Imatges de pÓgina

for that celestial light? Be it so, since he,


[blocks in formation]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Who now is Sovran, can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best,
Whom reason hath equal'd, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,

Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrours; hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest hell,
Receive thy new possessour; one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be; all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy; will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure; and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
The associates and copartners of our loss,
Lie thus astonish'd on the oblivious pool;
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy mansion; or once more
With rallied arms to try what may be yet
Regain'd in heaven, or what more lost in hell?
So Satan spake, and him Beëlzebub
Thus answer'd: Leader of those armies bright,
Which but the Omnipotent none could have foil'd,
If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge
Of hope in fears and dangers, heard so oft
In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge
Of battel when it raged, in all assaults
Their surest signal, they will soon resume
New courage, and revive, though now they lie
Groveling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,
As we erewhile, astounded and amazed:


No wonder, fallen such a pernicious highth.

He scarce had ceased, when the superiour fiend

Was moving toward the shore; his ponderous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,
Behind him cast; the broad circumference


Hung on his shoulders, like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening, from the top of Fesolé,

249. Farewell, happy fields. The pathos of this passage is exquisite.-BRYDGES.

286. The broad circumference, &c. Here Milton shines in all his majestic splendour: his mighty imagination almost excels itself. There is indescribable magic Lu this picture-BRYDGES,

289. Fesolé. A town near Florence. "We are here in Arno's vale, (Valdarno ;) the full moon shining over Fesolé, which I see from my windows; Milton's verses every moment in one's month, and Gali leo's house twenty yards from one's door."

—Mrs. Prozzi's “Journey through Italy,”

Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers or mountains in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine,
Hewn on Norwegian hills to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand,
He walk'd with to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marle; not like those steps
On heaven's azure: and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire.
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and call'd
His legions, angel forms, who lay intranced,
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades
High overarch'd imbower; or scatter'd sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm'd





Hath vex'd the Red-sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew

Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,

While with perfidious hatred they pursued

The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld

From the safe shore their floating carcases


And broken chariot-wheels: so thick bestrown,

Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.

He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of hell resounded: Princes, potentates,


Warriors, the flower of heaven, once yours, nov lost,

If such astonishment as this can seize

Eternal spirits: or have ye chosen this place

After the toil of battel to repose

Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the vales of heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conquerour? who now beholds
Cherub and seraph rolling in the flood,

293. Norwegian hills. The hills of Norway abound in vast woods, from whence are brought masts of the largest size. "The annotators leave unnoticed the marvellous grandeur of this description, while they babble on petty technicalities. The walking over the burning marle is astonishing and tremendous."-BRYDGES.

302. Thick as autumnal leaves. "Here we see the impression of scenery made upon Milton's mind in his youth when he was at Florence. This is a favourite passage with all readers of descriptive poetry."-SIR E. BRYDGES. "The situation of Florence is peculiarly happy in the vale of Arno, which forms one conSinued interchange of garden and grove, enclosed by hills and distant mountains. Vallombrosa, (a vale about eighteen miles listant,) a grand and solemn scene, where 'Etrurian shades high over-archod im


bower,' has been rendered classical by the immortal verse of Milton, who is supposed to have drawn from it his picture of Paradise, when he describes it

-shade above shade

A woody theatre of stateliest view."


305. Orion. This constellation was supposed to be attended with stormy weather.

307. Busiris. Pharaoh is called by some writers Busiris; and he is here said to have pursued the Israelites with perfidious hatred, because, after having given them leave to depart, he followed them as fugitives.

314. The hollow deep. This magnifi. cent call of Satan to his prostrate host could have been written by nobody but Milton.-BRYDGES.

[ocr errors]

With scatter'd arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from heaven gates discern
The advantage, and descending tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake, arise; or be for ever fallen!

They heard, and were abash'd, and up they sprung
Upon the wing; as when men wont to watch

On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread,
Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake.

Nor did they not perceive the evil plight

In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their general's voice they soon obey'd,
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram's son, in Ægypt's evil day,
Waved round the coast, up call'd a pitchy cloud
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darken'd all the land of Nile:
So numberless were those bad angels seen,
Hovering on wing under the cope of hell,
'Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires:
Till, as a signal given, the uplifted spear
Of their great Sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain.
A multitude, like which the populous north
Pour'd never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the south, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.
Forthwith from every squadron and each band
The heads and leaders thither haste, where stood
Their great Commander; godlike shapes and forms
Excelling human, princely dignities,

And powers, that erst in heaven sat on thrones;
Though of their names in heavenly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and razed

By their rebellion from the Book of Life.
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve

Got them new names; till, wandering o'er the earth,
Through God's high suffrance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and the invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform

338. Potent rod. See Ex. x. 13. 341. Warping. Working themselves forward; a sea-term.

353. Rhene or the Danaw. He might have said Rhine or the Danube, but he chose Rhene of the Latin and Danaw of











the German. The barbarous sons of the great "northern hive" were the Goths, the Huns, and the Vandals, who overran all the provinces of Southern Europe, destroying all the monuments of learning and the arts that came in their way.


Oft to the image of a brute, adorn'd
With gay religions full of pomp and gold,

And devils to adore for deities:

Then were they known to men by various names,
And various idols through the heathen world.

Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last,
Roused from the slumber on that fiery couch
At their great Emperour's call, as next in worth,
Came singly where he stood on the bare strand;
While the promiscuous crowd stood yet aloof.
The chief were those, who, from the pit of hell
Roaming to seek their prey on earth, durst fix
Their seats long after next the seat of God,
Their altars by his altar, gods adored
Among the nations round; and durst abide
Jehovah thundering out of Sion, throned
Between the cherubim: yea, often placed
Within his sanctuary itself, their shrines,
Abominations; and with cursed things
His holy rites and solemn feasts profaned,
And with their darkness durst affront his light.
First Moloch, horrid king, besmear'd with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears;

Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud





Their children's cries unheard, that pass'd through fire 395
To his grim idol. IIim the Ammonite

Worshipp'd in Rabba and her watery plain,
In Argob, and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart
Of Solomon he led by fraud to build
His temple right against the temple of God,
On that opprobrious hill; and made his grove
The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna call'd, the type of hell.
Next Chemos, the obscene dread of Moab's sons,

392. Moloch was the god of the Ammonites, (1 Kings xi. 7) and was worshipped in Rabba, their capital city, called the "city of waters," 2 Sam. xii. 27. The idol of this deity was of brass, sitting on a throne, and wearing a crown, having the head of a calf, and his arms extended to receive the miserable victims which were to be sacrificed; and therefore it is here probably styled "his grim idol," 2 Kings xxiii. 10; see also Jer. vii. 31.

398. Argob was a city to the east of the Jordan, and in the district Bashan. The river Arnon was the northern boundary of Moab and emptied into the Dead Sea. 400. Solomon built a temple to Moloch on the Mount of Olives, (1 Kings xi. 7) which is therefore called "that opprobrious hill."

404. The valley of Hinnom was south



of Jerusalem, where the Canaanites and afterwards the Israelites offered their children to Moloch. The good king Josiah defiled this place, by casting into it the bones of the dead and other disgusting refuse substances of a large city. A perpetual fire was kept there to consume these things, and hence under the name of Gehenna it is frequently alluded to in the New Testament as a type of Hell. It was also called Tophet, from the Hebrew Toph, a drum; since drums and such like noisy instruments were used to drown the cries of the miserable children who were offered to the idol here.

406. Chemos is the god of the Moabites, and is mentioned with Moloch in 1 Kings xi. 7. Some suppose him to be the same as that most shaineful divinity, Priapus, and therefore here called the obscene dread

From Aroer to Nebo, and the wild
Of southmost Abarim: in Hesebon
And Horonáim, Seon's realm, beyond
The flowery dale of Sibma clad with vines,
And Eleale, to the Asphaltic pool;
Peor his other name, when he enticed
Israel in Sittim, on their march from Nile,


To do him wanton rites, which cost them woe.
Yet thence his lustful orgies he enlarged
Ev'n to that hill of scandal, by the grove


Of Moloch homicide, lust hard by hate;

Till good Josiah drove them thence to hell.

With these came they, who, from the bordering flood Of old Euphrates to the brook that parts


Egypt from Syrian ground, had general names
Of Baalim and Ashtaroth, those male,

These feminine: for spirits, when they please,
Can either sex assume, or both; so soft

And uncompounded is their essence pure;


Not tied or manacled with joint or limb,

Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones,

Like cumbrous flesh; but in what shape they choose, Dilated or condensed, bright or obscure,

Can execute their aery purposes,


And works of love or enmity fulfil.

For those the race of Israel oft forsook

Their Living Strength, and unfrequented left
His righteous altar, bowing lowly down

To bestial gods; for which their heads as low
Bow'd down in battel, sunk before the spear
Of despicable foes. With these in troop
Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians call'd
Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns;
To whose bright image nightly by the moon
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs;
In Sion also not unsung, where stood

Aroer is a town on the north side of the | river Arnon: Abarim a ridge of mountains east of the northern part of the Dead Sea and the lower Jordan, from one of the highest peaks of which, Mount Nebo, Moses surveyed the promised land. Hesebon or Heshbon is a city of the Moab ites taken from them by Sihon king of the Amonites; Numb. xxi. 26. Horonaim, another city of the Moabites, mentioned in Isaiah xv. 5, and Jer. xlviii. 3, 5. ma, near Heshbon, (Isaiah xvi. 8,) was famous for its vineyards. Elcülé a little town north of Heshbon. The Asphaltic pool is the Dead Sea, so called from the Asphaltus or bitumen abounding in it. Sittim (mentioned in Numbers xxv. 1) is where the Israelites formed their last encampment before crossing the Jordan. For the other name of Chemos; namely,




Baal-peor; see Numb. xxv. 3. The hill of scandal, the same as that opprobrious hill.

417. Lust hard by hate. "What a fine moral sentiment has Milton here introduced, and couched in half a verse."THYER. "The poet's moral is exactly verified in the incestuous and cruel conduct of Amuon towards Tamar; 2 Sam. xiii. 15. The hemistich is a fine commentary on the passage."-TODD.

422. Baülim and Ashtaroth were the general names of the gods and goddesses of Syria and Palestine: they are supposed to mean the sun and the host of heaven.

438. Astoreth was the goddess of the Phoenicians, and under whose name the moon was adored. Solomon built her a temple on the mount of Olives, hence called the offensive mountain. 2 Kings xxiii. 13.

« AnteriorContinua »