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131. "tasted him." Taste for "test" or "try" is found in old English.
134-137. "Though Adam," etc. The passage is somewhat obscure. I interpret it thus: "Though it required his wife's allurement to make even Adam fall, however inferior he to this man; who, if he be man by the mother's side, is at least adorned from heaven with more," etc.
Asmodai." See Par. Lost, II. 108 et seq.; also IV. 168, vi. 365, with notes. 168. "the magnetic": the magnet, or loadstone. pare "the Celtic," Par. Lost, I. 521; "the stony," Par. Lost,
178-181. "Before the Flood," etc. Compare Par. Lost, XI. 573 et seq. The "sons of God" who there intermarried with the "daughters of men" (Gen. vi. 2) are represented as Seth's posterity; here they are the Fallen Angels.
186-191. 66 Calisto," one of Diana's nymphs, seduced by Jupiter; " Clymene," one of the Oceanids, mother of Phaethon by Apollo; “Daphne,” wooed by Apollo; "Semele," mother of Bacchus by Jupiter; Antiope," wooed by Jupiter as a Satyr; "Amymone," beloved by Neptune; "Syrinx," chased by Pan.
196. "that Pellean conqueror," i.e. Alexander the Great, born at Pella, in Macedonia. After the battle of Issus, when he was twenty-three years of age, he dismissed the wife and daughters of Darius, and other captive Persian ladies.
199. "he surnamed of Africa," i.e. Scipio Africanus, who generously, when in his twenty-fifth year, restored a young Spanish lady to her family.
210. "vouchsafe." So spelt here, though usually voutsafe in Milton.
266-278. "by the brook of Cherith...Elijah... Daniel." See 1 Kings xvii. 5, 6, and xix. 4, and Daniel i. 11, 12. 269. "Though ravenous," etc. A line hypermetrical by two syllables.
309. "Outcast Nebaioth." The name is here used for Ishmael, Hagar's son ; but in Gen. xxv. 13 it is the name of Ishmael's eldest son.
313. "Native of Thebez."
A mistake, Mr. Keightley thinks. Elijah was a native of Tishbe in Gilead; Thebez was in Ephraim.
344. "Grisamber-steamed." Perfumes were used in old
English cookery, and especially grisamber or grey amber. Though so called, it was not any kind of amber, but a peculiar grey substance, of animal origin, found floating in the sea, or thrown on the coasts, in warm climates. When heated it gave off a rich fragrance. It was very expensive, and was used only on great occasions.
347. "Pontus," the Euxine; "Lucrine bay," the Lucrine lake in Italy; "Afric coast": all celebrated for their fish.
353-361. Ganymed," Jupiter's cup-bearer; "Hylas," the attendant of Hercules; "Amalthea's horn," the horn of Jupiter's Cretan nurse which he invested with the power of pouring out fruits and flowers; "ladies of the Hesperides" (properly "the Hesperides" themselves), daughters of Hesperus, the brother of Atlas, and keepers of the gardens containing the golden fruit. "Logres or Loegria is the name in old British legends for what is now the main part of England; "Lyones," a name for Cornwall; "Lancelot, Pelleas, and Pellenore" are well-known knights of Arthurian romance.
374, 375. "All these are Spirits of air," etc. There is an echo here of a famous passage in the Tempest, Act. iv. Sc. I. 401. "far-fet," i.e. "far-fetched." The form "fet" for "fetched" occurs in Chaucer, Spenser, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and other poets.
423, 424. Antipater the Edomite, and his son Herod." See note, Par. Lost, XII. 353-358.
439. "Gideon and Jephtha." Judges vi. 11 et seq., and xi. 446. "Quintius" is Quintius Cincinnatus, who returned to his plough from the Roman Dictatorship; "Fabricius" was a patriotic Roman who resisted all the bribes of King Pyrrhus, and died poor; "Curius" is the victorious Curius Dentatus, who refused all public rewards, and was found by the Samnite ambassadors roasting turnips; Regulus" is the celebrated Roman who dissuaded his countrymen from peace with the Carthaginians, and then went back to Carthage to suffer the consequences.
457-486. "What if with like aversion I reject riches and realms," etc. This passage, and, indeed, the whole speech of which it is a part, is very characteristic of Milton, and repeats a strain of sentiment frequent in his works.
13-15. "the oracle Urim and Thummim," etc. The two gems or clusters of gems so called (the names are translated Manifestation and Truth) were worn in the breast-plate of Aaron and his successors in the high priesthood, and used, in some unknown way, for the purposes of augury on solemn occasions. See Exod. xxviii. 30; Levit. viii. 8; Numb. xxvii. 21; Deut. xxxiii. 8; 1 Sam. xxviii. 6; Ezra ii. 63; Neh. vii. 65. 31-42. Thy years are ripe," etc. At the time of the Temptation, Jesus (Luke iii. 23) was about thirty years of age. Alexander, "the son of Macedonian Philip," had begun to reign at the age of twenty, and had overturned the Persian Empire before he was twenty-five. Scipio had the command against the Carthaginians in Spain at the age of twenty-four, and had earned his name of “Africanus” by his victories in Africa before he was thirty-three. Pompey had certainly earned great distinction in his youth; but it was not till his forty-fourth year that he "rode in triumph," after his conquest of "the Pontic King," Mithridates. The "great Julius was nearly forty years of age before his opportunity came; and there is a story of his bursting into tears, either when reading the biography of Alexander, or when looking at a statue of that hero, at the thought that so much of his life was past and so little had been done in it. Compare Milton's Sonnet II.
55. "His lot who dares be singularly good." A sentiment and expression peculiarly Miltonic. In the whole passage (44-64) I trace a tinge of autobiographic reference.
81, 82. "and must be titled Gods" (like Antiochus, King of Syria, called Theos), “great Benefactors of mankind” (like Antiochus of Asia and his son Demetrius Poliorcetes, styled Euergetai), "Deliverers" (i.e. Soteres or Saviours," a title given to several Greek rulers, including the last-named).
84. "One is the son of Jove," i.e. Alexander; "of Mars the other," i.e. Romulus.
101. "young African," i.e. Scipio.
146. "stood struck." See note, Ode Nat. 95.
160-163. "oft have they violated the Temple," etc.: e.g. Antiochus Epiphanes (2 Maccab. v.), and Pompey, who penetrated to the Holy of Holies.
165-170. "So did not Machabeus," etc. The Asmonæan family, so celebrated in later Jewish history, were descended from Asmonæus, a Levite, and were themselves priests, dwelling in the district called Modin. When Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek king of Syria (see last note), was persecuting the Jews for their religion, Mattathias, the head of this family, and his five sons, John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan, led a patriotic revolt. Judas particularly distinguished himself, and acquired the name of Maccabæus, or "the Hammerer"; which name was extended to the whole family. Their successes were such as to bring the sovereignty into their hands; and the dynasty of the Maccabees, founded B.C. 166 by Judas Maccabæus, lasted more than a century. Satan in the text is careful to call it a "usurpation" of the throne of David.
183. "And time there is for all things, Truth hath said." Eccles. iii. I.
234. "once a year Jerusalem," i.e. during Passover. 253-264. "It was a mountain," etc. Tradition has fixed on Mount Quarantania, on the right bank of the Jordan, as the mountain of the Temptation; but Milton clearly imagines (lines 267-270) that Christ and the Tempter have been transported by magical power to some mountain far beyond the bounds of Palestine. Dunster argued for Mount Niphates in Armenia, on the top of which Satan had alighted on his own first visit to the Earth (Par. Lost, III. 742, and note); and some mountain in that region, whence could be seen the "two rivers," Euphrates and Tigris, "the one winding, the other straight," with the "champaign" of Mesopotamia between, seems required by the description. But, as appears presently, the view from the mountain is limitless.
269-297. "Here thou behold'st," etc. The view from the mountain-top in this passage is of what may be called generally THE EAST-i.e. of all those countries which, anciently included in the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires, were next comprehended in that of Persia, and so passed under Græco-Macedonian rule, till about B.C. 256, when the Parthians (a people of the region south-east of the Caspian) threw off the government of the Seleucidæ, and were formed into an independent power by their chief, Arsaces. The Parthian Empire of the East lasted, under the successors of Arsaces, till A. D. 226, defying the attempts of the Romans
to subvert it; and at the date to which the poem refers us the Empire was in its most palmy state. The object of the Tempter for the moment is to impress Christ with the extent and greatness of the Empire. For this purpose, he first points out its boundaries,—from the Indus to the Euphrates in one direction, and from the Caspian and Araxes to the Persian Gulf and Arabia in another. Then he points to the famous cities with which the vast area is studded. First there is Nineveh, on the Tigris, built by primeval Ninus, the capital of the old Assyrian Empire, and so the seat of that Salmanassar or Shalmanezer, King of Assyria, who, B.C. 721, invaded Samaria, and carried away the Ten Tribes of Israel into captivity (2 Kings xvii. 1-6). Next, on the Euphrates, is Babylon, as old, but rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar, who twice invaded Judæa (2 Kings xxiv. and xxv., and 2 Chron. xxxvi.), and carried away the Jews into that Seventy Years' captivity from which they were liberated by Cyrus, King of Persia. His (i.e. Cyrus's) capital, Persepolis, is also visible, and also Bactra, the chief city of the Bactrian part of the Persian Empire. Ecbatana, the ancient capital of Media, is visible; also Hecatompylos, "the hundred-gated," the capital of Parthia proper, and of the Parthian Empire under the Arsacidæ ; also Susa, the winter residence and treasury of the old Persian kings, built on the Choaspes or Eulæus river, of whose waters alone the Persian kings would drink. Not so venerable as any of these, as having been built more recently by the Emathians (Macedonians) or the Parthians, but still great and wealthy, were other cities. Seleucia, on the Tigris, had been built by Alexander's general, Seleucus Nicator, the founder of the dynasty of the Seleucidæ of Syria; Nisibis, in Mesopotamia, was also of Macedonian foundation; Artaxata, on the Araxes, was the capital of Armenia; Teredon was on the Persian Gulf; and Ctesiphon, near Seleucia, was the winter-quarters of the Parthian monarchs.
298-344. "And just in time thou com'st . . . for now the Parthian king in Ctesiphon," etc. What was going on in the Parthian Empire, in Ctesiphon or anywhere else, at the date referred to, is profoundly obscure; but the incident which the poet imagines—a review of Parthian troops, preparatory to a march against invading hosts of Scythians from the north-is true to possibility, and gives occasion for a fine