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Prevenient grace descending had remov'd

The stony from their hearts, and made new flesh

Regenerate grow instead, that sighs now breath'd 5
Unutterable, which the Spi'rit of prayer

Inspir'd, and wing'd for heav'n with speedier flight
Than loudest oratory: yet their port

Messiah, which is conceived in very emphatic sentiments and expressions. Addison.

1. repentant stood Praying,]

Dr. Bentley thinks that the author intended it repentant kneeled, because it is said in ver. 150, and in x. 1099, that they kneeled and fell prostrate: but stood here has no other sense than that of the noun substantive were. So in ii. 55. stand in arms signifies are in arms. In the same sense stetit and wornxi are often used by the Latins and Greeks. See my note on ii. 56. Pearce.

Stood here, and in ver. 14. hath no relation to the posture, but to the act itself, and the continuance of it. Standing in arms is not only being armed or having armour on, but being in arms with a determined resolution not to lay them down without endeavouring to attain some end proposed. Thus stood praying means, not only that they prayed, or were praying, but that they persevered in their devotions, and, as the apostle expresses it, continued instant in prayer, in the humble postures of sometimes kneeling, and sometimes falling prostrate. Greenwood.

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8. yet their port &c.] This yet refers so far back as to line the first, Thus they in lowliest plight repentant stood praying, yet their port not of mean suitors, all the intermediate lines being to be understood as in a parenthesis. Nor did their petition seem of less importance, than when the ancient pair so renowned in old fables, yet not so ancient a pair as Adam and Eve, Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha, in order to restore the race of mankind after the deluge, stood devoutly praying before the shrine of Themis, the goddess of justice, who had the most famous oracle of those days. The poet could not have thought of a

Not of mean suitors, nor important less

Seem'd their petition, than when th' ancient pair
In fables old, less ancient yet than these,
Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha, to restore
The race of mankind drown'd, before the shrine
Of Themis stood devout. To heav'n their prayers
Flew up, nor miss'd the way, by envious winds
Blown vagabond or frustrate; in they pass'd

more apt similitude to illustrate his subject, and he has plainly fetched it from Ovid, Met. i. 318.

Hic ubi Deucalion (nam cætera texerat æquor)

Cum consorte tori parvâ rate vectus adhæsit;

High on the summit of this dubious cliff,

Deucalion wafting, moor'd his little skiff.

He with his wife were only left


Of perish'd man; they two were human kind.

The mountain-nymphs, and The-
mis they adore,

And from her oracles relief implore.
The most upright of mortal men
was he,
The most sincere and holy woman



O righteous Themis, if the Pow'rs above

Corycidas Nymphas et numina mon

tis adorant,

Fatidicamque Themin, quæ tunc orâcla tenebat.

Non illo melior quisquam, nec
amantior æqui

Vir fuit, aut illa metuentior ulla

Milton has been often censured
for his frequent allusions to the
heathen mythology, and for ix-
ing fables with sacred truths:

Atque ita, Si precibus, dixerunt, but it may be observed in fa

numina justis

Victa remollescunt, si flectitur ira

Dic, Themi, qua generis damnum
Arte sit: et mersis fer opem, mitis-

reparabile nostri

sima, rebus.

vour of him, that what he borrows from the heathen mythology, he commonly applies only by way of similitude; and a similitude from thence may illustrate his subject as well as from any thing else, especially since it is one of the first things that we learn at school, and is made by the ancients such an essential part of poetry, that it can hardly be separated from it; and no wonder that Milton was ambitious of shewing something of his reading in this kind, as well as in all others.

By pray'rs are bent to pity and to love;

If human miseries can move their mind;

If yet they can forgive, and yet be kind;

Tell how we may restore, by second birth,

Mankind, and people desolated earth.

16. Blown vagabond or frustrate:] It is a familiar expres


Dimensionless through heav'nly doors; then clad
With incense, where the golden altar fum'd,
By their great Intercessor, came in sight

sion with the ancient poets, to say of such requests as are not granted, that they are dispersed and driven away by the winds. Thus Virgil, Æn. xi. 794.




be wondered how these prayers could pass through them without their opening, and for this the poet added the epithet dimensionless. And as he glanced before at the heathen manner of expression in saying that their prayers were not by envious winds blown vagabond or frustrate, so here he may intend a remote reflection upon that other notion of the heathens contained in the fable of Menippus, who was taken up into heaven, where Jupiter is

Apollo heard, and granting half his represented as opening a trapdoor to hear the requests of mankind, and shutting it again when he was unwilling to attend to any more petitions.

Audiit, et voti Phœbus succedere


Mente dedit: partem volucres di-
spersit in auras.

Sterneret ut subitâ turbatam morte

Annuit oranti: reducem ut patria
alta videret,

Non dedit; inque notos vocem vertere procellæ.


Shuffled in winds the rest, and toss'd

in empty air.

He gives the death desir'd; his safe return,

By southern tempests to the seas is borne. Dryden. And it is in allusion to this manner of speaking, that Milton says here of the prayers of our first parents, that they were not by envious winds blown vagabond or frustrate. By envious winds, as in Ovid, Met. x. 642. Detulit aura preces ad me non invida blandas.

17. Dimensionless through heav'nly doors ;] As these prayers were of a spiritual nature, not as matter that has dimensions, measure, and proportion, they passed through heaven's gates without any ob

struction. Richardson.

As heaven gates are described vii. 205, &c.) as ever-during, and moving on golden hinges, and opening wide to let forth and let in the King of Glory, it might

19. -came in sight &c.] Milton, in this allegorical description of the repentant prayers of our first parents, very much exceeds the two great masters of Italian poetry, Ariosto and Tasso, who have attempted something in the same way. See Carlomagno's prayer in the former, cant. xiv. st. 73 and 74. and in the latter Raimond's prayer, cant. vii. st. 79. and Godfrey's, cant. xiii. st. 72. As the quotations would be too long, we only refer the reader to the places. Thyer.

19. In the Revelation an angel offers incense with the prayers of the saints upon the golden altar, ch. viii. 4. See also Spenser, Faery Queen, i. x. 51. of Mercy.

Thou dost praiers of the righteous


Present before the maiestie divine.

Before the Father's throne: them the glad Son
Presenting, thus to intercede began.

See, Father, what first fruits on earth are sprung
From thy implanted grace in Man, these sighs
And pray'rs, which in this golden censer, mix'd
With incense, I thy Priest before thee bring,
Fruits of more pleasing savour from thy seed
Sown with contrition in his heart, than those
Which his own hand manuring all the trees
Of Paradise could have produc'd, ere fall'n
From innocence. Now therefore bend thine ear
To supplication, hear his sighs though mute;
Unskilful with what words to pray, let me
Interpret for him, me his advocate
And propitiation; all his works on me
Good or not good ingraft, my merit those
Shall perfect, and for these my death shall
Accept me, and in me from these receive
The smell of peace tow'ard mankind; let him live
Before thee reconcil'd, at least his days


Number'd, though sad, till death, his doom, (which I 40

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-me his advocate And propitiation ;]

The construction of the whole Levit. iii. 5. Heylin.




passage is this, Let me interpret for him unskilful with what words to pray for himself, me his advowords of St. John, 1 Ep. ii. 1, cate and propitiation, the very 2. We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our


38. The smell of peace toward mankind;] The peace offering is frequently called an offering of a sweet savour unto the Lord. So

To mitigate thus plead, not to reverse,)
To better life shall yield him, where with me
All my redeem'd may dwell in joy and bliss,
Made one with me as I with thee am one.

To whom the Father, without cloud, serene.
All thy request for Man, accepted Son,
Obtain; all thy request was my decree:
But longer in that Paradise to dwell,
The law I gave to nature him forbids:
Those pure immortal elements that know
No gross, no unharmonious mixture foul,
Eject him tainted now, and purge him off
As a distemper, gross to air as gross,
And mortal food, as may dispose him best
For dissolution wrought by sin, that first
Distemper'd all things, and of incorrupt
Corrupted. I at first with two fair gifts
Created him endow'd, with happiness
And immortality: that fondly lost,
This other serv'd but to eternize woe;
Till I provided death; so death becomes
His final remedy, and after life

Tried in sharp tribulation, and refin'd
By faith and faithful works, to second life,

44. Made one with me as 1 with thee am one.] That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee: and the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. John xvii. 21, 22.


-gross to air as gross,]





Gross is to be joined in construction with him and not with distemper; and therefore the comma after distemper should be carefully preserved, as in Milton's own editions, and not be placed after distemper gross, as in Dr. Bentley's edition.

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