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Throughout the fluid mass; but downward purged
The black, tartareous, cold, infernal dregs,
Adverse to life: then founded, then conglobed
Like things to like; the rest to several place
Disparted, and between spun out the air ;
And earth, self-balanced, on her centre hung.
Let there be light, said God"; and forthwith light
Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure,
Sprung from the deep; and from her native east
To journey through the aery gloom began,
Sphered in a radiant cloud, for yet the sun
Was not; she in a cloudy tabernacle
Sojourned the while. God saw the light was good ;
And light from darkness by the hemisphere
Divided : light the day, and darkness night
He named. Thus was the first day even and morn :
Nor past uncelebrated, nor unsung
By the celestial quires, when orient light
Exhaling first from darkness they beheld :
Birth-day of heaven and earth : with joy and shouts
The hollow universal orb they fill’d,
And touch'd their golden harps, and hymning praised
God and his works ; Creator him they sung,
Both when first evening was, and when first morn.
Again, God said, Let there be firmament
Amid the wa
rs, and let it divide
The waters from the waters : and God made
The firmament, expanse of liquid, pure,
Transparent, elemental air, diffused
In circuit to the uttermost convex
Of this great round; partition firm and sure,
The waters underneath from those above
Dividing : for as earth, so he the world
Built on circumfluous waters calm, in wide
Crystalline ocean, and the loud misrule
Of Chaos far removed ; lest fierce extremes
* Let there be light, said God. Gen. i. 3: “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” This is the passage that Longinus particularly admires; and no doubt its sublimity is greatly owing to its conciseness; but our poet enlarges upon it, endeavouring to give some account how light was created the first day, when the sun was not formed till the fourth day. He says that it was sphered in a radiant cloud, and so journeyed round the earth in a cloudy tabernacle; and herein is he justified by the authority of some commentators, though others think this light shone but imperfectly, and did not appear in full lustre till the fourth day.--NEWTON.
s With joy and shout. Job xxxvii. 4, 7: “Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth: when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"-NEWTON.
t Let there be firmament. See Gen. i. 6 : “Firmament” signifies expansion. —NEWTON.
Contiguous might distemper the whole frame:
And heaven u he named the firmament: so even
And morning chorus sung the second day.
The earth was form’d, but in the womb as yet
Of waters, embryon immature involved,
Appear'd not: over all the face of earth
Main ocean flow'd, not idle ; but, with warm
Prolific humour softening all her globe,
Fermented the great mother to conceive,
Satiate with genial moisture; when God said,
Be gather'd now, ye waters under heaven,
Into one place, and let dry land appear.
Immediately the mountains huge appear
Emergent, and their broad bare backs upheave
Into the clouds : their tops ascend the sky:
So high as heaved the tumid hills, so low
Down sunk a hollow bottom broad and deep,
Capacious bed of waters : thither they
Hasted with glad precipitance, uprollid,
As drops on dust conglobing from the dry :
Part rise in crystal wall
, or ridge direct,
For haste; such flight the great command impress'd
On the swift floods : as armies at the call
Of trumpets (for of armies thou hast heard)
Troop to their standard; so the watery throng,
Wave rolling after wave, where way they found,
If steep, with torrent rapture ; if through plain,
Soft ebbing: nor withstood them rock or hill;
But they, or under ground, or circuit wide
With serpent errour wandering, found their way,
And on the washy ooze deep channels wore ;
Easy, ere God had bid the ground be dry,
All but within those banks, where rivers now
Stream, and perpetual draw their humid train.
The dry land, earth w; and the great receptacle
Of congregated waters, he call'd seas :
And saw that it was good ; and said, Let the earth
Put forth the verdant grass, herb yielding seed,
And fruit-tree yielding fruit after her kind,
Whose seed is in herself
So Gen. i. 8. According to the Hebrews there were three heavens. The first is the air, wherein the clouds move, and the birds fly; the second is the starry heaven; and the third is the habitation of the angels and the seat of God's glory. Milton is speaking here of the first heaven, as he mentions the others in other places.—NEWTON.
"Be gather'd now, ye waters. See Gen. i. 9; and Psalm civ. 6, et seq.-NEWTON.
w The dry land, earth. These are again the words of Genesis formed into verse, i, 10, 11. But when he comes to the descriptive part, he then opens a finer vein of poetry.—NEWTON.
He scarce had said, when the bare earth, till then
Desert and bare, unsightly, unadorn’d,
Brought forth the tender grass, whose verdure clad
Her universal face with pleasant green ;
Then herbs of every leaf, that sudden flower'd «,
Opening their various colours, and made gay
Her bosom, smelling sweet : and these, scarce blown,
Forth flourish'd thick the clustering vine, forth crept
The swelling gourd, up stood the corny reed
Embattled in her field, and the humble shrub,
And bush with frizzled hair implicit : last
Rose, as in dance, the stately trees, and spread
Their branches hung with copious fruit, or gemm’d
Their blossoms : with high woods the fields were crown'd,
With tufts the valleys, and each fountain-side ;
With borders long the rivers : that earth now
Seem'd like to heaven, a seat where gods might dwell,
Or wander with delight, and love to haunt
Her sacred shades : though God had yet not rain'd
Upon the earth, and man to till the ground
None was; but from the earth a dewy mist
Went up, and water'd all the ground, and each
Plant of the field; which, ere it was in the earth,
God made, and every herb, before it grew
On the green stem: God saw that it was good :
So even and morn recorded the third day.
Again the Almighty spake, Let there be lights
High in the expanse of heaven, to divide
The day from night; and let them be for signs,
For seasons, and for days, and circling years;
And let them be for lights, as I ordain
Their office in the firmament of heaven,
To give light on the earth ; and it was so.
And God made two great lights, great for their use
To man, the greater to have rule by day,
The less by night, altern; and made the stars,
And set them in the firmament of heaven
To illuminate the earth, and rule the day
In their vicissitude, and rule the night,
And light from darkness to divide. God saw,
Surveying his great work, that it was good;
For of celestial bodies first the sun,
A mighty sphere, he framed, unlightsome first,
Though of ethereal mould: then form’d the moon
Globose, and every magnitude of stars,
And sow'd with stars the heaven, thick as a field :
Of light by far the greater part he took,
* Sudden flower'd. See Esdras vi. 44.-Todd.
Transplanted from her cloudy shrine, and placed
In the sun's orb, made porous to receive
And drink the liquid light; firm to retain
Her gather'd beams, great palace now of light.
Hither, as to their fountain, other stars
Repairing, in their golden urns draw light,
And hence the morning planet gilds her horns ;
By tincture or reflection they augment
Their small peculiar, though from human sight
So far remote, with diminution seen.
First in his east the glorious lamp was seen,
Regent of day, and all the horizon round
Invested with bright rays, jocund to run
His longitude through heaven's high road ; the gray
Dawn, and the Pleiades, before him danced y,
Shedding sweet influence ? ; less bright the moon,
But opposite in level'd west was set,
His mirrour, with full face borrowing her light
From him ; for other light she needed none
In that aspect, and still that distance keeps
Till night; then in the east her turn she shines,
Revolved on heaven's great axle, and her reign
With thousand lesser lights dividual holds,
With thousand thousand stars, that then appear'd
Spangling the hemisphere: then first adorn'd
With their bright luminaries, that set and rose,
Glad evening and glad morn crowu'd the fourth day.
And God said, Let the waters a generate
Reptile with spawn abundant, living soul :
And let fowl fly above the earth, with wings
Display'd on the open firmament of heaven.
And God created the great whales, and each
Soul living, each that crept, which plenteously
y The Pleiades, before him danced. These are beautiful images, and very much resemble the famous picture of the Morning by Guido, where the sun is represented in his chariot, with Aurora flying before him, shedding flowers, and seven beautiful nymph-like figures, dancing before and about his chariot, which are commonly taken for the Hours, but possibly may be the Pleiades, as they are seven in number, and it is not easy to assign a reason why the Hours should be signified by that number particularly. The picture is on a ceiling at Rome; but there are copies of it in England, and an excellent print by Jac. Frey. The Pleiades are seven stars in the neck of the constellation Taurus, which, rising about the time of the vernal equinox, are called by the Latins “Vergiliæ.” Our poet therefore, in saying that the Pleiades danced before the sun at his creation, intimates very plainly that the creation was in the spring, according to the common opinion, Virg. Georg. ii. 338, &c. -NEWTON.
2 Shedding sweet influence. See Job xxxvii. 31 :-“Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades ?”— HUME.
a And God said, Let the waters. This, and eleven verses following, are almost word for word from Genesis, i. 20—22: the poet afterwards branches out his general account of the fifth day's creation into the several particulars.—NEWTON.
The waters generated by their kinds :
And every bird of wing after his kind ;
And saw that it was good, and bless'd them, saying,
Be fruitful, multiply, and in the seas,
And lakes, and running streams, the waters fill :
And let the fowl be multiplied on the earth.
Forthwith the sounds and seas, each creek and bay,
With fry innumerable swarm, and shoals
Of fish that with their fins, and shining scales,
Glide under the green wave, in sculls b that oft
Bank the mid sea : part single, or with mate,
Graze the sea-weed their pasture, and through groves
Of coral stray; or, sporting with quick glance,
Show to the sun their waved coats dropt with gold;
Or, in their pearly shells at ease, attend
Moist nutriment; or under rocks their food
In jointed armour watch : on smooth the seal
And bended dolphins play : part huge of bulk,
Wallowing unwieldy, enormous in their gait,
Tempest the ocean : there leviathan,
Hugest of living creatures, on the deep
Stretch'd like a promontory, sleeps or swims,
And seems a moving land; and at his gills
Draws in, and at his trunk spouts out, a sea.
Meanwhile the tepid caves, and fens, and shores,
Their brood as numerous hatch, from the egg that soon
Bursting with kindly rupture forth disclosed
Their callow young; but feather'd soon and fledge
They summ’d their pens ; and, soaring the air sublime,
With clang despised the ground, under a cloud
In prospect; there the eagle and the stork
On cliffs and cedar-tops c their eyries build :
Part loosely wing the region ; part, more wise,
In common, ranged in figure, wedge their way,
Intelligent of seasons d, and set forth
Their aery caravan, high over seas
Flying, and over lands, with mutual wing
Easing their flight; so steers the prudent crane
Her annual voyage, borne on winds ; the air
Floats as they pass, fann'd with unnumber'd plumes :
From branch to branch the smaller birds with song
Solaced the woods, and spread their painted wings
Till even ; nor then the solemn nightingale e b Sculls is undoubtedly shoals.
con cliffs and cedar-tops. See Job xxxix, 27, 28.-NEWTON.
d Intelligent of seasons. See Jerem. viii, 7.-NEWTON.
e The solemn nightingale. Milton's fondness and admiration of the nightingale may be seen, as Newton has