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With terrors and with clamours compassed round
Thus saying, from her side the fatal key,
Before their eyes in sudden view appear
875. Stygian powers. Stygian used as Tartarean.
883. Erebus. The name is from Greek mythology, in which it stands for the mysterious darkness under the Earth, born of Chaos.
891. We now come to the Deep so often mentioned already. Milton borrowed the word from the Bible, where it is the synonym of Chaos, Gen. i. 2. In Paradise Lost the place is called “the Deep ; ” Chaos is a personage, ii. 895.
Illimitable ocean, without bound,
900 Of each his faction, in their several clans, Light-armed or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift, or slow, Swarm populous, unnumbered as the sands Of Barca, or Cyrene's torrid soil, Levied to side with warring winds, and poise
905 Their lighter wings. To whom these most adhere He rules a moment : Chaos umpire sits, And by decision more embroils the fray By which he reigns; next him high arbiter Chance governs all. Into this wild abyss,
910 The womb of Nature and perhaps her grave, Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire, But all these in their pregnant causes mixed Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight, Unless the Almighty Maker them ordain
915 His dark materials to create more worldsInto this wild abyss the wary Fiend Stood on the brink of Hell and looked a while, Pondering his voyage ; for no narrow frith He had to cross. Nor was his ear less pealed
920 With noises loud and ruinous (to compare Great things with small), than when Bellona storms, With all her battering engines, bent to rase
895. Ancestors of Nature, for the world had been formed from Chaos. Cf. ii. 911, “the womb of Nature.”
904. Barca, Cyrene, cities of northern Africa. 922. Bellona, goddess of war.
Some capital city; or less than if this frame
930 Audacious; but, that seat soon failing, meets A vast vacuity. All unawares, Fluttering his pennons vain, plumb down he drops Ten thousand fathom deep, and to this hour Down had been falling, had not, by ill chance, 935 The strong rebuff of some tumultuous cloud, Instinct with fire and nitre, hurried him As many miles aloft. That fury stayed, Quenched in a boggy Syrtis, neither sea, Nor good dry land, nigh foundered on he fares, 940 Treading the crude consistence, half on foot, Half-flying ; behoves him now both oar and sail. As when a gryphon, through the wilderness With winged course, o’er hill or moory dale Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stealth
945 Had from his wakeful custody purloined The guarded gold ; so eagerly the fiend O'er bog, or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare, With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way, , And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies. 950
927. Vans, i.e., fans, here used for wings. The sails of the windmill are still sometimes called vans.
939. Syrtis, a gulf ; in fact, there were two places of this name in northern Africa, famous for quicksands.
942. Behoves him, he needs.
943. The gryphon was a mythical creature whom the Arimaspian wronged as in the text. The legend is Greek (Herod. iii. 116), but does not exactly belong to Greek mythology. The Arimaspi were vaguely held to live in the north of Europe ; i. e., beyond the parts known to the ancients.
At length a universal hubbub wild
960 Wide on the wasteful Deep. With him enthroned Sat sable-vested Night, eldest of things, The consort of his reign ; and by them stood Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name Of Demogorgon ; Rumour next and Chance,
965 And Tumult and Confusion all embroiled, And Discord with a thousand various mouths.
To whom Satan, turning boldly, thus : “ Ye Powers, And Spirits of this nethermost abyss, Chaos and ancient Night ! I come no spy,
970 With purpose to explore or to disturb The secrets of your realm ; but, by constraint Wandering this darksome desert, as my way Lies through your spacious empire up to light, Alone, and without guide, half lost, I seek
975 What readiest path leads where your gloomy bounds
954. Plies; to ply means “to pursue steadily” as in “he plies his trade,” or “to labor at,” as “he plies the oar.” Here the meaning would seem a combination of the two.
956. Nethermost, lowest.
964. Orcus and Ades (more commonly Hades) are names for the God of the Underworld in the classic mythology, the former Latin, the latter Greek. Both names were used for the place as well as its ruler.
965. Demogorgon, a vague and terrible being represented by poets and others, fated to be the conqueror of Jove. The ancients avoided even the mention of his name.
Confine with Heaven ; or if some other place,
Thus Satan ; and him thus the Anarch old, With faltering speech and visage incomposed, Answered : “I know thee, stranger, who thou art ; 990 That mighty leading angel, who of late Made head against Heaven's King, though overthrown. I saw, and heard; for such a numerous host Fled not in silence through the frighted Deep, With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout,
995 Confusion worse confounded ; and Heaven-gates Poured out by millions her victorious bands Pursuing. I upon my frontiers here Keep residence ; if all I can will serve That little which is left so to defend,
1000 Encroached on still through your intestine broils, Weakening the sceptre of old Night. First Hell, Your dungeon, stretching far and wide beneath; Now lately Heaven and Earth, another world, Hung o'er my realm, linked in a golden chain 1005
977. Confine, are bounded by. The verb in this sense is obsolete; we still have the noun in the plural. Cf. march, marches.
988. Anarch. The word, coined or borrowed by Milton, is used like Monarch, tetrarch. A ruler over a State whose constitution is such that rule is impossible, is not an easy conception to realize. But the word brings up a strong sentiment.
1002. Hell and the Universe had been successively separated out of the Kingdom of Chaos. See Introd., p. xxvi.-xxxix.