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And his who gave them breath, but higher sung,
Blind Melesigenes, thence Homer call'd,
Whose poem Phoebus challenged for his own:
Thence what the lofty grave tragedians taught
In chorus or iambick, teachers best
Of moral prudence, with delight received
In brief sententious precepts, while they treat
Of fate, and chance, and change in human life,
High actions and high passions best describing:
Thence to the famous orators repair,
Those ancient, whose resistless eloquence
Wielded at will that fierce democratie,
Shook the arsenal, and fulmined over Greece
To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne:
To sage Philosophy next lend thine ear,
From Heaven descended to the low-roof'd house
Of Socrates; see there his tenement,
Whom well inspired the oracle pronounced
Wisest of men; from whose mouth issued forth
Mellifluous streams, that water'd all the schools
Of Academicks old and new, with those
Surnamed Peripateticks, and the sect
Epicurean, and the Stoick severe.
These here revolve, or, as thou lik'st, at home,
Till time mature thee to a kingdom's weight:
These rules will render thee a king complete
Within thyself, much more with empire join'd.
To whom our Saviour sagely thus replied:
Think not but that I know these things, or think
I know them not; not therefore am I short
Of knowing what I ought: he, who receives
283. These rules: Rather, their rules; or the word these may refer to line 264to the brief sententious precepts.
285. To whom, &c. This answer of our Saviour is as much to be admired for solid reasoning, and the many sublime truths contained in it, as the preceding speech of Satan is for that fine vein of poetry which runs through it. And we may observe in general, that Milton has quite, throughout this work, thrown the ornaments of poetry on the side of error, whether it was that he thought great truths best expressed in a grave, unaffected style, or intended to suggest this fine moral to the reader-that simple, naked truth will always be an over-match for falsehood, though recommended by the gayest rhetorick and adorned with the most bewitching colours.-THYER.
Light from above, from the fountain of light,
No other doctrine needs, though granted true;
But these are false, or little else but dreams,
Conjectures, fancies, built on nothing firm.
The first and wisest of them all profess'd
To know this only, that he nothing knew;
The next to fabling fell, and smooth conceits;
A third sort doubted all things, though plain sense:
Others in virtue placed felicity,
But virtue join'd with riches and long life;
In corporal pleasure he, and careless ease:
The Stoick last in philosophick pride,
By him call'd virtue; and his virtuous man,
Wise, perfect in himself, and all possessing
Equal to God, oft shames not to prefer,
As fearing God nor man, contemning all
Wealth, pleasure, pain or torment, death and life,
Which, when he lists, he leaves, or boasts he can,
For all his tedious talk is but vain boast,
Or subtle shifts conviction to evade.
Alas! what can they teach, and not mislead,
Ignorant of themselves, of God much more,
And how the world began, and how man fell
Degraded by himself, on grace depending?
Much of the soul they talk, but all awry,
And in themselves seek virtue, and to themselves
All glory arrogate, to God give none;
Rather accuse him under usual names,
Fortune and Fate, as one regardless quite
Of mortal things. Who therefore seeks in these
True wisdom, finds her not; or, by delusion,
Far worse, her false resemblance only meets,
An empty cloud. However, many books,
Wise men have said, are wearisome: who reads
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit and judgment equal or superiour,
(And what he brings what need he elsewhere seek?)
Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
Deep versed in books, and shallow in himself,
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys
And trifles for choice matters, worth a sponge;
As children gathering pebbles on the shore.
Or, if I would delight my private hours
With musick or with poem; where, so soon
As in our native language, can I find
293. The first: Socrates. The next: Plato, whom our author, in one of his Latin poems, terms "fabulator maximus."
296. A third sort: Scepticks, the disciples of Pyrrho. Others: the Platonicks and Peripateticks.
299. In corporal pleasure he: Epicurus.
327. Deep versed, &c. Knowledge is proud that he has learn'd so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more. Cowper
329. Worth a sponge. As the sponge is used for blotting out, so worth a sponge literally means not worth preserving.
That solace? All our law and story strew'd
With hymns, our psalms with artful terms inscribed,
Our Hebrew songs and harps, in Babylon
That pleased so well our victors' ear, declare
That rather Greece from us these arts derived;
Ill imitated, while they loudest sing
The vices of their deities, and their own,
In fable, hymn, or song, so personating
Their gods ridiculous, and themselves past shame.
Remove their swelling epithets, thick laid
As varnish on a harlot's cheek; the rest,
Thin sown with aught of profit or delight,
Will far be found unworthy to compare
With Sion's songs, to all true tastes excelling,
Where God is praised aright, and godlike men,
The Holiest of Holies, and his saints,
(Such are from God inspired, not such from thee,)
Unless where moral virtue is express'd
By light of Nature, not in all quite lost.
Their orators thou then extoll'st, as those
The top of eloquence; statists indeed,
And lovers of their country, as may seem;
But herein to our prophets far beneath,
As men divinely taught, and better teaching
The solid rules of civil government,
In their majestick unaffected style,
Than all the oratory of Greece and Rome.
In them is plainest taught, and easiest learnt,
What makes a nation happy, and keeps it so;
What ruins kingdoms, and lays cities flat:
These only with our law best form a king.
So spake the Son of God: but Satan, now
Quite at a loss, (for all his darts were spent,)
Thus to our Saviour with stern brow replied:
Since neither wealth nor honour, arms nor arts,
Kingdom nor empire pleases thee, nor aught
By me proposed in life contemplative
Or active, tended on by glory or fame,
What dost thou in this world? The wilderness
For thee is fittest place; I found thee there,
And thither will return thee: yet remember
What I foretell thee: soon thou shalt have cause
To wish thou never hadst rejected, thus
Nicely or cautiously, my offer'd aid,
346. Will far be found, &c. Undoubt edly these were Milton's own sentiments, though delivered in an assumed character. It must, however, be observed, that Christ is here answering Satan's speech, and counteracting his exquisite panegyrick on the philosophers, poets, and
341. Personating: To celebrate loudly; | orators of Athens. Yet at the same time
from. the Latin persona.
I can conceive that Satan's speech, which here he means to confute, and which no man was more able to write than himself, came from the heart. The writers of dialogue in feigned characters have great advantage.-J. WARTON.
354. Statists: Statesmen.
Which would have set thee in short time with ease
On David's throne, or throne of all the world,
Now at full age, fulness of time, thy season,
When prophecies of thee are best fulfilled.
Now contrary, if I read aught in heaven,
Or heaven write aught of fate, by what the stars
Voluminous, or single characters,
In their conjunction met, give me to spell;
Sorrows, and labours, opposition, hate
Attend thee, scorns, reproaches, injuries,
Violence and stripes, and lastly cruel death:
A kingdom they portend thee; but what kingdom,
Real or allegorick, I discern not;
Nor when; eternal sure, as without end,
Without beginning; for no date prefix'd
Directs me in the starry rubrick set.
So saying, he took, (for still he knew his power
Not yet expired,) an to the wilderness
Brought back the Son of God, and left him there,
Feigning to disappear. Darkness now rose,
As daylight sunk, and brought in lowering Night,
Her shadowy offspring; unsubstantial both,
Privation mere of light and absent day.
Our Saviour meek, and with untroubled mind
After his aery jaunt, though hurried sore,
Hungry and cold, betook him to his rest,
Wherever, under some concourse of shades,
Whose branching arms thick intertwined might shield 405
From dews and damps of night his shelter'd head;
But, shelter'd, slept in vain; for at his head
The tempter watch'd, and soon with ugly dreams
Disturb'd his sleep. And either tropick now
'Gan thunder, and both ends of heaven; the clouds,
From many a horrid rift, abortive pour'd
Fierce rain with lightning mix'd, water with fire
In ruin reconciled: nor slept the winds
Within their stony caves, but rush'd abroad
From the four hinges of the world, and fell
On the vex'd wilderness, whose tallest pines,
Though rooted deep as high; and sturdiest oaks,
Bow'd their stiff necks, loaden with stormy blasts,
Or torn up sheer. Ill wast thou shrouded then,
O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st
Unshaken! Nor yet stay'd the terrour there;
Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round
Environ'd thee; some howl'd, some yell'd, some shriek'd,
Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou
415. Four hinges: That is, from the four cardinal points, the word cardo, in Latin, meaning "a hinge," upon which any thing turns.
419. Or torn up sheer. This magnificent description of a storm thus raised by Satan in the wilderness, is so admirable and striking, that it need not be enlarged upon.-BRYDGES.
Sat'st unappall'd in calm and sinless peace!
Thus pass'd the night so foul, till Morning fair
Came forth, with pilgrim steps, in amice gray;
Who with her radiant finger still'd the roar
Of thunder, chased the clouds, and laid the winds,
And grisly spectres, which the fiend had raised
To tempt the Son of God with terrours dire.
And now the sun with more effectual beams
Had cheer'd the face of earth, and dried the wet
From drooping plant or dropping tree; the birds,
Who all things now behold more fresh and green,
After a night of storm so ruinous,
Clear'd up their choicest notes in bush and spray,
To gratulate the sweet return of morn.
Nor yet, amidst this joy and brightest morn,
Was absent, after all his mischief done,
The prince of darkness; glad would also seem
Of this fair change, and to our Saviour came;
Yet with no new device; (they all were spent,)
Rather by this his last affront resolved,
Desperate of better course, to vent his rage
And mad despite to be so oft repell'd.
Him walking on a sunny hill he found,
Back'd on the north and west by a thick wood.
Out of the wood he starts in wonted shape,
And in a careless mood thus to him said:
And harmless, if not wholesome, as a sneeze
To man's less universe, and soon are gone:
Yet, as being ofttimes noxious where they light
On man, beast, plant, wasteful and turbulent,
Like turbulencies in the affairs of men,
Over whose heads they roar, and seem to point,
They oft fore-signify, and threaten ill:
This tempest at this desert most was bent;
Of men at thee, for only thou here dwell'st.
Did I not tell thee, if thou didst reject
427. Amice Gray: From the Latin amicio, to clothe. The combination amice gray, is from what is called graius amictus, a gray habit worn by ecclesiastics and pilgrims.
432. And now the sun, &c. "There is, in this description, all the bloom of Milton's youthful fancy."-THYER. "It is impossible to forbear remarking that this description exhibits some of the finest
Fair morning yet betides thee, Son of God,
After a dismal night: I heard the wrack,
As earth and sky would mingle; but myself
Was distant; and these flaws, though mortals fear them
As dangerous to the pillar'd frame of heaven,
Or to the earth's dark basis underneath,
Are to the main as inconsiderable
Thy kingdom though foretold By prophet or by angel, unless thou Endeavour, as thy father David did Thou never shalt obtain.
lines which Milton has written in all his poems."-J. WARTON.
449. In wonted shape: That is, in his own proper shape, and under no disguise.
467. Did I not tell thee, &c. Here is something to be understood: the thing told, we may suppose to be what Satan had before said, iii. 351