Imagens das páginas

that must have passed before the poet's imagination as the poem gradually unfolded itself before him.

And here we are met by the first, most striking, coincidence in the two poems. Milton's " setting ” is identical with that of Cædmon's. Milton pictures infinite space as divided into two concaves, or bósmas, precisely as Cædmon had done a thousand years before ; and as in the case of Cædmon, so here, we are not left to our own unaided fancy to picture the poet's setting, but have Milton's own descriptions to guide us, and this, not only as regards the two concaves of original space or infinitude, but also as regards the further development of the diagram rendered necessary by the exigencies of the epic.

The diagram, on the page opposite, represents infinite space as conceived by both Cædmon and Milton alike.

The upper concave Milton describes as,

the empyreal Heaven, extended wide
In circuit, undetermined square or round,
With opal towers and battlements adorned
Of living sapphire ;

and of the Angelic denizens of this Empyrean, the poet tells us, that

on such day
As Heaven's great year brings forth, the empyreal

Of Angels, by imperial summons called,
Innumerable before the Almighty's throne
Forthwith from all the ends of Heaven appeared
Under their hierarchs in orders bright.
Ten thousand thousand ensigns high advanced,
Standards and gonfalons, 'twixt van and rear
Stream in the air, and for distinction serve
Of hierarchies, of orders, and degrees.

[blocks in formation]

In the description of the wars in Heaven, when the rebel hosts of Satan had been finally overcome, Milton explains that the

crystal wall of Heaven opening wide, Rolled inward, and a spacious gap disclosed Into the wasteful Deep.

This “wasteful Deep,” into which the rebel Angels are hurled, lightning-struck, is Chaos,

a dark

Illimitable ocean, without bound.

And in another passage, Milton describes it as a

vast immeasurable Abyss,
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turned by furious winds
And surging waves, as mountains to assault
Heaven's highth, and with the centre mix the pole.

Into this Abyss, the rebels are forced to headlong ruin, when,

confounded Chaos roared And felt tenfold confusion in their fall.

Nine days they fell ;

Hell at last, Yawning, received them whole, and on them closed, Hell, their fit habitation.

In these passages, we have a clear-cut outline of Cædmon's three concaves, the Empyrean, Chaos, and Hell.

Nor is the Miltonic conception of the Starry Universe any less distinct, or less picturable to the mind, than the Cædmonic.

Milton tells us,

As yet this World was not, and Chaos wild
Reigned where these heavens now roll, where Earth

now rests.

But after the Creation of the World, and when Satan, bent on his mission of demon-revenge, had passed upwards through the Gates of Hell, and had arrived in the uppermost stratum of Chaos, Milton tells us that “the sacred influence of light” dawns on the Arch-fiend :

and from the walls of Heaven
Shoots far into the bosom of dim Night
A glimmering dawn. Here Nature first begins
Her farthest verge, and Chaos to retire.

At this point in his journey, Satan,

Weighs his spread wings, at leisure to behold
Far off the empyreal Heaven, extended wide
In circuit,

And fast by, hanging in a golden chain,
This pendent World, in bigness as a star
Of smallest magnitude close by the moon.

That the “World" referred to in these lines is the Starry Universe, as in Cædmon, and not the tiny

globe which we inhabit, is made perfectly clear by Milton's own verse, even if we had no other evidence to guide us.

We have already seen that the only system of Astronomy in repute in Cædmon's day was the Ptolemaic. According to this system, there were eight, and only eight, Spheres, the outermost one being the Firmament or Sphere of the Fixed Stars. But during the Middle Ages, in order to explain certain astronomical phenomena which the eight Spheres failed to account for, two additional Spheres were added, viz., the “Crystalline Sphere" and the “Primum Mobile,” or “ first moved.” The Ptolemaic system, thus improved, was adopted in the thirteenth century by Alphonso X. of Castile, king and astronomer, and since that time, has commonly been styled the Alphonsine. It is this system that Milton adopts in Paradise Lost ; although a few passages can be pointed out in which he seems to hesitate between the old and the new-the Alphonsine and the Copernican. But, as a rule, it is the Alphonsine that he accepts, perhaps as being more poetical and hence better adapted to the requirements of his epic. In one passage, where he is describing the futile attempt of hypocrites to reach the Empyrean, he enumerates the Alphonsine Spheres in their usual order and by their accustomed names :

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