notes in general are very good (though too long). Those on the astronomy of Milton
are particularly valuable.
I think he is sometimes a little too scornful of parallel passages,1
for if there is one thing more striking than another in this poet, it is that his great and original imagination was almost wholly nourished by books, perhaps I should rather say set in motion by them.
It is wonderful how, from the most withered and juiceless hint gathered in his reading, his grand images rise like an exhalation; how from the most battered old lamp caught in that huge drag-net with which he swept the waters of learning, he could conjure a tall genius to build his palaces.
Whatever he touches swells and towers.
That wonderful passage in Comus
of the airy tongues, perhaps the most imaginative in suggestion he ever wrote, was conjured out of a dry sentence in Purchas
's abstract of Marco Polo.
Such examples help us to understand the poet.
When I find that Sir Thomas Browne
had said before Milton
, that Adam
‘was the wisest of all men since
,’ I am glad to find this link between the most profound and the most stately imagination of that age. Such parallels sometimes give a hint also of the historical development of our poetry, of its apostolical succession, so to speak.
Every one has noticed Milton
's fondness of sonorous proper names, which have not only an acquired imaginative value by association, and so serve to awaken our poetic sensibilities, but have likewise a merely musical