« AnteriorContinuar »
And condemnation of the ingrateful multitude.
For oft alike both come to evil end.the Restoration; and probably he might have in mind particularly the case of Sir Harry Vane, whom he has so highly celebrated in one of his sonnets. “ If these they 'scape, perhaps in poverty," &c.; this was his own case; he escaped with life, but lived in poverty; and though he was always very sober and temperate, yet he was much afflicted with the gout and other “painful diseases in crude old age,” cruda senectus, when he was not yet a very old man:
Though not disordinate, yet causeless suffering
The punishment of dissolute days. Some time after I had written this, I had the pleasure to find that I had fallen into the same vein of thinking with Mr. Warburton : but he has opened and pursued it much farther, with a penetration and liveliness of fancy peculiar to himself. “God of our fathers," to ver. 704, is a bold expostulation with Providence for the ill success of the good old cause :
But such as thou hast solemnly elected,
To some great work thy glory. In these three lines are described the characters of the heads of the independent enthusiasts : “which in part they effect;" that is, by the overthrow of the monarchy, without being able to raise their projected republic :
Yet toward these thus dignified, thou oft,
Changest thy countenance. After Richard had laid down, all power came into the hands of the enthusiastic independent republicans; when a sudden revolution, by the return of Charles II., broke all their measures :
With no regard
From thee on them, or them to thee of service: that is, without any regard of those favours shown by thee to them in their wonderful successes against tyranny and superstition, (church and state] or of those services they paid to thee in declaring for religion and liberty, (independency and a republic.]
Nor only dost degrade, &c.
Too grievous for the trespass or omission. By the trespass of these precious saints, Milton means the quarrels among themselves ; and by the omission, the not making a clear stage in the constitution, and new-modelling the law, as well as national religion, as Ludlow advised. “Captived:” several were condemned to perpetual imprisonment, as Lambert and Martin. “Or to the unjust tribunals," &c. The trials and condemnation of Vane and the regicides. The concluding verses describe his own case :
If these they 'scape, perhaps in poverty-
The punishment of dissolute days : bis losses in the excise, and his gout not caused by intemperance. But Milton was the most heated enthusiast of his time: speaking of Charles I.'s murder in his “ Defence of the People of England,” he says :-" Quanquam ego hæc divino potius instinctu gesta esse crediderim, quoties memoria repeto," &c.—Newton.
w In crude old age. “Crude old ago" in Virgil, and in other writers, is strong and robust, —-"cruda Deo viridisque senectus:" but Milton uses here “crude" for premature, and coming before its time; as “cruda funera" in Statius: old age brought on by poverty and by sickness. -Jortin.
x For oft alike both come to evil end. This may seem a strange sentiment to come from the Chorus; but was proper to
So deal not with this once thy glorious champion,
But who is this, what thing of sea or land ?
console Samson, who suffered chiefly from those " thoughts his tormentors," which represented his calamity as a decisive mark of his superior guilt, and of Heaven's resentment. Hence those “swoonings of despair, and sense of Heaven's desertion," for which there was no cause, if the just might sometimes thus suffer. This condescension is of the character of the Chorus: “Ille bonis faveat et consilietur amice!" We are not to consider the sentiment simply in itself, but as adapted to present circumstances. The purpose of the Chorus was not to calumniate Providence, but to soothe the unhappy sufferer. Besides, the general moral of the piece, enforced by the Chorus itself at the end—“All is best, though we oft doubt," &c., rectifies all, and counteracts any ill impression from this carnal sentiment.-HURD.
5 Behold him in this state calamitous, and turn
His labours, for thou canst, to peaceful end. The concluding verses of this beautiful chorus appear to me particularly affecting, from the persuasion that Milton, in composing them, addressed the last two immediately to Heaven, as a prayer for himself. If the conjecture of this application be just, we may add, that never was the prevalence of a righteous prayer more happily conspicuous; and let me here remark, that however various the opinions of men may be concerning the merits or demerits of Milton's political character, the integrity of his heart appears to have secured to him the favour of Providence; since it pleased the Giver of all good not only to turn his labours to a peaceful end, but to irradiate his declining life with the most abundant portion of those pure and sublime mental powers, for which he had constantly and fervently prayed, as the choicest bounty of Heaven.HAYLEY.
2 Like a stately ship, &c. The thought of comparing a woman to a ship is not entirely new. Plautus has it in his “ Panulus," 1. ii. 1 :
Negotii sibi qui volet vim parare,
Navem et mulierem, hæc duo comparato, &c. Mr. Warburton, in a note on the “Merry Wives of Windsor," a. iii. s. 8, speaking of the ship-tire, says, “it was an open head-dress, with a kind of scarf depending from behind." Its name of ship-tire was, I presume, from its giving the wearer some resemblance of a ship, as Shakspeare says, “in all her trim;" with all her pennants out, and flagsand streamers flying. Thus Milton paints Dalila. This was an image familiar with the poets of that time. Thus, in Beaumont and Fletcher's “Wit without Money:"“She spreads sattens as the king's ships do canvass.”—Newton.
a Of Tarsus. There is frequent mention in Scripture of the ships of Tarshish, which Milton as well as some commentators might conceive to be the same as Tarsus, in Cilicia :"bound for the isles of Javan,” that is, Greece; for Javan or Ion, the fourth son of Japhet, is said to have peopled Greece and Ionia, or Gadire, Gades, Cadiz.-Newton.
b With all her bravery on, and tackle trim,
Sails fill'd, &c. Gray has also drawn a beautiful comparison of a ship in gallant trim, in his “Bard,” v. 71, &c. I beg leave to introduce to the reader's notice a similar description, of remarkable elegance, in Giles Fletcher's "Christ's Victorie," b. ii. st. 35:
Courted by all the windse that hold them play,
Sam. My wife ! my traitress : let her not come near me.
Cho. Yet on she moves," now stands and eyes thee fix'd,
Like as a ship, in which no ballance lies,
And fagging colours shine as bright as smiling day. Where “ embraves" is decorates; as “ bravery" in the text is finery or ornament; in which sense the word is commonly used by our old poets.-TODD.
c Streamers waving, Courted by all the winds. This is a beautiful image, exquisitely expressed. The whole of this chorus is among the finest passages in this grand poem.
d Yet on she moves, &o. Like Ismene in the “ Antigone" of Sophocles, v. 532.
Mr. Jortin and Mr. Thyer both concurred in the same observation, and therefore it is more likely to be true.- Newton.
e But now, with head declined,
Your head declined, as hiding grief from view,
Droops, like a rose surcharged with morning dew. Phineas Fletcher is fond of this classical allusion. See his “Purple Island," c. xi. st. 30, and particularly st. 38:
So have I often seen a purple flower,
Fainting through heat, hang down her drooping head, &c.
As lilies, overcharged with rain, they bend
r With doubtful feet, &c. The scene between Samson and Dalila is drawn up with great judgment and particular beauty.. One cannot conceive a more artful, soft
, and persuasive eloquence than that which is put into the mouth of Dalila ; nor is the part of Samson less to be admired for that stern and resolute firinness which runs through it. What also gives both parts a great additional beauty, is their forming so fine a contrast to each other.-THYER.
My penance hath not slacken'd, though my pardia
Sam. Out, out, hyæna !s these are thy wonted arts,
& Out, out, hymena. The hyæna is a creature somewhat like a wolf, and is said to imitate a human voico 80 artfully as to draw people to it, and then devour them. So Solinus, the transcriber of Pliny, cap. 27"Multa de ea mira : primum, quod sequitur stabula pastorum, et auditu assiduo addiscit vocamen, quod exprimere possit imitatione vocis humanæ, ut in hominem astu accitum nocte sævint." A celebrated tragic writer makes use of the same comparison, " Orphan," a. iii. :
'Tis thus the false hyæna makes her moan,
Your sex are so, such false dissemblers all, &c. Milton applies it to a woman, but Otway to the men; which with the greater justice, let the critics and the ladies determine.--NEWTON.
h That wisest and best men, full oft beguiled,
With goodness, &c. Milton had reason to lament that excess of indulgence with which he forgave and received again his disobedient and long-alienated wife; since their reunion not only disquieted his days, but gave birth to daughters who seem to bavo inherited the perversity of their mother. These pathetic lines strike me as a forcible allusion to his own connubial infelicity.-HAYLEY.
i Are draren to wear out miserable days. He makes the same reflection, in his “Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce," on two persons ill embarkt in wedlock. “What folly is it to stand combating and battering against invincible causes and effects, with evil upon evil, till either the best of our days be lingered out, or ended with some speeding sorrow !” b. i. 10.-Todd.
This passage from the above tract about invincible causes and effects confirms the observation with regard to the ill-assortment of Milton's first marriage.
To lessen or extenuate my offence;
j Mine and love': prisoner.
'Tis almost morning ; I would have thee gone;