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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 e'er 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
from Shakespeare: viz. K. John, iv. 3, or ere we meet," and Tempest, i. 2 :—
" I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth, or ere
In these cases, it may be argued, or e'er would suit as well, and was probably intended; for that phrase, same as or ever or ere ever, was also common: e.g., as Mr. Wright notes, Hamlet, i. 2.
"Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven,
In the present passage, however, the fact that it is a substantive, "point of dawn," that is qualified, and not a verb, increases the probability that or ere was intended, and that this was a naturalised duplicate preposition in English, as well as an adverb, when Milton wrote.
88. "little thought they than." The form than for then, though induced here by the rhyme, is genuine old English.
89. "the mighty Pan," the God of shepherds.
95. "Strook." This is perhaps Milton's favourite form of the past tense and participle of the verb strike. It recurs in Comus, 301, Par. Lost II. 165, and vI. 863, X. 413, XI. 264, and Par. Reg. IV. 576; and it is found in his prose: e.g. "The bright and blissful Reformation . . . strook through the black and settled night of Ignorance" (Of Ref. in England). He does use, however, the form struck: see Par. Reg: III. 146, and Sams. Ag. 1686. In Par. Lost IX. 1064 he has the form strucken. On referring to these passages, it will be found that musical reasons recommended the deviation from the form strook, just as musical reasons made strook preferable in other cases.
IOI-104. "Nature, that heard," etc. Construe thus: "Nature, that heard such sound thrilling the airy region beneath the hollow round of Cynthia's seat (i.e. beneath the concave sky where the Moon rides) was now," etc.
106. "its last fulfilling." One of the three occurrences of the word its in Milton's poetry, the other two being Par. Lost, I. 254, and IV. 813. See Essay on Milton's English, pp. 174-186.
116. "unexpressive," i.e. inexpressible. So in Lycidas
176; and Shakespeare has "The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive She" (As You Like It, iii. 2).
117-124. "Such music," etc. Job xxxviii. 4-11. 125-132. Ring out, ye crystal spheres," etc. An instance of Milton's fondness for the Pythagorean fancy of the music of the spheres, i.e. a music produced by the wheelings of the orbs that were supposed, in the old Astronomy, to constitute the Mundane Universe. See Introd. to P. L., pp. 37-38. In the completely developed Ptolemaic system there were ten spheres: for the present purpose Milton is content with nine (line 131).
132. consort" (Lat. consortium, society): used as our concert.
143, 144. "Orbed in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing, Mercy will sit between." This is a change in the second edition from the text of the first, which had stood thus:"Th' enameld Arras of the Rainbow wearing, And Mercy set between."
168. "the Old Dragon." Rev. xx. 2.
172. swinges." Spelt swindges " in the original The word occurs nowhere else in Milton's poetry. 173. "The Oracles are dumb." The idea, from this point to line 236, is that of the sudden paralysis of the gods and enchantments of the Pagan Religions at the birth of Christ. Compare P. R., I. 455. There had been an ecclesiastical tradition to this effect from the time of the early Christians. See De Quincey's Essay The Pagan Oracles.
191. "Lars," family-gods; "Lemures," ghosts or goblins. 197-220. "Peor and Baälim," etc. With one exception, all the oriental gods mentioned in these three stanzas are enumerated in the list of Fallen Angels in P. L. I. 392 et seq. Anubis, not there mentioned, was an Egyptian god, worshipped in the shape of a dog. The "twice-battered god of Palestine" is the Philistian Dagon. "The Lybic Hammon," or Jupiter Ammon, was represented with the head of a ram. In the myth of Osiris he is put into a chest by conspirators, and sent floating down the Nile: Milton blends him with Apis, the bull-god.-" The Memphian grove," fields about the Egyptian city of Memphis.—“unshowered grass," from the rarity of rain in Egypt. 226. "Typhon huge."
Typhon is the Greek name for
Suti, one of the brothers of Osiris, and his enemy. In Egypt he was worshipped in various beast forms, sometimes as a crocodile. The Greek Typhon was a dragon-headed monster, buried underground for opposing Zeus.
229. "So, when the Sun," etc. This popular idea of the vanishing of ghosts at sunrise occurs also in Shakespeare (Mids. N. Dr. iii. 2).
240. "youngest-teemèd," latest-born.
6. "wintry solstice": when the day is shortest.- -26. "Cremona's trump," i.e. the Latin poem of Marco Girolamo Vida of Cremona (1490-1566), called "The Christiad." -34, 35. "The leaves should all be black," etc. : a conceit from the old books of funereal poems printed with white letters on a black ground. -36-39. 66 See, see the The prophet here is Ezekiel (see Ezek. i.) -43. "that sad sepulchral rock": the holy sepulchre. -56. "Had got a race of mourners," etc. The conceit is from the story of Ixion, who, cheated by a cloud or phantom, substituted for Juno, became the father of the Centaurs. -Observe the strange syntax of the prose addition to this piece. One must agree with the judgment there expressed.
SONG ON MAY MORNING.
Warton quotes "The dancing day, forth coming from the east " from Spenser's Astrophel; and, in illustration of line 10, he quotes this from Chaucer's Knightes Tale:
"O Maye, with all thy floures and thy grene,
1—4. "What needs my Shakespeare," etc. One might almost suppose, from the wording of these lines, that there was a proposal, in or about 1630, to erect a monument to Shakespeare. If so, it must have been in London, for the famous monument in the church of Stratford-on-Avon had been put up at least as early as 1623, or seven years after
Shakespeare's death. It is mentioned in the lines by L. Digges to Shakespeare's memory prefixed to the First Folio, published in that year :
66 Shakespeare, at length thy pious fellows give
The world thy works-thy works by which outlive
Possibly, however, Milton's lines were not occasioned by any project of a new monument, but were merely an expression of the natural sentiment that Shakespeare needed no such memorial. If so, he may have been consciously amplifying these lines in Ben Jonson's famous Eulogy on Shakespeare, prefixed to the First Folio:
"My Shakespeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
4. star-ypointing," i.e. pointing to the stars.
The word is hardly a correct formation, as the prefix y (German ge) belongs properly to the past participle passive, as in yclad, yclept.
6. "weak witness." In the copy in the Second Folio Shakespeare the words are "dull witnesse."
8. "livelong." The word is lasting in the Second Folio. 9, 10. "to the shame of slow-endeavouring art, thy easy numbers flow." A reference to Shakespeare's extreme ease and fluency in composition, as attested by his fellow-players Heminge and Condell, the editors of the First Folio: "His mind and hand went together: And what he thought he uttered with that easiness that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers." This extreme ease in composition, or contentedness with first drafts, did not belong to Milton; and he notes it in Shakespeare with admiration.
II. "unvalued": invaluable. Todd quotes from Shake"unvalued jewels." speare (Rich. III. 1. 4)
12. "Delphic lines," i.e. oracular lines, as if from Apollo's own temple at Delphi.