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47. Gathering at Pandemonium, First Essay
Paradise Lost I.730-98; Focusing on Special Words in This Section
. . . . .The hasty multitude [ 730 ]
Admiring enter'd, and the work some praise
And some the Architect: his hand was known
In Heav'n by many a Towred structure high,
Where Scepter'd Angels held thir residence,
And sat as Princes, whom the supreme King [ 735 ]
Exalted to such power, and gave to rule,
Each in his Hierarchie, the Orders bright.
Nor was his name unheard or unador'd
In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land
Men call'd him Mulciber; and how he fell [ 740 ]
From Heav'n, they fabl'd, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer o're the Chrystal Battlements: from Morn
To Noon he fell, from Noon to dewy Eve,
A Summers day; and with the setting Sun
Dropt from the Zenith like a falling Star, [ 745 ]
On Lemnos th' Ægean Ile: thus they relate,
Erring; for he with this rebellious rout
Fell long before; nor aught avail'd him now
To have built in Heav'n high Towrs; nor did he scape
By all his Engins, but was headlong sent [ 750 ]
With his industrious crew to build in hell.
Mean while the winged Haralds by command
Of Sovran power, with awful Ceremony
And Trumpets sound throughout the Host proclaim
A solemn Councel forthwith to be held [ 755 ]
At Pandæmonium, the high Capital
Of Satan and his Peers:
The next four essays complete my treatment of Book I of PL. Lines 730-98 probe at least four topics: (1) an introduction of the architect of Hell (730-52); (2) entry into the temple/civic center of Hell, appropriately named Pandemonium (752-68); (3) the simile of the bees (768-76); and (4) Behold a Wonder!--the shrinking of some demons and the solemn entry of others into conclave in Hell (776-98). As with some other sections, let's begin with a few words on some of Milton's words.
Five Words And Their Meanings from These Lines
(a) Milton names the new structure and its environs in Hell "Pandemonium" (756). Not only does he "go for the roots" in this word, but he invents the word. Literally meaning "all the demons," Pandemonium is styled as the "high Capitol/ Of Satan and his Peers." So popular was its usage here, like his contemporary Bunyan's use of "Vanity Fair," that it was picked up in two senses over the next 200 years. First, the literal meaning was kept. Thomas Hardy, in the late 19th century, for example, could write, "Amid the...confusion as of Pandemonium, Tess untied her last sheaf." Then, the word took on the meaning of "a place of utter confusion and uproar" or, similarly, "utter confusion, uproar." Mark Twain, for example, used it in Roughing It: "Natives from several islands..had made the place a pandemonium every night with their howlings and wailings..." Next time you see utter chaos and tumult, think Milton; you have him to thank for your word. to describe it.
(b) When God threw Mulciber, the architect of Hell, out of Heaven, Mulciber was hurled "Sheer o'er the Crystal Battlements" (742). The word "sheer" has many wonderful uses in English, ranging from a swerve to thinness of fabric. I wonder, in fact, whether the definition given by the OED for our reference is actually right. The OED says that this is an example of the adverbial use of sheer with verbs of removal or separation to express "completely, absolutely, altogether, quite." Thus the meaning would be that Mulcibler was hurled over the wall of Heaven without any possibility of his grabbing onto the walls or impeding his fall. Someone standing under Heaven, then, would just have seen a figure hurtling headlong through space as it was cast out of heaven. But sheer also has the meaning of "perpendicularly or very steeply up or down; straight up or down without break or halting place." From 1875: "A lofty cliff, and goes down sheer into the deep sea." If Mulciber was thrown in this fashion, our writer would be emphasing the "straight down" nature of his fall--a plummet. But the OED tells us that this use of "sheer" didn't emerge until early in the nineteenth century. Unless, of course, Milton invented that usage here..
(c) Milton's simile of the bees gathering and conversing in springtime is one of his most memorable in Book I. One of the things they do is "expatiate and confer/ Their state affairs" (774-75). The word "expatiate" isn't used much today, and when used it means "to speak or write at some length; to enlarge" (OED, s.v.def. 2). But this doesn't seem precisely to fit Milton's meaning here. Its original meaning, derived directly from the Latin, is to "walk about at large; to move about freely in space, wander at will." One goes "out" (ex) in "space" (spatium). This is his meaning. The bees are roaming around freely and talking, and this word helps us "see" not just the bees but especially the Fallen Angels who are milling around outside the conclave room in Pandemonium.
(d) A brief word on "rout" (747) might be helpful. Milton has it that Mulciber "with this rebellious rout/ Fell long before." I will get into Milton's theology in a bit; here my point relates to the use of "rout" seemingly to describe someone's companions. The OED lists ten different entries for rout as a noun (and ten more as a verb), so we could spend the entire day on the word, though I won't. The first definition in the first use of the noun is "a company, assemblage, band, or troop of persons." Bingo. We are told that its derivation is from the Latin rupta, the feminine of ruptus, which means "broken," with the original sense being a "division or detachment" (i.e., a group "broken off" from the main body of troops). Milton probably selected this word and applied it to heavenly creatures because Tasso, his Italian predecessor in epic production, said the following in Jerusalem Delivered XI.ii (the Fairfax translation of 1600): "The help obtaine/ Of all the blesed of the heav'nly rout."
(e) Finally, the word "engine" (750) is a hugely rich one. Milton is still describing Mulciber's fall and says, referring to Mulciber, "nor did he 'scape/ By all his engins" (750). Of course, when we think of the word "engine" we think of General Motors (or we used to think of GM). "Engine" in this sense means "a machine, more or less complicated, consisting of several parts, working together to produce a given physical effect" (OED, s.v. def. 7). But anyone who has read history knows that an "engine" is also a "machine or instrument used in warfare" (def. 5). That also isn't in view here. The "engines" that Mulciber has seem to be his work products or tools. Indeed, that is def. 4 in the OED. But all these definitions make us wonder about the word--and definitions 1-3. In fact, the word "engine" is ultimately related to the Latin ingenium, whence we get the word "ingenious." Thus, an "engine" is, in fact, a product of someone's wit or talent. That is the basic OED meaning: skill in contriving something or the product of one's skill. The word then evolved as follows: from wit or talent to the product of wit or talent to the specialized product of wit or talent in the military venue (since that would be among the most prized talents to have) to a mechanical product made by wit or talent. I don't know why we, in our computer age, don't much refer to the MacBook as an "engine." Perhaps the association with cars is still too strong, but the evolution of the term would suggest its appropriateness there. Thus, when Mulciber was cast from Heaven, he was thrown out with all his tools. But, by spending some time on that word, we become rich--way rich.
Actually, as I scan the OED page on "engine," I see that the OED editors have put our passage (I.750) as an example of the third use of "engine": "An instance or product of ingenuity; an artifice, contrivance, device, plot." I don't see a world of difference between this and definition 4, but we now know exactly with what objects Mulciber was falling. It must have been comforting to him to see all his tools, the entire Heavenly foundry, falling with him. They certainly would come in handly in Hell..