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Tow'ard heav'n's descent had slop’d his west’ring wheel. Mean while the rural ditties were not mute,
Rough Satyrs danc'd, and Fauns with cloven heel
With wild thyme and the gadding vine o’ergrown,
Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays.
in a beautiful description of the growth of the vine, says, that it spreads itself abroad “multiplici “lapsu et erratico.” De Senect. s. xv. T. Warton. 45. As killing as the canker to the rose,] Shakespeare is fond of this image, and, from his very frequent repetitions of it, seems to have suggested it to Milton. T. Warton. 47. Or frost to flon'rs, that their gay nardrobe wear,J Milton had first written, their gay buttons wear; but corrected it in the Manuscript. 50. Where n'ere ye, Nymphs, &c.] He imitates Virgil, Ecl. x. 9. Quae nemora, aut qui vos saltus habuere puellae Naiades, indigno cum Gallus amore periret 2 Nam neque Parnassi vobis juga, nam neque Pindi Ulla moram fecere, neque Aonia Aganippe. as Virgil had before imitated Theocritus, Idyl. i. 66.
H xzoro IInvua, kaxa raria, n xzra. IIw8w; Ov yag &n rotopolo asyay floow taxo' Avawa', Ovo Airwas reorizy, ovo Azoos iseev $3a'é. 50. But see also Spenser's Astrophel, st. 22. Ah where were ye the while his shepherd peares, &c. T. Warton. 52. the steep, Where your old Bards, the famous Druids, lie, &c.] Mr. Richardson's conjecture upon this passage, I think, is the best I have seen, that this steep, where the Druids lie, is a place called Kerig y Druidion in the mountains of Denbighshire, or Druids’ stones, because of the stonechests or coffins, and other monuments there in abundance, supposed to have been of the Druids. See Camden. Mona is the isle of Anglesey, or the shady island as it was called by the ancient Britons. And Deva is the river Dee, the meaning of which word Deva is by some supposed to be divine nater.
Where your old Bards, the famous Druids, lie, Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream:
See Camden's Cheshire. And for the same reason that it is here called wizard stream, it has the name of ancient hallon'd Dee in our author's Vacation Exercise; and Spenser thus introduces it among his rivers, Faery Queen, b. iv. cant. 11. st. 39. —And Dee, which Britons long ygone
Did call divine, that doth by Chester tend.
And Drayton in his Polyolbion, Song x.
A brooke it was, suppos'd much bus'ness to have seen, Which had an ancient bound 'twixt Wales and England been, And noted was by both to be an ominous flood, That changing of his foards, the future ill or good Of either country, told, of either’s war or peace, The sickness or the health, the dearth or the increase &c.
These places all look toward Ireland, and were famous for the residence of the Bards and Druids, who are distinguished by most authors, but Milton speaks of them as the same, and probably as priests they were Druids, and as poets they were Bards. For Caesar, who has given us the best and most authentic account of the ancient Druids, says, that among other things they learn a great number of verses. Magnum ibi numerum versuum ediscere dicuntur. De Bel. Gall. lib. vi. c. 13. 54. Nor on the shaggu top o
Mona high, In p;, #! olbion, Mona is introduced re
citing her own history; where she mentions her thick and dark groves as the favourite residence of the Druids. Sometimes within my shades, in many an ancient wood, Whose often-twined tops great Phebus fires withstood, The fearlesse British priests, under an aged oake, &c.
Where, says Selden, “the British “ Druids tooke this isle of An“glesey, then well-stored with “ thicke woods and religious “groves, in so much that it was “ then called Inis dowil, The “ dark isle, for their chiefe resi“dence, &c.” S. ix. vol. iii. p. 837, 839. Here are Milton's authorities. For the Druid-sepulchres, at Kerig y Druidion, he consulted Camden. T. Warton. 54. —shaggy top.] So P. L. vi. 645. The angels uplift the hills, —By their shaggy tops.
55. Nor yet nhere Deva spreads her mizard stream :] In Spenser, the river Dee is the haunt of magicians. Faery Queen, i. ix.4. The Dee has been made the scene of a variety of ancient British traditions. The city of Chester was called by the Britons the Fortress upon Dee; which was feigned to have been founded by the giant Leon, and to have been the place of King Arthur's magnificent coronation.
But there is another and perhaps a better reason, why Deva's is a wizard stream. In Drayton, this river is styled the hallowed,
Aye me ! I fondly dream
Had ye been there, for what could that have done?
and the holy, and the ominous flood. Polyolb. s. x. vol. iii. p. 848. s. ix. vol. iii. p. 287. s. iv. vol. ii. p. 731. Again, “ holy “Dee,” Heroicall Epist. vol. i. p. 293. And in his Ideas, vol. iv. p. 1271. And Browne, in his Britannia's Pastorals, b. ii. s. v. p. 117. edit. 1616.
Never more let holy Dee
Much superstition was founded on the circumstance of its being the ancient boundary between England and Wales: see Drayton, s. x. See also s. iii. vol. ii. p. 711. s. xii. vol. iii. p. 901. But in the Eleventh Song, Drayton calls the Weever, a river of Cheshire, “ The wizard river,” and immediately subjoins, that in prophetick Skill it vies with the Dee, s. xi. vol. iii. p. 861. Here we seem to have the origin and the precise meaning of Milton's appellation. In Comus, Wizard also signifies a Diviner where it is applied to Proteus, v. 872.
By the Carpathian wizard's hook.
Milton appears to have taken a particular pleasure in mentioning this venerable river. In the beginning of his first Elegy, he almost goes out of his way to specify his friend's residence on the banks of the Dee; which he describes with the picturesque and real circumstance of its tumbling headlong over rocks * precipices into the Irish sea.
. i. 1.
—Occidua Deva Cesirensis ab ora, Vergivium prono qua petit amne salum.
But to return to the text immediately before us. In the midst of this wild imagery, the tombs of the Druids, dispersed over the solitary mountains of Denbighshire, the shaggy summits of Mona, and the wizard waters of Deva, Milton was in his favourite track of poetry. He delighted in the old British traditions and fabulous histories. But his imagination seems to have been in some measure warmed, and perhaps directed to these objects, by reading Drayton; who in the Ninth and Tenth Songs of his Polyolbion has very copiously enlarged, and almost at one view, on this scenery. It is, however, with great force and felicity of fancy, that Milton, in transferring the classical seats of the Muses to Britain, has substituted places of the most romantic kind, inhabited by Druids, and consecrated by the visions of British bards. And it has been justly remarked, how coldly and unpoetically Pope, in his very correct pastorals, has on the same occasion selected only the fair fields of Isis, and the minding vales of Cam.
But at the same time there is an immediate propriety in the substitution of these places. They are in the vicinity of the Irish seas, where Lycidas was shipwrecked. It is thus Theocritus asks the Nymphs, how it came to pass, that when Daphnis died, they were not in the delicious vales of Peneus, or on the banks of the great torrent Anapus, the sacred water of Acis, or on the summits of mount Etna: because
What could the Muse herself that Orpheus bore, The Muse herself for her inchanting son,
When by the rout that made the hideous roar, His goary visage down the stream was sent,
all these were the haunts or the habitation of the shepherd Daphnis. These rivers and rocks have a real connection with the poet's subject. T. Warton. 56. Aye me! I fondly dream Had ye been there, for nhat could that have done?] We have here followed the pointing of Milton's manuscript in preference to all the editions: and the meaning plainly is, I fondly dream of your having been there, for what would that have signified? Mr. Thyer conjectured that the passage should be so pointed, and Milton has so pointed it, though he does not often observe the stops in his Manuscript. Mr. Jortin likewise perceived this to be the sense, and asks whether this transposition would not be better than the common reading. Had ye been there—Aye me, I fondly dream
but in his Manuscript he altered these lines with judgment. And afterwards his goary visage was a correction from his divine visage.
58. P. L. vii. 37. Of Orpheus torn in pieces by the Bacchanalians.
—Nor could the Muse defend Her son.
And his murderers are called “ that wild rout," v. 34. Calliope was the mother of Orpheus. Lycidas, as a poet, is here tacitly compared with Orpheus. T. Warton.
60. —Universal nature.] So “ universal Pan,” P. L. iv. 266. T. Warton.