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That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood," extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood ; in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-bòrn, that warred on Jove,
Briareos, or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus 3 held; or that sea-beast
Leviathan, 4 which God of all his works
Created hugests that swim the ocean stream.
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames,
Driven backward, slope their pointing spires, and, rolled
In billows, leave in the midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight, till on dry land
He lights, if it were land that ever burned
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire.
His ponderous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders, like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artisté views
At evening, from the top of Fesolé,
Or in Valdarno,7 to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear-to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand-(1) Prone on the flood, dc.--The numerous monosyllables in this and the next line detain the voice in reading, and give an idea of the sense through the sound.
(2) Titanian-According to mythology it was the giants, and not the Titans, « that warred on Jove." (3) Ancient Tarsus-Tarsus, in Cilicia, Asia Minor. (4) Leviathan--In Job this word means the crocodile, but here the whale.
(5) Created hugest, &c.—“What a force of imagination,” says Hazlitt, “is there in this expression! What an idea it conveys of that hugest of created beings, as if it shrunk up the ocean to a stream. Force of style is one of Milton's greatest excellences.”
(6) Tuscan artist-Galileo, the inventor or improver of the “optic glass,” or telescope.
(7) Valdarno-Val d' Arno— Vale of Arno. Florence is seated in the bosom of the Val d' Arno.
(8) Ammiral—the admiral's ship ; any large ship. Some derive this word from the eastern title, Emir.
He walked with, to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marle; not like those steps
On heaven's azure: and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire:
Nathless' he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflaméd sea he stood, and called
His legions, angel forms, who lay entranced,
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades
High overarched embower; or scattered sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed
Hath vexed the Red Sea coast, whose waves o’erthrew
Busiris. and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore their floating carcases
And broken chariot wheels : so thick bestrown,
Abject and lost lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He called so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded :-
Warriors, the flower of heaven, once yours, now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seize
Eternal spirits !-or have ye chosen this place
After the toil of battle to repose
(2) Called his legions, &c.—“If there is one circumstance more than another which sets him (Milton] above Virgil and Homer, it is this, that he takes more violent possession of the mind of his reader, by crowding upon him a phalanx of thick-coming thoughts. Satan's legions lie entranced upon the sea of fire, · thick as the leaves in the brooks of Vallombrosa.' Here another poet might bave ended. Not so Milton :- they are, moreover, like the scattered sedge on the coast of the Red Sea, when Orion hath vexed it with fierce winds. Still something is wanted, not to complete the simile, but to overwhelm the reader ;and in throng Busiris and the Memphian chivalry, and floating carcases, and broken chariot wheels."- Quarterly Review, vol. xxxvi., p. 56.
(3) Vallombrosam-from the Latin Vallis umbrosa, shady vale-a valley in Tuscany.
(4) Orion armed, &c.—"Orion is a constellation represented in the figure of an armed man, and supposed to be attended with stormy weather."- Newton.
(5) Busiris, dc.--Milton thus styles, not without authority, Pharaoh and his horsemen, who the Israelites per usly, since he had previously agreed to allow them to depart unmolested.
Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the vales of heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conqueror ? who now beholds
Cherub and seraph rolling in the flood
With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from Heaven gates discern
The advantage, and, descending, tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linkéd thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake!-arise!-or be for ever fallen!”
They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung
Upon the wing: as when men wont to watch
On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread,
Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake.
Nor did they not? perceive the evil plight
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to 3 their general's voice they soon obeyed
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day,
Waved round the coast, up called a pitchy cloud
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darkened all the land of Nile:
So numberless were those bad angels seen,
Hovering on wing under the cope of hell,
'Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;
Till, as a signals given, the uplifted spear
Of their great sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain;
A multitude, like which the populous north
Poured never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the south, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.
Forthwith from every squadron and each band,
(1) Virtue—as the Latin virtus-courage, strength.
(2) Nor did they not perceive—a Latinism for, they did perceive.
(3) Yet to, &c.—“To obey to” is frequently found in our old authors.
(4) Warping-a sea term-working laboriously forward, with a sort of sidelong motion.
(5) As a signal-Another reading is,“ at a signal given.” If that given in the text is correct, the spear of Satan itself gave the signal, which is more poetical.
The heads and leaders thither haste, where stood
Their great Commander ; godlike shapes, and forms
Excelling human, princely dignities,
And powers that erst in heaven sat on thrones;
Though of their names in heavenly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and rased,
By their rebellion, from the Book of Life.
All these and more came flocking, but with looks
Downcast and damp;? yet such wherein appeared
Obscure some glimpse of joy, to have found their chief
Not in despair, to have found themselves not lost
In loss itself; which on his countenance cast
Like doubtful hue; but he, his wonted pride
Soon recollecting, with high words, that bore
Semblance of worth, not substance, gently raised
Their fainting courage, and dispelled their fears :
Then straight commands, that, at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions,“ be upreared
His mighty standard ; that proud honour claimed
Azazel as his right, a cherub tall;
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled"
The imperial ensign ; which, full high advanced,
Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind,
With gems and golden lustre rich emblazed,
Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while
Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds :
At which the universal host up-sent
A shout that tore hell's concave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.
All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air,
With orient colours waving : with them rose
A forest huge of spears ; and thronging helms
Appeared, and serried 6 shields in thick array
(1) Erst-or erest, superlative of Anglo-Saxon ær, before.
(2) Damp-depressed, dispirited.
(3) Which—which circumstance—i.e. the twofold expression of their countenances, cast on his like doubtful hue.
(4) Clarion—from the Latin clarus, clear-a clear-sounding, shrill kind of trumpet.
(5) Unfurled, &c.--Addison particularly mentions Azazel's unfurling the standard, and the shout of the rebel angels, as “wonderfully poetical, and instances of that sublime genius so peculiar to the author."
(6) Serried-from the French serrer, to lock-locked, or clasped together.
Of depth' immeasurable: anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood ?
Of flutes and soft recorders ;3 such as raised
To height of noblest temper heroes old
Arming to battle; and, instead of rage,
Deliberate valour breathed, firm and unmoved
With dread of death to flight or foul retreat ;
Nor wanting power to mitigate and swage
With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase
Anguish, and doubt, and fear, and sorrow, and pain,
From mortal or immortal minds. Thus they,
Breathing united force, with fixéd thought
Moved on in silence to soft pipes, that charmed
Their painful steps o'er the burnt soil; and now,
Advanced in view they stand, a horrido front
Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise
Of warriors old with orderedó spear and shield,
Awaiting what command their mighty chief
Had to impose. He through the arméd files
Darts his experienced eye, and soon traverse
The whole battalion views, their order due,
Their visages and stature as of gods ;
Their number last he sums. And now his heart
Distends with pride, and hardening in his strength,
Glories : for never, since created man,
Met such embodied force.
He, above the rest,
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
(1) Of depth, &c.—The rhythmical beat of this verse is remarkable. The word immeasurable” closes the sentence most fitly, and gives occasion for a pause, which however is soon broken by the commencement of the march. The words “ anon they move,” &c., not only describe, but represent the movement.
(2) Dorian mood" There seem to have been three principal modes or measures among the ancients: the Lydian, the Phrygian, and the Dorian. The Lydian was the most doleful, the Phrygian was the most sprightly, and the Dorian the most grave and majestic.”-- Newton,
(3) Recorders-pipes, flageolets.
(4) Horrid-in the Latin sense-bristling.
(5) Ordered-in regular order, or equipment.
(6) Traverse-transversely, obliquely.
(7) Since created man-a Latinism-since man was created, or, since the creation of man.
(8) He above, dc.-" There is no single passage,” says Addison, “in the whole poem worked up to a greater sublimity than that wherein his [Satan's) person is described in those celebrated lines, He above, &c.”