網頁圖片
PDF

Not to be overpow'r’d, companions dear,
Found worthy not of liberty alone, 420
Too mean pretence, but what we more affect,
Honour, dominion, glory, and renown ;
Who have sustain’d one day in doubtful fight
(And if one day, why not eternal days 2)
What heaven's Lord had pow'rfullest to send 425
Against us from about his throne, and judg’d
Sufficient to subdue us to his will,
But proves not so: then fallible, it seems,
Of future we may deem him, though till now
Omniscient thought. True is, less firmly arm’d, 430
Some disadvantage we indur’d and pain,
Till now not known, but known as soon contemn’d ;
Since now we find this our empyreal form
Incapable of mortal injury,
Imperishable, and though pierc’d with wound, 435
Soon closing, and by native vigour heal’d.
Of evil then so small as easy think
The remedy; perhaps more valid arms,
Weapons more violent, when next we meet,
May serve to better us, and worse our foes, 440
Or equal what between us made the odds,
In nature none: if other hidden cause
Left them superior, while we can preserve
Unhurt our minds and understanding sound,

themselves and annoy their ene- So Prometheus in like manner

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Due search and consultation will disclose.

He sat; and in th’ assembly next upstood
Nisroch, of Principalities the prime;
As one he stood escap'd from cruel fight,
Sore toil, his riven arms to havoc hewn,

And cloudy in aspéct thus answ’ring spake.

Deliverer from new lords, leader to free
Enjoyment of our right as gods; yet hard
For gods, and too unequal work we find,
Against unequal arms to fight in pain,

[merged small][ocr errors]

Ruin must needs ensue; for what avails
Valour or strength, though matchless, quell'd with pain
Which all subdues, and makes remiss the hands
Of mightiest? Sense of pleasure we may well

[merged small][ocr errors]

But live content, which is the calmest life:
But pain is perfect misery, the worst
Of evils, and excessive, overturns

All patience.

447. Nisroch,J A god of the Assyrians, in whose temple at Nineveh, Sennacherib was killed by his two sons, 2 Kings xix. 37. and Isaiah xxxvii. 37. It is not known who this god Nisroch was. The Seventy call him Meserach in Kings, and Nasarach in Isaiah; Josephus calls him Araskes. He must have been a principal idol, being worshipped by so great a prince, and at the capital city Nineveh; which may justify Milton in calling him of

He who therefore can invent With what more forcible we may offend

[ocr errors]

Principalities the prime.

462. —the worst

Qf evils.) Nisroch is made to talk agreeably to the sentiments of Hieronymus and those philosophers, who maintained that pain was the greatest of evils; there might be a possibility of living without pleasure, but there was no living in pain. A notion suitable enough to a deity of the effeminate Assyrians.

Our yet unwounded enemies, or arm

Ourselves with like defence, to me deserves

No less than for deliverance what we owe.
Whereto with look compos'd Satan replied.

Not uninvented that, which thou aright

470

Believ'st so main to our success, I bring.
Which of us who beholds the bright surface
Of this ethereous mould whereon we stand,
This continent of spacious heav'n, adorn’d
With plant, fruit, flow'r ambrosial, gems and gold; 475
Whose eye so superficially surveys
These things, as not to mind from whence they grow
Deep under ground, materials dark and crude,
Of spirituous and fiery spume, till touch'd
With heaven's ray, and temper'd they shoot forth 4so
So beauteous, opening to the ambient light?

467. to me deserves No less than for delirerance nhat me oute.] Nisroch is speaking; he had complimented Satan (ver. 451.) with the title of Deliverer; here he ventures to say, that whoever could invent the new engine of war would be equal to him in his estimation. Milton has taken care that this deliverer should also have this merit, and be without a competitor; Satan is both the one and the other as it follows immediately. Richardson. 472. Which of us who beholds the bright surface Of this ethereous mould &c.] Dr. Bentley, for the sake of a better accent, reads stirface bright; but surfice is to be read

with the accent upon the last syllable, and not as it is commonly pronounced, for Milton would hardly use a trochaic foot at the end of the verse. Dr. Bentley reads likewise this ethereal mould; and it is true Milton commonly uses the word ethereal, but that is no reason why he may not say likewise ethereous, which is nearer the Latin arthereus. The construction of this sentence is, Which of us who beholds &c. so superficially surveys these things: but as the nominative case which of us is mentioned so many lines before the verb surveys, he throws in another nominative case,

Whose eye so superficially surveys

These in their dark nativity the deep
Shall yield us pregnant with infernal flame;
Which into hollow engines long and round
Thick-ramm’d, at th’ other bore with touch of fire 485
Dilated and infuriate, shall send forth
From far with thund'ring noise among our foes
Such implements of mischief, as shall dash
To pieces, and o'erwhelm whatever stands
Adverse, that they shall fear we have disarm'd 490

482. —the deep) It is commonly used for hell, but here is only opposed to surface, ver.472. and is the same as deep under s: ver. 478. which may ikewise explain the word infernal in the next line. Not but infernal flame may mean flame like that of hell, hell having been frequently mentioned before by the angels, and the idea being very well known.

484. Which into hollon, &c.] Which, that is, the materials, ver. 478. These ver, 482. the deep shall yield, which into hollow engines rammed, with touch of fire shall send forth &c. Hollon engines, great guns, the first invention whereof is very properly ascribed to the author of all evil. And Ariosto has described them in the same manner in his Orlando Furioso, cant. ix. st. 28, or 24 of Harrington's translation; and attributes the invention to the devil. Un ferro bugio, &c.

A trunk of iron hollow made within,
And there he puts powder and pellet
in.
25.
All closed save a little hole behind,
Whereat no sooner taken is the flame,

The bullet flies with such a furious
wind,
As though from clouds a bolt of
thunder came :
And whatever in the way it find
It burns, it breaks, it tears, and
spoils the same.
No doubt some fiend of hell or
devilish wight
Devised it to do mankind a spite.

And again, st. 84.
O curst devise found out by some
foul fiend,
And fram'd below by Belzebub in
hell &c.
And Spenser has the same
thought, Faery Queen, b. i. cant.
vii. st. 13.
As when that devilish iron engine
wrought
In deepest hell, and fram’d by furies'
skill -
With windy nitre and quick sulphur
fraught,
And ramm'd with bullet round, or-
dain’d to kill &c.
But though the poets have a-
greed to attribute the invention
to the devil, from a notion of its
being so destructive to mankind,
yet many authors have observed,
that since the use of artillery
there has less slaughter been
made in battles than was before,
when the engagements were
closer, and lasted longer.

The Thund’rer of his only dreaded bolt.
Nor long shall be our labour; yet ere dawn,
Effect shall end our wish. Mean while revive ;
Abandon fear; to strength and counsel join’d
Think nothing hard, much less to be despair’d.
He ended, and his words their drooping cheer
Inlighten’d, and their languish’d hope reviv’d.
Th’ invention all admir’d, and each, how he
To be th’ inventor miss'd; so easy” it seem’d

495

Oncefound, which yet unfound most would have thought

Impossible: yet haply of thy race 501
In future days, if malice should abound,
Some one intent on mischief, or inspir’d
With devilish machination, might devise
Like instrument to plague the sons of men 505
For sin, on war and mutual slaughter bent.
Forthwith from council to the work they flew ;
None arguing stood; innumerable hands
Were ready ; in a moment up they turn’d

[merged small][ocr errors]

Th’ originals of nature in their crude
Conception; sulphurous and nitrous foam
They found, they mingled, and with subtle art,

502. In future days—Some one intent &c.] This speaking in the spirit of prophecy adds great dignity to poetry. It is in the same spirit that Dido makes the imprecation, Virg. AEn. iv. 625.

Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus

ultor &c.

This here very properly comes

from the mouth of an angel.

507. Forthwith from council to the work they flew ;] This and the two following lines are admirably contrived to express the hurry of the angels; and consist therefore of short periods, without any particles to connect them.

« 上一頁繼續 »