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The soul grows clotted by contagion,
(“ Comus,” 453-475.)
2. The Angelic Hierarchy.
Besides Satan, the chief characters of the First and Second Books are the fallen angels. In speaking of the angels, whether faithful or fallen, Milton uses several different names, and in order to avoid confusion we should understand something of the traditional ideas on the heavenly hierarchy, with which of course Milton was familiar. The most commonly accepted tradition goes back to the works which passed under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite, who, as Dante says,
“ Had learnt Both this and much beside of these our orbs From an eye-witness to heaven's mysteries."
(“Paradiso,” canto xxviii. ad fin.) This "eye-witness” was St. Paul, who (2 Cor. xii. 4) was “caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable things.” And Dionysius himself was held to be the very man mentioned in Acts xvii. 34, who had heard Paul at Mars Hill, and so become converted. Such was the tradition: under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite there still exists a treatise “ De Cælesti Hierarchia.” 1 In this treatise the angels are said to be ranged in three orders of three ranks éach, as follows:-Seraphim, Cherubim,
* Translated from Greek to Latin by John Scotus in Migne's Patrologia, vol. 122, pp. 1038 ff.
Thrones ; Dominations, Virtues, Powers; Princes, Archangels, Angels. These names are all of them found in the Bible in one place or another, but never all together, nor is any such arrangement stated in scripture. The names Seraph, Cherub, Angel, are of course frequent; Archangel is not uncommon; the other orders seem to be gathered from the writings of St. Paul, perhaps chiefly from Col. i. 16, ii. 15, Rom. viii. 38. Wherever found, however, the hierarchy was largely accepted by the mediæval mind, appears in Dante in the canto cited, and of course was familiar to Milton.
All these names Milton uses in the course of the poem, and, in fact, in the first two books. In i. 129, the followers of Satan are called “the embattled Seraphim; " i. 157, Beëlzebub is called a Cherub, and in i. 534, Azazel. In ii. 310, 311, Beëlzebub calls the angels assembled Thrones, Powers, Virtues; in i. 315 Satan addresses them as “Princes, Potentates;” in ii. 11, “Powers and Domin
Satan is himself called an Archangel (i. 593), and the term Angel is common. But the more the matter is studied, the more will it be plain that Milton rarely used the names with any exact meaning. The recurrence of the line “Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers,"
(v. 601, 772, 840; X. 460), has led some to the belief that he contemplated a fixed order. So one would think also from the lines, “Where sceptred Angels held their residence,
And sat as Princes, whom the supreme King
Probably, however, it was only occasionally that Milton used these names with any particular thought as to their meaning. If he had done so, Beëlzebub, who was next to Satan in power, would hardly be called a Cherub (as above) while Satan's other followers were called Seraphim, and Satan himself an Archangel. Indeed, later in the poem, Raphael is called not only Seraph (v. 277), but Virtue (v. 371), Power (viii. 249), and Archangel (vii. 41). In one or two cases Milton seems to make a distinction, but it is only now and then, and never carried to any length.
On the other hand, Milton does seem to recognize the more popular distinction which thinks only of angels and archangels. The archangels were seven in number (iii. 648, 654), of whom, however, Milton only mentions four,Michael, the Sword of God; Gabriel, the Man of God; Raphael, the Health of God, and Uriel, the Fire of God. Of these seven, Satan had been one, and one of the chief (v. 660); or it may have been that before his fall there had been eight.
This matter is worth considering a little for two reasons. The first is that Milton could not accept these traditions of the Church, as Dante had, for instance; he found nothing about the angelic hierarchy in the Bible, and he could not, therefore, believe implicitly in it. He knew, also, as Dante had not known, that the writings which went under the name of Dionysius were not really by the convert of Paul, and he did not recognize the authority of the Church of Rome, which gave them a certain sanction. As Scriptural terms, therefore, these names were precious to him, but he went no farther than he found warrant for in the Bible. The second reason why it is interesting to note Milton's use of these terms is for the evidence it bears as to the nature of Milton's genius. The reader of Macaulay's Essay will remember the comparison between Milton and Dante. We have here an evidence in the same direction. It was not according to the natural tenor of Mil
ton's mind to be particular or precise in his use of such terms. He used words, especially unfamiliar ones, in a large, grandiose way; they were to make an effect, not to convey information. A certain definiteness of conception was necessary: but it was also necessary to leave room for the stirring of the imagination. We shall see much the same thing in Milton's conception of the cosmology of his poem, and, indeed, in one or two other places.
3. The Cosmology of the Poem.
To turn to a consideration of another matter which will make these two books easier to us. To have really a good idea of the course of events, we must know something of what in everyday language we might call “the lay of the land.' The name common among students of Milton is the cosmology of the poem, that is, the distribution of the cosmos, as conceived by Milton, and as assumed in Paradise Lost."
At the first, -not at the beginning of the poem, but at the beginning of the action, all things were divided into Chaos and Heaven. Of Chaos we shall gain an idea toward the end of the second book, 11. 891-1009. It was a confused, indescribable anarchy of amorphous elements. Of Heaven we learn but little in our two books, but there is sufficient account of it later. We cannot form a definite idea of it, nor did Milton try to do so, but, in a general way, he gives us an adequate conception. For one thing, it was above. It is often called “the highest Heaven," and, on the other hand, Chaos is called the Deep, the Abyss. It is a firmament above the jarrings of Chaos; Milton conceives it in images of this earth; it has its hills and valleys, its pavements and mansions, its towers and battlements. Here abide from all eternity, God and his angels, and here it is, as we have seen, that Lucifer is in
* See p. xxv. above.
flamed with pride and ambition. He rebels, and, being conquered, he and all his following are cast forth from Heaven and fall to the place appointed for them.
The place appointed for them is Hell, apparently nonexistent before, but created in punishment of their sin. Of Hell we have ample description in the two books in this volume. Like Heaven, it is conceived in images of this earth (see especially ii. 570-628), with the difference that all is either burning hot or freezing cold. It is arched over by a fiery sky (if we may use the term) which separates it from Chaos, and in which, apparently, is the famous portal where sit Sin and Death, through which Satan flies forth in his search for the newly created Uni
The Universe, or this earth and the starry systems which circle around it, is created immediately after the expulsion of Satan; we are given an account of the Creation in Book vii. It is a hollow sphere carved out of Chaos, against which it is protected by a solid shell, of which Milton makes a curious use in Book iii. 416-497. Satan comes to the outside from Chaos,
“A globe far off
A hollow sphere suspended from Heaven by golden chains, such is the Universe from without; far within, at the centre, is our earth.
At the highest point, nearest Heaven, is an opening whereby the angels may ascend and descend.
So much is all that we need to know on such matters to appreciate these two books, to understand the fall of the angels, and the flight of Satan. A word or two more, however, about the Universe may be added.
The Universe as presented in “ Paradise Lost” is not the Universe we think of, a myriad of suns, each with its ring of planets, nor even our own solar system, where the sun in the centre compels the earth and all the rest to