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This little book, the outgrowth of teaching, is designed to meet the wants of students. Among the points of difference between it and similar editions, it includes some of the best results of recent investigation, and it omits certain passages that jar on the reverence due to youth.' With very slight exceptions the text is Masson's.*
The notes may seem at first sight too numerous ; but many of them are intended for teachers, and examination will show that they are calculated to stimulate rather than supersede thought.
The introductory matter should be read carefully before beginning the critical study.
The diagrams will assist in understanding Milton's cosmography. Probably no one of them will be found entirely satisfactory ; but if they awaken the student's interest, if they aid his imagination, and if they lead him to a closer study of the poem, the object of introducing them will have been gained. Some explanation of the two which stand respec
* In regard to the use of capital letters, the authority of Wilson on Punctuation has generally been followed.
tively at the beginning and at the end may here be appropriate.
Milton recognizes the sphere as the normal shape of worlds. And so, in the 'void profound' of infinite space, during the cycles of past eternity, lay that vast aggregation of matter which constituted the luminous Empyreal Heavens above and the black abysses of Chaos beneath. He tells us that heaven is like earth.
“ What if earth
To use Brooke's eloquent description in his incomparable Milton Primer, “Heaven is on higb, indefinitely extended, and walled towards Chaos with a crystal wall having opal towers and sapphire battlements. In the wall a vast gate opens on Chaos, and from it runs a broad and ample road, powdered with stars,' whose dust is gold, to the throne of God. The throne is in the midst of Heaven, high on the sacred hill, lost in ineffable light. Around the hill is the vast plain clothed with flowers, watered by living streams among the trees of life, where on great days the angelic assembly meets; and nearer to the hill is the pavement like a sea of jasper. Beyond are vast regions, where are the blissful bowers of "amarantine shade, fountain, or spring,' . . . and among them the archangels have their royal seats built as Satan's was, far blazing on a hill, of diamond quarries and of golden rocks."
Like those of earth, this continent of spacious heaven' has its ocean. That ocean is Chaos. It lies beside and beneath
* Milton Primer, pp. 84, 85, by Stopford A. Brooke (D. Appleton & Co's Series of Classical Writers).
heaven, whose shining cliffs and walls rise sheer out of the dark unfathomable depths. It is not homogeneous. It apparently has strata. In it there is at least one vast vacuity.' Through it Satan, 'with difficulty and labor hard,'
O'er bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
Yet it is an ocean
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Clearly, if heaven has sharp, rigid outlines like the moon, chaos has a shifting, tumultuous surface like the sun.
Deep in this tremendous abyss lies Hell, perhaps near the centre, possibly at the nadir; distant, at any rate, from the light of God by three times the radius of our starry universe.* In the centre of hell is the lake of fire, a "boiling ocean.' Three vast regions of horror lie in concentric zones around it. First, a belt of fiery volcanic soil ; then, a moist region, through which, like an ocean stream,
“ Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her watery labyrinth;"
next, a frozen continent with
A gulf profound as that Serbonian bog;'
* We need not suppose a mathematical exactness.
« The moment you furnish Imagination with a yardstick, she abdicates in favor of her statistical poor-relation Commonplace.” — Lowell on Milton (Among My Books, 2d series).
and beyond all,
66 At last appear
Hell bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof,"
and in them the ninefold gates.
“ Our World, as Milton calls it, the whole solar system and the stars, is linked to Heaven and to Hell (to the latter by the bridge, Par. Lost, II. 1028], and in Chaos. It is a vast hollow sphere, hung at its zenith by a golden chain from the Empy
It is beaten by the winds of Chaos, and has only [sic] light on that side of it which is turned to Heaven. At its very zenith a bright sea flows as of liquid pearl, from which a mighty structure of stairs leads up to Heaven's gate. Over against the stairs a passage down to the earth opens into the hollow sphere."
From the gifted critic just quoted, we may cite a paragraph upon Milton's diction and rhythm. “ The Style is always great. On the whole it is the greatest in the whole range of English poetry ; so great that when once we have come to know and honor and love it, it so subdues the judgment that the judgment can with difficulty do its work with temperance. No style, when one has lived in it, is so spacious and so majestic a place to walk in. . . . Fulness of sound, weight of march, compactness of finish, fitness of words to things, fitness of pauses to thought, a strong grasp of the main idea while other ideas play round it, power of digression without loss of the power to return, equality of power over vast spaces of imagination, sustained splendor when he soars
With plume so strong, so equal and so soft,'
* Brooke's Milton Primer, p. 86.