730. “her countenance triform”: i.e. crescent, full, and waning. Stillingfleet noted Horace, Od. iii. 22, 4, “ Diva triformis."
733 “ That spot to which I point is Paradise.” Paradise is to be conceived as a considerable tract, visible, where Uriel was, as a spot on the Eurth's rotundity.
740. "the ecliptic": i.e., as then understood, the Sun's orbit round the Earth.
741. “ Throws his steep flight in many an aery wheel.” Thyer compares the description in Ariosto (Orl. Fur. iv. 24) of the descent to Earth of the magician Atlante on his hippogriff :
· Accelerando il volator le penne
Con larghe ruote in terra a porsi venne." 742. "on Niphates' top he lights." Niphates, now Nimroud-Tagh, a mountain-range in Armenia, on the north-west bank of Lake Van, and between the Upper Tigris and one of the branches of the Euphrates; hence near to the tract supposed to have been Paradise. The word Niphates implies “snowy range ;" and the highest peaks reach 10,000 feet. Dunster notes that in the Æneid (iv. 252 et seq.) Mercury, when sent by Jupiter to Æneas at Carthage, alights first on Mount Atlas, and thence flies precipitant to the sea-coast, and that in Tasso (Ger. Lib. i. 14, 15) Gabriel similarly alights on Mount Libanus. Compare also Milton's account of Satan's flight through the air and descent on Rome in his Latin poem In Quintum Novembris, 48–53.
There are 742 lines in this Book of the Poem; but the numbering in the original edition gives 751 lines. This arises from a misnumbering at the ten after line 590, whereby the line that should have been numbered 600 is marked 610, and from a miscounting, by which eleven lines after line 720 (in the original called 730) are given
Argument: “Gabriel promises to find him ere morning": so in the Second Edition ; the First has “to find him out."
I-5 “O for that warning voice, which he who saw the Apocalypse," dic. See Rev. xii
. 7–12 ; which passage the poet has closely in view in these opening lincs.
“ The tempter, ere the accuser, of mankind.” In the passage in the Apocalypse just cited, describing Satan's "second rout” from Heaven, he comes to Earth as “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. xii. 10); but in the action of the poem he is the Tempter. The word Devil, from the Greek Diabolos, means Slanderer” or “ Accuser."
To wreak”: i.e.“ to avenge" (A.-S. wræccan): hence, as Mr. Keightley remarks, our modern expression “to wreak vengeance” is incorrect. In the original editions the word is spelt "wreck." 20–23. within him Hell he brings,” &c. The idea here is an old
Todd finds it in various authors, including Bede, who says of the Devils (Eccl. Hist. Book v. chap. 15), “ Ubicunque, vel in aere volitant, vel in terris, aut sub terris vagantur sive detinentur, suarum secum ferunt tormenta fiammarum.”
25. “Of what he was, what is," &c. Todd compares Ovid, Trist. iv. 1. 99, “ Dum vice mutatâ qui sim fuerimque recordor."
32—41. “O thou,” &c. These ten lines were probably the first written of the whole poem. Milton's nephew Phillips remembered having seen them as early as about 1642, when it was Milton's design that the poem should be a Tragedy. They were to be the opening lines of the Tragedy: see Introd. pp. 48, 49.
39. “above thy sphere”: i.e. above the sphere of the Sun in the Ptolemaic sense—the fourth of the Spheres round the Earth.
50. “sdained": the Italian form (sdegnare) of our word “to disdain," used also by Spenser and others.
79. “O, then, at last relent,” &c. Some suppose this speech to be addressed to the Deity ; but it is more natural to take it as an address to Satan himself,
111-113. “ Divided empire," &c. God ruling in Heaven, above Chaos, Satan, claiming to rule in Hell, under Chaos, might consider that he already divided empire with him ; but, if the new Universe, cut out of Chaos, could be added to Hell, so as to belong to the same dominion of Evil, then Satan might claim to reign“ more than half." Greenwood compares the line attributed to Virgil, “ Divisum imperium cum Jove Cæsar habet."
114, 115. “each passion dimmed his face," &c. The meaning is, not, as usually interpreted, that Satan's face grew pale three times—first with ire, then with envy, then with despair ; but that a shadow or dim scowl of each of these passions in succession passed over his face, followed by paleness.
I21. Artificer of fraud.” In the poem In Quintum Novembris (line 17) Milton calls Satan “ fraudum magister.”
126. " the Assyrian mount": 1.6. Niphates, in Armenia, near the border of Assyria proper, but within the general region often named Assyria.
131–171. “So on he fares, and to the border comes of Eden, where delicious Paradise, now nearer, uns," &c. Observe here the distinction between Eden and Paradise Eden is the whole tract or district of Western Asia (the exact boundaries of which, as the poet fancied them, are given a little farther on) wherein the Creator had designed that men should first dwell ; Paradise is the Happy Garden situated in one particular spot of this Eden-on its eastern side, as the poet afterwards suggests, following one interpretation of the passage (Gen. ii. 8), “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden.” Satan, descending from Mount Niphates, reaches the border of Eden, and obtains, from that distance, a nearer view of the Paradise lying within it. It is somewhat difficult to evolve out of Milton's language in the passage an exact representation to the eye of the scene described ; but the following appears to be what is meant :-At some distance from that border of Eden at which the Fiend has arrived he sees the beginning of a thick wilderness of underwood, mixed with lofty trees, ascending in terraces, so as to form a vast, shaggy, circular bill. On the “champainhead” of this hill-i.e. the level table-land on its summit-is Paradise. It is ringed round by a verdurous or green wall of turf, higher than the highest of the trees on the slopes outside ; and within the wall is seen a circle of fruit-trees, the trees of Paradise itself, over-topping even the wall and glowing in the sun. See subsequent notes on lines 208–210, and lines 210—214. 147, 148. “ loaden with fairest fruit, blossoms and fruits at once," &c.
"c The phrase "loaden with fairest fruit" is repeated exactly Par. Lost, VIII. 307, and substantially Par. Lost, IX. 577. Mr. Browne notes here: “Milton, speaking of what hangs on the tree, calls it fruit; but, when plucked, fruits." He refers, in illustration, to lines 249 and 422 of the same Book, and to Book V. lines 341, 390, Book VIII. 307, and Comus, 396. Mr. Browne's remark, however, hardly expresses the fact-which is that Milton, when he thinks of a mass of fruit, or of one piece of fruit, uses the singular, but, when he thinks of many individual fruits, or of various kinds of fruits, whether hanging or plucked, the plural. For example, in this very passage, the "fruits ” of line 148 are the same as the “fruit” of line 147, still unplucked, but only thought of distributively. See also Comus 712; Par. Lost, V. 87, VIII. 44, 147, IX. 745, 996, X. 565, 603, 687.
151. “Than in fair evening cloud.” Bentley substituted on for in, and most editors have followed him-quite unnecessarily.
153. “landskip,” spelt "lantskip" in the original edition. The word occurs four times in Milton's poetry-here, P. L. II. 491, V. 142, and L'Al. 70-and always as lantskip.
159—165. “As, when to them who sail beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow Sabean odours from the spicy shore of Arahy the Blest,” &c. The fact that the fragrance of spices from lands where they grow may be perceived far off at sea had been noted by many authors—and, among them, by Diodorus Siculus, who mentions it more particularly with respect to that part of Arabia known to the ancients as Arabia Felix or Arabia Beata (Arabia the Happy or Blessed); of which Saba was a town. But, in imagining that sailors, who had rounded the Cape, and got as far in their northern voyage along the African coast as past Mozambique, could distinguish perfumes coming from Arabia—and especially that such perfumes could be carried to them there by a north-east wind-Milton seems, in his blindness, to have forgotten geographical distances and bearings. Mr. Keightley, in his Life of Milton (p. 430), has pointed out this in the following comment on the passage : “What is here asserted is an im“possibility. Any one who will look on a map of the world will see that, “when a vessel going to India has passed Mozambic, the coast of Arabia “is due north to her, and at an immense distance, with a portion of the “east coast of Africa interposed.” In the maps of Africa in Milton's days, however (at least in one which I have of the date 1616), the east side of Africa trends away west from Cape Guardafui to the Cape of Good Hope so much more rapidly than in our present maps, that a vessel off Mozambique in them would not be due south, but rather south-west of Arabia Felix. Hence, in the matter of bearing, Milton's recollection of his maps was not so incorrect as it must be admitted to have been in the matter of distance.
168–171. “ Than Asmodius with the fishy fume,” &c. See the story of the Evil Spirit Asmodeus in the Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha. In love with a Jewish maiden, Sara, living in the Median city Ecbatana, he destroys her husbands in succession, till at last, after her betrothal to Tobias, the son of Tobit, he is foiled by a device of the Angel Raphael. Instructed by Raphael, Tobias burns the heart and liver of a fish he had caught in the Tigris, “the which smell when the Evil Spirit had smelled, he fled into the utmost parts of Egypt, and the Angel bound him” (Tobit viii.).—“with a vengeance sent”: an early instance of the use of this phrase in its present somewhat whimsical sense of “most emphatically."
177. " that passed": a peculiar construction, for “that should have tried to pass.”
178. “ One only gate there was, and that looked cast on the other side." See subsequent note, lines 210—214.
181. “At one slight bound high overleaped all bound.” Todd, after Stevens, cites a similar play on the word “bound” from Romeo and Juliet, I. iv. Milton occasionally, though not so often as Shakespeare, indulges in this play on words. Mr. Browne instances lines 286 and 530 of this Book, and also IX. 11 and XI. 627.
193. “So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb.” See John X. 1-16, and compare Lycidas, 113--131. Lewd meant originally “laic,” or belonging to the laity as distinct from the clergy (A.-S. laewede): hence " ignorant " or " illiterate;" hence "low," " base," " dissolute.” “
” 194, 195. "and on the Tree of Life, the middle tree," &c. See Gen. ii. 9, and Rev. ii. 7.
200, 201. “what, well usei, had been the pledge of immortality.” The commentators have been puzzled by this passage. Satan being immortal already, they say, did not need the pledge of immortality that would have been given by eating of the Tree of Life; and the construction does not permit the "well-used” to be applied to Adam and Eve. Mr. Ross, however, explains thus : “Milton does not expect us seriously to suppose that Satan could have 'well-used' the Tree of Life, and thereby secured immortal happiness; but his imagination is struck by the mere proximity of the Fiend to the life-giving plant;' and, to make the reader vividly realize what he himself has vividly felt, he speaks of what only seems possible as if it really were so.' Hume, noting the same difficulty in the passage, had long ago suggested that Milton must have had “ some allegoric sense” in his mind, and was not sure but it might have been the conceit of Rupertus in his commentary on Gen. iii. 22-to wit, that neither Adam nor the Devil himself knew anything of the Tree of Life in the garden or of its virtues. Adam, in the poem, certainly knows of the tree (see sequel, line 424); but, if Satan had known of it, then, Hume suggests, he might have made Adam and Eve eat of it after they had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and so doubled his malice by making them immortal in their sin and misery. This is supersubtle, but there may be something in it. Milton may have meant that Satan sat like a cormorant on the Tree of Life, using it for the mean purpose of prospect only, and little aware of its mysterious virtue, and of the higher uses to which it might have been turned even by himself.
208–210. "for blissful Paradise of God the garden was, by him in the east of Eden planted.” See note on lines 131–171. Paradise is, originally, a Persian word, signifying an enclosed park or pleasureground. It was adopted into Greek, and was used by the Septuagint translators for the garden in Eden; which word Eden is Hebrew and means “ Joy,'' or Deliciousness.” 210—214.
“Eden stretched her line from Auran eastward," &c. Volumes have been written as to the site of the true Eden of Scripture -the recognition of which in our present Earth had, as the commentators supposed, become more difficult in consequence of the changes made by the Noachian deluge. By some the whole of Asia from the Ganges westward was understood as included in Eden; some theologians fixed the site as near the Persian Gulf; while other inquirers, not so much considering the Mosaic account as searching for the probable cradle of the human species on other grounds, have placed Eden in Cashmere and other parts of the East. What may be called the most