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There are the three regions of HEAVEN, CHAOS, and HELL, as before; but there is also now a fourth region, hung drop-like into Chaos by an attachment to Heaven at the north pole or zenith. This is the NEW WORLD, or the STARRY UNIVERSE — all that Universe of orbs and galaxies which man's vision can reach by utmost power of telescope, and which even to his imagination is illimitable. And yet as to the proportions of this world to some part of the total map Milton dares to be exact. The distance from its nadir or lowest point to the upper boss of Hell is exactly equal to its own radius ; or, in other words, the distance of Hell-gate from Heaven-gate is exactly three semidiameters of the Human or Starry Universe (I. 73, 74)..
Meanwhile, just as this final and stupendous modification of the map of Infinitude has been accomplished, Satan and his rebel adherents in Hell begin to recover from their stupor — Satan the first, and the others at his call. There ensue Satan's first speech to them, their first surveys of their new domain, their building of their palace of Pandemonium, and their deliberations there in full council as to their future policy. Between Moloch's advice for a renewal of open war with Heaven, and Belial's and Mammon's counsels, which recommend acquiescence in their new circumstances and a patient effort to make the best of them, Beelzebub insinuates the proposal, which is really Satan's and which is ultimately carried. It is that there should be an excursion from Hell back through Chaos, to ascertain whether that new Universe, with a new race of beings in it, of which there had been so much talk in Heaven, and which there was reason to think might come into existence about this time, had come into existence. If it had, might not means be found to vitiate this new Universe and the favored race that was to possess it, and to drag them down to the level of Hell itself? ...
Satan's counsel having been adopted, it is Satan himself that adventures the perilous expedition up through Chaos in quest of the new Universe. ... He emerges into the hideous Chaos overhead. His journey up through it is arduous. Climbing, swimming, wading, flying, through the boggy consistency — now falling plumbdown thousands of fathoms, again carried upwards by a gust or explosion — he reaches at length, about midway in his journey, the central throne and pavilion where CHAOS personified and Night have their government. . . . After much farther flying, tacking, and steering, he at last reaches the upper confines of Chaos, where its substance seems thinner, so that he can wing about more easily, and where a glimmering of the light from above begins also to appear. For a while in this calmer space he weighs his wings to behold at leisure (II. 1046) the sight that is breaking upon him. And what a sight !
“ Far off the Empyreal Heaven extended wide
In circuit, undetermined square or round,
Of smallest magnitude, close by the moon.” Care must be taken not to misinterpret this passage. . . . The “pendent World” which Satan here sees is not the Earth at all, but the entire Starry Universe, or Mundane System, hung drop-like by a golden touch from the Empyrean above it. In proportion to this
Empyrean, at the distance whence Satan gazes, even the Starry Universe pendent from it is but as a star of smallest magnitude on the edge of the full or crescent moon.*
[From Professor Himes's Study of Paradise Lost.] HELL is said to be
“ As far removed from God and light of Heaven
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.” The direction of this extent is, of course, in accordance with popular fancy and language, downward. The measuring-line is from the centre to the utmost limit of the Starry Universe. To one who has received, as had Milton, some idea through the telescope of the immense distance of the nearest stars, this unit of length will seem grand enough for the sublimity of the subject. Dante, Virgil, and Homer had supposed the place of punishment to be within the earth. Dante's Inferno consists of nine circles extending beyond the centre of the earth and increasing in horror towards the lowest, to which are consigned such arch-traitors as Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius. Homer and Virgil, to whom Milton took pains to conform as nearly as possible, recognized below the Empyrean three regions, one above the other and of equal height. The first was the Ethereal, extending from Heaven to Earth ; the second was Hades, of like depth ; the third and lowest was Tartarus, or the place of punishment, an equal distance below Hades. Homer, speaking of the location of Tartarus, teaches that it extends" as far below Hades as the distance from Heaven to Earth.” Τόσσον ένερθ' 'Αϊδεω, όσον ουρανός εστ’ από γαίης.
(Iliad, VIII. 16.) Virgil, measuring from the surface of the Earth, and of course including Hades, says, “ Then Tartarus itself sinks deep down and extends towards the shades twice as far as is the prospect upward to the ethereal throne of Heaven ” —
* In a foot-note on this passage Masson adds, “Heaven or the Empyrean being necessarily represented in our diagram as of definite dimensions, instead of infinite or indefinite, the minuteness of this Mundane System in comparison has to be imagined,"
“Tum Tartarus ipse
(Æneid, VI. 577-9.) Milton's phraseology is equivalent to saying that the whole distance from Heaven to Hell is three times as far as from Heaven to Earth ; for, because the centre of the Universe was anciently supposed to be occupied by the Earth, “from the centre to the pole” is the same unit of measure, from Heaven to Earth, used in the old poetic tradition. It is well to observe this agreement of the great epic poets, since, on account of their difference in manner of expressing the same thing, a learned commentator, Bishop Newton, and others through him, have been led grievously astray. He says, “It is observable that Homer makes the seat of Hell as far beneath the deepest pit of Earth as the Heaven is above the Earth. Virgil makes it twice as far, and Milton thrice as far; as, if these three great poets had stretched their utmost genius and vied with each other in extending his idea of Hell farthest.” A little reflection will convince any one that such petty artifices by his successors to outrival Homer would be worthy only of contempt, and that Virgil and Milton would have been the last in the world to suffer, or be guilty of, this irreverence to their great Master. But while obserying this beautiful deference to the Father of Epic Poetry, Milton, with his superior knowledge of the Earth as a mere point compared with the amplitude of the Starry Universe, was able to use this same measuring-line (from Heaven to Earth) in order to locate Hell, as he says in his Argument, “not in the centre (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as not yet made, certainly not yet accursed), but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos.”
The partial description of this place given in the first book may be regarded as the development of a few Scriptural phrases, such as "outer darkness” and “the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” The darkness is called “utter" by Milton to distinguish it both in quality and place from “middle" or chaotic darkness, as further from heavenly light and more fearful. It is also called “ darkness visible,” which to those denizens of Hell
“Serves only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes.” The Lake of Fire is a region of vast extent, and elsewhere called a
“ boiling ocean” (II. 183). Words of the most terrible energy are employed to describe the fierceness and power of that furnace fire. It is “a fiery deluge fed with ever-burning sulphur;" there are “ floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,” “ fiery waves," “ liquid fire,” and “upper, nether, and surrounding fires.” But as this is a lake, it must have a shore. The shore is described as dry land burning with “solid fire,” — a broad belt of the fiercest volcanic nature surrounding the “inflamed sea,” as similar belts, though less in extent and power, gird our earthly oceans. There is a gradual shifting of the scene from the “burning marle" of this belt to the “burnt ground” at a distance from the lake, - a region parched and dry, but more tolerable to the fallen spirits. ...
In the first book there is a description of the central Lake of Fire, which, from its designation as a pool, or pit, and from various other expressions, may be regarded as sunken precipitously and far below the surrounding shore. It is literally and not extravagantly speaking, of oceanic extent. Into this pool the four rivers, Phlegethon, Acheron, Styx, and Cocytus, disgorge their baleful streams. Towards the sources of these rivers, which the imagination at once fixes in the direction of the four cardinal points, the angelic bands take up their “flying march.” Their flight, swifter than the lightning-flash, bears them quickly over the vast spaces drained by the rivers and far into the wild territory beyond, over the second grand circle of Hell, to the slow and silent waters of Lethe. This stream ought, in order to preserve suitable proportions, to be like the “ ocean stream” in extent; and the terms “flood,” “ford,” “sound,” used to designate it, allow the supposition. The name “ labyrinth” need not refer to any intricate windings of the stream, but may, as later (IX. 183), be descriptive of a simple circular shape. It can, therefore, be regarded as the third circle of Milton's Inferno. The words “frozen continent," applied to what lies beyond, define the nature of that desolate, stormy, chilling border-land, which constitutes the fourth and last main division of the vast region. If these conclusions are just, the realm of evil is divided by concentric circles into four parts, consigned respectively to the four elemental properties of ancient physics that in Chaos appear as four warring champions, Hot, Dry, Moist, and Cold. (See Professor Himes's diagram on next page.)
The first, or central region, is distinguished for destructive heat ; the second, for desolating dryness; the third, for a barren waste of water that will not relieve thirst ; the fourth, for stiffening cold.