Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

river Orontes, west of Eden, to the Isthmus of Darien, and so still west, completing the round of the globe equatorially to India on the east of Eden. Observe Milton's accuracy in putting the Ganges before the Indus. In the circuit described Satan would come on the Ganges first.

218. “spring of roses," i.e. growth or thicket of roses.

249. “ For solitude,etc. A line hypermetrical by two syllables, or a whole foot.

289. misthought: to be construed along with the noun “thoughts” preceding ;—“to thee so dear": referring to what Adam had himself said, line 228.

330. on our front.Having already used the word “affront,” Eve pursues the image which its literal meaning (“ to meet face to face ") suggests.

341. “ Eden were no Eden," i.e. would not answer to its name, which means “ deliciousness.”

387. Oread,mountain nymph ; “ Dryad,nymph of the oak-groves ; Delia's,” Diana's.

393—396. Pales,” the goddess of pastures ; Pomona," the goddess of orchards ; “ Vertumnus,the god of the changing seasons; “ Ceres,” the goddess of husbandry, and mother of Proserpina.The splendid boldness of the expression “yet virgin of Proserpina from Jovefor “not yet mother of Proserpina” has irritated some critics. “What a monster of a phrase!” said Bentley, attributing it to the careless amanuensis.

439—443. those gardens feigned,etc. The commentator Pearce cites a passage from Pliny's Natural History in which he speaks of the gardens of the Hesperides and those of Adonis and Alcinous as among the wonders of the world. The “gardens of Adonis," however, are said to have been originally but the pots of herbs and flowers which were carried by the women in the yearly festivals in honour of the restoration of Adonis by Proserpina after he had been killed by the wild boar. But they are real gardens in the allusions and descriptions of poets (e.g. Spenser, F. Q. 111. vi. and Comus 998). The gardens of Alcinous, the King of the Phæacians, who entertained Ulysses, are described in the seventh book of the Odyssey. Not mystic,says Milton, i.e. “not mythical,” were the gardens of Solomon (Song of S. vi. 2), where he dallied with his Egyptian wife, Pharaoh's daughter,

504–510. never since of serpent kind lovelier," etc.

First among celebrated serpents Milton mentions “ those that in Illyria changed,(i.e. became the substitutes for) Hermione and. Cadmus: the story being that Cadmus and his wife (generally called Harmonia) prayed the gods in their old age to be relieved from life, and were changed into serpents. Next is mentioned the serpent in whose shape the god Æsculapius went from Epidaurus to Rome, when a plague was raging in that city. The last mentioned are those into which Jupiter Ammon and Jupiter Capitolinus were respectively transformed, the first when he visited Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, the second when he visited the mother of Scipio Africanus. Jupiter was the fabled father of both these heroes.

450. tedded grass," i.e. cut and spread out to dry.

522. Than at Circean call the herd disguised," i.e. than the mortals transformed into beasts by the enchantments of Circe were at her call.

624. “ beurth.So in Milton's own texts, and not birth, By the peculiar form of the word he intensifies the meaning. See Essay on Milton's English, p. 169.

634–640. “a wandering fire," etc. The Ignis Fatuus or “ Will of the Wisp”; in his account of the cause of which phenomenon Milton follows the science of his time.

640. Misleads the amazed night-wanderer from his way": a recollection surely, as Todd observed, of Shakespeare's line in Mid. Night's Dream, 11. i. :

“Misleads night-wanderers, laughing at their harm." 781. she eat.So in original text : not ate, which is now the authorized preterite.

792. And knew not eating death.A Greek idiom, used also in Latin.

795. "virtuous, precious: two positives used for superlatives, according to a classical idiom.

845. divine of something ill.This peculiar use of divinefor “foreboding” is, as Newton remarked, from the Latin : Hor., Od. 111. xxvii. 10.

846. “ the faltering measure,i.e. the unequal beating of his heart.

853—855. in her face ... to prompt.The construction and meaning have puzzled commentators. I understand: “ In her face, so beautiful it was, excuse for what she had done came already, as prologue to the very speech of excuse she was to make, and to prompt (quicken, help on, or prepare for) that apology which she now addressed to him.”

1019, 1020. Since to each meaning savour we apply, and palate call judicious," i.e. “ since we are in the habit of applying the term savour in either a physical or a moral sense, and of annexing the epithet judicious, which refers originally to the judgment or understanding, to the palate or sense of taste.”

1059—1062. “So rose the Danite strong,etc. See Judges xiii. 2, 25, and xvi. Observe the pronunciation Dalilah. So in Sams. Ag. 229, 724, 1072.

1064. strucken.See note, Ode Nat. 95.

1102-1110. But such as, at this day, to Indians known, in Malabar or Decan," etc. The tree, according to Milton here, was not the common fig-tree, but the Indian fig-tree, so first called by the Portuguese from the resemblance of its fruit, though not eatable, to figs. The leaves of this tree, however, are not “broad as Amazonian targe,” but actually small.

1115-1118. Such of late Columbus found the American,etc. The first natives of America encountered by Columbus (1492) were totally naked ; but he afterwards came upon tribes dressed with cinctures of feathers, as in the text.

BOOK X. 84. “ Conviction to the Serpent none belongs,i.e. no proof is required against the mere brute serpent, which was Satan's instrument.

92-95. Now was the Sun," etc. The authority for the time here is Gen. iii. 8; and in the sequel of that passage there is authority for what follows here, as far as line 222.

178. “And dust shalt eat," etc. In the apparently lame metre of this verse we have an instance of Milton's carefulness to quote as literally as possible the exact words of Scripture. (Gen. iii. 14. 15.).

184–191. “ Saw Satan fall like lightning,” etc. The early commentator Hume pointed out the coagulation in this passage of these texts—Luke x. 18; Eph. ii. 22 ; Col. iii. 15; Ps. Ixviii. 18; Rom. xvi. 20.

217, 218. or slain, or, as the snake, with youthful coat repan," 1.2. “either slain for the purpose, or only stripped of their skins, and provided with others, as the snakes cast their skins.” Death had now been brought into the world, but the poet professes ignorance whether beasts were slain or not to provide the first clothing for Adam and Eve.

229-271. Meanwhile . .. within the gates of Hell sat Sin and Death,” etc. The story of the poem here reverts to Sin and Death, who had been left inside the gates of Hell when Satan passed through into Chaos to discover the New World, 11, 889. By some secret physical sympathy, Sin, sitting at those now open gates, had become aware of Satan's success in his enterprise far overhead, and of the Fall of Man. She proposes, therefore, to Death to construct a causey, bridge, or pathway, from Hell-gates across Chaos to the New World, so that the communication may henceforth be easier, and the inhabitants of Hell may pass at their pleasure between Hell and the upper World.

260, 261. “ for intercourse or transmigration,etc., i.e. - whether for going to and fro between Hell and the World of Man, or for permanent passage up to the World of Man, as may be their lot.”

279. the grim Feature,i.e. figure or form. (Italian fattura ; English manufacture.)

282–311. Then both, from out Hell-gates,” etc. The building of the prodigious bridge is here described, with these comparisons :—The gathering out of Chaos of the solid or slimy matter that was to form the pier or commencement of the bridge at Hell's gate, and the driving or pushing of the same thither from opposite sides by Sin and Death, were as when two winds from opposite quarters on the Cronian Sea(i.e. the Arctic Sea, from Kronos or Saturn) drive together icebergs, so as to stop “the imagined way" (i.e. the suspected north-east passage) beyond Petsora(a gulf on the extreme north-east of the present European Russia) to the Cathaian coast" (i.e. to China). The cementing or fixing of the aggregated soil by Death's mace was like the fixing of the floating island of Delos by Zeus ; and Death's very look assisted in the work by binding the mass with “Gorgonian rigour” (i.e. a stiffness like that produced by the look of the Gorgon, which turned people into stone). The famous bridge of Xerxes over the Hellespont when he came from “ Susa, his Memnonian palace” (Susa, the residence of the Persian kings, is called Memnonia by Herodotus), bent on the invasion of Europe, was nothing to this.

312–324. Now had they brought,” etc. This passage, describing the completion of the bridge, is not unimportant. The bridge, it seems, not only followed the track which Satan had taken across Chaos, but it terminated, in adamantine fastenings, exactly at that spot (“the self-same place) on the bare outside shell or Primum Mobile of the Cosmos where Satan had alighted after his toilsome flight, i.e, on its upper boss, near the orifice where the Cosmos was suspended from the Empyrean (see notes, II. 1034-1042, and 111. 427429, 444-497, 498-539). If the reader, then, will take the diagram in p. 33 of the Introduction, and draw with pen or pencil a curved line, from the middle of what is there the arched roof of Hell, upwards on the left hand into the angle made by the equatorial line and the circumference of the little circle representing the Cosmos, that line will mark the track of the bridge built by Sin and Death. The somewhat obscure five lines 320-324 will then be perfectly intelligible ; for it will then be seen how “ in little space the confines met of Empyrean Heaven and of this World, and on the left hand Hell with long reach interposed.” But what are " the three several ways " leading “in sight to each of these three places? The bridge itself is one of them, leading to Hell; the mystic stair, or golden passage of communication, up from the orifice into the Empyrean, described at 111. 501-522, is another; and the downward shaft into the Cosmos from the same orifice right to Earth, described in the continuation of that passage (111. 523-539), is the third.

327-330. “ Satan . . . betwixt the Centaur," etc. The meaning is that Satan, in his ascent from Earth to the opening of the Mundus at its zenith, on his way back to Hell, steered between the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpio, thus keeping a good way from the Sun rising in Aries.

348. pontifice,i.e. bridge, a word apparently of Milton's coining, in recollection of the fact that pontifex, one of the Latin designations for “priest,” meant originally “bridge. maker.” See the adjective pontificalin the same sense, line 313.

« AnteriorContinuar »