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A midnight bell, a parting groan,
These are the sounds we feed upon; Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy valley ; Nothing's so dainty, sweet, as lovely melancholy."
Milton begins the Allegro in praise of mirth by exclaiming,
“ Hence, loathed Melancholy!"
He begins the Penseroso in a similar manner :
" Hence, vain, deluding joys!"
So that either of the poems might with equal propriety have been the first. It is however discernable that Milton preferred the melancholy; and his conclusion to the poem puts it out of doubt :“ Hence, vain, deluding joys!
The brood of Folly, without father bred, How little you bested,
Or fill the fixed mind with all your toys; Dwell in some idle brain,
And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess, As thick and numberless
As the gay motes that people the sun-beams, Or likeliest hovering Dreams,
The fickle pensioners of Morpheus' train." 6 Begone, ye vain joys of Mirth! ye are the brood or offspring of Folly, spontaneously produced. Of how little profit are ye, and how far are you from engaging the “ fixed,” the steady mind, with all your worthless pleasures !-Go, Mirth, and fill some idle mind, and crowd fancies that are inclined to you with gaudy images, as numerous as the motes that appear in the beams of the sun, or as numerous as the varying dreams that attend on sleep.”
Toys --- mean not only the play-things of children, but whatever amuses the inind, at any age.
Bested—comes from stead, which means place; instead, in the place of, bestead, to be of service-in place of something else.
And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possessoPossess sometimes means, as in the New Testament, to subdue under the power of some demon ; and here Milton invokes Euplirosyne to fill the foolish mind with deinons of the various forms, which delusive Mirth assumes.
As the gay motes that people the sun-beams. When the rays of the sun pass through any opening into a dark room, the light dust, which floats in the atmosphere, becomes visible, and as it is put in motion by the air which rushes into that part of the room, which is heated
by the sun, the motes *, or small particles of dust, seem to dance in the sun-beams.
The fickle pensioners of Morpheus' train.Morpheus was the god of dreams, which the poet calls his pensioners, because they depend upon him, and fickle, because dreams vary continually, and are seldom steady and uniforın.
“ But hail, thout goddess sage and holy,
• Whoever observes these motes will sec that they consist of various materials; short threads of linen, cotton, silk, and particularly of woollen cloth, are mixed with rounder particles of dust, worn away and forincd from different materials~ This is certainly not a proper place to analyse dust and motes ; but whatever sets the young mind at work to examine common objects cannot be useless.
His daughter she (in Saturn's reign
" But hail, thou holy goddess, Melancholy, whose splendour would dazzle the weak eyes of mortals, were it not covered, with a veil and robes of black, which is the favourite colour of Wisdom ; not coinmon mourning robes, but of such rich hue as might suit the sister of Memnon, or Cassiope, who offended the sea-nymplis by comparing herself to them in beauty ; but thou art descended from higher parentage than either Mennon's sister or Cassiope ; for thou art sprung from solitary Saturn, and brighthaired Vesta, in the shades of Ida, before the reign of Jupiter."
.............. ...... " Too bright
To hit-means to suit, or be fit for inn
Prince Memnon's sister.Who this sister of . Memnon was, who wore such rich mourning, we are not distinctly informed. Memnon, the son of Tithonus and Aurora; was killed by Achilles, at the siege of Troy.
Darkest grain.-Dying in grain is dying the article before it is manufactured ; by which the stuff is penetrated through and through with the colour*.
Sable stole. Black robe ; Melancholy is represented as having a black stole of Cypress lawn thrown over her other robes ; such lawn as is used at funerals. The ancients made statues of their gods of the wood of this name ; and formerly Cypress wood was used for coffins, as it is remarkably durable.-Cypress trees were planted in churchyards; and the Cypress in general was an emblem of mourning; it is said by some, that Cypress lawn means such lawn as was made in the island of Cyprus. · Wonted state.---Accustomed pomp.
Looks commercing.--Holding commerce, or intercourse with Heaven.
Hoiy passion.—Passion properly means an effect produced by action ; here it means an
. * Some colours to be rendered perfect are first reduced into grains, or small pieces; this gives one meaning, 10 thie expression, dying in grain; but the popular meaning is taken from the idea of the colours passing through the threads of the stuff..
When we look at wood, we perceive the longitudinal course of the fibres; that is to say, their course length. ways, and we call this, the grain of the wood. When we look at stuffs, &C-we see the course of the threads, which we also call the grain