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On half the nations, and with fear of change
Darken'd so, yet shone Above them all th’Arch-Angel: but his face
Deep scars of thunder had intrench'd, and care
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather (Far other once beheld in bliss) condemn’d For ever now to have their lot in pain, Millions of spirits for his fault amerc’d
598. —and with fear of change Perplexes monarchs.] It is said that this noble poem was in danger of being suppressed by the Licencer on account of this simile, as if it contained some latent treason in it: but it is saying little more than poets have said under the most absolute monarchies; as Virgil, Georg. i. 464. *—Ille etiam caecos instare tumultus
Saepe monet, fraudemgue, et operta tumescere bella.
598. In the same manner Tasso, Hier. lib. cant. vii. st. 52.
—CometaA i purpurei tiranni infausta luce.
600. —his face Deep scars of thunder had intrench'd] Had cut into, had made trenches there, of the French trencher to
cut, Shakespeare uses the same word speaking of a sear, It nas this very sword intrenched it, All's well that ends well, act ii. 609. –amerc'd] This word is not used here in its proper lawsense, of mulcted, fined, &c. but, as Mr. Hume rightly observes, has a strange affinity with the Greek autoa, to deprive, to take away, as Homer has used it much to our purpose. opéaxpay air apieri, Mbow Y mbusy soony. The Muse amerced him of his eyes, but gave him the faculty of singing sweetly. Odyss. viii. 64. And the word is used in the same sense in Spenser. 611. —yet faithful hon, they stood, J To see the true construction of this we must go back to ver. 605. for the verb. The sense then is this, to behold the fellows of his crime condemned
Their glory wither'd: as when heaven's fire
To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend From wing to wing, and half inclose him round With all his peers: attention held them mute. Thrice he assay’d, and thrice in spite of scorn
Words interwove with sighs found out their way. O Myriads of immortal Spirits, O Powers
&c. yet how they stood faithful. Richardson. 612. —as when heaven's fire Hath scath'd &c.] Hath hurt, hath damaged; a word frequently used in Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, and our old writers. This is a very beautiful and close simile; it represents the majestic stature, and withered glory of the angels; and the last with great propriety, since their lustre was impaired by thunder, as well as that of the trees in the simile: and besides, the blasted heath gives us some idea of that singed burning soil, on which the angels were standing. Homer and Virgil frequently use comparisons from trees, to express the stature or falling of a hero, but none of them are applied with such variety and propriety of circumstances as this of Milton. See An Essay upon Milton's imitations of the Ancients, p. 24. 619. Thrice he assay’d, and thrice— Tears burst forth]
Tears such as angels weep, like Homer's Ichor of the gods which was different from the blood of mortals. This weeping of Satan on surveying his numerous host, and the thoughts of their wretched state, puts one in mind of the story of Xerxes weeping on seeing his vast army, and reflecting that they were mortal, at the time that he was hastening them to their fate, and to the intended destruction of the greatest people in the world, to gratify his own vain glory.
621. Words interwore with sighs found out their nay.] Not unlike a line in Fairfax's Tasso, xii. 26.
Her sighs her dire complaint did
Interwove is almost peculiar to Milton. He has it again, Par. Reg. ii. 263. and in Comus, 544. T. Warton.
Matchless, but with th' Almighty, and that strife
Was not inglorious, though th' event was dire,
Hateful to utter: but what pow'r of mind
As stood like these, could ever know repulse?
That all these puissant legions, whose exile
For me be witness all the host of heaven,
If counsels different, or danger shunn’d
Consent or custom, and his regal state
Put forth at full, but still his strength conceal’d, Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall.
623. —and that strife Was not inglorious, Ovid, Met. ix. 6. nec nana Turpe fuit vinci, quam contendisse decorum est. 633. Hath emptied heav'n,) It is conceived that a third part of the angels fell with Satan, according to Rev. xii. 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth; and this opinion Milton hath expressed in several places, ii. 692. v. 710. vi. 156: but Satan here talks big and mag
nifies their number, as if their exile had emptied heaven. 634. Self-rais'd, Milton is fond of self in composition. See other instances, in Par. Lost, iii. 130. v. 860, 254. vii. 154, 242, 51O. viii. 572. ix. 183, 607, 1188. x. 1016. xi. 93. Comus, 597. T. Warton. 642. Which tempted our attempt, Words though well chosen and significative enough, yet of jingling and unpleasant sound, and like marriages between persons too near of kin, to be avoided. Hume.
Henceforth his might we know, and know our own,
To work in close design, by fraud or guile,
Our first eruption, thither or elsewhere:
Full counsel must mature: Peace is despair’d,
660 War then, War
Open or understood must be resolv’d.
This kind of jingle was undoubtedly thought an elegance by Milton, and many instances sof it may be shewn not only in his works, but I believe in all the best poets both ancient and modern, though the latter I am afraid have been sometimes too liberal of them.
647. —-that he no less &c.] Satan had owned just before, ver. 642. that they had been deceived by God's concealing his strength; he now says, He also shall find hitmself mistaken in his turn; He shall find eur cunning such
as that though we have been
He spake: and to confirm his words, out-flew Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Far round illumin’d hell: highly they rag’d . Against the High'est, and fierce with grasped arms Clash'd on their sounding shields the din of war, Hurling defiance tow’ard the vault of heav’n.
Julius Caesar, act v. Defiance, traitors, hurl we in your teeth. Milton in his imitations scarcely ever confines himself to the beauties or expressions of one author, but enriches his diction with the spoils of many, and hence surpasses any one. Letter to Mr. West on Spenser's Faery Queen, p. 23. 669. Hurling defiance toward the vault of heav'n.] Dr. Bentley reads the walls of heav'n. Heaven the habitation of God and angels being never described as vaulted; and Dr. Pearce approves the emendation; and without doubt the wall or malls of heaven is a common expression with our author. But may we not by the vault of heaven understand coeli convera, our visible heaven, which is often described as vaulted, the sphere of the fixed stars above which God and angels inhabit? Hurling defiance toward the visible heaven is in effect hurling defiance toward the invisible heaven, the seat of God and angels. 671. Belch'd] So Virgil, AEn.