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in the second stanza of his Ode entitled the Bard, he said
Loose his beard, and hoary hair
Stream'd, iike a meteor, to the troubled air. LINE 542. A shout that tore, &c.
Homer's is a noble shout of which he says in the last line of the Iliad 13.
'Ηχη δ' αμφοτερων ικετ’ αιθερα, και Διος αυγας But this as far surpasses it, as the fallen Angels were more terrible than the Greeks, and the Trojans, and the vault of Hell more congenial to such an uproar, than the plain of Troy. LINE 550.
such as rais'd To highth of noblest temper, &c.
Milton never has occasion to mention music, but he discovers plainly how much he delights in the subject. He always speaks of it experimentally, and like a man, whom his own feelings have made acquainted with its effects, and in this charming passage the lines themselves are as sweet as the melody, they describe. LINE 580,
and what resounds In fable or romance. Perhaps there are readers of Milton, not altogether destitute of taste, who feel themselves, when they meet with a passage in him like the present, disposed to be more merciful to it than some of his severer judges. Allusions to antient story, whether false, or true, and to customs and practices long since obsolete, affect a
contemplative mind agreeably, and to such persons perhaps, the very sound of names, like these, is not unpleasing. LINE 589. Their dread commander.
Milton's divine subject afforded him opportunities of surpassing in sublime description all the poets his predecessors, and his talents were such as enabled him to use those opportunities to the best advantage. Homer's representation of Agamemnon in the second Iliad, where he says that in his
and countenance, he resembled Jove, the thunderer, that he was like Mars in girth, and had the port of Neptune, is indeed magnificent, but when he finishes his picture by likening him to a bull, how far short does he fall of Milton, who when he compares his lost Archangel to the sun new risen in a misty morning, or eclipsed by the moon, not only does not degrade his subject, but fills the mind of his reader with astonishing conceptions of its grandeur. LINE 606. The fellows of his crime, the followers
rather Not so properly the fellows, because he seduced them, as the followers, for the same reason. LINE 606, Whereat their doubled ranks they bend
Thus forming themselves into a hemicycle or half moon figure, that all might hear him. LINE 640.
but still his strength conceal'd. It was necessary, that Satan should excuse himself, as well as he could, to the myriads of his ruined followers, and he could not do it better (though even that
was but a poor apology) than by pleading the impossibility, that he should be prepared effectually to withstand a power, with the very existence of which, through God's concealment of it, till the hour in which they fell he had been necessarily unacquainted. A vanquished chief, who pleads surprise, excuses himself by his fault. LINE 650. —whereof so rife.
Rife is a Saxon word, and signifies frequent or
But these thoughts
Αλλ ητοι μεν ταυτα μελαφράσομεσθα και αυτις. .
Iliad 1, 140
LINE 663. He spake: and to confirm his words.
This is another instance (see the note on line 589) in which appears the advantage, that Milton derives from the grandeur of his subject. What description could even he have given of a host of human warriors insulting their conqueror, at all comparable to this? First, their multitude is to be noticed. They are not thousands but millions ; and they are millions not of puny mortals, but of mighty Cherubim. Their swords flame not metaphorically, but they are swords of fire; they flash not by reflexion of the sun-beams like the swords of Homer, but their own light, and that light plays not idly on the broad day, but far round illumines Hell. And lastly, they defy not a created being like themselves, but the Almighty.
It was doubtless a happiness to have fallen on a sube ject that furnished such scenery, and such characters to act in it, but a happiness it would not have been to a genius inferior to Milton's ; such a one on the contrary, would have been depressed by it, and in what Milton reaches with a graceful ease, would have fallen short, after much, and fruitless labour. LINE 670,
-whose grisly top. Grisly seems to signify rough or hideous, but perhaps answers inore exactly in its import to the Latin word, hispidus. LINE 689. Open'd into the hill a spacious wound.
This is a beautiful expression, and may serve to shew how an act or image, vulgar and ordinary in itself, may be digrified by mere force of diction. LINE 713.
where pilasters round, &c. Milton has been censured by Addison, as well as by Dr. Newton, here, for his use of technical expression, and the point, enforced as it has been by such great authority, seems to be given up. But perhaps it may even now be permitted to an annotator to ask two simple questions on the present occasion. Was it lawful to the poet to give a minute description of this wonderful structure ? Surely it was. Ovid has minutely described the palace of the Sun, and Homer that of Alcinous. If then, there was no fault in describing it miputely, it should seem that there could be none in particularizing the several members of it by such terms, as could alone
them. Milton, in fact, had no other means of making his account intelligible. LINE 772-3.
-The ascending pile
Stood fixt her stately highth. The expression is elliptical and requires two words to supply the deficiency, when it would stand thus
The ascending pile Stoop fixt through all her stately highth. LINE 777. Behold a wonder!
This contrivance has been censured by some, and particularly by Voltaire, who, having stated his objections to it, calls it an idle tale, that
match the most extravagant. But extravagant it cannot seem, allow ourselves to recollect who are in question, and what the Scripture says concerning them. All that we know of invisible agents, whether good or evil, we learn from Scripture, which tells us that a single demoniac was possessed by a legion. Scripture, therefore ascribes to the devils this power of self contraction, and if Scripture gives it them, it would be difficult to assign a good reason, why Milton should not have imagined them to employ it on this occasion.
It may be observed also that this poetical artifice, instead of depriving us of the idea of their natural bulk and stature, much enlarges it, representing them as rot to be contained at their full size within walls of any dimensions, and at the same time it gives us a most magnificent impression of their numbers.