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-by merit raised. By merit diabolical--by the merit of daring most against God; for desert is relative, and wickedness is merit with the wicked.
-by success untaught Success is here synonimous with event, and the expression imports the same as untaught by experience. LINE 30.
-where there is then no good. There is admirable subtlety displayed in this speech of Satan, in which he palliates his own miserable condition, and that of his followers, by representing it as friendly, at least, to that unanimity which is essential to the success of great enterprizes, and the surest pledge of their accomplishment. The truth was, that the absence of all good was the very circumstance, that evinced them perfectly and completely ruined, but the poet makes Satan deduce from it a conclusion directly contrary with so much art and plausibility, that the fallacy is almost hidden from the reader. LINE 33.
-none whose portion. Here is certainly, as Dr. Newton has observed, a difficulty in the Syntax, but the punctuation recom
mended in the preceding note entirely divests the passage of Milton's style and manner, and he'll for he will is intolerably coarse and ordinary. It seems much more probable, therefore, that irregular as the connexion is, Milton actually dictated the lines as we find them. When the meaning is obvious, he not seldom seems to disdain grammatical niceties. See Dr. Peace's note on line 47. LINE 133. Dropt Manna.
Milton in these two words gives us all the sweetness of Homer's celebrated line, when commending Nestor's eloquence, he says,
Te και απο γλωσσης μελλος γλυκιων ρεεν αυδη. .
to cast Ominous conjecture. New combinations in language, or in other words, the invention of new phrases,, is an argument of great ability in a writer, and few have furnished more instances of this than Milton. LINE 155. Will he, so wise,
Belial, in this passage, Devil as he is, seems to ascribe to God his due praise for wisdom, while he even derides a supposition that imputes weakness to him. But it is to be observed, that he holds this language merely to serve a purpose ; to answer Moloch, and to recommend his own timid counsel to their acceptance.
He is afterwards still more explicit, and even pious and orthodox on the subjects of God's universal know
ledge and omnipotence. See from line 138 to line 19%. But always with the same intention ; to strengthen his argument for peace and non-resistance. LINE 186. Ages of hopeless end?
In these words we have an instance of the kind alJaded to in the note on l. 33, in which the poet has not attended to strictness of grammatical construction. Syntax required that he should have said-Ages hopeless of end-concerning which there could be no hope that they should ever terminate. But trusting to the candour and sagacity of his reader, he has deviated a little from rule, for the sake of more grace and harmony than were compatible with the observance of it. LINE 212.
-satisfy'd, With what is punishd, The sense is evidently-satisfied with the punishment, which he has already inflicted-and the expression is here also irregular in its construction. But the brevity of it is clear and beautiful. Nor does Milton ever transgress grammatical propriety, but for the sake of an advantage more than equivalent. Let poets err on this condition only, and the precedent will do no mischief. LINE 220.
this darkness light, There is no sort of occasion to suppose with Dr. Bentley that light is here an adjective and means easy; or with Mr. Thyer, that it is an adjective, and means luminous. Nothing is necessary to justify it as a substantive, but to recollect, what all have experienced,
that a feeble light which at first seems darkness, by degrees becomes sufficient for the purposes of vision, the eye accommodating itself to the inconvenience. It should be remembered too that the darkness of Milton's Hell is not absolute, but a kind of sublustris nox, or as he calls it himself, darkness visible.
The rhime, it must be acknowledged, is unfortu• nate, but rhime is apt to come uncalled, and to writers of blank verse is often extremely troublesome. LINE 247.
how wearisome Eternity so spent ! Admit that forced hallelujahs can possibly have place in Heaven, and Mammon reasons well : but the fact is inadmissible, and the very supposition of it impious to a degree well suited to the character of such a speaker. Wearisome'as such service would be to the worshipper, it would be infinitely more disgusting to God, and could not fail to be silenced in a moment. LINE 255.
preferring Hard liberty. A noble sentiment in a good cause, but in Mammon's use of it, truly devilish! LINE 279. To peaceful counsels.
Satan indeed, as Dr. Newton remarks, proposes to them war, and the fittest manner of conducting it, as the subjects then to be debated; but when Belial and Mammon recommend peace rather than war, in whatsoever way conducted, they cannot properly be said to wander from the point in question they only differ from
Satan in their opinion concerning the measure next to be adopted. Suppose a question agitated in a council in what manner an enemy's fortress might be best attacked; would a member of that council be chargeable with deviating, who should advise no attack at all ? So far from it that, such being his sentiments, he could not possibly find a juster occasion to deliver them. LINE 285.
as when hollow rocks, &c. It is not improbable, as Dr. Newton here observes that Milton composed this beautiful simile with an eye to that, which he quotes from Claudian, but in the lines of our poet there is a solemn and awful grandeur, that resembles much more the manner of Homer, with the best of whose sea-piece similes this may well endure a comparison, LINE 300.
Aspect he rose, We have here a description of an orator rising to address a great assembly, such as no writer of antiquity ever equalled. Homer and Ovid both exerted themselves on a similar subject, and evidently bestowed much labour on their respective pieces. But compare this picture of Beelzebub either with the Ajax of the latter,
Utq erat impatiens iræ, &c.
or with the Ulysses of the former,
Αλλ' οτε δη πολυμητις αναιξειεν Οδυσσους and' you will not hesitate a moment to give the praise of great superiority to the English poet.