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1. Descend from Heav'n, Urania,] DESCENDE coelo, Hor. Od. iii. iv. 1; but here it is better applied, as now his subject leads him from Heaven to Earth. The word Urania in Greek signifies heavenly; and he invokes the heavenly Muse, as he had done before, i. 6; and as he had said in the beginning that he interved to soar above th' Aoniun mount, so now he says very truly that he had effected what he intended, and soars above the Olympian bill, above the fight of Pegaséan wing, that is his subject was more sublime than the lottier flights of the Heathen poets.
8. Before the hills cipcard or fountain flow'd, &c.] From Prov, viii. 24, 25, 30.
14.and dracun enfyreal air, Thy temp'ring ;] This is said in allusion to the difficulty of respiration on high mountains. Air, as every one acquainted with natural philosophy knows, rarifies in a geoinetrical proportion, according to the arithmetical pro: portion of the altitude.
17. -las once
Billeropheul, &c.} Belleropbon was a beautiful and valiant youth, son of Claucus ; who refusing the amorous applications of Antca, wife of Præteus king of Argos, was by her false suggestions, like those of joseph's mistress to her husband, sent into Lycia with letters desiring his destruction ; where he was put on several enterprises full of hazard, in winich however lip came off conqueror : but attempting vain gloriously to mount up to Heaven, on the winged horse Pegasus, he fell and wandered in the Aleion plains will he died.
33, Of Bacchus and his rcvelierss] It is not improbable that
the poet intended this as an oblique satire upon the disso. luteness of Charles the second and his court, from whom he seems to apprehend the fate of Orpheus, a famous poet of Thrace, who though he is said to have charmed woods and rocks with his divine songs, yet was torn to pieces by the Bacchanalian women on Rhodope, a mountain of Thrace, nor could the Muse Calliope his mother defend him. So fail thou not, who thee implores; nor was his wish ineffectual, for the government suffered him to live and die unmolested.
40. —-what ensued when Raphaël, &c.] Longinus has observed, that there may be a loftiness of sentiments, where there is no passion, and brings instances out of ancient authors to support this his opinion. The pathetic, as that great critic observes, may animate and inflame the sublime, but is not essential to it. Accordingly as he further remarks, we very often find that those who excel most in stirring up the passions, very often want the talent of writing in the great and sublime manner, and so on the contrary. Milton has shewn himself a master in both these ways of writing. The seventh book, which we are now entering upon, is an instance of that sublime, which is not mixed and worked up with passion. The author appears in a kind of composed and sedate majesty ; and though the sentiments do not give so great an emotion, as those in the former book, they abound with as magnificent ideas. The sixth book, like a troubled ocean, represents greatness in confusion; the seventh affecis the imagination like the ocean in a calm, and fills the mind of the reader, without producing in it any thing like tumult or agitation. The Critic above mentioned, among the rules which he lays down for succeeding in the sublime way of writing, proposes to his reader, that he should imitate the most celebrated authors who have gone before him, and been engaged in works of the same nature ; as in particular, that if he writes on a poctical subject, he should consider how Homer would have spoken on such an occassion. Milten, though his own natural strength of genius was capable of furnishing out a perfect work, las doubtless very much ra s. ed and enpokled his conceptions, by such an imitation as that which Longinus has recommended. In this book, which gives us an account of the six days works, the poet receive
ed very few assistances from Heathen writers, who were strangers to the wonders of creation. But as there are many glorious strokes of poetry upon this subject in holy Writ, the author has numberless allusions to them through the whole course of this book. Addison.
50. He with his consorted Eve] Consorted from Consort, Cum consorte tori, as Ovid says, Met. i. 319.
98. And the great light of day yet wants to run &c.} Our author has improved upon Homer, Odyss. xi. 372.
Mr. Thyer is of opinion, that there is not a greater instance of our author's exquisite skill in the art of poetry, than this and the following lines. Lord Shaftsbury has observed, that Milton's beauties generally depend upon solid thought, strong reasoning, noble passion, and a continued thread of moral doctrine ; but in this place he has shewn what an exalted fancy and mere force of poetry can do.
215. -and with the centre mix the pole.] It is certain that in Chaos was neither centre nor pole ; so neither were there any mountains as in the preceding line ; the Angel does not say there were: he tells Adam there was such confusion in Chaos, as if on earth the sea in mountainous waves should rise from its very bottom to assault Heaven, and mix the centre of the globe with the extremities of it. The aptest illustration he couid possibly have thought of to have given Adam some idea of the thing.
224. -the fervid wheels,] Horace's epithet, Od. i. i. 4. Metaque fervidis evitata rotis 225. He took the golden compasses,] Prov. viii. 27. The thought of the golden compasses is conceived altogether in Homer's spirit, and is a very noble incident in this wonderful description. Homer, when he speaks of the Gods, ascribes to them several arms and instruments with the same greatness of imagination. Let the reader only peruse the description of Minerva’s Ægis or buckler in the fifth book, with her spear which would overturn whole squa:Irons, and her helmet that was sufficient to cover an army drawn out of a hundred cities. The golden compasses in the above mentioned passage appear a very natural instrument in the hand of him, whom Plato somewhere calls the divine geo. metrician. As poutry delights in clothing abstracted ideas
in allegories and sensible images, we find a magnificent description of the creation formed after the same manner in one of the Prophets, wherein he describes the almighty Archi. tect as measuring the waters in the hollow of his hand, meting out the Heavens with his span, comprehending the dust of the earth in a measure, weighing the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. Another of them describing the Su. preme Being in this great work of creation, represents him as laying the foundations of the earth, and stretching a line upon it: and in another place as garnishing the Heavens, stretching out the north over the empty place, and hanging the earth upon nothing. This last noble thought Milton has expressed in the following verse,
And Earth self-balanc'd on her centre hung. Addison.
249. -God saw the light was good; &c.] What follows is little more than the words of Moses versified. Gen. i. 45. Milton adds how it was divided, by the hemisphere.
And light from darkness by the hemisphere
The hollow universal erb they filled,] The Angels singing and shouting for joy at the creation of the world, seems to be founded on job xxxviii. 4, 7,
285.. Immediately the mountains &c.] We have the same elevation of thought in the third day, when the mountains were brought forth, and the deep was made. We have also the rising of the whole vegetable world described in this day's work, which is filled with all the graces which other poets have lavished on their description of the spring, and leads the reader's imagination into a theatre equally surprising and beautiful. Addison.
307. The dry land, earth, &c.] These are again the words of Gen. i. 10, 11, formed into verse.
321. The srielling gourd,} Dr. Bentley very justly reads here The swelling geurd: and to the reasons wlich be gives, may be added, that Milton here assigns to each of the other tribes or species, an epithet which suits with all the same species : but smelling, though it suits with some kinds of the gourd, does not suit with all the particulars of that tribe, as swelling does,
321. the corny reed,] The horny reed stood upright among the undergrowth of nature, like a grove of spears or a battalion with its spikes aloft. Corneus (Latin) of, or like horn, Virg. Æn. iii. 22.
Forte fuit juxta tumulus, quo cornea summo
331.-though God bad yet not rain'd &c.] This is not taken, as the rest, from the first, but from the second Chapter of Genesis ; but the poet was studious to weave in all that Moses had written of the creation. Gen. ii. 4, 5, 6.
346. And God made two great lights,] The several glories of the Heavens made their appearance on the fourth day.
The very words of Moses, And God made two great lights; not that they were greater than all other stars and planets, but are only greater lights with reference to Man, and there fore Milton judiciously adds,
-great for their use To Man, the greater to have rule by day, The less by night altern; 361. —made porous to receive And drink the liquid light, firm to retain
Her gather'd beams, ] Porous yet firm. Milton seems to have taken this thought from what is said of the Bologna stone, which being placed in the light will imbibe, and for some time retain it, so as to enlighten a dark place.
372. --jocund to run
His longitude through Heav'n's high road;] Dr. Bentley calls lorgitude here mere nonsense ; and therefore reads His long career through &c. But we must not part with longitude so easily: it signifies the sun's course from east to west in a straight and direct line: and we find Milton using the word after much the same manner in iii. 576. This passage alludes to Psal. xix. 5, where it is said of the sun, that be rejoiceth as a giant to run his course.
400. With fry innumerable swarm, &c.] One would wonder how the poet could be so concise in his description of the six days works, as to comprehend them within the bounds of an episode, and at the same time so particular, as to give us a lively idea of them. This is still more remarkable in his account of the fifth and sixth days, in which he