Imatges de pÓgina
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Till fancy had her fill; but, ere a close,"
The wonted roar was up amidst the woods,
And fill'd the air with barbarous dissonance;
At which I ceased, and listen'd them a while,
Till an unusual stop of sudden silence
Gave respite to the drowsy frighted steeds,"
That draw the litter of close-curtain'd sleep:
At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound
Rose like a stream of rich distill'd perfumes,
And stole upon the air, that even Silence
Was took ere she was ware, and wish'd she might
Deny her nature, and be never more,
Still to be so displaced. I was all ear,t

A musical close on his pipe.

• But ere a close.

As in Shakspeare, " K. Rich. II.” a. ii. s. 1.

The setting sun, and music at the close;

As the last taste of sweets is sweetest last.-T. WARTON.

P The drowsy frighted steeds, &c.

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I read, according to Milton's manuscript, "drowsy-flighted:" and this genuine reading Dr. Dalton has also preserved in "Comus." "Drowsy frighted" is nonsense, and manifestly an error of the press in all the editions. There can be no doubt, that in this passage Milton had his eye upon the description of night, in "K. Hen. VI.” p. ii. a. iv. s. 1.

And now loud-howling wolves arouse the jades
That drag the tragic melancholy night,

Who with their drowsy, slow, and flagging wings
Clip dead men's graves.

The idea and the expression of "drowsie-flighted" in the one, are plainly copied from their drowsy, slow, and flagging wings in the other.-NEWTON.

It must be allowed, that "drowsie-flighted" is a very harsh combination. Notwithstanding the Cambridge manuscript exhibits "drowsie-flighted," yet" drowsie frighted" without a composition, is a more rational and easy reading, and invariably occurs ir the editions 1637, 1645, and 1673. That is "the drowsy steeds of Night, who were affrighted on this occasion, at the barbarous dissonance of Comus's nocturnal revelry." Milton made the emendation after he had forgot his first idea.-T. WARTON.

q Close-curtain'd sleep.

Perhaps from Shakspeare, "Macbeth," a. ii. s. 1.

And wicked dreams abuse

The curtain'd sleep.-THYER.

At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound, &c.

Shakspeare's "Twelfth Night," at the beginning, has here been alleged by Mr. Thyer. The idea is strongly implied in the following lines from Jonson's "Vision of Delight," a Mask presented at Court in the Christmas of 1617.

Yet let it like an odour rise

To all the senses here;

And fall like sleep upon their eyes,

Or musicke in their eare.

But the thought appeared before, where it is exquisitely expressed, in Bacon's "Essays:" -"And because the breath of flowers is farre sweeter in the aire, where it comes and goes like the warbling of musicke." Of Gardens, Ess. xlvi.-T. WARTON.

s That even Silence, &c.

Silence was pleased at the nightingale's song, "Par. Lost," b. iv. 604. The conceit in both passages is unworthy the poet.-T. WARTON.

t I was all ear.

So Catullus of a rich perfume, "Carm." xiii. 13.

Quod tu cum olfacies, Deos rogabis
Totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum.

So Shakspeare, "Winter's Tale,” a. iv. s. 3 :—“All their other senses stuck in their

And took in strains that might create a soul
Under the ribs of death :" but, O! ere long,
Too well I did perceive it was the voice
Of my most honour'd Lady, your dear sister.
Amazed I stood, harrow'd with grief and fear,
And, O poor hapless nightingale, thought I,
How sweet thou sing'st, how near the deadly snare !
Then down the lawns I ran with headlong haste,
Through paths and turnings often trod by day;
Till, guided by mine ear, I found the place,
Where that damn'd wisard, hid in sly disguise,
(For so by certain signs I knew) had met
Already, ere my best speed could prevent,
The aidless innocent Lady, his wish'd prey;
Who gently ask'd if he had seen such two,
Supposing him some neighbour villager.
Longer I durst not stay, but soon I guess'd
Ye were the two she meant; with that I sprung
Into swift flight, till I had found you here;
But farther know I not.

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El. Br.

Yes, and keep it still;
Lean on it safely; not a period

Shall be unsaid for me: against the threats
Of malice, or of sorcery, or that power

Which erring men call chance, this I hold firm ;-
Virtue may be assail'd, but never hurt;

Surprised by unjust force, but not enthrall'd;

Yea, even that, which mischief meant most harm,
Shall in the happy trial prove most glory:

ears" and, in the "Tempest," Prospero says, "No tongues; all eyes; be silent."T. WARTON.

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The general image of creating a soul by harmony is again from Shakspeare: but the particular one of "a soul under the ribs of death," which is extremely grotesque, is taken from a picture in Alciat's "Emblems," where a soul in the figure of an infant is represented within the ribs of a skeleton, as in its prison. This curious picture is presented by Quarles.-WARBURTON.

The picture alluded to is not taken from Alciat's "Emblems," but from Herman Hugo's "Pia Desideria;" and is the eighth; "Suspirium animæ amantis."-TODD.

▾ Harrow'd with grief and fear.

To "harrow" is to conquer, to subdue. The word is of Saxon origin. Thus Shakspeare, "Hamlet," a. i. s. 1. "It harrows me with fear and wonder."-STEEVENS.

w Yes, and keep it still, &c.

This confidence of the Elder Brother in favour of the final efficacy of virtue, holds forth a very high strain of philosophy, delivered in as high strains of eloquence and poetry.-T. WARTON.

It exhibits the sublimer sentiments of the Christian. Religion here gave energy to the poet's strains.-TODD.

But evil on itself shall back recoil,

And mix no more with goodness; when at last,
Gather'd like scum, and settled to itself,

It shall be in eternal restless change

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Self-fed and self-consumed: if this fail,

The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,

Against the opposing will and arm of Heaven

And earth's base built on stubble.-But come; let's on.

May never this just sword be lifted up!

But for that damn'd magician, let him be girt
With all the grisly legions that troop
Under the sooty flag of Acheron,"

Harpies and hydras, or all the monstrous forms
"Twixt Africa and Ind, I'll find him out,
And force him to return his purchase back,
Or drag him by the curls to a foul death,
Cursed as his life.

Spir.

Alas! good venturous youth,

I love thy courage yet, and bold emprise;
But here thy sword can do thee little stead;
Far other arms and other weapons must

Be those, that quell the might of hellish charms:
He with his bare wand can unthread thy joints,
And crumble all thy sinews.c

Self-fed and self-consumed.

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This image is wonderfully fine. It is taken from the conjectures of astronomers concerning the dark spots which from time to time appear on the surface of the sun's body, and after a while disappear again; which they suppose to be the scum of that fiery matter, which first breeds it, and then breaks through and consumes it.-Warburton.

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This is Shakspeare's thought, but in more exalted language, "Wint. Tale,” a. ii. s. 1.

If I mistake

In those foundations which I build upon,
The centre is not big enough to bear

A schoolboy's top.-STEEVENS.

z The sooty flag of Acheron.

Compare P. Fletcher's "Locusts," 1627, p. 58.

All hell run out, and sooty flagges display.-TODD.

a Harpies and hydras, &c.

Harpies and hydras are a combination in an enumeration of monsters, in Sylvester's "Du. Bart." p. 206, fol.

And the ugly Gorgons, and the sphinxes fell,
Hydras and harpies, &c.-T. WARTON.

b The might of hellish charms.

Compare Shakspeare's "King Richard III." a. iii. s. 4.

With devilish plots

Of damned witchcraft; and that have prevail'd
Upon my body with their hellish charms.-T. WARTON.

He with his bare wand can unthread thy joints,
And crumble all thy sinews.

So, in Prospero's commands to Ariel, "Tempest," a. iv. s. ult.

Go, charge my goblins, that they grind their joints

With dry convulsions, shorten up their sinews
With aged cramps.-T. WARTON.

El. Br.

Why, pr'ythee, shepherd,
How durst thou then thyself approach so near,
As to make this relation?

Spir.

Care, and utmost shifts,

How to secure the Lady from surprisal,
Brought to my mind a certain shepherd lad,
Of small regard to see to, yet well skill'd
In every virtuous plant, and healing herb,
That spreads her verdant leaf to the morning ray:
He loved me well, and oft would beg me sing;
Which when I did, he on the tender
grass
Would sit, and hearken even to ecstasy;
And in requital ope his leathern scrip,
And show me simples of a thousand names,
Telling their strange and vigorous faculties:
Amongst the rest a small unsightly root,
But of divine effect, he cull'd me out;
The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it,
But in another country, as he said,

Bore a bright golden flower, but not in this soil:
Unknown, and like esteem'd, and the dull swain

Bore a bright golden flower, but not in this soil:
Unknown, and like esteemed, &c.

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Doctor Newton says, that "redundant verses sometimes occur in Milton." True: but the redundant syllable is never, I think, found in the second, third, or fourth foot. His instance of v. 605, in this poem,

Harpies and hydras, or all the monstrous forms

where the redundancy is in the third foot, and forms an anapest, does not prove his point. The passage before us is certainly corrupt, or, at least, inaccurate; and had better, I think, been given thus :

But in another country, as he said,
Bore a bright golden flower, not in this soil
Unknown, though light esteem'd.-HURD.

Seward proposed to read,

but in this soil Unknown and light esteem'd.

The emendation is very plausible and ingenious. But to say nothing of the editions under Milton's own inspection, I must object, that, if an argument be here drawn for the alteration from roughness or redundancy of verse, innumerable instances of the kind occur in our author. Milton, notwithstanding his singular skill in music, appears to have had a very bad ear; and it is hard to say on what principle he modulated his lines.-T. WARTON.

By another accomplished writer the passage before us is considered as one of those licenses, which are not disagreeable in dramatic, although they would certainly displease in heroic verse:

Bore a bright gol | den flower, | but not in | this soil.

See Mitford's "Essay upon the Harmony of Language," first ed. p. 129. To the remark on "Milton's ear," the niceness of which more conspicuously displays itself in "Comus," the following observation, or general rule, may be safely opposed:-"There is no kind or degree of harmony, of which our language is capable, which may not be found in numberless instances in Milton's writings; the excellency of whose ear seems to have been equal to that of his imagination and learning." See Foster's "Essay on Accent," second ed. p. 67.-Тond. The line

I am astonished at Warton's observation, that Milton had a very bad ear. ought to be scanned thus:

Bore ǎ bright | gölděn | flöwer, but | not în | this soil.

Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon :
And yet more med'cinal is it than that moly,'
That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave:
He call'd it hæmony, and gave it me,
And bade me keep it as of sovran use

'Gainst all enchantments, mildew, blast, or damp,
Or ghastly furies' apparition.s

I pursed it up, but little reckoning made,
Till now that this extremity compell'd:
But now I find it true; for by this means
I knew the foul enchanter though disguised,
Enter'd the very lime-twigs of his spells,
And yet came off: if you have this about you,'
(As I will give you when we go) you may
Boldly assault the necromancer's hall;

Where if he be, with dauntless hardihood,

And brandish'd blade, rush on him; break his glass,

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

e Clouted shoon.

I thought he slept, and put

My clouted brogues from off my feet, whose rudeness
Answer'd my steps too loud.

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Clouts are thin and narrow plates of iron affixed with hobnails to the soles of the shoes of rustics. These made too much noise. The word "brogues" is still used for shoes among the peasantry of Ireland.-T. WARTON.

The expression occurs in the present version of our Bible, Joshua ix. 5.-TODD.
And yet more medicinal is it than that moly.

Drayton introduces a shepherd "his sundry simples sorting," who, among other rare plants, produces moly, "Mus. Elys. Nymph." v. vol. iv. p. 1489:

Here is my moly of much fame,

In magics often used.

It is not agreed, whether Milton's hæmony is a real or poetical plant.-T. WARTON.

Or ghastly furies' apparition.

Peck supposes, that the furies were never believed to appear, and proposes to read "fairies' apparition:" but Milton means any frightful appearance raised by magic. Among the spectres which surrounded our Saviour in the wilderness, and which the fiend had raised, are furies, "Par. Reg." b. iv. 422.-T. WARTON.

h I pursed it up.

It was customary in families to have herbs in store, not only for medical and culinary, but for superstitious purposes. In some houses rue and rosemary were constantly kept for good luck. Among the plants to which preternatural qualities were ascribed, Perdita in the "Winter's Tale" mentions rue as the herb of grace, and rosemary as the emblem of remembrance, a. iv. s. 3.-T. WARTON.

i If you have this about you, &c.

The notion of facing danger, and conquering an enemy by carrying a charm, which was often an herb, is not uncommon in romance. Hence in "Samson Agon." v. 1130, &c., and v. 1149, Milton's idea is immediately and particularly taken from the ritual of the combat in chivalry. When two champions entered the lists, each took an oath that he had no charm, herb, or any enchantment about him: and I think it is clear, that Milton, in furnishing the Elder Brother with the plant hæmony, notwithstanding the idea is originally founded in Homer's moly, when like a knight he is to attack the necromancer Comus, and even to assail his hall, alluded to the charming herb of the romantic combat.-T. WArton.

j And brandish'd blade, rush on him.

Thus Ulysses assaults Circe, offering her cup, with a drawn sword, Ovid, "Metam." xiii. 293:

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