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602, 605. "they bind volatile Hermes," i.e. solidify fluid mercury, "and call up unbound in various shapes old Proteus," etc. Proteus, in legend the sea-god whom it was all but impossible to fix in his native or real shape, so many disguises could he assume, stands here for the elementary matter or "prime substance" sought by the Alchemists.
607, 608. "elixir pure . . . potable gold": two dreams of the Alchemists, or rather one and the same; for "potable gold" was one imagined form of the elixir vite which would prolong life.
623. "The same whom John saw." Rev. xix. 17.
627. "fledge with wings," i.e. feathered or plumed with wings. We now use the form fledged; but the adjective fledge is found in old writers. Milton repeats the word Par. Lost, VII. 420; and it occurs in his prose.
648-650. "The Archangel Uriel, one of the seven," etc. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are the pre-eminent Archangels of the Bible or of Hebrew tradition; Uriel ("God's Light") is mentioned as an Archangel in the 2d Book of Esdras; Abdiel, Ithuriel, Zophiel, Uzziel, Zephon, and other great Angels, are afterwards mentioned by Milton, but which of them were the other three Archangels is not suggested. Satan had been one of the Archangels, if not the supreme Archangel. See Book v. 659, 660.
716. "this ethereal quintessence of Heaven," i.e. Light, a fifth essence, purer than Earth, Water, Air, or Fire.
730. "her countenance triform," i.e. crescent, full, and waning.
733. "That spot to which I point is Paradise." Paradise is to be conceived as a considerable tract, visible, where Uriel was, as a spot on the Earth's rotundity.
740. "the ecliptic": as then understood, the Sun's orbit round the Earth.
742. “on Niphates' top he lights.” Niphates, now Nimroud-Tagh, is a lofty mountain-range in Armenia, near the tract supposed to have been Paradise.
O for that warning voice,” etc. Rev. xii. 7-12. "O thou that," etc. See Introd. p. 20.
39. "above thy sphere": the sphere of the Sun, the fourth of the Ptolemaic spheres.
126. "the Assyrian mount." Niphates, in Armenia, here included in the general name Assyria.
132-171. Eden, where delicious Paradise," etc. Eden (meaning in Hebrew "Joy" or "Deliciousness") is the whole tract of Western Asia destined for primitive mankind; Paradise, now described (the word is Persian, meaning a Park or Pleasure-ground), is the Happy Garden in one part of this Eden (Gen. ii. 8).
153. landskip,” spelt “lantskip ” in the original edition. The word occurs four times in Milton's poetry—here, P. L. II. 491, V. 142, and L'All. 70—and always as lantskip.
159-165. "As when to them who sail," etc. Mr. Keightley says that what is here fancied is an impossibility. "When a vessel going to India has passed Mozambique, the coast of Arabia is due north of her, and at an immense distance, with a portion of the east coast of Africa interposed." Saba was a town of Arabia Felix, here called " Araby the Blest."
168-171. "Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume," etc. In the Book of Tobit the evil spirit Asmodeus, in love with a Jewess named Sara, living in the Median city of Ecbatana, destroys her husbands in succession, till at last, after her betrothal to Tobias, the son of Tobit, he is foiled. Instructed by the Archangel Raphael, Tobias burns the heart and liver of a fish; "the which smell when the Evil Spirit had smelled, he fled into the utmost parts of Egypt, and the Angel bound him."--"with a vengeance sent": an early instance of the use of this phrase in its present somewhat whimsical sense of "most emphatically.'
194, 195. "and on the Tree of Life, the middle tree,” etc. See Gen. ii. 9, and Rev. ii. 7.
200, 201. "what, well used, had been the pledge of immortality." The commentators have been puzzled by this passage. Satan being immortal already, they say, did not need the pledge of immortality that would have been given by eating of the Tree of Life; and the construction does not permit the "well-used" to be applied to Adam and Eve. Patrick Hume, the earliest commentator on Paradise Lost (1695), offered a peculiar solution of the difficulty. Adam, in the poem, certainly knows of the tree (see sequel, line
424); but, if Satan had known of it, then, Hume suggests, he might have made Adam and Eve eat of it after they had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and so doubled his malice by making them immortal in their sin and misery. This is supersubtle, but there may be something in it. Milton may have meant that Satan sat like a cormorant on the Tree of Life, using it for the mean purpose of prospect only, and little aware of its mysterious virtue, and of the higher uses to which it might have been turned even by himself. 210-214. "Eden stretched her line," etc. Milton here adopts the most orthodox hypothesis as to the site of Eden, placing it in Syria and Mesopotamia. He makes the limits in one direction to be from Auran on the west (Hauran, the Syrian district south of Damascus) to Seleucia on the east, i.e. to the capital of the Greek dynasty of the Seleucidæ, built on the Tigris about B. C. 300, near what is now Baghdad, in a region once called Telassar (Isaiah xxxvii. 12). The extent from west to east is about 450 miles: the boundaries north and south are not given. Paradise, according to Gen. ii. 8, is put in the east of Eden, i.e. in that part of the ancient Assyria where the Euphrates and the Tigris approach each other in flowing south.
223-246. "Southward through Eden went a river large," Much ingenuity has been spent in trying to identify the present river-system of the Syrian and Mesopotamian region with the Scriptural account of the rivers of Eden (Gen. ii. 10-14); but the difficulty of doing so has led many commentators to suppose an alteration of the river-system by the Deluge. Milton adheres to the Scriptural account, which speaks of one river watering the Garden and then dividing itself into four; but he adapts it to his purpose by making the head-stream pass underneath the hill of Paradise by a subterranean channel before dividing itself. He abstains from giving names here; but, as he afterwards distinctly names the head-stream the Tigris (IX. 71), the four divided streams must be, as in Scripture, the Pison, the Gihon, the Hiddekel (or Tigris continued), and the Euphrates.
268-284. "Not that fair field," etc. The geographical and mythological allusions are somewhat complex. ——Enna, where Proserpine, the daughter of Ceres, was carried off by Dis or Pluto, was in the heart of Sicily.The famous
Castalian spring of the Greeks was a stream of Mount Parnassus; but the one here meant was a spring which had borrowed the name, near Apollo's sacred grove of Daphne in Syria, not far from Antioch, where the Orontes flows into the Mediterranean. -The Nysa or "Nyseian isle" of the passage is perhaps an island in the lake Tritonis, about the middle of the northern coast of Africa, where the river Triton flows from the lake. Here, according to the account adopted by Milton (though other accounts make it at Nysa in Ethiopia), the infant Bacchus was educated. That god is generally made the son of Jupiter and the nymph Semele; Milton prefers making him the son of the Libyan Jupiter and the nymph Amalthea. In the common legend Bacchus is brought up secretly at Nysa to avoid the wrath of Juno; here it is to avoid the wrath of Rhea, Saturn's wife and Jupiter's stepmother.- Amara or Amhara is a tract of high table-land in the middle of Abyssinia, where the Blue Nile has its head, and where in the old maps the Nile as a whole is made to rise. Being about half way between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, it may be said to be "under the Ethiop line." Here was the delightful mountain Amara, "a day's journey high," with its gardens and palaces, where, according to the tradition hinted at in the passage (used afterwards by Dr. Johnson in his Rasselas), the sons of the Abyssinian emperors were educated in strict seclusion. Some thought Amara to have been the original Paradise.
323, 324. “Adam the goodliest man,” etc. These two lines have been pointed out as containing a kind of double bull in language,—making Adam the goodliest of Adam's sons, and Eve the fairest of Eve's daughters. But in Greek and Latin such a construction was not uncommon.
408-410. "when Aaam, first of men . . .,
The construction is "when Adam, thus moving speech to Eve, turned him-i.e. the Fiend-all ear," etc.
449, 450. "That day I oft remember," etc. It is surely implied here that, in Milton's imagination, Adam and Eve had already been together in Paradise for some considerable time. Yet this is in apparent inconsistency with the thread of time given in the action of the poem. The Earth, with the Mundane Universe round it, had been created in six of those nine days during which the Rebel Angels had been
lying in stupor in Hell, and Milton has already stipulated (1. 50-53) that those nine days were literal days, according to human measure. It can even be fixed by the sequel (VIII. 228-246) that it was on the sixth day or Friday of the creative Week, the very day on which Man was made, that the Rebel Angels were roused from their stupor, and that it was on the following day,—that Sabbath (Saturday) of Rest after the Creation which was spent in halleluiahs of joy among the Heavenly host of the faithful (VII. 551-634),— that the Rebel Angels, in hideously contrasted occupation, held their council down in Hell and adopted Satan's plan for the ruin of the newly-made Universe. Now, all that had happened since then in the action of the poem had been Satan's journey upwards through Chaos in quest of the new Universe, his discovery of it, his entrance into it, his arrival on the Earth near Eden, and his invasion of Paradise. Toilsome as the journey was, and with various interrupting incidents, one imagines, as one reads, that a day, or at most one or two days, sufficed for it. If so, at the date of the present speech of Eve to Adam, to which the Fiend is listening, Adam and Eve were but two or three days old. Yet in the phrase "That day I oft remember when from sleep I first awaked," etc., and also in other phrases and allusions in the poem, the day of the creation of Adam and Eve seems already some considerable way back in the past. As Milton must have been perfectly aware of the apparent inconsistency, I can only suppose that he adopted imaginatively two measures or rates of time in his poem-a transcendental rate generally for events in Heaven, Chaos, and Hell; and a human rate for events within the Mundane Universe-sometimes (as in the account of the creative Week) harmonizing them, but sometimes (as in the account of Satan's upward journey through Chaos) disconnecting them.
486. "individual," i.e. not to be divided, inseparable (Latin individuus). Compare Par. Lost, v. 610, and On Time, 12; also Par. Lost, VII. 382 and XII. 85.
492. "unreproved," i.e. not to be reproved, blameless. Used once besides in the same sense (L'All. 40).
539. "in utmost longitude," i.e. in the extreme west.
542, 543. Against the eastern gate of Paradise," etc. Mr. Keightley thinks this a slip. The setting sun could not level his rays direct against the eastern gate of Paradise,