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means, namely, the almost contradictory character of each assertion.
Whoever wins rules, but only for a moment; the decision of Chaos only makes more confusion ; the only arbiter or court of last resort is Chance, which is the same as having no arbiter at all. As in the description of Death, this half-paradoxical character, which prevents any real realization of the scene, heightens the effect.
911. The Universe had been created out of the Deep and might relapse into it again.
948. In these three lines we have a still further use of a line of monosyllables (cf. 1. 621).
961. Wasteful. Not in the ordinary sense of the word, but meaning “ full of wastes” or something of the sort. The Deep is called a desert just below, l. 973.
981. Satan is always ready to make it to one's advantage to aid him. If Chaos will direct him to the Universe (lately won from his territory by the etherial King), he will restore that province to its original allegiance, i. e., turn it back into Chaos.
988. Chaos speaks as a feeble old man.
1002–1005. Look at the description of the Cosmology in the Introduction, p. xxxvi.
1024-1033. I am apt to feel that this passage rather mars the fine effect of the end of the book. Sin and Death do nothing ; in Book x. we return with Satan and find them still building.
1034. These last lines coming after the turmoil and confusion of the Deep are certainly very fine. The ideas of light, ease, leisure, rest are such a relief from the impossible conceptions we have just passed through. The images and accessory ideas add to the impression : “a glimmering dawn,” a vessel running into port, a star beside the moon, these are the figures ; the wide extent of Heaven, with the half-pathetic touch,“ once his native seat,” these are the thoughts. Readers of Dante will think of the impression made on beginning the Purgatorio after finishing the Inferno.
And now, having got a good deal of minute information about these two books of Milton's great poem, how are we any better off? We have certainly much more information than is necessary to read the poem intelligently and with pleasure, and certainly in itself, for its own sake, all this detailed and particular information is of no especial value.
We might even ask, Would not one really appreciate the poem better without more knowledge than is required for a good understanding of what would otherwise be meaningless ? Compare Keats, who delighted in Milton, and yet probably did not know many things that may be found in the annotated editions, and Bentley, who probably knew all there was to know as far as knowledge is concerned, and yet could change the secret top of Oreb” (i. 7) into “the sacred top.” Is not appreciation better than knowledge ?
We must admit that appreciation without knowledge is better than knowledge without appreciation. But appreciation without knowledge is not so fine, other things being equal, as appreciation which has made the most of knowledge. It is true that knowledge (of this sort) is an easy thing, and appreciation, for most people, is not. So knowledge of a great poem is apt to be commoner than appreciation of it, and held in less esteem. But although knowledge of a great poem is not worth very much considered in itself, yet the right knowledge may be so used as to produce something which is worth a great deal. For if it be not allowed to choke out one's appreciation, to overpower everything else, it may so saturate, so color, so invigorate one's ideas, that one's appreciation becomes a far stronger and finer thing, giving a fuller pleasure in the poem, and a greater admiration for the poet.
A. The Invocation of an Epic Poem.
The extracts following will give an idea of the epic conven. tion of an Invocation. 1 and 2 are from translations of Homer and Virgil, respectively, made not a very long time after Milton. 3 is the beginning of Spenser's Faerie Queene, written some time before. To compare these extracts with those that follow,- 4, the beginning of the Seventh Book of Paradise Lost, and 5, the invocation of Paradise Regained, is a good lesson in English Literature.
1. The Iliad in Pope's Translation, Book I. 1-14.
Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring
Declare, O Muse ! in what ill-fated hour
2. The Æneid in Dryden's Translation, Book I. 1-18.
Arms and the man I sing, who, forced by Fate
And in the doubtful war, before he won
O Muse ! the causes and the crimes relate ;
3. The Faerie Queene. Book I. Stanzas 1-4.
Lo! I, the man whose Muse whilome did maske,
Help then, O holy virgin ! chief of nine,
And with thy mother mild come to mine aid ;
4. Paradise Lost. Book VII. 1-39.
Descend from Heaven, Urania, by that name