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29. —Ida: the mountain in Crete where Jupiter was reared.
30. —Jupiter (Zeus), according to the myth, overthrew Saturn (Cronus).
33.—grain: originally a small seed, but used especially of the insect coccus from which the red cochineal dye is made. Hence "to dye in grain" meant to dye a fast color, in Comus, ver. 750, red, but here and in Par. Lost, XI, 242, 3, probably a dark purple.
35. —stole: sometimes a long robe, or, in ecclesiastical vestments, a scarf, but here more probably in the sense of a veil or hood, since her robe has already been mentioned, cypress: (probably from Cyprus, the island in the Mediterranean, New English Dictionary) made of cypress or crape, lawn: a fine linen.
36. —decent: comely.
37. —state: stateliness, dignity.
39. —commercing: having intercourse.
40. —rapt: originally past participle of verb rap, to transport.
41. —still. Adjective or adverb?
43. —sad: serious, rather than "sorrowful." "Leaden was the Saturnian colour" (M.). cast: turn of the eyes, gaze.
44. —i. e., fix your eyes as fast on earth as formerly on heaven.
45-8.—Milton here implies his favorite doctrine of the necessity of temperance for the highest inspiration.
47, 8.—"The Muses haunt the hill of Helicon, mighty and divine, and dance with tender feet around the fountain and the altar of the great son of Kronion" (Hesiod's Theogony—quoted by V.).
52-4.—See Ezekiel X. The name Contemplation seems to have been given to the Cherub by Milton. To the Cherubim was attributed knowledge, to the Seraphim, love.
65.—hist. This may be (1) an imperative in the sense of "bring silently," or (2) a past participle in the sense of "hushed," silence being then an object of bring, ver. 51.
56. —Philomel. Philomela, daughter of Pandion, King of Attica, was changed into a nightingale in order to save her from Tereus, her brother-in-law.
57. —plight: mood.
59.—Cynthia: Diana, who was born on Mt. Cynthus in Delos. The moon is here represented as checking her car to listen to the nightingale singing in its haunt in the oak-tree. The attributing of a dragon yoke to Diana instead of to Ceres has been regarded as Milton's own transference, but in Dekker's Song of the Cyclops in London's Tempe (1629) I find
We shoe the horses of the sun,
Harness the dragons of the moon,
and in A Midsummer Night's Dream, III, ii, 379,
For night's swift dragons cut the clouds full fast. 65.—unseen: in direct contrast with L'All., ver. 67.
73. —plat: plot.
74. —curfew: (Fr. couvrir, to cover; feu, fire) the bell rung at eight or nine o'clock in the evening as a signal to put out all fires. The practice of ringing the curfew goes back at least to the Conquest, and was meant to prevent risk of conflagration.
80.—"The light of the fire is so soft as to be a kind of darkness" (V.). "The 'glowing embers' make 'darkness visible"' (T.). The phrase is probably meant to be suggestive rather than exact, and to refer vaguely to the black shadows that throng a fire-lit room.
83.—bellman: the night-watchman who used to patrol the city streets, keeping order, and announcing the hours and the state of the weather. The kind of charms they recited may be gathered from Herrick's verses:—
From noise of scare-fires rest ye free,
84.—nightly: by night (not "every night").
87. —i. e., all night, as the Bear never sets, but disappears only with the coming of daylight.
88. —with: studying Hermes Trismegistus (i. e., thrice great), the fabled Egyptian philosopher and king, had ascribed to him a number of forged writings, and was credited with the invention of magic and the black arts generally, unsphere: call from the sphere it now inhabits.
89-96.—The references here are to the subjects discussed in Plato's Phaedo. The whole passage means simply that II Penseroso would enjoy sitting up all night reading Hermes and Plato.
93.—Some such word as "tell" should be understood before of those. Demons: the spirits inhabiting the four elements, fire, air, earth, and water, into which the Greek and Medieval philosophers divided the material universe.
95.—consent: agreement, influence. The reference is to astrology.
98.— sceptred: because tragedy dealt with the calamities of princes, pall: "Lat. palla, the mantle worn by tragic actors" (V.).
99,100.—The chief subjects of Greek tragedy were drawn from the stories of the royal house of Thebes, the descendants of Pelops, and the Trojan War.
101, 2.—A somewhat slighting reference to the Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. For bushined cf. L'AU., ver. 131 and note.
104.—Musseus: a mythical singer, sometimes said to be the son of Orpheus.
106-8.—See note on L'All., ver. 145-150.
109-15.—The references here are to the Squire's Tale, which Chaucer left unfinished. Cambuscan (which Chaucer accented on the last syllable) is a corrupted form of Genghis Khan, the name of the eastern ruler at whose court the story opens. Camball and Algarsife were his sons, and Canace his daughter. Canace received gifts of a ring that enabled her to understand the language of birds and to know the medicinal properties of plants, and a mirror in which one's future could be seen. Cambuscan himself received a horse of brass which, by the turning of a pin, would bear the rider any distance he pleased in twenty-four hours, and a sword which would cut through anything, and the wounds from which could be cured only by being stroked by the flat of the sword itself.
113.—virtuous: having virtue or exceptional power.
116.—The allusion best fits Spenser and the Faerie Queene. The plural bards may be meant to include other writers of chivalrous poetry, such as Tasso and Ariosto.
120.—A reference to the allegory in the Faerie Queene and similar works.
122. —civil-suited: quietly dressed, i. e., in plain citizen garb, as differing from court or military dress (M.).
123. —tricked: adorned, frounced: with hair curled.
124. —the Attic boy: Cephalus, grandson of the King of Attica, whom Eos, goddess of the Dawn, carried off Od account of his beauty.
125. —With a cloud worn like a kerchief on her head. 127.—ushered: attended, shown in. Still is an adj.
130.—minute-drops: drops falling at intervals of a minute.
134. —brown: used for "dark," without emphasis on particular color. Sylvan: Silvanus, the old Italian god of woods and fields.
135. —monumental: memorial of past times, with the additional idea of "massiveness."
140. —profaner. This is sometimes taken as equivalent to "too profane," like the Latin absolute comparative. Cf. weaker in ver. 15.
141. —garish: staring.
145.—consort: so spelled means strictly "partner." But the word was often confused with "concert," and may be so here, in the sense of "harmony."
147-50.—This passage is very obscure, and no satisfactory interpretation has yet been offered. V. paraphrases thus:—"Let some dream float with undulating motion, (i. e., wave) at the wings of Sleep, amid a stream of vivid pictures which rest lightly on the eyelids." But the use of at is peculiar, and it is not clear that his in ver. 148 refers to sleep and not to dream. Dunster here again quotes from Sylvestet a passage which Milton seems to have had in mind:— \
Confusedly about the silent bed,
154. —Genius: guardian spirit.
155. —due. His feet are due in the cloister in the sense that it is the appropriate place for such a man. Cf. Camus, ver. 11. But Keightley explains it thus, "Denoting that it was his constant resort," and he has been much quoted.