Imatges de pÓgina
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Were in the flat sea sunk; and Wisdom's self
Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude:*
Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation,"
She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
That in the various bustle of resort

Were all-to ruffled," and sometimes impair'd.
He, that has light within his own clear breast,
May sit in the centre, and enjoy bright day :▾
But he, that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts,
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
Himself is his own dungeon.

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That Musing Meditation most affects

The pensive secresy of desert cell,

Far from the cheerful haunt of men and herds,

Vertue gives herselfe light through darknesse for to wade.

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But may not Jonson here be also noticed, who, in his Mask, "Pleasure reconciled to Virtue," (to which I have ventured to assign other allusions in "Comus,") says of Virtue ;

For the same

She, she it is in darknesse shines;

'Tis she that still herself refines,

By her own light to every eye.-TODD.

Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude.

uncommon use of "seek," Mr. Bowle cites Bale's "Examinacyon of A. Askew," p. 24. "Hath not he moche nede of helpe who seeketh to soche a surgeon?" So also in Isaiah, xi. 10. "To it shall the Gentiles seek."-T. WARTON.

s Her best nurse, Contemplation.

In Sidney's "Arcadia," Solitude is the nurse of Contemplation, b. i. p. 31, edit. 1674. "Such contemplation, or more excellent, I enjoy in solitariness; and my solitariness is perchance the nurse of these contemplations."-DUNSTER.

She plumes her feathers.

I believe the true reading to be "prunes," which Lawes ignorantly altered to "plumes," afterwards imperceptibly continued in the poet's own edition. To "prune wings," is to smoothe, or set them in order, when ruffled: for this is the leading idea. Spenser, "Faer. Qu.” ii. iii. 36 :—

She 'gins her feathers foule disfigured
Proudly to prune.-T. WARTON.

u Were all-to ruffled.

So read as in editions 1637, 1645, and 1673. Not too, nimis. "All-to," or "al-to," is entirely. See Tyrwhitt's Glossary, Chaucer, v. To. And Upton's Glossary, Spenser, v. All. Various instances occur in Chaucer and Spenser, and in later writers. The corruption, supposed to be an emendation, "all too ruffled," began with Tickell, who had no knowledge of our old language, and has been continued by Fenton, and Dr. Newton. Tonson has the true reading, in 1695, and 1705.-T. WARTON.

See Judges ix. 53:-" And a certain woman cast a piece of a mill-stone upon Abimelech's head, and all-to brake his skull:" for so it should be printed. Some editions of the Bible corruptly read, "all to break," placing the verb improperly in the infinitive mood.-TODD.

He that has light within his own clear breast,

May sit in the centre, and enjoy bright day.

So, in his "Prose Works," i. 217, edit. 1698 :-"The actions of just and pious men do not darken in their middle course; but Solomon tells us, they are as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."-TODD.

w Himself is his own dungeon.

In "Samson Agonistes," v. 155, the Chorus apply this solemn and forcible expression to the captive and afflicted hero:

Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)

The dungeon of thyself.-TODD.

And sits as safe as in a senate-house ;*
For who would rob a hermit of his weeds,
His few books, or his beads, or maple dish,
Or do his gray hairs any violence?
But Beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree
Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard
Of dragon watch with unenchanted eye,"
To save her blossoms, and defend her fruit,
From the rash hand of bold Incontinence.

You may as well spread out the unsunn'd heaps

Of miser's treasure by an outlaw's den,
And tell me it is safe, as bid me hope
Danger will wink on opportunity,
And let a single helpless maiden passa
Uninjured in this wild surrounding waste.
Of night, or loneliness, it recks me not;
I fear the dread events that dog them both,
Lest some ill-greeting touch attempt the person
Of our unowned sister.

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Not many years after this was written, Milton's friends showed that the safety of a senate-house was not inviolable; but, when the people turn legislators, what place is safe from the tumults of innovation, and the insults of disobedience?-T. WARTON.

y But beauty, &c.

These sentiments are heightened from the "Faithful Shepherdess," a. i. s. 1:—

Can such beauty be

Safe in its own guard, and not drawe the eye

Of him that passeth on, to greedy gaze, &c.-T. WARTON.

z With unenchanted eye.

That is, which cannot be enchanted. Here is more flattery; but certainly such as was justly due, and which no poet in similar circumstances could resist the opportunity, or rather the temptation, of paying.-T. WARTON.

When the Christian religion supplanted the pagan worship, such was the attachment even of zealous converts to the old established days of jubilee and joy in honour of the gods and goddesses of Olympus, that it was found necessary to do something of the sort for the Christian cause; and accordingly a long line of saints, male and female, took possession of the set times of heathen jubilee, and reigned in the stead of Diana and Apollo. In like manner, the domestic mythology of the pagans yielded to that of the Christians; and the deeds which the infernal gods wrought of old, were now accomplished by their successor Satan. Instead of a dragon being placed as a sentinel over concealed treasure of any kind, one of the inferior fiends was reluctantly compelled to perform the office: the corsairs in latter times carried this much farther, and, it is said, slew a prisoner over their treasure-chest, and commanded his spirit to keep watch and ward. When Dalswinton castle was stormed and taken by Robert Bruce, Comyn, who was very rich, caused his strong-box to be sunk in one of the deepest pools of the Nith, which in those days ran close by the castle walls. Times of peace returned, and a diver was employed to search for the gold; but when he descended to the bottom of the pool, he found, it is said, a fiend seated on the lid of the treasure-chest, who not only seemed disposed to contest the matter, but, as our version of the legend avers, actually held a human victim under each paw, and with his mouth gaped wistfully for a third. Two divers, it seems, had tried the adventure before, and failed; nor did the third and last succeed.-C.

And let a single helpless maiden pass, &c.

Rosalind argues in the same manner, in "As you Like It," a. i. s. 3:

Alas! what danger will it be to us,

Maids as we are, to travel forth so far!

Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.-T. WARTON.

Infer as if I thought my sister's state
Secure, without all doubt or controversy;
Yet, where an equal poise of hope and fear
Does arbitrate the event, my nature is
That I incline to hope, rather than fear,
And gladly banish squint suspicion.
My sister is not so defenceless left

As you imagine; she has a hidden strength,
Which you remember not.

Sec. Br.
What hidden strength,
Unless the strength of Heaven, if you mean that?
El. Br. I mean that too, but yet a hidden strength,
Which, if Heaven gave it, may be term'd her own:
'Tis Chastity, my brother, Chastity:

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She, that has that, is clad in complete steel;
And, like a quiver'd nymph with arrows keen,
May trace huge forests, and unharbour'd heaths,
Infamous hills, and sandy perilous wilds,
Where, through the sacred rays of Chastity,"
No savage fierce, bandite, or mountaineer,
Will dare to soil her virgin purity:

Yea, there, where very desolation dwells,

By grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid shades,

b Yet where an equal poise, &c.

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"Boni animi proprium est in dubiis meliora supponere, donec probetur in contrarium." Mat. Paris, "Hist." p. 774.-Bowle.

c And gladly banish squint suspicion.

Alluding probably, in the epithet, to Spenser's description of Suspicion, in his Mask of Cupid, "Faery Queen," iii. xii. 15:

For he was foul, ill-favoured, and grim,

Under his eye-brows looking still ascaunce.-THYER.

And, like a quiver'd nymph with arrows keen.

I make no doubt but Milton in this passage had his eye upon Spenser's Belphoebe, whose character, arms, and manner of life perfectly correspond with this description.THYER.

• May trace huge forests, &c.

Shakspeare's Oberon, as Mr. Bowle observes, would breed his child-knight to "trace the forests wild," "Midsummer Night's Dream," a. ii. s. 3. In Johnson's "Masques," a fairy says, vol. v. 206 :—

Only we are free to trace

All his grounds, as he to chase.-T. WARTON.

f Infamous hills.

Horace," Od." i. iii. 20 :—“ Infames scopulos," as Dr. Newton observes. P. Fletcher, in his "Pisc. Ecl." published in 1633, has "infamous woods and downs."-TODD.

Where, through the sacred rays of Chastity, &c.

See Fletcher, "Faithful Shepherdess," a. i. s. 1.-T. WARTON.

h Mountaineer.

A mountaineer seems to have conveyed the idea of something very savage and ferocious. In the "Tempest," a. iii. s. 3 :—

Who would believe that there were mountaineers
Dewlapp'd like bulls?

In "Cymbeline," a. iv. s. 2:

Who call'd me traitor, mountaineer.-T. WARTON.

She may pass on with unblench'd' majesty,
Be it not done in pride, or in presumption.
Some say, no evil thing that walks by nights
In fog or fire, by lake or moorish fen,k
Blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost
That breaks his magick chains at curfeu time,'
No goblin, or swart faery of the mine,"

i Unblench'd.

Unblinded, unconfounded.-Warton.

Some say, no evil thing that walks by night.

Milton had Shakspeare in his head, "Hamlet," a. i. s. 1 :

Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated-
But then, they say, no spirit walks abroad.

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Another superstition is ushered in with the same form in "Paradise Lost," b. x. 575. And the same form occurs in the description of the physical effects of Adam's fall, b. x. 668.-T. WArton.

* In fog or fire, by lake or moorish fen, &c.

Milton here had his eye on the "Faithful Shepherdess," a. i. He has borrowed the sentiment, but raised and improved the diction:

I have heard (my mother told it me,

And now I do believe it) if I keep

My virgin flower uncropt, pure, chaste, and fair,

No goblin, wood-god, fairy, elfe, or fiend,

Satyr, or other power that haunts the groves,

Shall hurt my body, or by vain illusion

Draw me to wander after idle fires;

Or voices calling me, &c.-NEWTON.

1 Stubborn unlaid ghost

That breaks his magick chains at curfeu time.

An unlaid ghost was among the most vexatious plagues of the world of spirits. It is one of the evils deprecated at Fidele's grave, in "Cymbeline," a. iv. s. 2:

No exorciser harm thee,

Nor no witchcraft charm thee,

Ghost unlaid forbear thee.-T. WARTON.

That Milton looked with learned eyes on the superstitious beliefs which he wrought into his verse, these lines bear proof, but his learning adorned rather than oppressed popular fiction: the horned and hoofed fiend of Gothic belief became in his hands a sort of infernal Apollo: the witch who drained cows dry, shook ripe corn, and sunk venturous boats, grew with him "a blue meagre hag," a description which inspired the pencil of Fuseli. The "midnight hags" of British belief suffered a sore change in their persons during the course of time. When we first hear of them, instead of all being "beldames auld and droll," they counted in their ranks much youth and beauty; music and dancing made a part of their entertainments; nor did they hesitate to mount their ragweed nags: and, picking up some handsome and wandering youth by the way, carry him with them; and initiating him into the mysteries of love and wine, set him down on Mount Caucasus, and let him find his way back to Plinlimmon or Shehallion as he best could. The witches of latter days were all old, withered, unlovely, and repulsive; their pranks, too, were of a low order, and their spells easily averted. A wand of mountain-ash protected a whole herd of cows; a neck-band of the red berries of the same tree was a full security to the wearer; nay, devout and skilful people retaliated upon them, and made them suffer greater miseries than they were able to inflict.-C.

m Swart faery of the mine.

In the Gothic system of pneumatology, mines were supposed to be inhabited by various sorts of spirits. See Olaus Magnus's chapter "De Metallicis Dæmonibus, Hist. Gent. Septentrional." In an old translation of Lavaterus "De Spectris et Lemuribus," is the following passage:-"Pioners or diggers for metall do affirme, that in many mines there appeare straunge shapes and spirites, who are apparelled like vnto the laborers in the pit. These wander vp and downe in caues and underminings, and seeme to besturre themselves in all kinde of labor; as, to digge after the veine, to carrie together the oare, to put into basketts, and to turn the winding wheele to draw it vp, when in very deed they do nothinge lesse," &c.-" Of Ghostes and Spirites walk

Hath hurtful power o'er true Virginity.
Do ye believe me yet, or shall I call
Antiquity from the old schools of Greece
To testify the arms of Chastity?

Hence had the huntress Dian her dread bow,
Fair silver-shafted queen, for ever chaste,
Wherewith she tamed the brinded lioness
And spotted mountain-pard, but set at naught
The frivolous bolt of Cupid; gods and men

Fear'd her stern frown, and she was queen of the woods.
What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield,

That wise Minerva wore, unconquer'd virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congeal'd stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,

And noble grace that dash'd brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe?

So dear to Heaven is saintly chastity,

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ing by night," &c. Lond. 1572, ch. xvi. p. 73. And hence we see why Milton gives this species of fairy a swarthy or dark complexion.-T. WARTON.

The true British goblin, called elsewhere by Milton the "lubbar fiend," and by the Scotch poets the "billie-blin" or "brownie," is a sort of drudging domestic fiend, slightly inclined to work mischief on sluttish housemaids and lazy hinds, but not at all disposed to injure virgins, or harm the good and the industrious. Indeed the main business of the brownie seems to have been to watch over the flocks, the crops, and the fortunes of the house to which he was attached. He has been known to reap a twentyacre field of corn between twilight and dawn, as much for the purpose of astonishing the reapers, as to prevent it from being shaken by the wind. Milton himself ascribes to him the power of thrashing as much grain at a time as ten day-labourers could do; and tradition says, that on one occasion, when a drowsy domestic was unwilling to ride and bring the midwife for the mistress of the mansion, brownie mounted the saddled horse, brought the dame with supernatural haste, and finished his excursion by flogging the lazy menial with the iron-bitted bridle till he cried for mercy. The elfin page of Scott is a more elegant sort of brownie; but tradition always represents the latter as a solitary creature, that shuns the sight of man, and of whom only one glimpse in twenty years could be obtained by the most watchful and wary. He accepted only the choicest food, such as cream and honey; his stature was about half the human height; his complexion was brown; his arms long, and his strength immense. He seems to have been utterly naked, and it is known that he had no partiality to clothes; for when the brownie of Lethan-hall was presented with a new mantle and hood, he was heard wailing like a child for three nights; after which he departed, and returned no more.-C.

a Hence, &c.

Milton, I fancy, took the hint of this beautiful mythological interpretation from a dialogue of Lucian, betwixt Venus and Cupid; where the mother asking her son how, after having attacked all the other deities, he came to spare Minerva and Diana, Cupid replies, that the former looked so fiercely at him, and frightened him so with the Gorgon head which she wore upon her breast, that he durst not meddle with her; and that as to Diana, she was always so employed in hunting, that he could not catch her. -THYER.

o The frivolous bolt of Cupid.

This reminds one of "the dribbling dart of love," in "Measure for Measure." "Bolt," I believe, is properly the arrow of a crossbow.-T. WARTON.

See Shakspeare, "Mids. Night's Dream," a. ii. s. 5 :—

Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell.-TODD.

P But rigid looks, &c.

"Rigid looks" refer to the snaky locks, and "noble grace" to the beautiful face a Gorgon is represented on ancient gems.-WArburton.

a Brute violence.

See "Par. Reg." b. i. 218.-THYER.

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