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160 Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus old,
Where the great Vision of the guarded mount Looks toward Namancos and Bayona's hold. Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth And, 0 ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth.
iSf Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more,
Where, other groves and other streams along,
Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and rills,
While the still morn went out with sandals grey; Hetouched the tender stops of various quills, /•"With eager thought warbling his Doric lay, r And now the sun had stretche_d ,out all; the hills, no And now was dropt into the western bay. At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue: To-morrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.
A. S.—Anglo Saxon.
B. —R. C. Browne, Milton's Poetical Works (Clarendon Press).
M.—Masson, Milton's Poetical Works (Macmillan).
0. F.—Old French.
Skeat—Skeat's Etymological Dictionary.
T.—W. P. Trent, Milton's L'Allegro, II Penseroso.etc (Longmans). V.—A. W. Verity, editions of L'Allegro, II Penseroso, etc. (Cambridge University Press).
Title—E Allegro: Italian, the cheerful man.
1. —Melancholy. The mythological figures in these poems are sometimes taken from the classics, sometimes, as in this case, created and given a parentage by Milton.
2. —Cerberus: in Greek mythology, the three-headed dog who guarded the entrance to the lower world.
3. —Stygian. The cave of Cerberus looked out on the Styx, one of the four rivers of Hades.
5. —uncouth: literally, "unknown," hence "wild," "fearful."
6. —brooding: partly literal, in keeping with the figure suggested also by wings; partly metaphorical, in keeping with the idea of watchfulness in jealous.
7. —night-raven. The raven is not a night bird, yet Shakspere also uses this term. The croaking of a raven was regarded as ominous, and perhaps the compound was formed, without reference to natural history, to intensify the idea of gloom.
10.—Cimmerian. The Cimmerians were a mythical people who, according to Homer (Odyssey, xi, 14) dwelt in perpetual mist and darkness.
12-16.—This account of the parentage of the three Graces (Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia) has been traced to Serviua, a fourth century commentator on Vergil.
12.—Euphrosyne: Mirth, yclept: called, from the past participle of A. S. cleopian.
17.—soger: more sagely, or, "some wiser poets."
19.—Zephyr: the west wind. Aurora: the dawn.
12-24.—Note the significance of the two parentages suggested for Mirth: first, Love and Wine; second, and to Milton preferable, the spring breeze and the early morning.
22.—Cf. Shakspere's "Morning roses newly wash'd with dew" (Taming of the Shrew, II, i, 174).
24.—buxom: originally, "pliant;" later, as here, "gracious," "lively." What is the modern sense? debonair: O. F. de bon aire, of a good mien (Skeat); courteous, pleasant.
27. —Quips: sharp speeches, cranks: witty turns of expression, wanton wiles: sportive tricks.
28. —becks: nods, signs, bows. (Contracted •from beckon.)
29. —Hebe: the goddess of Youth, who carried the cups of nectar to the gods.
36.—mountain-nymph. Inhabitants of mountainous countries are proverbially lovers of liberty. 40.—unreprovid: unreprovable.
45-48. The sense of this passage has been much disputed. The chief interpretations are these:—(1) That it is the lark that comes. But it has been pointed out that it is not true to nature to make a lark come to a window, and some have instanced this as an example of Milton's inaccuracy in natural description. The grammar also is unsatisfactory under this interpretation, to being unnecessary: hear the lark begin ... to come . .. and bid. Again, if the lark is meant, why in spite of sorrow? (2) That L'Allegro is already out walking, and comes to the cottage window and bids good-morrow from the outside. To come would then be coordinate with to live (ver. 39) and to hear (ver. 41). This is M.'s view. (3) Thav. L'Allegro, hearing the song of the lark, rises and cornea to the window to bid good-morrow to whatever may be outside as he looks out through the vines. The grammatical construction according to this view is the same as in (2), and this has the advantage of making the succeeding barnyard scene a natural sequence.
The following couplet from Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas (p. 70) a book well-known to Milton, is worth noting in this connection:
The cheerful birds, chirping him sweet good morrow,
The passage is noted by C. Dunster in Considerations on
48.—eglantine. Milton is not exact here. Eglantine is really the same as sweet-briar, and is not twisting. It has been suggested that he means honeysuckle.
50.—The figure seems to be that of the rear of a retreating army scattering before the trumpet blast of the enemy, and to be mock-heroic in its application to the strutting fowl.
57.—not unseen. "Happy men love witnesses of their joy" (Hurd, quoted by M.).
60.—state: stately progress (Keightley).
62.—liveries: used not merely in the sense of "dress," but of the dress delivered by a lord to his retinue, and so suggesting the idea of the clouds as retainers of the sun in his stately progress. dight: arrayed.
67.—tells his tale: counts his number (of sheep).