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The four champions, here no longer struggling with one another, can bring in turn all their malignant force to bear upon the denizens of Hell
It must be kept in mind that Dante's Hell was entirely included within the Earth, while Milton's was not only larger than the Earth, but in horizontal extent wider than the diameter of the Starry Universe, and in its depth, designated by the adjective “bottomless," absolutely infinite. It would seem like trifling if Milton, instead of producing only the most general features of this universe of death, had occupied himself with giving particular descriptions of small spaces and recording measurements in feet and inches. He has, however, made a map of the four grand divisions which is more vague and indefinite than Dante's of his nine circles only in the sense in which a map of a hemisphere is more vague and indefinite than one of a county. (See Professor Himes's diagram above.)
Besides, Milton's division is upon a natural, while Dante's is upon an artificial basis. If it is asked why there should be nine circles and no more nor less, no better answer can be given than that nine is a favorite poetical number. There is no room for such a question with reference to Milton's arrangement. The four elemental properties appear wherever matter appears; and if in the World they combine harmoniously to produce comfort and life, while in Chaos they neutralize one another, why may they not in Hell serve separately and in turn the purpose of punishment ? Milton's adjustment, in giving Heat and Cold, out of respect to popular language, the position of extremes, is also natural and proper.
The explorations of the four bands tended to dissipate any hope which the fallen spirits may have conceived of beconing inured to the fierce flames of their habitation so as not to feel this kind of torment. There is a region of ice to which those spirits are periodically transported from their bed of fire, so that no length of endurance can accustom their essence to the tortures and remove the sensibility to pain. Caedmon, the Anglo-Saxon monk-poet, who drew his inspiration from the same sacred source as Milton, and whom the latter is charged with imitating, also speaks of the fierce extremes of heat and cold which the devils in Hell are doomed to suffer :
“ Then cometh ere dawn
The eastern wind,
They must have.” The means of torture in these regions of woe are many and varied. The tantalizing presence of the stream of Oblivion, the monstrous prodigies, the unnumbered forms of terror hiding in every cave and thicker shade, threatening from every mountain-top, intensify the despair of the bold discoverers :
“Thus roving on
No rest.” Homer and Virgil both acquaint us with many forms of punishment in Tartarus. Æneas on his visit to the world of shades was not admitted within its gates, on the ground that no holy person is
allowed to tread the accursed threshold. The Sibyl described to him some of the punishments within, but added at last, “ Had I a hundred tongues and a hundred mouths, a voice of iron, I could not comprehend all the species of their crimes nor enumerate the names of all their punishments.” Dante in his construction of the Inferno appears to strain his ingenuity in originating modes of torture for the wicked, beginning with the stinging of gadflies and ending in the lowest circle with the crunching of sinners between the teeth of the Emperor himself of the kingdom dolorous. Milton surpasses all his predecessors in judgment and taste in avoiding whatever is belittling, grotesque, or atrocious, and in being consistently great and sublime and awful. ...
Many features in the delineation of Hell-gates are evidently adapted from Virgil's description of the gates of Tartarus. Milton's gates are thrice threefold, — the inner folds being of brass, the middle of iron, and the outer of rock. Masson imagines the gates to be at the highest point of the concave roof of Hell; but here he is plainly in error. They are in the wall forming the circumference, and not in the roof at all. It is true that Satan soared towards the concave roof, but after the broad circle of Lethe had been crossed he descended again before coming to the gates. How could the stride of Death have shaken Hell had he been in the air and not on the ground ? All the language implies that the gates stood in a perpendicular and did not lie in a horizontal wall. ...
Through the gates thrown open by sin, Satan passes out into Chaos. In this grand division of the Universe there is an absence of that creative power which made Hell a place of punishment and Heaven a place of bliss. In Chaos matter is in its primitive condition, without the impress of Divine law and order. The elemental properties, instead of entering into their combinations and forming land, or sea, or air, or fire, are in a state of isolation and force and war. It is a region presided over by Chaos, Chance, and Night, and contains that confusion, uncertainty, and darkness appropriate to them. ... Professor Masson makes a very natural oversight in the location of the throne and court of the Anarch of the Abyss, saying of Satan on his voyage, “He reaches at length, about midway in his journey, the central throne and pavilion where Chaos personified and Night have their government." This court, the most noisy and tumultuous portion of Chaos, is not, as we would anticipate, established in the interior, but on the
frontier, in order more easily to defend his possessions against further encroachments. The reason here given for such a location of the throne would seem sufficient, if the fact were established upon an independent basis, but scarcely of importance enough in itself to warrant a departure from so pronounced a rule as that requiring the seat of government in an ideal realm to be in the interior. Why, then, does the poet so expressly put the dark Pavilion of Chaos and old Night so near the light of Heaven ? Is it not in obscure allusion to the very popular notion that the darkest hour is just before the dawn? The properties of Night as well as of Confusion must appear in a realm of Chaos and Night.
The gates of Hell, from which Satan began his flight over the vast Abrupt, are below the Empyrean three semi-diameters of the Mundane Universe. “God and light of Heaven” are both supposed to be withdrawn from Chaos, but they are coextensive with the Empyrean. Three plains, one above the other and separated by the constant unit of measure, the distance “from the centre to the utmost pole,” are recognizable in this infinite region of Chaos. The lowest plane we will call that of Tartarus, the middle one that of Hades, and the third that of Elysium. ... As Satan issued from Hellgates, his course was at first upward, until he reached the plain of Hades ; then to the right an indefinite distance, until he arrived at the Pavilion of Chaos ; then obliquely upward again, as along the slant height of a Pyramid, to the plane of Elysium, where he first discovered a glimmer of Heavenly light ; and then directly to the right a second time, until he stood upon the nearest boss of the wall of our Universe. (See Professor Himes's diagram on page xxvii.)
[Resemblance of Pandemonium to the Pantheon. From Himes's
Study of Paradise Lost.] With reference to the word Pandemonium, Masson remarks that “some think Milton the inventor of it, formed on the analogy of the Pantheon.” Much more than that: the infernal Capitol itself is almost the exact transcript of the Roman Pantheon, or rather, perhaps, we ought to say that according to Milton's conception the former is the archetype after which the latter was made. Standing at a little distance, the fallen spirits could see it