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21. "my celestial Patroness," i.e. Urania. See VII. I,
2, and note. 26. 66 long choosing, and beginning late." The subject of Paradise Lost had first occurred to him about 1640; but "long choosing" among other subjects had followed; and not till 1658, when he was fifty years of age, had he seriously begun. See Memoir, p. xvi. and p. xliv., and Introd. pp. 16-21.
29, 30. "chief mastery to dissect .. fabled knights." An allusion to the minute descriptions of wounds in Homer and other epic poets.
35. "Impresses" (Italian impresa), devices or emblems used on shields or otherwise.
36. "Bases," kilts or lower garments.
38. "sewers," those who ushered in the meals and arranged them on the table; "seneshals," house-stewards.
39. "The skill of artifice (i.e. mere artizanship) or office mean," etc. And yet writers of heroic poems of the kind described had been Spenser, Ariosto, and the like.
One half of the Earth being
52. "Night's hemisphere." in shadow constitutes night. 60-61. "Since Uriel," etc. Book IV. 555-57564-66. "thrice the equinoctial line he circled," etc. Of the seven days during which Satan had gone round and round the Earth, always keeping on its dark side, three had been spent in moving from east to west along the equator, and four in moving from pole to pole, or from north to south and back; and in this second way he would "traverse" (go along) the two great circles from the poles called specially "the colures," viz. the Equinoctial colure and the Solstitial colure.
where Tigris," etc.
69-73. "There was a place See IV. 223-246, and note there.
76-82. "Sea he had searched and land," etc. The Fiend, on leaving Eden (IV. 1015), had gone northward over the Pontus Euxinus or Black Sea, and the Palus Mæotis or Sea of Azof, and still northward as far as the Siberian river Ob, which flows into the Arctic Sea; whence, continuing round the pole and descending on the other side of the globe, he had gone southwards as far as the Antarctic pole. So much for his travels north and south. In "length," i.e. in longitude, his journeys had extended from the Syrian
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 Jove" for "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. III. vi. and Comus 998). The gardens of Alcinous, the King of the Phracians, 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 Esculapius 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. "bearth." 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, II. 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 "divine" for "foreboding" is, as Newton remarked, from the Latin Hor., Od. III. xxvii. 10.
846. "the faltering measure," i.e. the unequal beating of
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," 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.
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. lxviii. 18; Rom. xvi. 20.
217, 218. "or slain, or, as the snake, with youthful coat repaid," i.e. "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, II. 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