previous next
[268] what proof does Mr. Masson bring to confirm his theory? Nothing more nor less than two or three passages in ‘Paradise Lost,’ of which I shall quote only so much as is essential to his argument:—

And now
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.

Mr. Masson assures us that
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 . . . .

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.

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.”

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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New England (United States) (1)
Milton (Canada) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John Milton (2)
David Masson (2)
Paradise Lost (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: