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119. —blind mouths: "A 'Bishop' means 'a person who sees.' A 'Pastor* means 'a person who feeds.' The most unbishoply character a man can have is therefore to be Blind. The most unpastoral is, instead of feeding, to
- want to be fed,—to be a Mouth."
—Sesame and Lilies, \ 22.
120, 1.—The pastoral imagery familiar in connection with the Church is here united with that of the conventional literary type which the poem follows in general.
122. —What recks . . . sped: What does it matter to them? What lflo'rCTrVtley want? They have succeeded in getting what they were after, the material rewards of the priesthood.
123. —list: please. The implication is that they preached only when they felt inclined, lean: containing no spiritual nourishment, flashy: watery, insipid, trashy.
124. —scrannel: said to be a Lancashire dialect word meaning "thin," "meagre." The sound of the wordand the context go far to give us Milton's idea. Cf. Scottish, scran, to scrape together.
126.—rank: poisonous. The suggestion is that the careless shepherds let the sheep wander into pestilential marshes. Symbolically, it refers to the risk of heresy. draw: inhale.
128.—grim wolf: the church of Borne, privy: referring to the secret proselytizing then going on.
130.—two-handed engine. engrme=instrument. The reference here is obscure. A favorite explanation is that it is to "the axellaid unto the root of the tree" (Matthew 11\ 10); M. sees a reference to the two Houses of Parliament V. to the sword of Justice. Perhaps Milton meant nothing more than that an effective remedy was at the door i. e., close at hand.
132.—Alpheus. Just as after the digression on Fame h resumed by calling on Arethusa as a symbol of paatora poetry, so after this digression on the state of the Church he calls on Alpheus, the lover of Arethusa. The dread voice is, of course, St. Peter's, and the shrinking of the streams represents the checking of the flow of pastoral verse.
133.—Sicilian muse. Cf. note on ver. 85. 136.—use: dwell, have their haunts.
138. —swart star: i. e., the star that makes things swart or dark with scorching, the Dog-star, Sirius. sparely: but little, seldom.
139. —quaint enamelled eyes: cfcriotisly colored flowers.
141. —purple: imperative of the verb. Purple is used in a general sense, ''to make richly colored."
142. —rathe: early. Used now only in the comparative, forsaken. This is usually interpreted as "unwedded," partly because Milton first wrote "unwedded" in obvious reminiscence of Shakspere's
But perhaps he was thinking of the loneliness of the primrose, blooming in retired places, and so early that -few other flowers are out.
151.—laureate hearse, hearse has had a great variety of' meanings, but here it is understood to signify the wooden frame on which the coffin rested. Memorial stanzas / were often fastened to this, hence laureate refers to Lycidas and the other verses written in honor of King.
153, 4.—Milton recalls the fact that he has been playing with the idea that they really had the body of King for burial, when in fact it was lost in the sea. surmise: fancy.
154. —The series of clauses beginning at whilst are all subordinate to the clause in ver. 153.
The name is Greek, meaning^
156.—Hebrides: islands off the west coast of Scotland.
158. —monstrous: inhabited by monsters.
159. —moist vows: tearful vows.
160. —fable of Bellerus: i. e., Land's End, in the extreme southwest of England. The Latin name for this cape was Bellerium, and this word Milton derives from an imaginary Bellcrus.
161. —guarded mount: St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, on which was a craggy seat where the Archangel was fabled to appear at times: hence great vision. There are ruins of a fortress on the hill, but the epithet guarded is more likely to refer to the protection of the angel.
162. —Namancos and Bayona are both on the coast of Spain near Cape Finisterre, the direction in which the vision of the Archangel was fabled to have looked over the sea.
163. —ruth: pity. Professor Corson ingeniously suggests that in this line we have a further reference to the ecclesiastical situation. In making the Archangel Michael, the guardian of the Church, look towards Spain, the stronghold of Catholicism, Milton, he thinks, meant to symbolize the Archangel's watchfulness against foreign danger. But now that the Church is exposed to danger from within, he calls on him to Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth,
164. —dolphins: in allusion to the story of Arion, a Greek poet and musician. Once, when he was at sea, the crew determined to kill him for his wealth, but he obtained permission to sing to his lyre for the last timei and then jump into the sea. His music brought a number of dolphins round the ship, and when he jumped overboard they bore him safe to land, where he had the sailors punished.
168.—day-star: the sun.
170.—tricks: dresses. ore: here used for "sparkling metal." Milton probably thought of gold. "No doubt, this was due to a mistaken belief that ore=aurum" (V.).
175. —nectar: used to keep up the imagery of pagan mythology, though in a description of the Christian heaven, oozy: moist, referring to the manner of hia death.
176. —unexpressive: inexpressible, nuptial song. Cf. Revelation, XIX, 9, "Blessed are they which are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb."
186-193.—The last eight lines form a stanza (in ottava rima, as has been pointed out) apart, in which the poet no longer sings as a shepherd, but in a detached way describes the speaker of the foregoing.
186.—uncouth: literally, "unknown," here "rough," "rustic."
188. —stops: the holes in a wind instrument, quills. Skeat says that this sense of "reed" is probably older than that of "feather."
189. —Doric. The Sicilian pastoral poets wrote in the Doric dialect.
190. —Had lengthened out the shadows of the hills. 192.—twitched: gathered round him.
Acheron, m, 604.
Bacchus, i, 16; in, 46.