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and rich ritual of the English Church. Yet, even in later days, he probably felt no inclination to cancel this passage of the Penseroso. 164. “As may,” a common old idiom.
We should now say - such as may.”
167—176. “And may at last my weary age," etc. Recollected by Scott in his Marmion (Introd. to 2nd Canto).
170. “spell”: read, construe, get at the sense of, by putting together the letters.
1. “ Nymphs and Shepherds”: meaning the young ladies and young gentlemen who were acting in the Masque, attired in pastoral habits. For who these were see Introd.
5. This, this is she.” A recollection perhaps of the line “Peace, stay ! it is, it is, it is even she,” in Marston's Masque presented before the same Countess of Derby in 1607 (see Introd. I. 142); but perhaps rather of the song beginning “This is she, this is she,” in Ben Jonson's Satyr, performed at Althorpe, the seat of the Countess's father, Lord Spenser, in 1603, in honour of Queen Ann, then just come from Scotland into England. When Milton had undertaken to prepare the Arcades, it would be natural for him to look up old masques, and especially any in which the Countess had had a prior interest. Todd finds a resemblance to the first and third stanzas of Arcades in some lines of Crashaw's in his Panegyric to Queen Henrietta Maria “ upon her numerous progeny” :
“Who's this that comes circled in rays that scorn
'Tis she, 'tis she !" But Crashaw did not write this till some years after Arcades had been written. 8–13.
Fame, that ... erst," etc. An interesting recognition by Milton of the fact that the venerable lady in whose honour Arcades was to be performed had been one of the heroines of the living Spenser's muse in her youth forty years before, and had received in the interval an abundance of other poetical applauses. See sketch of her life in Introd.
14-19. “ Mark what radiant state," etc. In the phraseology
of this stanza there is perhaps a reference to the actual surroundings of the Countess in the Masque,-devices of bright light, silver rays seeming to shoot from her throne, etc.
20—25. “ the wise Latona ... or the towered Cybele.” Latona or Leto preceded Juno as the wife of Jupiter, and was the mother of Apollo and Diana. Cybele, otherwise Rhea, or Berecynthia, was the wife of Saturn, and the mother of the great gods, Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Pluto, Vesta, and Ceres; but other children are assigned to her in the mythologies. The epithets “the great mother," "the
“ mother of the gods,” “the great Idæan mother of the gods,” are applied to her by the ancient poets; and in her images she is represented as
" towered” or turreted," i.e. as wearing a diadem from which three towers rise over the forehead. Mr. Keightley most aptly quotes Virgil's description of her (Æn. VI. 785), which must have been in Milton's mind here :
Observe how gracefully, in his choice of goddesses to be named, Milton alludes to the age of the Countess of Derby, and her numerous offspring (Introd. I. 143—145). And how gracefully, in continuation, he turns the compliment — "Juno dares not give her odds." The commentators find the phrase a little too familiar, if not unpoetical ; but they have missed the latent meaning which justified the familiarity. “If Juno would contend with her for beauty, then even that goddess must meet her on equal terms, and cannot afford to give her any advantage”: such is the obvious meaning of the phrase. Interpret it, however, by the circumstances at Harefield on that summer evening when the aged Countess was seated on her throne in the Masque, robed and coroneted (the coronet not unlike Cybele's turreted tiara), and representatives of two generations of her descendants were about her. Does it not then mean,
“ Even now the handsomest of her daughters can hardly maintain equality with her”?—While I write this note (June 15, 1872) it is but a fortnight since I paid my second visit to the site of old Harefield House, close to the old church and yew-bordered churchyard. I saw again the old cedar of Lebanon which guards the scene of Arcades in chief, traced the mounds that perhaps still conceal the foundations of the mansion, and found old bricks cropping out here and there in hollows torn among the rank grass; but the recollection of the place which I have again carried away as the sweetest and keenest is that of the Countess's tomb in the church, of her singular beauty as she is represented in her life-size sculptured effigy, recumbent on the
tomb in crimson robe and gilt coronet under a canopy of pale green, while miniature effigies of her three daughters, fair-haired like herself and also beautiful, but not so beautiful, adorn the side of the tomb underneath. (See Introd. I. p. 152.) The small hands of the Countess, represented with delicate finger-tips touching each other over her breast in prayer, are exquisitely perfect. You could sigh as you looked at them, or at the small feet represented as carefully in their antique shoes, and then at the fair and stately face of the long-dead. To prove that the sculptor had been exact, they used to have in the church till lately one of the actual shoes which the Countess wore; but it has disappeared.
26. “Gen. Stay, gentle swains," etc. It is a fair enough surmise that The GENIUS OF THE WOOD, who speaks this speech, was personated by Henry Lawes. (See Introd. I. pp. 146—150.) He first addresses the “swains,” or young gentlemen of the masque.
27. “ honour": i.e. honourable or noble birth.
30, 31. “ Divine Alpheus . . . secret sluice . . . his Arethuse.” Alpheus or Alpheius was the name of a river of Arcadia in the Peloponnesus. The legend connected with it was that a certain youthful hunter, named Alpheus, had been in love with the nymph Arethusa, and that, when she had fled from him to the island of Ortygia, on the coast of Sicily, close to Syracuse, he was turned into a river, and, in that guise, pursued her by a secret channel under the sea between Peloponnesus and Sicily, rising again in Ortygia, where he and she became one in the well or fountain called, after her, Arethusa. Both Arethusa and Alpheus are re-introduced in Lycidas (85 and 132). Todd quotes the phrase secret sluices” from Sylvester's Du Bartas. 33.
“ silver-buskined Nymphs”: the lady-performers, wearing buskins, like Diana and her wood-nymphs. 36—60.
“ the great mistress ... whom with low reverence I adore as mine ... I am the Power of this fair wood,” etc. Although, as I have said, it is a probable guess that the speaker was Lawes, the wording of this whole passage might suggest that it was rather some gentleman land-steward, or the like, in the service of the Countess. If Lawes is the speaker, he speaks all this part of the speech metaphorically, in his assumed character of “The Genius of the Wood”; but it is not unlike Milton to veil literal fact under poetic language. Yet, on the other hand, if the speaker was any such gentlemansteward as I have supposed, he must also, from the sequel (61–76), have been a devotee of music. On the whole, therefore, on internal evidence, as well as from the external, Lawes is likeliest. Meta
phorically a woodsman through this part of his speech, he emerges more himself at the close.
46. “curl the grove.” The word “curl" was often applied to foliage in the old poets.
47. “wanton windings wove.” Notice the alliteration. It reminds one of the alliterative passage in Spenser (F. Q. I. ii. 13)
“Her wanton palfrey all was overspred
Whose bridle rung with golden bels and bosses brave.”
“66 zigzag. Todd compares Shakespeare's "cross blue lightning” (Jul. Cæs. I. 3).
52. “the cross dire-looking planet”: i.e. Saturn. See note to
“ Over the mount." This suggests personal acquaintance with the ground about Harefield. The house was on a slight slope; and behind the site there is still a wooded rise which might be called a mount. But see Introd. I. pp. 150, 151.
57. “tasselled horn”: i.e. the horn of the huntsman, which had tassels attached to it. Spenser, as Newton noted, has (F. Q. I. viii. 3):
“ an horne of bugle small, Which hong adowne his side in twisted gold
And tasselles gay.” 60. “murmurs”: i.e. muttered phrases or charms. Mr. Browne notes the same sense of the word in Comus, 526. 63–73.
" the celestial Sirens' harmony That sit upon the nine infolded spheres, And sing to those that hold the vital shears,
And turn the adamantine spindle," etc. Another of those passages in which Milton shows his fondness for the old or Ptolemaic system of the Cosmos. (See Introd. to Par. Lost, II. pp. 87 et seq. and note on Pens. 88, 89.) Here, however, Milton revels in a particular poetical sub-notion of that physical system, the notion involved in the phrase "music of the spheres." This mystical or Pythagorean use of the main notion was also one of Milton's dearest and most habitual fancies. See his lines At a Solemn Music; see also his Latin Academic Prolusion De Sphærarum Concentu. In the present passage he offers it expressly. There is a music of the spheres, he seems to say ; the whole Universe rolls by the law of an eternal music. On each of the nine infolded
spheres” that compose the physical Universe (in Par. Lost, e.g. III. 481-483, Milton accepts all the ten spheres of the Alphonsine development of the Ptolemaic system, but here he is content with the earlier nine; or perhaps by “the nine infolded spheres ” he specially means only the inner nine and excludes the tenth or outermost, called the“ primum mobile”),—on each of these spheres there sits a Muse or Siren; and these nine Muses or Sirens are singing harmoniously on their revolving spheres all the while that the three Fates, called Lachesis, Clotho, and Atropos, are turning the spindle of so-called Necessity on which the threads of human and even divine lives are wound. This very spindle of Necessity goes round to the tune of the music that lulls the Fates as they turn it.--In all this description, even to minute points in its phraseology, Milton, as Warton pointed out, had in view an extraordinary passage in Plato's Republic (Book X. chap. 14). Whoever would study the notion in detail ought to refer to that passage. Plato, however, according to the astronomy of his time, recognised but eight spheres, the outmost that of the fixed stars, and the inner seven those of the planets.
72, 73. “which none can hear of human mould with gross unpurgèd ear."
So in Shakespeare's well-known speech of Lorenzo to Jessica on the same music of the spheres ” (M. of Ven. V. 1):
“ But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close us in, we cannot hear it.” See also Milton's Prolusion De Sphærarum Concentu, where there is, however, a consolatory passage which may be thus translated : “Yet, if we carried pure and chaste and snow-clean hearts, as erst did Pythagoras, then should our ears sound and be filled with that sweetest music of the ever-wheeling stars.”
75. "height": so spelt here in the First and Second Editions, though usually “highth” in Milton. The “her” following probably made the sound of highth objectionable.
81. "glittering state.” “ State” here in its old sense of “ chair of state.” See note, Pens. 37.
88–99. “shady roof of branching elm star-proof”: clearly a recollection of Spenser's famous, but always misquoted, line (F. Q. I. i. 7):
“Not perceable with power of any star.” 96—109. Ladon was a river in Arcadia ; Lycæus, Cyllene, and Manalus, were mountains in the same; and Erymanthus was an Arcadian river-god. Of Pan and his Syrinx all have heard. Both are mentioned, as Warton notes, in that masque of Ben Jonson's