Paradise Lost Book 2: Line 1016-1018 - Explanation

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Line. 1016-1018: harder beset.....justling rocks.

      In the last stage of his journey Satan learnt his way to the new created material universe from Chaos, the ruler of the realm, and rejoicing in his heart that he had not far to go, he sprang up like a pyramid of fire and combated his way through the fighting elements that compassed him round. He was beset at this stage by these elements, much more fiercely than the ship Argo was when it had to make its way through the Bosporus.

      The Agro was the name of a famous ship in classical legend which carried Jason and his fifty-four companions to Colchis, when they resolved to recover the golden fleece. On their way they had to sail through the Cyaneae, or the Symplegades, two rugged islands at the entrance of the Euxine Sea, about a mile and a quarter from the Thracian Bosporus. Between them there is only a space of 20 furlongs. The waves of the sea, which continually break against them with a violent noise, fill the air with a darkening foam, and render the passage extremly dangerous. The ancients supposed that these islands floated and even sometimes united to crush the vessels to pieces which passed through the straits. This tradition arose from their appearing, like all other objects, to draw nearer when navigators approached them.

      The Cyaneae are called justling or jostling rocks, because they were supposed to crush any vessels that came between them. Bosporus is the older spelling of the modem Bosphorus.

      The smile expresses aptly the nature of the difficulties which Satar had to contend with. Had he not been made of divine substance he would have been crushed between the striving elements.

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