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Mother of a hundred gods?
Who had thought this clime had held
As they come forward, the Genius of the wood appears, and, turning towards them, speaks:
GEN. Stay, gentle swains; for, though in this disguise,
To the great mistress of yon princely shrine,
28. Arcady. The inhabitants of Arcadia, in the Peloponnesus, were devoted to pastoral life; and hence the scene of many ancient pastoral poems, as well as of Sir Philip Sidney's "Arcadia," is laid there. Hence, of course, the name of
23. Give her odds. This certainly seems this pastoral fragment of a Mask by our no very elegant phrase, but it was a mode | of compliment usual in Milton's time.TODD.
26. Stay, &c. That is, though ye (the actors being of Lady Derby's own family) are disguised like rustics, and wear the habit of shepherds, I perceive ye are of honourable birth, your nobility cannot be concealed.
31. Arethuse. It was fabled that Arethusa, a nymph, and one of Diana's attendants, being pursued by the river-god Alpheus, was changed into a fountain, and flowed under the earth across the Adriatic, and came up at Ortygia, an island in the bay of Syracuse.
34. Quest: Inquiry, search. 44. By lot: By allotment. 46. To curl: To dress with curls. 57. Tassell'd horn. So Spenser, (Faerie Queene, i. viii. 3:)—
A horn of bugle small, Which hung adowne his side in twisted gold And tassels gay.
Shakes the high thicket, haste I all about,
And so attend ye toward her glittering state;
O'er the smooth enamell'd green
And touch the warbled string,
62. Then listen I, &c. This is Plato's system. Fate, or Necessity, holds a spinJle of adamant; and, with her three daughters (Lachesis, Clotho, and Atropos) who handle the vital web wound about the spindle, she conducts or turns the heavenly bodies. Nine Muses, or Syrens, sit on the summit of the spheres, which, in their revolutions, produce the most ravishing musical harmony. To this harmony the three daughters of Necessity perpetually sing in correspondent tones. In the mean time the adamantine spindle, which is placed in the lap or on the knees of Necessity, and on which the fate of men and gods is wound, is also revolved. This MUSIC OF THE SPHERES, proceeding from the rapid motion of the heavens, is so loud, various, and sweet, as to exceed all aptitude or proportion of the human ear, and therefore is not heard by men. Moreover, this spherical music consists of eight unisonous melodies; the ninth is a concentration of all the rest, or a diapason of all those eight
melodies; which diapason or concentus the nine Syrens sing or address to the Supreme Being. This last circumstance illustrates, or rather explains the sixth, seventh, and eighth lines of the "Ode at a Solemn Music:"
That undisturbed song of pure concent, &c. Milton, full of these Platonic ideas, has here a reference to this consummate concentual song of the ninth sphere, which is undisturbed and pure, that is unalloyed and perfect. The Platonism is here, however, in some degree Christianized.-T. WARTON.
81. Glittering state. The Nymphs and Shepherds are here directed by the Genius to look and advance towards a glittering state, or canopy, in the midst of the stage, in which the Countess of Derby was placed as a Rural Queen. It does not appear that the second song, which here immediately follows, was now sung. Some machinery or other matter intervened.-T. WARTON.
Nymphs and shepherds, dance no more
Trip no more in twilight ranks;
A better soil shall give ye thanks.
Such a rural queen
All Arcadia hath not seen.
106. Syrina was a nymph of Arcadia and daughter of the river Ladon. Pan fell in love with her, and pursued her till she reached the river Ladon, when, thinking to embrace the object of his
97. Ladon: A river of Arcadia. Ly- | love, he found his arms filled with reeds. cous, Cyllene, Erymanthus, and Manalus, all mountains of the same country.
While he stood sighing at his dissppointment, the wind began to agitate the reeds, which produced a low musical sound. The god took the hint, cut seven of the reeds, and formed from them his pastoral pipe, which he called ovou, syrinx, after the name of the nymph.
In this Monody, the author bewails a learned friend, unfortunately drowned in his passage from Chester on the Irish seas, 1637; and by occasion foretells the ruin of our corrupted clergy, then in their highth.
YET once more, O ye laurels, and once more
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude;
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year:
With lucky words favour my destined urn;
And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.
1. Yet once more. This has reference to his poetical compositions in general, or rather to his last poem, which was "Comus." He would say, "I am again, in the midst of other studies, unexpect edly and unwillingly called back to poetry; again compelled to write verses, in consequence of the recent disastrous loss of my shipwrecked friend," &c. The plants here mentioned are not as some have suspected, appropriated to elegy,
This poem first appeared in a Cambridge collection of verses on the death of Mr. Edward King, fellow of Christ's college, printed at Cambridge in a thin quarto, 1638. It consists of three Greek, nineteen Latin, and thirteen English poems.
Edward King, the subject of this Monody, was the son of Sir John King, knight, secretary for Ireland, under Queen Elizabeth, James I., and Charles I. He was sailing from Chester to Ireland, on a visit to his friends and relations in that country, when, in calm weather, not far from the English coast, the ship, a very crazy vessel, "a fatal and perfidious bark," struck on a rock, and suddenly sunk to the bottom with all that were on board, not one escaping, August 10, 1637. King was now only twenty-five years old: he was perhaps a native of Ireland, and at Cambridge he was distinguished for his piety, and proficiency in polite literature.
This poem, as appears by the Trinity manuscript, was written in November, 1637, when Milton was not quite twenty-nine years old.-T. WARTON.
For we were nursed upon the self-same hill;
Rough Satyrs danced, and Fauns with cloven heel
But, O, the heavy change, now thou art gone,
The willows, and the hazel copses green,
Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays.
Or taint-worm to the weanling herds that graze,
Or frost to flowers, that their gay wardrobe wear,
27. We drove afield. That is, "we drove our flocks afield." I mention this, that Gray's echo of the passage in his Elegy, yet with another meaning, may not mislead many careless readers.
How jocund did they drive their team afield. From the regularity of his pursuits, the purity of his pleasures, his temperance, and general simplicity of life, Milton habitually became an early riser. Hence he gained an acquaintance with the beauties of the morning, which he so frequently contemplated with delight, and has therefore so repeatedly described, in all their various appearances.-T. WARTON. See Milton's own account of his morning hours, "Compendium of English Literature," page 268.
28. The sultry horn of the gray-fly, (called by naturalists the Trumpet-fly) is the sharp hum of this insect at noon, or the hottest part of the day.
Such, Lycidas, thy loss to shepherd's ear.
Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deep 50
36. Damatas, a character in Virgil's third Eclogue.
40. Gadding vine. Dr. Warburton supposes that the vine is here called gadding, because, being married to the elm, like too many other wives she is fond of gadding abroad, and seeking a new associate.
45. The whole context of words in this and the four following lines is melodious and enchanting.-BRYDGES.
50. Where were ye. This burst is as magnificent as it is affecting.-BRYDGES.
52. On the steep. In the midst of this wild imagery, the tombs of the Druids, dispersed over the solitary mountains of Denbighshire, the shaggy summits of Mona, and the wizard waters of Deva, (the Dee) Milton was in his favourite track of poetry: all these, too, are in the vicinity of the Irish Sea, where Lycidas was shipwrecked, and thus they have a real connection with the poet's subject— T. WARTON.