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Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat,
645 The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their Guide. They hand in hand, with wand'ringsteps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way.
visible; but where there is a gloom only, there is so much light remaining, as serves to show that there are objects, and yet that those objects cannot be distinctly seen. In this sense Milton seems to use the strong and bold expression, “ darkness visible.” Pearce.
Seneca has a like expression, speaking of the Grotta of Pousilypo, Senec. Epist. lvii. Nihil illo carcere longius, nihil illis faucibus obscurius, que nobis præstant, non ut per tenebras videamus, sed ut ipsas. And, as Mons. Voltaire observes, Antonio de Solis, in his excellent History of Mexico, hath ventured on the same thought, when speaking of the place wherein Montezuma was wont to consult his Deities; “ 'Twas a large dark subterraneous vault (says he) where some dismal tapers afforded just light enough to see the obscurity." See his Essay on Epic Poetry, p. 44. Euripides too expresses himself in the same poetical manner. Bac. 510.
-ως αν σκοτιον εισορα κνεφας There is much the same image in Spenser, but not so bold, Faery Queen, B. 1. Cant. 1. St. 14.
A little glooming light, much like a shade. Or after all, the Author might perhaps take the hint from himself, in his Il Penseroso,
Where g?owing embers through the room
Newton. 74. As from the center thrice to th’utmost pole.] Thrice as far as it is from the center of the earth (which is the center of the world, according to Milton's system, ix. 103. and x. 671.) to the pole of the world; for it is the pole of the universe, far beyond the pole of the earth, which is here called the utmost pole. It is observable that Homer makes the seat of Hell as far beneath the deepest pit of earth, as the Heaven is above the earth.
Τοσσον ενερθ' αΐδιω, οσον ερα απο γαιης. Ιliad. viii. 16.
Tum Tartarus ipse
patet in præceps tantum tenditque sub umbras,
Quantus ad æthereum cæli suspectus Olympum. Æn. vi. 577. And Milton thrice as far,
As far remov'd from God and light of Heav's,
As from the center thrice to th’ utmost pole. YOL, 11.
As if these three great poets had stretched their utmost genius, and vied with each other who should extend his idea of the depth of Hell farthest. But Milton's whole description of Hell as much exceeds theirs, as in this single circumstance of the depth of it. And how cool and unaffecting is the ταρταρον ηορσελα, the σιδηραιαιτε πυλαι sal yanxiovedos of Homer, and the lugentes campi, the ferrea turris, and horrisono stridentes cardine portæ of Virgil, in comparison with this description by Milton, concluding with that artful contrast, O how unlike the place from whence they fell !
Newton. 81. Beelzebub.] The lord of flies, an idol worshipped at Ecron, a city of the Philistines, 2 Kings i. 2. He is called “ Prince of the Devils," Mat. xii. 24. therefore deservedly here made second to Satan himself.
Hume. 82. And thence in Heav'n callid Satan, ] For the word Satan in Hebrew signifies an enemy: he is the enemy by way of eminence, the chief enemy of God and Man.
Newton. 84. If thou beest he ; &c.] The thoughts in the first speech and description of Satan, who is one of the principal actors in this Poem, are wonderfully proper to give us a full idea of him. His pride, envy and revenge, obstinacy, despair, and impenitence, are all of them very artfully interwoven. In short, his first speech is a complication of all those passions, which discover themselves separately in several other of his speeches in the Poem.
Addison. The change and confusion of these enemies of God, is most artfully expressed in the abruptness of the beginning of this speech: If thou art he, that Beelzebub - He stops, and falls into a bitter reflection on their present condition, compared with that in which they lately were. He attempts again to open his mind; cannot proceed on what he intends to say, but returns to those sad thoughts ; still doubting whether 'tis really his associate in the revolt, as now in misery and ruin ; by that time he had expatiated on this (his heart was oppressed with it) he is assured to whom he speaks, and goes on to declare his proud unrelenting mind.
Richardson. 84. - But O how fallen! how chang'd
From him] He imitates Isaiah and Virgil at the same time. Isaiah xiv. 12. "How art thou fallen,” &c. and Virgil's Æn. ii. 274. Hei mihi qualis erat! quantum mutatus ab illo !
86. Cloth'd with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads though bright!] Imitated from Homer, Odyss. vi. 110. where Diana excels all her nymphs in beauty, though all of them be beautiful. Ρεια δ' αριγνωτη σιλεται, καλαι δε τε πασαι.
Bentley. 93. He with his thunder:] There is an uncommon beauty in this expression. Satan disdains to utter the name of God, though he cannot but acknowledge his superiority. So agaiu ver. 257.
all but less than he Whom thunder hath made greater.
Newton, 105. What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; &c.] This passage is an excellent improvement upon Satan's speech to the infernal Spirits in Tasso, Cant. 4. St. 15. but seems to be expressed from Fairfax's translation rather than from the original, We lost the field, yet lost we not our heart.
Newton. 16. - since by fate, &c.] For Satan supposes the Angels to subsist by fate and necessity; and he represents them of an empyreal, that is a fiery substance, as the Scripture itself doth; “ He maketh his Angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." Psal. civ. 4. Heb. i. 7. Satan disdains to submit, since the Angels (as he says) are necessarily immortal, and cannot be destroyed ; and since too they are now improved in experience, and may hope to carry on the war more successfully, notwithstanding the present triumph of their adversary in Heav'n.
the tyranny of Heav'n.) The Poet, speaking in his own person at ver. 42. of the supremacy of the Deity, calls it “ the throne and monarchy of God;" but here very artfully alters it to “ the tyranny of Heaven.”
Tloyer. 125. So spake th' apostate Angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but rack’d with deep despair :) The sense of the last verse rises finely above that of the former. In the first verse it is only said, that he spake though in pain : In the last, the Poet expresses a great deal more; for Satan not only spake, but he vaunted aloud, and yet at the same time he was not only in pain, but was racked with deep despair.
Pearce. The Poet had probably in view this passage of Virgil, Æn. i. 212,