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NOTES TO THE MINOR
PARAPHRASE ON Psalm CXIV. --Several phrases and rhymes in this juvenile piece have been traced to Sylvester's Du Bartas (see Introd.)-2.g. the rhymes recoil, foil (9, 10), mountains, fountains (13, 14), crush, gush (17, 18).“Terah's faithful son” (1) is Abraham ; “ Pharian" for Egyptian (3) is either from Pharaoh or from Pharos (an island on the coast of Egypt), and is found in Buchanan's Psalms.
PARAPHRASE ON PSALM CXXXVI.—The initial pronoun who in lines 10, 13, 17, 21, and 25, is a substitute in the second edition for that in the first. — “Ruddy waves" and “ Erythræan” for the Red Sea (45, 46) are found in Sylvester. Erythræan in Greek means “red”; and the name in Herodotus for this sea and the Indian Ocean generally was ή ερυθρά θάλασσα, translated by the Latins into Rubrum Mare. The name, derived probably from the red coral reefs in the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, gave rise to the fancy that the water itself was red; and Sylvester actually varies the phrase "ruddy billows” into “scarlet washes." From the same poet came “walls of glass” (50), and "warble forth” (89). “ Watery plain” for the sea (23) is in Spenser, Drayton, and William Browne ; “ golden-tressèd," as an epithet for the sun (29), is in Chaucer; “hornèd moon” (33) is Spenser's, Shakespeare's, and everybody's ; "tawny king” is found in Fairfax's Tasso.—“Seon . . . that ruled the Amorrean coast” (65) is a literal translation of a line in Buchanan's Latin version of Psalm cxxxv. :— Quique Amorrhæis Seon regnavit in oris.”
ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT. 1. “O fairest flower,” etc. This opening is distinctly imitated from that of a piece in Shakespeare's Passionate Pilgrim :
“ Sweet rose, fair flower, untimely plucked, soon vaded,
Plucked in the bud, and vaded in the spring !
Fair creature, killed too soon by death's sharp sting.”
8. “charioteer.” Spelt charioter in the original, and also in the only other line of Milton's poetry in which the word occurs (Par. Lost, VI. 390). All modern editions spell charioteer ; but perhaps Milton intended the sound to be charioter.
12. “ infamous blot.” Todd remarks that the phrase, with the same pronunciation of infámous, occurs in Spenser (F. Q., III. vi. 13).
15. "icy-pearlèd.” Warton suggested “ice-ypearlèd,” on the analogy of ychained (Od. Nat. 155) and star-ypointing (On Shaks.); but, on the analogy of rosy-bosomed (Com. 986) and fiery-wheelèd (Pens. 53), we may keep icy-pearlèd. Sylvester calls hail “ice-pearl."
23—27. “ For so Apollo,” etc. Hyacinthus, son of a king of Sparta or Laconia, of which Eurotas is a river, was accidentally killed by Apollo ; and from his blood sprang the flower that bears his name. .
31. “in wormy bed.” Warton cites the phrase from Shakespeare (Mids. N. D., iii. 2),—.“ Already to their wormy beds are gone."
39. “ that high first-moving sphere,” i.e. the primum mobile or Tenth Sphere of the old system of Astronomy. See Introd. Par. Lost, pp. 37-38.
44. “ Of shaked Olympus." So Shakespeare (Troil. and Cress., i. 3), -—“O, when degree is shaked.”
48. “and thou.” Elliptical for wert thou ?
50, 51. “that just Maid who," etc. Astræa or Justice, who dwelt on the Earth in the golden age, but forsook it afterwards in disgust, and resumed her place in Heaven.
53. “ Or wert thou [Mercy), that sweet smiling Youth ?” The word within brackets is wanting in the original, so that the line is metrically defective there ; but there can be no doubt that Mercy was meant.
68. “the slaughtering pestilence.” An allusion to the prevalence of the plague in London and elsewhere in England when the poem was written. See Introd.
76, 77. “ he will an offspring give that,” etc. One can hardly say that this prophecy was fulfilled in Edward Phillips and John Phillips, Milton's nephews, the brothers of the “Fair Infant,” born after her death (see Memoir, pp. Ixv.-lxvi.) Yet they are both remembered on their uncle's account.
AT A VACATION EXERCISE. To make this piece intelligible, the Introduction to it ought to be read first. It saves many notes.
19. “new-fangled.” This is the only occurrence of the word in Milton's poetry ; but it is a good old English word.
20. “our late fantastics,” our recent literary coxcombs. 33. “Such where,” i.e. “such a subject that in it,” etc.
33—44. “Such where the deep transported mind may soar,” etc. I hardly know a passage in Milton's earlier poetry in which the difference between poetic imagination and ordinary thinking may be more clearly seen than in this. Milton's constant habit of thinking in the terms of the Ptolemaic Astronomy is also to be seen in it.
37. “unshorn Apollo,” i.e. the juvenile or beardless Apollo : a translation of the Greek epithet åkepo exóuns, and the Latin intonsus, applied to this god.
42. “And hills of snow and lofts of piled thunder.” Dunster quotes from Sylvester the line “Cellars of wind and shops of sulphury thunder”; and there may be a recollection of others of Sylvester's meteorological phrases in the preceding lines.
46. “ beldam Nature,” i.e. “the old lady, Nature.” Our meaning “hag” is even a worse degeneracy from the original “ belle dame" or "fair lady.”
48—52. “ Such as the wise Demodocus," etc. In the Odyssey, Book viïi., Demodocus, the blind bard of Alcinous, King of the Phæacians, is brought in to sing before the unknown. Ulysses and the rest of the company. He sang of the Trojan war; and the agitation of Ulysses on hearing him attracted the notice of Alcinous.
58. "to the next,” i.e. the next speaker in the Extravaganza.
74–88. “ Shall subject be to many an Accident,” etc. A prolonged pun on the metaphysical doctrine that Substance, or Being in itself, underlies or is subject to its Accidents : viz. the modifying conditions that translate it into phenomena. ACCIDENT, in fact, is here the conjunct name for all the nine predicaments after SUBSTANCE itself: viz. Quantity, Quality, Relation, Where, When, Posture, Habit, Action, Passion. These are the “brethren” of SUBSTANCE, and really inferior to him ; but yet they treat him as they like, and try to hold him in subjection. See Introd.
90. “ Your learned hands.” The word your is emphatic. It is addressed to the academic audience present at the extravaganza in Christ's College. Only they, or such as they, could interpret the scholastic riddle of the immediately preceding speech.
91–100. “ Rivers, arise," etc. This passage has been rendered intelligible by a neat little discovery, made in 1859 by the late Mr. W. G. Clark, Vice-master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and one of the editors of the Cambridge Shake. speare. He ascertained from the books of Christ's College that two recently admitted freshmen of the college at the time when Milton's comic discourse was delivered were GEORGE and NIZELL RIVERS, sons of Sir John Rivers, a Kentish knight, the first in the fifteenth year of his age, the second in the fourteenth. One of these boys must have stood for the Predicament Relation in Milton's Extravaganza; and he it was who was now “ called by his name," as Milton has just informed us : “RIVERS, arise.” The rest of the speech is a continued pun on that phrase in the form of a poetical enumeration of English rivers. Milton may have had in mind Spenser's similar poetical enumerations of rivers (see especially F. Q., IV. xi. 20 et seq.), and passages in Drayton's Polyolbion. Of the thirteen rivers mentioned five have epithets attached to them that may need explanation. The Mole, in Surrey, disappears, in summer, for a part of its course, into a subterranean channel ; Severn derived its name from the maiden Sabrina, drowned in it (see Comus, 824 et seq., and note there); the Dee, near Chester, was sacred with Druidical traditions ; Humber, in legend, derives its name from a Hunnish invader in primeval times ; "royal-towered Thame" is the Thames, flowing by Windsor, Hampton Court, and London.
ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.
19-21. “Now while the heaven,” etc. See lines 87-88 of Elegia Sexta, where Milton expressly informs his friend Diodati that this ode was conceived very early in the morning of Christmas Day 1629.
24. "prevent them.” Anticipate them, get before them.
27. “the Angel Quire”: the Angels heard at Bethlehem. Luke ii. 13, 14.
29. "while." At the time when.
41. “ Pollute.” Direct from the Latin pollutus. See Essay on Milton's English, pp. 172-173.
48. “the turning sphere”: the wheeling sphere of the whole Universe as conceived in the old Cosmology.
56. “ The hooked chariot.” War-chariots had scythes or hooks, to cut what they met.
64. “ with wonder whist.” Hushed with wonder. To hush, to whist, and to hist, are forms of one and the same verb, meaning “to silence,” and connect themselves with the sounds sh! or st! as interjections commanding silence. See Ariel's song in the Tempest, i. 2. Todd quotes from the Dido of Marlowe and Nash (1594) the phrase “southern winds are whist.”
66. “ Ocean.” To be pronounced here as a trisyllable. 74. “ Lucifer," the Morning Star.
86. " Or ere the point of dawn.” So in the original ; but or èer has been suggested, on the ground that or ere is a mere reduplication, inasmuch as or in this usage is only another form of ere (old English ær, before). Why should Milton have said ere ere or before before ? Did he not mean ere ever or before ever ? The form or ere, however, is not accidental. It occurs in writers before Milton. Mr. Aldis Wright, in his Bible Word Book, gives three examples,-one from Sir Thomas More (“or ere the clergy began ”), and two