Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

So rose the Danite strong,
Herculean Samson, from the harlot lap
Of Philistean Dalila.

And in Samson Agonistes he terms her unchaste, without the warrant of Scripture. But when we recollect the sense which Milton puts on the Hebrew verb, play the whore,* we shall see that he terms her a harlot and unchaste on account of her treacherous violation of her marriage vow.

We long thought there might be an error in

As in an organ from one blast of wind
To many a row of pipes the sound-board breathes.-i. 708 ;

but on applying to an eminent and scientific musician,t we got the following explanation:

“The wind produced by the bellows is driven into a reservoir called the wind-chest, above which is placed the soundboard, and thence by intricate contrivance conveyed to each ' row of pipes.' When a stop is drawn, the supply of wind is prepared for every pipe in it, and it is admitted when the organist presses the key he wishes to speak. Therefore the ‘sound-board breathes,' or sends the breath into many a row of pipes,' and Milton's description is correct; as, when speaking of music, it always is. There is a passage about fugueplaying (xi. 561), every word of which is pregnant with meaning to a musician, but to him only in its full extent. All other poets, except Milton and Shakespeare, constantly blunder when they use musical terms; they never do.”

The following lines contain an apparent error, which has perplexed the critics :

Their sumptuous gluttonies and gorgeous feasts
On citron tables or Atlantic stone.- Par. Reg. iv. 114;

for the Romans did not use marble dining-tables. But it is probably the floor of the triclinium, which was often formed of Numidian marble (giallo antico), that the poet had in view;

* See above, page 185.
+ Professor Taylor. See above, page 313.

and it is not at all unlikely that or may be a misprint for and, a very common printer's error, as we know by experi

ence.*

We may not regard it as an error, but notice it as a peculiarity in Milton, that when a theory or an interpretation was not, as appeared to him, certain, he would give the different views at different times. Thus, though he generally follows the Ptolemaic astronomy, as most accordant with the literal sense of Scripture, he yet occasionally hints that the Copernican might be the truth. Of this we have an instance in the angel's discourse with Adam, in the beginning of the eighth book; and when describing the return of Uriel to the sun, “now fallen beneath the Azores,” he adds

Whether the prime orb,
Incredible how swift, had thither rolled
Diurnal, or this less voluble earth
By shorter flight to the east had left him there,
Arraying with reflected purple and gold

The clouds that on his western throne attend.-iv. 592. Of the passage in Genesis, “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and took them wives of all that they chose," there were three interpretations, and Milton gives the three in different parts of his poems.

To the opinion of the Fathers, that the sons of God were the good angels, he alludes in this place :

If ever, then,
Then had the sons of God excuse to have been

Enamoured at that sight.-v. 446. The second, that they were the descendants of Seth, he gives thus :

To these, that sober race of men, whose lives
Religious titled them the sons of God,
Shall yield up all their virtue.—xi. 621.

* Or make the peaceable or quiet Nile

Doubted of Cæsar.-Beaum. and Fletch. : The False One, i. 2. Here the note of Mr. Dyce, the most cautious of critics, is Query ?No doubt it is the right word. In Samson Agonistes, v. 1692, Milton probably dictated nor, not and, as there is an opposition intended,

and he notices the third, that they were evil angels, in this place of Paradise Regained :

Before the Flood, thou, with thy lusty crew,
False titled sons of God, roaming the earth,
Cast wanton eyes on the daughters of men,
And coupled with them.- ii. 178.

[ocr errors][merged small]

When we pass from Comus and the earlier productions of Milton's muse to Paradise Lost, we become aware of a considerable change : while the rules of grammar and logic seem to be better observed,* there is less simplicity and less genuine Anglicism. The cause was probably his addiction in the interval to controversial prose-writing, in which, while he found it necessary to attend more closely to his reasoning, he may have deemed it of importance to seek to give dignity and force to his writings by the employment of Latinisms and involution; his experience in teaching also may not have been without influence. In Paradise Regained he seems to have made a return toward his earlier and simpler style.

Of his Latinisms we may note the following.

Words of Latin origin, which in English are used in their tralatitious or moral sense, will frequently be found employed in Paradise Lost in their original physical sense; adjectives also are used as substantives.

* See above, p. 285.

But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloisters pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antic pillars massy-proof,

And storied windows richly dight.1 Pens. 155. Here, in strict grammar, feet is the noun to love, and the roof is dight with pillars and windows; while he means let me love, and it is the cloister that is dight. It may no doubt be said that dight belongs to windows, but in that case with should be and.

Ay me! while thee the shores and sounding seas

Wash far away.-Lycidas, 154: here the shores wash. Such slips do not occur in his later poetry.

It was a practice of the Latin poets to use the simple for the compound verb, and in this Milton has often followed them. There are however instances, but much more rare, of the same practice in Shakespeare, Spenser, Fairfax, and other poets.*

*
No wonder, fallen (from) such a pernicious highth.-i. 282.
For who can think (of) submission ?-ib. x. 661.

Expatiate (on) and confer (about)
Their state-affairs.-ib. 774.
Thus trampled (on), thus expelled.-ii. 195.

Ere he arrive (at)
The happy isle.--ib. 409.

From them I go (on)
This uncouth errand..ib. 826.
The rest shall hear me call and oft be warned (of)
Their sinful state.-iii. 185.
The trepidation talked (of).-ib. 483.
To wait (for) them with his keys.—ib. 485.
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive (away)
All sadness but despair.-iv. 155.
These others wheel (to) the north.ib. 783.

And rising on stiff pennons tower (to)
The mid aerial sky.-vii. 441.

Not as man
Whom they triumphed (over) once lapsed.-x. 571.

Ejected, emptied, gazed (at), unpitied, shunned.-P. R. i. 414. There is a figure of rhetoric much used by the Latin poets, named zeugma, by which a verb is omitted, as being as it were included in another verb. Of this perhaps there are some examples in Paradise Lost, as :

She to him as oft engaged
To be returned by noon amid the bower,
And (to have) all things in best order.-ix. 400.

By his side,
As in a glistening zodiac, hung the sword,
Satan's dire dread, and in his hand (was, or he held) the spear.-xi. 247.

* We have observed ten instances in Shakespeare ; six in Spenser ; five in Fairfax ; four in Drayton ; nearly fifty in Paradise Lost and Regained.

« AnteriorContinuar »