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RAPHAEL at the request of Adam relates how and wherefore this world was first created; that God, after the expelling of Satan and his angels out of heaven, declared his pleasure to create another world and other creatures to dwell therein; sends his Son with glory and attendance of angels to perform the work of creation in six days: the angels celebrate with hymns the performance thereof, and his reascension into heaven.
DESCEND from heav'n, Urania, by that name
1. Descend from heav'n, Urania,] Descende cœlo, Hor. Od. iii. iv. 1. but here it is better applied, as now his subject leads him from heaven to earth. word Urania in Greek signifies heavenly; and he invokes the heavenly Muse as he had done before, i. 6. and as he had said in the beginning that he intended to soar above the Aonian mount, so now he says very truly that he had effected what he intended, and soars above the Olympian hill, above the flight of Pegaséan wing, that is, his subject was more sublime than the loftiest flights of the heathen poets. mountain Olympus is celebrated for the seat of the Muses, who were therefore called Olympiades, as in Homer, Iliad. ii.
491. Odpadis Moural. He
Nor of the Muses nine, nor on the top
Of old Olympus dwell'st, but heav'nly born,]
Tasso in his invocation has the
O Musa, tu, che di caduchi allori
8. Before the hills appear'd, or fountain flow'd, &c.] From Prov. viii. 24, 25, 30. When there were no depths, I was brought forth;
Thou with eternal Wisdom didst converse,
when there were no fountains abounding with water: Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: Then was I by him as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, or playing according to the Vulgar Latin (ludens coram eo omni tempore), to which Milton alludes, when he says, and with her didst play, &c. And so he quotes it likewise in his Tetrachordon, p. 222. vol. i. edit. 1738. "God himself conceals not his 66 own recreations before the "world was built; I was, saith "the eternal Wisdom, daily his "delight, playing always before " him."
too pure and fine for him, but the heavenly Muse temper'd and qualified it so as to make him capable of breathing in it: which is a modest and beautiful way of bespeaking his reader to make favourable allowances for any failings he may have been guilty of in treating of so sublime a subject.
(as once Bellerophon, &c.] Bellerophon was a beautiful and valiant youth, son of Glaucus ; who refusing the amorous applications of Antea wife of Præteus king of Argos, was by her false suggestions, like those of Joseph's mistress to her husband, sent into Lycia with letters desiring his destruction; where he was put on several enterprises full of hazard, in which however he came off conqueror: but attempting vain-gloriously mount up to heaven on the winged horse Pegasus, he fell and wander'd in the Aleian plains till he died. Hume and Richard
His story is related at large in the sixth book of Homer's Iliad; but it is to the latter part of it