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me, if I insert as a note on this beautiful passage, the account given us by the late ingenious Mr. Maundrel of this ancient piece of worship, and probably the first occasion of such a superstition. “We came to a fair large river doubtless the ancient river Adonis, so famous for the idolatrous rites performed here in lamentation of Adonis. We had the fortune to see what may be supposed to be the occasion of that opinion which Lucian relates, viz. that this stream at certain seasons of the year, especially about the feast of Adonis, is of a bloody colour; which the heathens looked upon as proceeding from a kind of sympathy in the river for the death of Adonis, who was killed by a wild boar in the mountains, out of which this stream rises. Something like this we saw actually come to pass; for the water was stained to a surprizing redness; and as we observed in travelling, had discoloured the sea a great way into a reddish hue, occasioned doubtless by a sort of minium, or red earth, washed into the river by the violence of the rain, and not by any stain from Adonis’s blood.” Addison. Thammuz was the god of the Syrians, the same with Adonis, who, according to the traditions, died every year and revived again. He was slain by a wild boar in mount Lebanon, from whence the river Adonis descends: and when this river began to be of a reddish hue, as it did at a certain season of the year, this was their signal for celebrating their Adonia, or feasts of Adonis; and the women made loud lamentations for him, supposing the river was discoloured with his blood. The like idolatrous rites were transferred to Jerusalem, where Ezekiel saw the women lamenting Tammuz, Ezek. viii. 13, 14. “He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house, which was towards the north, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.” Dr. Pemberton in his Observations upon Poetry, quotes some of these verses upon Thammuz as distinguishably melodious; and they are observed to be not unlike those beautiful lines in Shakespear, 1 Hen. iv. Act iii. and particularly in the sweetness of the numbers:
As sweet as ditties highly penn'd,
Newton. 457. — Next came one
Who mourn’d in earnest, &c.] The lamentations for Adonis were without reason; but there was real occasion for Dagon's mourning, when the ark of God was taken by the Philistines; and being placed in the temple of Dagon, the next morning “behold Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold” (upon the grunsel or groundsil edge, as Milton expresses it, on the edge of the footstep of his temple-gate); “only the stump of Dagon was left to him,” as we read 1 Sam. v. 4. Learned men are by no means agreed in their accounts of this idol. Some derive the name from Dagan, which signifies corn, as if he was the inventor of it; others from Dag, which signifies a fish, and represent him accordingly with the upper part of a man, and the lower part of a fish. Our Author follows the latter opinion, which is that commonly received, and has besides the authority of the learned Selden. This Dagon is called in Scripture the God of the Philistines, and was worshipped in the five principal cities of the Philistines, mentioned 1 Sam. vi. 17. Azotus, or Ashdod, where he had a temple, as we read in 1 Sam. v. Gath, and Ascalon, and Accaron, or Ekron; and Gaza, where they had sacrifices and feastings in honour of him, Judg. xvi. “Gaza's frontier bounds,” says the Poet, as it was the southern extremity of the promised land, toward Egypt. It is mentioned by Moses as the southern point of the land of Canaan. Gen. x. 19. Newton.
467. Him follow'd Rimmon, &c.] Rimmon was a god of the Syrians; but it is not certain what he was, or why so called. We only know that he had a temple at Damascus, 2 Kings v. 18. the most celebrated city of Syria, “on the banks of Abbana and Pharphar, rivers of Damascus,” as they are called 2 Kings v. 12. “A leper once he lost:” Naaman the Syrian who was cured of his leprosy by Elisha, and who for that reason resolved thenceforth to “offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice to any other god, but unto the Lord,” 2 Kings v. 17. “And gain’d a king, Ahaz his sottish conqu'ror,” who, with the assistance of the king of Assyria, having taken Damascus, saw there an altar, and sent a pattern of it to Jerusalem, to have another made by it, directly contrary to the command of God, who had appointed what kind of altar he would have (Exod. xxvii. 1, 2, &c.) and had ordered that no other should be made of any matter or figure whatsoever. Ahaz, however, upon his return removed the altar of the Lord from its place, and set up this
new altar in its stead, and offered thereon, 2 Kings xvi. Io, &c, and thenceforth gave himself up to idolatry; and, instead of the God of Israel, “he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus,” 2 Chron. xxviii. 23. whom he had subdued. Newton.
478. Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train, &c.] Osiris and Isis were the principal deities of the Egyptians; by which it is most probable, they originally meant the sun and moon. Orus was the son of Osiris and Isis, frequently confounded with Apollo: and these and the other gods of the Egyptians were worshipped in monstrous shapes; bulls, cats, dogs, &c.; and the reason alleged for this monstrous worship is derived from the fabulous tradition, that when the giants invaded Heaven, the gods were so affrighted that they fled into Egypt, and there concealed themselves in the shapes of various animals; and the Egyptians afterwards, out of gratitude, worshipped the creatures whose shapes the gods had assumed. Ovid. Met. v. 3.19, &c. where is an account of their transformations: and there
forc Milton here calls them
Their wand'ring Gods disguis'd in brutish forms Rather than human. Newton. 482. — Nor did Israel 'scape
Th’ infection, &c.] The Israelites, by dwelling so long in Egypt, were infected with the superstitions of the Egyptians, and in all probability made the golden calf, or ox (for so it is differently called, Psal. cxvi. 19, 20.) in imitation of that which represented Osiris, and out of the golden ear-rings, which it is most likely they borrowed of the Egyptians, Exod. xii. 35. “the calf in Oreb :” and so the Psalmist: “they made a calf in Horeb,” Psal. cvi. 19. while Moses was upon the mount with God. “And the rebel king” Jeroboam, made king by the Israelites who rebelled against Rehoboam, 1 Kings xii. doubled that sin, by making two golden calves, probably in imitation of the Egyptians with whom he had conversed, who had a couple of oxen which they worshipped; one called Apis, at Memphis, the metropolis of the Upper Egypt, and the other Mnevis, at Hierapolis, the chief city of the Lower Egypt; and he set them up in Bethel and in Dan, the two extremities of the kingdom of Israel; the former in the south, the latter in the north, “Lik'ning his Maker to the grazed ox,” alluding to Psal. cvi. 20. “Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that cateth grass: Jehovah, who in one night when he passed from Egypt marching,” for the children of Israel not only passed from Egypt, but marched in a warlike manner; and the Lord brought them out, the Lord went before them: “equall'd with one stroke both her first-born and all her bleating gods;” for the Lord slew “all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments.” Exod. xii. 12. Numb. xxxiii. 4. ; and Milton means all their gods in general, though he says bleating gods in particular, borrowing the metaphor from sheep, and using it for the cry of any sort of beasts. Dr. Bentley says, indeed, that the Egyptians did not worship sheep; they only abstained from eating them : but (as Dr. Pearce replies) was not Jupiter Ammon worshipped under a ram 2 hence “corniger Ammon.” Clemens Alexandrinus tells us, that the people of Sais and Thebes, worshipped sheep; and R. Jarchi, upon Gen. xlvi. says, that a shepherd was therefore an abomination to the Egyptians, because the Egyptians worshipped sheep as Gods. We may farther add, that Onkelos, Jonathan, and several others, are of the same opinion, and say, that shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians, because they had no greater regard to those creatures which the Egyptians worshipped, than to breed them up to be eaten. These authorities are sufficient to justify our Poet for calling them “bleating gods.” He might make use of that epithet as one of the most insignificant and contemptible, with the same air of disdain as Virgil says, AEn. viii. 698.
and so returns to his subject, and ends the passage as he began it,
with the gods of Egypt. Newton.
490. Belial came last, &c.] The characters of Moloch and Belial prepare the reader’s mind for their respective speeches and behaviour in the second and sixth book. Addison.
And they are very properly made, one the first, and the other the last, in this catalogue, as they both make so great a figure afterwards in the Poem. Moloch the first, as he was “the fiercest Spirit that fought in Heaven,” ii. 44. and Belial the last, as he is represented as the most “timorous and slothful,” ii. 117. It doth not appear that he was ever worshipped; but lewd profligate fellows, such as regard neither God nor man, are called in Scripture “the children of Belial,” Deut. xiii. 13. So the sons of Eli are called 1 Sam. ii. 12. “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.”
So the ran of Gibeah, who abused the Levite's wife (Judg. xix. 22.) are called likewise sons of Belial; which are the particular instances here given by our Author. Newton.
508. Th’Iönian Gods, of Javan's issue held Gods, &c.] Javan, the fourth son of Japhet, and grandson of Noah, is supposed to have settled in the south-west part of Asia Minor, about Ionia, which contains the radical letters of his name. His descendants were the Iönians and Grecians; and the principal of their gods were Heaven and Earth. Titan was their eldest son ; he was father of the Giants; and his empire was seized by his younger brother Saturn, as Saturn's was by Jupiter, son of Saturn and Rhea. These were first known in the island Crete, now Candia, in which is mount Ida, where Jupiter is said to have been born; thence passed over into Greece, and resided on mount Olympus in Thessaly: “the snowy top of cold Olympus,” as Homer calls it Oavaroy ayanpoo, Iliad. i. 420. and xviii. 615. OvXopore riposolos; which mountain afterwards became the name of Heaven among their worshippers; “ or on the Delphian cliff,” Parnassus, whereon was seated the city Delphini, famous for the temple and oracle of Apollo; “or in Dodona,”a city and wood adjoining, sacred to Jupiter; “and through all the bounds of Doric land;” that is of Greece, Doris being a part of Greece; or “fled over Adria,” the Adriatic, “to th’Hesperian fields,” to Italy, “and o'er the Celtic,” France and the other countries over-run by the Celtes, “ roam'd the utmost isles,” Great Britain, Ireland, the Orkneys, Thulé or Iceland “ultima Thulé,” as it is called, the utmost boundary of the world. Such explications are needless to those who are conversant with the classic Authors ; they are written for those who are not. Newton.
and with fear of change Perplexes monarchs.] It is said that this noble Poem was in danger of being suppressed by the Licencer on account of this simile, as if it contained some latent treason in it: but it is saying little more than poets have said under the most absolute monarchies; as Virgil,
Georg. i. 464.
Ille etiam caecos instare tumultus
Saepe monet, fraudemque, et operta tumescere bella.
633. Hath empty'd Heav'n,) It is conceived that a third part of the Angels fell with Satan, according to Rev. xii. 4. “And his