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77, 78.

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is therefore vast enough to be called a sea; and, even were it not so, the phrase "wide-watered shore” itself would suggest that here at all events Milton was thinking of a long single line of coast beaten against by the waves, and not of a limited circular lake-boundary. In this last case it would be the country or district that would be said to be “wide-watered,” and not the "shore.”- “ Swinging slow with sullen roar.Were it concluded that by the “wide-watered shore” Milton meant some imaginary bit of sea-shore, then, by no very forced construction, it might be the sea on this shore, and not the bell, that was swinging and roaring. The ordinary construction, however, which connects swinging” with the “far-off curfew” is perhaps the more natural. “Roar,” as applied to a bell, is not usual, but it is conceivable; and “sullen ” is proper enough, for we have Shakespeare's “sullen bell” (King Henry IV. Part II. i. 1), and even his “surly, sullen bell” (Sonnet LXXI.).

Or, if the air will not permit,

Some still removed place will fit.air” is “state of the weather,” and the “still removed place” is some quiet part of the house conveniently away from the rest.—“ removèdis an alternative form for “remote,” with a slightly modified meaning. In Hamlet the ghost beckons the Prince to "a more removed ground” (I. 4). Observe that, whereas in L'Allegro the evening indoors did not begin till line 117, or near the end of the poem, here we are indoors at line 77, and three-fifths of the poem are yet to come.

83, 84. Or the bellman's drowsy charm, to bless the doors,” etc. The house imagined is, therefore, one in some town, where the bellman or watchman may be heard outside, going his rounds with his usual sing-song (charm, from carmen) or cry.

Now perfect silence is the rule for the night-policeman on his beat; but of old, not only had he a bell, for warning when necessary, but at stated times he called out information as to the state of the weather, or pious phrases of blessing on those going to bed. “Half-past nine, and a fine cloudy evening,” may be remembered by persons yet alive as a cry of the last of the old watchmen in some towns before gas was known; but the pious phrases of blessing were even then extinct. Their style may be learnt from some lines in Herrick's little poem entitled The Bellman, quoted by Warton :

“ From noise of scare-fires rest ye free,

From murder, Benedicite !
From all mischances that may fright
Your pleasing slumbers in the night
Mercy secure ye all, and keep
The goblin from ye while ye sleep!”

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85, 86.

Or let my lamp, at midnight hour,

Be seen in some high lonely tower.Evidently we are now back in the country, in the turret of some solitary mansion, where there are books, and perhaps astronomical instruments. How fine, however, not to give us the inside view the turret-room first, but to imagine some one far off outside observing the ray of light from its window !

87. “outwatch the Bear.As the Bear never sets, this implied, as Mr. Keightley has noted, sitting up till daybreak, when all stars disappeared.

88. With thrice great Hermes: i.e. studying the works of the Egyptian king and philosopher Thot, called by the Greeks Hermes Trismegistus, or Hermes the Thrice-great, because they identified him with their god Hermes or Mercury, and attributed to him the possession of all knowledge, and the invention of all arts. Books bearing the name of this mythical personage are still extant, and in the beginning of the Christian era there were many more such. They were of various kinds,—theological, philosophical, astrological, chemical, medical, etc. They were in reality the productions of the Neo-Platonist opponents of Christianity in Alexandria and elsewhere ; and the so-called Hermetic lore which they contained was NeoPlatonism presenting itself in the guise of a recovery of that old Egyptian wisdom in which Plato and the earlier Greek philosophers were supposed to have been grounded.

88, 89. unsphere the spirit of Plato.Here again the literal meaning is couched in metaphor. The literal meaning is "disentangle the doctrine of Plato by the profound study of his writings”; the metaphor is “bring back the disembodied spirit of Plato from those invisible regions where it is now insphered." Compare Comus,

“Sphere,” both noun and verb, was a great word in Milton's language, the Ptolemaic cosmology having taken an unusually strong grasp of his mode of thinking, and yielding him indirect as well as direct metaphors (see Introd. to Par. Lost, II. 87–93). But we still speak of a dead person as removed to a higher “sphere”; hence, reversely, to hold communion with such a person would be to “unsphere” him.

89—92. "to unfold what worlds,” etc. : a reference to the Phædo of Plato, and other parts of his writings where the doctrine of Immortality is discussed.

93-96. “And of those demons,etc. In the syntax here we have a curious example, as Mr. Keightley notes, of that variety of ellipsis which the rhetoricians call Zeugma : thus, "to unfold what

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worlds, etc., and stell] of those demons,etc. But, though Plato does tell of demons, the peculiar doctrine of the demons of the four elements (Fire, Air, Water, and Earth) hinted at in the passage is rather a mediæval one.—"consent," sympathetic connexion.

97-102. “Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy . . . the buskined stage.Hitherto the occupation in the turret-chamber has been in philosophy and science, especially mystical science; but now the readings may be in the best Tragic poets. The best and most solemn only,—to wit, the ancient Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (the subjects of some of whose dramas, Thebes,Pelops' line,” and “the tale of Troy,” are hinted at), and among moderns perhaps only Shakespeare. One can hardly construe lines 101-2 as applying to any other than Shakespeare. Refer to the passage in L'Allegro (131–134) to which this is the counterstroke; and compare also Eleg. Prima, 37–46, and Milton's Preface to his Samson Agonistes. The "sceptred pallof line 98 is doubtless from Ovid's description of Tragedy (Amor. III. i. 11-13), quoted by Warton :

“ Venit et ingenti violenta Tragoedia passu :

Fronte comæ torva, palla jacebat humi ;

Læva manus sceptrum late regale tenebat.” 103-108. But, 0 ... raise Musæus ... or bid the soul of Orpheus," etc. The meaning is : “But ah! that we could recover some of those primeval poems, now lost, which were perhaps nobler than anything that has come down to us,—such as the sacred hymns, oracles, and theogonies of the semi-mythical Musæus of the Greeks, or the similar poems of his contemporary Orpheus, of whom and his Eurydice there is that deathless legend.” Note the reappearance of Orpheus from the L'Allegro (145–150) and the manner of it. 109-115

Or call up him that left half-told

The story of Cambuscan bold,etc. i.e. Chaucer, whose Squire's Tale is left unfinished. The preceding reference to great poems that had been wholly lost suggests to Milton the thought of poems that had come down in a fragmentary state, and gives him the opportunity of this mention of Chaucer, and of that tale of Chaucer of which he was probably fondest :

At Sarra, in the lond of Tartarie,
Ther dwelt a king that werreied Russie,
Thurgh which ther died many a doughty man :
This noble king was cleped Cambuscan.


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This noble king, this Tartre Cambuscan,
Hadde two sones by Elfeta his wife, —
Of which the eldest sone highte Algarsife,
That other was ycleped Camballo.

A doughter had this worthy king also,
That yongest was, and highte Canace.

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I 22.

In at the halle dore al sodenly
There came a knight upon a steed of brass,
And in his hond a brod mirrour of glass :

Upon his thombe he had of gold a ring." These lines give the key to the story; but the reader ought to turn to the story itself.—virtuous” here means “possessed of magical virtue.”

116-120. And if aught else great bards . . . forests, and enchantments drear, where more is meant than meets the ear.An allusion certainly to Spenser among others, Ariosto and Tasso perhaps included; and an exact description of Spenser's Faery Queene, where we are in an enchanted land of forests and castles, listening to stories of the adventures of knights, and yet underneath, as Spenser himself explained, there is a "continued allegory or dark

“ conceit,” which the wise may interpret.

civil-suited Morn: i.e. in plain citizen garb, as differing from court or military dress.

123. tricked,” dressed; “frounced,curled and plaited (from froncer, to plait).

124. "the Attic boy": Cephalus, the lover of Eos (Morning) in the Greek legends.

1 25. "kerchieft: spelt “chercheft”in First and Second Editions.

128. his fill.A remarkable instance of the use of his for our present its.

130. "minute-drops": drops falling at intervals. So “minuteguns.”

134. Sylvan: the woodland god Sylvanus.

135. * monumental oak": "because," says Mr. Keightley, "the monuments in churches were often formed of carved oak”; and he quotes Shakespeare's "monumental alabaster(Oth. V. 2) as an example of the word in the same sense. Too prosaic by far! Here the oak is surely “monumental” rather in the sense of "memorial,” "old,” “ telling of bygone years.”

141. day's garish eye": garish, staring, from Old-English gare, to stare.

145. consort: perhaps in the sense of our modern word concert,” as in At a Solemn Music, 27; but perhaps merely in

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the sense of “companionship,” i.e. “such other sounds of nature as accompany these.”

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147—150. And let some strange mysterious dream wave at his wings, in airy stream,etc. : a difficult passage, so that some have proposed a change of the text, such as the omission of “at” or the substitution of “an” for “in.” There is no warrant for this; and the text as it stands seems to yield this meaning : “Let some strange mysterious dream wave (i.e. move to and fro) at his (i.e. Sleep’s) wings, in airy stream,” etc. Wave is a neuter verb here, as in Par. Lost, XII. 593. 156–166. “To walk the studious cloister's pale,

And love the high embowèd roof,etc. Here again the pestering spirit of local identification breaks in to disturb the artistic eclecticism of the poem. What Gothic cloister did Milton mean? Old St. Paul's in London (not the present St. Paul's), where he must have often walked, or what other? Any of fifty others, I should say, if the question is as to Milton's acquaintance with the Gothic cathedrals or chapels of his time. But surely

studious cloister” he meant, for the moment, the cloisters of some college, say at Cambridge. Cloister(originally a shut-in place : from claudo, to shut) meant not only a monastery, or a church, but also any part of such building, or of a college, roofed from the rain, even if it had open or pillared sides. Such are the cloisters” in various English colleges now, where the students walk up and down ; and, as in line 156 Penseroso is "walking,” it must be in the pale of the cloister in this sense (pale inclosure, with a recollection of "paling,” the primitive form of enclosure) and not yet in the chapel. But from the “cloister” he does move, in the next line, to the chapel; and surely it is the college-chapel, even though in the subsequent lines the vision is enlarged to that of a fully-appointed cathedral. Observe: only at this point of the poem is Penseroso in contact with his fellow-creatures. Throughout the rest he is solitary. 157.

66 embowed": arched. 158. massy-proof: perhaps proof against the mass they have to support. The word is one of curious formation ; if indeed Milton intended it as one word, for in the First and Second Editions it is printed as two, without a hyphen, “massy proof.Did he mean "massively proof”?

159. “storied windows richly dight": i.e. windows of stained glass, with subjects on them from Scripture history. Milton ad not as yet quarrelled so much as he did afterwards with the symbols

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