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632, 633. "whose exile hath emptied Heaven." A rhetorical exaggeration only a third part of the heavenly host had joined Satan (II. 692, V. 710, VI. 156). 673, 674. "metallic ore, the work of sulphur." The science of the Middle Ages, inherited by Paracelsus, based itself on a doctrine that sulphur and mercury were the two all-pervading substances in nature (unless salt was to be taken as a third), generating all things between them.
686. "Ransacked the Centre." Centre here is the Earth as a whole, not its interior merely. In old literature the Earth, as the supposed centre of the Universe, was frequently called "the centre" par excellence. Thus Shakespeare (Troil. and Cres. I. iii.):
"The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre,
728. "cressets": open vessels, with tarred ropes or the like burning in them.
739, 740. "in Ausonian land [i.e. Italy] men call him Mulciber." Observe the identification here of Mammon with Vulcan, one of whose names was Mulciber (the Softener).
756. "Pandemonium." Some think Milton the inventor of the word, formed on the analogy of Pantheon.
789-792. "Thus incorporeal Spirits to smallest shapes,” See note 419-437. There is a quaint ingenuity in the present application of Milton's postulate as to the expansibility or compressibility of the forms of the Spirits.
"Ormus": now Hormuz, an island in the Persian Gulf. 9. "by success untaught." The word "success" is here used not for "good fortune," but as equivalent merely to "event" or "issue."
76, 77. "descent and fall to us is adverse," i.e. inconsistent with our nature. It is a proposition with Milton, as to the physical nature of the Angels, that they are not, like men, subject to gravitation. The Rebel Angels had not properly fallen though Chaos into Hell; they had been driven down (lines 77-81). See Introd. p. 29.
100, 101. we are at worst on this side nothing." This
is sometimes printed, "we are, at worst, on this side nothing"; which spoils the meaning. Moloch means "We are now already at the worst that is possible on this side of total annihilation."
165. "strook." See Note to Od. Nat. 95.
278. "the sensible of pain," i.e. either the sensible property of pain, or the sensibility to pain.
299-309. "Which when Beelzebub perceived," etc. Observe how Milton reserves the decisive speech for the great angel, Beelzebub, the chief next to Satan, and already in private possession of his plans. In the preceding speeches Milton intended, doubtless, to represent poetically three very common types even of human statesmanship. Some men, in emergencies, take the Moloch view of affairs, which recommends boisterous action at all hazards; others take the Belial view, which recommends slothful and epicurean acquiescence; and others the Mammon view, which believes in the material industries and the accumulation of wealth. The Angels in the Council are evidently inclining to Belial's view, or to that as modified by Mammon, when a greater statesman than any of the three strikes in with a specific plan of action, not vague and blustering like Moloch's, but subtly adapted to the exigencies.
379, 380. "first devised by Satan, and in part proposed." See 1. 650-656.
410. "The happy Isle." Not "the earth hanging in the sea of air," as Bishop Newton and the commentators generally have supposed, for the Angels know nothing whatever as yet of the Earth or its environment. They know only vaguely of some kind of starry world about to be created, or perhaps created already; and this world, the whole Mundane Universe, hung somewhere in Chaos between Heaven and Hell, is what Beelzebub imagines as "the happy Isle" that might be reached.
432-444. Long is the way," etc. In these twelve lines, we have, from Satan's lips, a farther general sketch of the Miltonic zones or divisions of infinite Space, taken in ascending series. First there is Hell, or the huge convex of fire in which the speaker and his hearers are; when that is burst, and the adamantine gates overhead are passed, Chaos is reached; and somewhere over Chaos is the unknown new Starry World.
512. "A globe of fiery Seraphim." Globe, though generally interpreted here as "a battalion in circle," means really, in Milton's fancy, a solid globe or sphere; for the Angels, by their nature, may cluster in globes, cubes, or other solid figures. See Introd. p. 29, and previous notes, I. 789-792, and II. 76, 77. See also Par. Reg., IV. 581-2.
532. brigads" so spelt, and accented on the first syllable, as at I. 675.
542-546. "As when Alcides . the Euboic sea." Alcides is Hercules; and the allusions are to the legend of
his death, as told by Ovid, Metam. ix. 577-581. " Styx. . . Acheron . . . Cocytus. . . Phlegeton. Milton gives the etymologies of these names, which come from Greek verbs, meaning respectively "to hate," "to grieve," ," "to lament," and "to burn."- "Lethe," the 'great river" (line 583), means "oblivion."
592, 593. "that Serbonian bog betwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old." Damietta is a town in Egypt close to the easternmost mouth of the Nile; Mount Casius, now Cape Kareroon, is on the Egyptian coast farther to the east ; the Serbonian bog is Lake Serbonis in that vicinity.
595. "frore": an old form for froze or frozen: German, gefroren.
638, 639. "from Bengala, or the isles of Ternate and Tidore." Bengala is Bengal; Ternate and Tidore are two of the Moluccas.
641, 642. "Through the wide Ethiopian," i.e. through the Indian Ocean on its African side; "to the Cape," i.e. to the Cape of Good Hope; "ply stemming nightly toward the Pole," i.e. toward the South Pole, directed at night by the Southern Cross.
659-661. "Far less abhorred than these vexed Scylla," etc. By Circe's bewitchment, the nymph Scylla, when she bathed, was changed below the waist into hideous barking dogs. Having thrown herself into the sea between the Calabrian coast of Italy and Sicily (called Trinacria), she was changed into the famous rock or whirlpool.
662-666. "the night-hag," etc. Milton here passes to the Norse or Scandinavian mythology, in which Lapland is a great region of witchcraft.
678. "God and his Son except," etc. A curious construction, inasmuch as, taken exactly, it would include God and
"created things." But examples of this sort
his Son among
692. "the third part," etc. See note, Book 1. 632-3; and compare Rev. xii. 4.
709. "Ophiuchus," called also Anguitenens or Serpentarius, is a large constellation in the northern heaven. the names mean "the serpent-bearer.”
842. "buxom air": i.e. "flexible," "pliant," "easily bowed," the original meaning of buxom.
891-916. "the hoary Deep, a dark illimitable ocean," etc. Every part of this description of the Deep of Chaos, as seen upwards from Hell-gates, is minutely studied and considered. Altogether it would be difficult to quote a passage from any poet so rich in purposely accumulated perplexities, learned and poetical, or in which such care is taken, and so successfully, to compel the mind to a rackingly intense conception of sheer Inconceivability.
939. a boggy Syrtis." The Syrtes were two quicksands on the northern coast of Africa.
943-947. "As when a gryphon . . . pursues the Arimaspian," etc. The Arimaspians, in legend, were a oneeyed people of Scythia; who, in trying to get gold, had constant fights with creatures, called gryphons, partly eagle and partly lion, that guarded the mines.
964, 965. "Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name of Demogorgon." Orcus and Hades were two names for Pluto or his realm among the ancients. Demogorgon was a vague being, of tremendous occult powers of mischief, mysteriously hinted at in the classical poets, but first distinctly named, it is said, by the Christian writer Lactantius in the fourth century. He figures in Boccaccio and in Spenser (Faery Queene, I. v. 22, and Iv. ii. 47).
977-987. "or, if some other place, from your dominion mine the revenge. "" The exact meaning of this passage is worth attending to. Satan asks Chaos and Night to direct him the nearest way to Heaven; or, if (as he surmises) the new Universe of which he is in search has by this time been cut or scooped out of the upper part of Chaos immediately under Heaven, then to direct him the nearest way thither. As this new Universe is a space seized and subtracted from the ancient dominion of Chaos,-a bit of upper Chaos, so to speak, forcibly reclaimed by the Deity,
organised, and appended to Heaven,-Satan naturally appeals to the resentment of the Powers of Chaos, and promises them that, if they assist him, he will do his best to re-conquer the lost territory and reduce it back to Darkness.
1001-1006. "Encroached on still... first Hell... now lately Heaven and Earth,” etc. This is the first distinct intimation to Satan that the new Universe of Man had actually been created. He had guessed so before leaving Hell; but it was still only a guess in his speech to Chaos a few lines back (977-980). The Anarch, in his complaint of the encroachments on his dominion, makes the fact certain. First, he says, there had been the establishment of Hell at the bottom of Chaos; but since that there had been an excavation into Chaos at the top, above the point where he and Satan then stood, to form the Heaven and Earth of the Human World. See diagram in Introd. p. 33.
1017-1020. "than when Argo"-the ship in which Jason went to Colchis for the golden fleece,—“passed through Bosporus," the straits into the Black Sea, "betwixt the justling rocks," i.e. the Symplegades; "or when Ulysses on the larboard shunned Charybdis," i.e. kept to the left of it, "and by the other whirlpool steered," i.e. by Scylla.
1023-1028. But, he once passed . . . Sin and Death paved after him a broad and beaten way," etc. The building of this bridge between Hell and the Human Universe is afterwards described at length (x. 235 et seq.).
1029, 1030. "reaching the utmost Orb of this frail World": i.e. not the outermost star or the star nearest Chaos, but the outermost boss or circle of the starry sphere as a whole.
1034-1042. "But now at last the sacred influence of light appears," etc. Imagine Satan now nearing the external shell of the Human World, somewhere on its upper side (see diagram, Introd. p. 33), where he could be aware of the light from the Empyrean glimmering down into Chaos.
1048. "undetermined square or round." Heaven, or the Empyrean, being really unbounded, cannot be said to have a figure, though the imagination tends rather to the spherical in diagram.
1051-1053. "And, fast by," i.e. fast by the Empyrean, "this pendent World," etc. On the absurd and disastrous mistake in the usual interpretation of this passage, see Introd. p. 35.