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The breathless Phæton, with faming hair,
Addison. Milton adds that this shooting star thwarts or crosses the night in autumn, because then these phænomena are most common after the heat of summer, when the vapours taking fire make violent impressions and agitations in the air, and they usually portend tempestuous weather, as Virgil bimself hath noted long ago, Georg. i. 365.
Sæpe etiam stellas vento impendente videbis
592. Bencarb th' izres ;] They are islands in the Atlautic ocean, nine in number; commonly called the Terceras, from one of them. Some confound the Canaries with them.
598. Now came still evening on, &c.] This is the first evening in the poem; for the action of the preceding books lying out of the sphere of the sun, the time could not be computed. When Satan came first to the earth, and made that famous soliloquy at the beginning of this book, the sun was high in his meridian tower; and this is the evening of that day; and surely there never was a finer description. The greatest poets in all ages have as it were vied one with another in their descriptions of evening and night; but for the variety of numbers and pleasing images, nothing superior to this is to be found among all the treasures of ancient or modern poetry. We recollect only one description equal to it, and that is of a fine moonshiny night by way of similitude in Homer, Iliad viii. 551. Mr. Pope has taken more than ordinary pains to make the translation excellent as the original.
As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
Milton's description, we see, leaves off, where Homer's begins ; and though the quotation is somewhat long, yet we hope the reader will be pleased with it, as it is a sort of continuation of the same beautiful scene.
598.- -and twilight gray] Milton is very singular in the frequent and particular notice which he takes of the twilight, whenever he has occasion to speak of the evening. There is something so agreeable in that soft and gentle light, and such a peculiar fragrance attends it in the summer months, that it is a circumstance which adds great beauty to his description. Perhaps the weakness of our poet's eyes, to which this kind of light must be vastly pleasant, might be the reason that he so often introduces the mention of it.
Thyer. 628. That mock our scant manuring,] Manuring is not here to be understood in the common sense, but as working with hands, as the French manceuvre; it is, as immediately after, to lop, to rid away what is scattered.
635. My Author, &c.] We have another view of our first parents in their evening discourses, which are full of pleasing images and sentiments suitable to their condition and characters. The speech of Eve in particular is dressed up in so soft a style, as admirably befits an innocent and lovely
641. Sweet is the breath of morn, &c.] Mr. Dryden in his preface to Juvenal has observed upon our author, that he could not find any elegant turns in him either on the words or on the thoughts. But Mr. Addison one of the Tatlers (No. 114.) quotes this delightful passage in vindication of Milton, and remarks, that the variety of images in it is infinitely pleasing,
and the recapitulation of each particular image, with a little varying of the expression, makes one of the finest turns of words he had ever seen. He farther observes, that though the sweetness of these verses has something in it of a pastoral, yet it excels the ordinary kind, as much as the scene of it is above an ordinary field or meadow.
671. Tbeir stellar virtue] As Milton was an universal scho. lar, so he had not a little affectation of showing his learning of all kinds, and makes Adam discourse here somewhat like an adept in astrology, which was too much the philosophy of his own times. What he says afterwards of numberless spiritual creatures walking the earth unseen, and joining in praises to their great Creator, is of a nobler strain, more agreeable to reason and revelation, as well as more pleasing to the imagination.
698. Iris.] The flower-de-luce so called from resembling the colours of the Iris or rainbow. Iris all bues, that is of all hues, as a little before we have inwoven shade laurel and myrtle, that is inwoven shade of laurel and myrtle. Such omissions are frequent in Milton.
Crocus and byacinth) Our author has taken this from Ho. mer, who makes the same sort of powers to spring up under Jupiter and Juno as they lay in conjugal embraces upon mount Ida, Iliad. xiv. 347.
Glad earth perceives, and from her bosom pours
714. More lovely than Pandora, &c.] Prometheus the son of Japhet (or Japetus) had stolen fire from Heaven, Jove's authentic fire, the original and prototype of all carthly fire, which Jupiter being angry at, to be revenged sent him Pan. dora, so called because all the Gods had contributed their gifts to make her more charming (for so the word signifies). She was brought by Hermes (Mercury) but was not reccived by Prometheus the wiser son of Japhet (as the name implies) Lot by his brother I pimetheus the unwiser son. She enticed
his foolish curiosity to open a box which she brought, wherein were contained all manner of evils.
The epithet unwiser does not imply that his brother Prome. theus was unwise. Milton uses unwiser, as any Latin writer would imprudentior, for riot so wise as he should have been. So audacior, timidior, vehementior, iracundior, &c. mean bolder, &c. quam par est, than is right and fit, and imply less than audax, timiaus, &c. in the positive degree. Jortin.
724.--Thou also mad*st the nigbt, &c.] A masterly transi. tion this, which the poet makes to their evening worship. Most of the modern heroic poets have imitated the Ancients, in beginning a speech without premising, that the person said thus and thus ; but as it is easy to imitate the ancients in the omission of two or three words, it requires judgment to do it in such a manner that they shall not be missed, and that the speech may begin naturally without them.
736. This said unanimous and other rites
Which God likes best,] Here Milton expresses his own favourite notions of devotion, which, it is well known, were very much against any thing ceremonial; and this confirms what was observed in his life, that he was full of the interior of religion, though he little regarded the exterior.
744. Whatever hypocrites, &c.] Our author calls those, who under a notion of greater purity and perfection decry and forbid marriage as they do in the Church of Rome.
756.and all the charities] Charities is used in the Latin signification, and like caritates comprehends all the relations and all the endearments of consanguinity and affinity, as in Cicero de Officiis, i. 17. “ Cari sunt parentes, cari liberi, propinqui, familiares; sed omnes omnium caritates patria una complexa est.”
761. Wrose bed is undefild and chaste fronounc’d,] In allusion to Heb. xiii. 4. Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefild. And though this panegyric upon wedded love may be condemned as a digression, yet it can hardly be called a digression, when it grows so r.aturally out of the subject, and is introduced so properly, while the action of the poem is in a manner suspended, and while Adam and Eve are lying down to sleep; and if morality be one great end of poetry,
that end cannot be better promoted than by such digres. siops as this and that upon hypocrisy at the latter part of the third book.
769. Or serenate, which the starv'd lover sings] We come monly say serenade with the French, but Milion keeps, as usual, the Italian word serenate, which the starved lover sings, starved as this compliment was commonly paid in sereno, in clear cold nights. Horace mentions this circumstance repeatedly in his odes,
776. Now had night measur'd evith her shadowy cone] A cone is a sigure round at botton, and lessening all the way, ends in a point. This is the form of the shadow of the earth, the base of the cone standing on that side of the globe where the sun is not, and consequently when it is night there. This fone to those who are on the darkened side of the earth, could it be seen, would mount as the sun fell lower, and be at its utmost lighth in the vault of their heaven when it was midnight.
777.-ibis vast sublunar vaul:,] For the shadow of the earth sweeps as it were the whole arch or vault of Heaven between the earth and moon, and extends beyond the orbit of the moon, as appears from the lunar eclipses.
782. Uzziel,] The next commanding Angel to Gabriel ; his name in Hebrew is the strength of God, as all God's mighty Angels are.
788. Ithuriel and Zephon,] Two Angels having their names as indication of their offices. Ithuriel, in Hebrew, the disco. very of God. Zephon, in Hebrew, a secret or searcher of secrets.
804. Or if, inspiring venom, &c.] So Virg. Æn. vii. 351. where the serpent, that the fury Alecto had Aung upon Amata, crceps soitly over her,
Vipeream inspirans animam-
819. So started itp in his own shape the Fiend] His planting himself at the ear of Eve under the form of a toad, in order to produce vain dreams and imaginations, is a circumstance that surprises the reader; as his starting up in his own form is wonderfully fine, both in the literal description, and in the noral which is concealed under it. His answer, upon his being discovered and demanded to give an account of