Mr. Masson assures us that
Advanced in view they stand, a horrid front
Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise
Of warriors old with ordered spear and shield,
Awaiting what command their mighty chief
Had to impose.Book I: 562-567.
there are touches in this description (as, for example, the ordering of arms at the moment of halt, and without word of command) too exact and technical to have occurred to a mere civilian. Again, at the same review . . . .But his main argument is the phrase ‘ported spears,’ in Book Fourth, on which he has an interesting and valuable comment. He argues the matter through a dozen pages or more, seeking to prove that Milton must have had some practical experience of military drill. I confess a very grave doubt whether ‘attention’ and ‘ordered’ in the passages cited have any other than their ordinary meaning, and Milton could never have looked on at the pike-exercise without learning what ‘ported’ meant. But, be this as it may, I will venture to assert that there was not a boy in New England, forty years ago, who did not know more of the manual than is implied in Milton's use of these terms. Mr.To the present day this is the very process, or one of the processes, when a commander wishes to address his men. They wheel inward and stand at “attention.”
He now prepared
To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half enclose him round
With all his peers; attention held them mute.Ibid., 615-618.