صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

37 38

peculiarly delighted in the lyrical parts, with what he quaintly, but not incorrectly calls-'a certain doric delicacy in the songs and odes.' And Warburton speaks of the bright vein of its poetry, intermixed with a softness of description.37 T. Warton obferves that Comus is a fuite of speeches not interesting by discrimination of character, not conveying variety of incidents, nor gradually exciting curiofity; but perpetually attracting attention by fublime fentiment, and fanciful imagery of the richest vein, by an exuberance of picturefque defcription, poetical allufion, and ornamental expreffion.'39 It is indeed a beautiful Pageant of Fancy.

[ocr errors]

37 On the fyftem of orthography' adopted by Milton in this and his other poems, confult Capel Loft's Preface to Par. Loft, 4to. 1792, and Todd's Preface to Comus, p. viii. and Richardson's Life, p. cxxx.

38" Musical Echoes prevailed upon the Italian stage at this period; this was probably not unknown to Milton, although he had not then vifited Italy; and hence it may be prefumed, the Song of Sweet Echo in Comus." See Walker's Memoir of Taffoni, p. 229.

39 It has been asked where an illuftration must be fought for the expreffion, ver. 252,

At every fall, smoothing the raven down

Of darkness till it fmiled :'

and the entire filence of the commentators has been remarked. I fhall, therefore, point out the following paffage in Heywood's Love's Miftreffe. A&t. iii. fc. 1. But this play of Heywood's was printed fubfequently to Comus.


'Time's eldest daughter, Night, mother of Ease,
Thou gentle nurse, that with sweet lullabies
Care-waking hearts to gentle flumber charm'st!

Thou Smooth cheek'd negro, Night, the black eyed Queen.
That rid'ft about the world on the foft backs
Of downy Ravens fleeke and fable plumes,
And from thy chariot filent darknese flings,
In which man, beaft, and bird enveloped,
Takes their repose and rest.'

In November, 1637, he wrote Lycidas, an elegy occafioned by the death of a young and very accomplished person, Mr. King, who was the friend of Milton, and a great favourite at Cambridge. Milton's Poem was published at the end of a fmall volume of Elegies, with which the University honoured the memory of their student. Some of the fongs of LYCIDAS I have read, for

'He knew

Himself to fing, and build the lofty rhyme !'

they are, for the most part, complimentary effufions on the birth of the children of Charles the Firft; but I have discovered nothing that I could extract with advantage.40 The beautiful monody of Lycidas fhows an intimate acquaintance with the Italian metres, and to one poem, the Alcon" of Balth. Caftiglione, it is more peculiarly indebted for fome of its imagery. It discovers alfo Milton's familiarity with our elder poets; and fupported by the authority of Mantuan in his Bucolics, and his 'Mafter Spenfer,' in fimilar allufions, it has mixed. up with

[ocr errors]

40 Edward King, of Chrift's Coll. Camb. fon of Sir John King, Secretary for Ireland in the time of Elizabeth, James, and Charles. He was drowned on the paffage from Chester to Ireland. See Birch's Life, p. xvii. for an account of the collection in which Milton's Poems were published. The names of T. Farnaby, H. More, J. Beaumont, Cleaveland, W. Hall, and J. Pearson are in the lift of contributors. The shipwreck of Mr. King took place on the 10th of Aug. 1637; it appears that he might have escaped with some others in the boat; for an account of his poetry, fee Warton's Milton, p. 39, fecond ed.

41 See Claff. Journal, No. lxiii. p. 356, by G. N. Ogle. Translated into English Verse in the ed. of Caftiglione by Boyer. 4to. 1727.

42 There is among Spenfer's Poems a Pastoral Æglogue on Sir P. Sydney's death, by L. B. which Milton had read when he wrote Lycidas. v. Todd's Spenfer, vol. viii. p. 76. Mr. Herbert remarks-"Many blank lines occur in his Works (Guidi), as in the Lycidas of Milton." v. Mr. W. Herbert's Works, vol. ii. p. 10.—“The Lycidas and S. Agonistes of Milton has rhyme in a fcattered irregular manner,

occafional vifits to London to meet his friends, to buy books, or to learn something new in mathematics or mufic. Here he refided five years, paffing his time in regular and severe study; for he is said to have read over all the Greek and Latin writers: Johnson fays, that this account must be received with limitations; but five years well employed would leave few of the ancient authors unperused: I think Wyttenbach has mentioned his having read through Athenæus in fourteen days; and Joseph Scaliger has left on record the fhort time in which he finished both the Homeric Poems. What then might not Milton's enthufiaftic pursuit of knowledge, and his unwearied industry perform? He says of himself at this time,

Et totum rapiunt, me, mea vita, libri.'

In this ftudious retirement, and under the shelter of his paternal roof, it is believed that he wrote his Arcades, Comus, L'Allegro,28 Il Penferofo, and Lycidas.29 In the neighbourhood of Horton, the Countefs Dowager of Derby refided, and the Arcades was performed by her grandchildren at their feat, called Harefield Place.30 Was ever

memoria recolo, ubi et ego inter rura, et femotos faltus velut occulto ævo crefcere mihi potuiffe vifus fum.'

28 Dr. Ireland remarks "a fimilarity between the cadences, as well as in the measure and folemnity of thoughts, of the Penferofo, and the speech of Paulo, in Maffinger's Maid of Honor." See Gifford's ed. vol. iii. p. 107.

29 Milton was a courtier, when he wrote the Mafque at Ludlow Castle, and still more a courtier when he wrote the Arcades.' See C. Lamb's Elia, vol. ii. p. 138.

30 Milton was not the only great poet who has celebrated the Countess Dowager of Derby. She was alfo the patronefs of Spenfer. The Prayer Book of this Countefs, is the poetry of her times. See Brydges' Life of Milton, p. 62. For this celebrated Lady, fays Mr. Gifford, alfo appears greatly to have delighted in that elegant and fplendid exhibition. Milton wrote his Arcades, the fongs of which are a mere cento from our author's Mafques, of which, certainly, it is a very humble imitation. v. Jonfon's

lady on her return to the hall of her ancestors, crowned with fuch poetic garlands, or greeted by a welcome fo elegant as this? Some of his letters to Charles Deodati give us interesting particulars of his studies and habits of life. You well know (he fays) that I am naturally flow in writing, and averse to write. It is also in my favour, that your method of ftudy is fuch as to admit of frequent interruptions, in which you vifit your friends, write letters, or go abroad, but it is my way to fuffer no impediment, no love of ease, no avocation whatever, to chill the ardor, to break the continuity, or divert the completion of my literary pursuits;'--in a subsequent letter, the honourable ambition of his youthful mind opens itself without reserve to his familiar friend. Hear me,' he writes, "my Deodati, and suffer me, for a moment, to speak without blushing in a more lofty strain. Do you ask what I am meditating? by the help of heaven, an immortality of. fame, but what am I doing? TEрopuw. I am letting my wings grow and preparing to not yet feathers enough to foar

[ocr errors]

fly, but my Pegasus has aloft in the fields of air. You fhall likewife have fome information respecting my studies. I went through the perufal of the Greek authors to the time when they ceased to be Greeks. I was long employed in unravelling the obscure history of the Italians under the Lombards, the Franks, and Germans, to the time when they received their liberty from Rodolphus, King of Germany.'

To B. Bonmatthaei he writes of his proficiency in the richest and most melodious of modern tongues. 'I who certainly have not merely wetted the tip of my lips in the

Works, v. vii. p. 18. See alfo p. 78 and p. 89. "The Arcades, with the exception of three trifling fongs, is made up of the speech of the genius" (in the Barriers). "Milton is indebted for fomething more than a hero (Favonius) to this beautiful speech," (in the Vision of Delight), p. 306.

its pastoral beauties a ftern, and early avowal of his hoftility to the church. The short, but exquifitely beautiful poem called the Arcades,' was, as I have previously faid, compofed about this time; Milton wrote only the poetical part, the remainder probably confifted of profe and machinery.

Having completed his circle of study in the retirement

which is a very pleasing structure for a poem of length; it gives a connexion of parts, with the context artificial return of the ftanza or couplet." v. Jackson's Four Ages, p. 312.

43 Mr. Peck thinks that the manner in which Milton has difperfed his rhymes in Lycidas, is an attempt, though fecretly, to give a poetical image or draught of the mathematical canon of mufic: he informs us how to make this out, by drawing a bow line from rhyme to rhyme, he confiders the whole poem as a leffon of mufic confisting of such a number of bars. The rhymes are the feveral chords in the bar: the odd difperfion of the rhymes may be compared to the beautiful way of sprinkling the keys of an organ. He fays, Dryden imagined the rhymes fell fo, because Mister Milton could not help it. I think they lie fo, because Mr. Milton defigned it. v. New Memoirs, 4to. p. 32. Mr. Peck has favoured us with stage directions for Paradise Loft, as-Enter Adam, with his arms acrofs. Adam paufes. Thunder and lightning. Eve approaches him. Adam kicks at her. Eve embraces his legs. Eve is ready to faint, &c. He confiders Paradise Loft as partly formed out of Gufman d' Alfarache, the Spanish Rogue. He fays Mr. Fenton was a good judge when he took time to confider things, p. 83; he has compofed an epitaph for Mr. Milton, out of Val. Maximus, p. 101. He fays, 'His tip, and whiskers (an effay towards a beard), were of a thick, lightish colour, p. 103; that his eyes were black at twenty-fix, but blue at fixty. He is fatisfied that Milton could take an organ to pieces, and clean it, and put it together without help, p. 111; this he deduces from Par. Loft, 1. 709; he thinks ducks and nods' in Comus a fneer at the country people. He mentions Eve's inftituting a religious order of young women, who were to continue virgins, 196; he speaks of Milton's great intimacy with Mrs. Thompson, p. 274. He confiders King Charles the First a very proper person for Milton to present a poem to, by order of the Houfe of Commons, p. 284. The Biography of Milton reads very differently through the medium of the laborious Mr. Todd, and the lepid Mister Peck.

« السابقةمتابعة »