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Raphael. Milton was educated with great care. At Lawes set it to music, and it was acted on Michaelfifteen, he was sent (even then an accomplished mas night, 1634, the two brothers, the young lady, scholar) to St Paul's school, London, and two years and Lawes himself, bearing each a part in the reafterwards to Christ's college, Cambridge. He was presentation. “Comus' is better entitled to the apa severe student, of a nice and haughty temper, and pellation of a moral masque than any by Jonson, jealous of constraint or control. He complained Ford, or Massinger. It is a pure dream of Elysium. that the fields around Cambridge had no soft shades | The reader is transported, as in Shakspeare's • Temto attract the muse, as Robert IIall, a century and a pest,' to scenes of fairy enchantment, but no grosshalf afterwards, attributed his first attack of insanity ness mingles with the poet's creations, and his muse to the flatness of the scenery, and the want of woods is ever ready to moralise the song with strains of in that part of England! Milton was designed for solemn imagery and lofty sentiment. •Comus' was the church, but he preferred a . blameless silence to first published in 1637, not by its author, but by what he considered servitude and forswearing.' At Henry Lawes, who, in a dedication to Lord Bridgethis time, in his twenty-first year, he had written water, says, although not openly acknowledged by his grand Hymn on the Nativity, any one verse of the author, yet it is a legitimate offspring, so lovely, which was sufficient to show that a new and great and so much desired, that the often copying of it hath light was about to rise on English poetry. In tired my pen to give my several friends satisfaction.' 1632 he retired from the university, having taken Lycidas' was also published in the same year. This his degree of M.A., and went to the house of his exquisite poem is a monody on a college companion father, who had relinquished business, and pur- of Milton's, Edward King, who perished by shipchased a small property at Horton, in Buckingham- wreck on his passage from Chester to Ireland. shire. Here he lived five years, studying classical | Milton's descriptive poems, L'Allegro and Il Penliterature, and here he wrote his Arcades, Comus, seroso, are generally referred to the same happy and Lycidas. The · Arcades' formed part of a period of his life; but from the cast of the imagery, masque, presented to the Countess Dowager of we suspect they were sketched in at college, when he Derby, at Harefield, near Horton, by some noble walked the studious cloisters pale,' amidst storied persons of her family. Comus,' also a masque, was windows,' and pealing anthems.' And, indeed, presented at Ludlow castle in 1634, before the Earl there is a tradition that the scenery depicted in
• L'Allegro' is that around a country college retirement of the poet, at Forest Hill, about three miles from Oxford. In 1638 the poet left the paternal roof, and travelled for fifteen months in France and Italy, returning homewards by the · Leman lake' to Geneva and Paris. His society was courted by the choicest Italian wits,' and he visited Galileo, then a prisoner of the Inquisition. The statuesque grace and beauty of some of Milton's poetical creations (the figures of Adam and Eve, the angel Raphael, and parts of Paradise Regained) were probably suggested by his study of the works of art in Florence and Roine. The poet had been with difficulty restrained from testifying against popery within the verge of the Vatican; and on his return to his native country, he engaged in controversy against the prelates and the royalists, and vindicated, with characteristic ardour, the utmost freedom of thought and expression. His prose works are noticed in another part of this volume. In 1643 Milton went to the country, and married Mary, the daughter of Richard Powell, a high cavalier of Oxfordshire, to whom the poet was probably known, as Mr Powell had, many years before, borrowed £500 from his father. He brought his wife to London, but in the short period of a month, the studious habits and philosophical seclusion of the republican poet proved so distasteful to the cavalier's fair daughter, that she left his house on a visit to her parents, and refused to return. Milton resolved to repudiate her, and published some treatises on divorce, in which he argues that the law of Moses, which allowed of divorcement for uncleanness, was not adultery only, but uncleanness of the mind as
well as the body. This dangerous doctrine he Ludlow Castle
maintained through life ; but the year after her deof Bridgewater, then president of Wales. This sertion (when the poet was practically enforcing his drama was founded on an actual occurrence. The opinions by soliciting the hand of another lady), his Earl of Bridgewater then resided at Ludlow castle; erring and repentant wife fell on her knees before his sons, Lord Brackley and Mr Egerton, and Lady him, submissive in distress,' and Milton, like his Alice Egerton, his daughter, passing through Hay.
own Adam, was ‘fondly overcome with female wood forest in Herefordshire, on their way to charm.' He also behaved with great generosity to Ludlow, were benighted, and the lady was for a short her parents when the further progress of the civil time lost. This accident being related to their father war involved them in ruin. In 1649 Milton was, upon their arrival at his castle, Milton, at the re- unsolicited, appointed foreign or Latin secretary to quest of his friend Henry Lawes, the musician (who the council of state. His salary was about £300 per taught music in the family), wrote the masque. annum, which was afterwards reduced one half,
Op né 26 1669
Reed then of famuel Simmons habowed getur og pustand . Po empownoase mo the fecond
Firs-pounds verhonesn the Corinonhg fan reach by man Woneys fempit Jelur millora
when the duties were shared, first with Philip Mea him greater leisure; it was completed in 1665, at a dowes, and afterwards with the excellent Andrew cottage at Chalfont, in Bucks, to which the poet Marvell. He served Cromwell when Cromwell had had withdrawn from the plague, then raging in the thrown off the mask and assumed all but the name metropolis ; but it was not published till two years of king, and it is to be regretted that, like his friend afterwards, when the copyright was purchased by Bradshaw, the poet had not disclaimed this new and Samuel Simmons, a bookseller, on the following terms: usurped tyranny, though dignified by a master mind. - An immediate payment of £5, and £5 more when He was probably hurried along by the stormy tide of 1300 copies should be sold; the like sum after the events, till he could not well recede.
same number of the second edition (each edition to For ten years Milton's cyesight had been failing, consist of 1500 copies), and other £5 after the sale of owing to the wearisome studies and midnight watch the third. The third edition was not published till ings' of his youth. The last remains of it were 1678 (when the poet was no more), and his widow sacrificed in the composition of his Defensio Populi (Milton married a third time, about 1660) sold all (he was willing and proud to make the sacrifice), and her claims to Simmons for £8. It appears that in by the close of the year 1652, he was totally blind, the comparatively short period of two years, the • Dark, dark, irrecoverably dark.' His wife died about poet became entitled to his second payment, so that the same time; but he soon married again. His se- 1 1300 copies of Paradise Lost' had been sold in the cond partner died within a year, and he consecrated to her memory one of his simple, but solemn and touching sonnets :Methought I saw my late espoused saint Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave, Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave, Rescued from death by force, though pale and faint. Mine, as whom wash'd from spot of child-bed taint Purification in the old law did save, And such as yet once more I trust to have Full sight of her in heaven without restraint, Came vested all in white, pure as her mind; Her face was veil’d, yet to my fancied sight, Love, goodness, sweetness, in her person shin'd So clear, as in no face with more delight. But, oh ! as to embrace me she inclin'd, I wak’d, she fled, and day brought back my night.
The Restoration deprived Milton of his public Fac-simile of Milton's Second Receipt to Simmons. employment, and exposed him to danger, but by the interest of Davenant and Marvell (as has been said),
two first years of its publication-a proof that the his name was included in the general amnesty. The
nation was not, as has been vulgarly supposed, ingreat poet was now at liberty to pursue his private
sensible to the merits of the divine poem then enterstudies, and to realise the devout aspirations of his
ing on its course of immortality. In eleven years from the date of its publication, 3000 copies had been sold; and a modern critic has expressed a doubt whether ‘Paradise Lost,' published eleven years since, would have met with a greater demand! The fall of man was a theme suited to the serious part of the community in that age, independently of the claims of a work of genius. The Puritans had not yet wholly died out-their beatific visions were not quenched by the gross sensualism of the times. Compared with Dryden's plays, how pure, how lofty and sanctified, must have appeared the epic strains of Milton! The blank-verse of Paradise Lost' was, however, a stumblingblock to the reading public. So long a poem in this measure had not before been attempted, and ere the second edition was published, Samuel Simmons procured from Milton a short and spirited explanation of his reasons for departing from the troublesome bondage of rhyming. In 1671 the poet produced his Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. The severe simplicity and the restricted plan of these poems have rendered them less popular than Comus' or Paradise Lost;' but
they exhibit the intensity and force of Milton's .
genius: they were the ebb of a mighty tide.' The survey of Greece and Rome in · Paradise Regained,' and the poet's description of the banquet in the
grove, are as rich and exuberant as anything in Nowy
• Paradise Lost;' while his brief sketch of the thun
der-storm in the wilderness, in the same poem, is Milton's Cottage at Chalfont.
perhaps the most strikingly dramatic and effective
| passage of the kind in all his works. The active youth for an immortality of literary fame. His and studious life of the poet was now near a close. spirit was unsubdued. Paradise Lost was begun in It is pleasing to reflect that Poverty, in her worst 1658, when the division of the secretaryship gave shape, never entered his dwelling, irradiated by visions of paradise; and that, though long a sufferer remarkable for their grandeur and sublimity. The from hereditary disease, his mind was calm and delineation of Satan and the fallen angels hurled bright to the last. He died without a struggle on headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,' and their Sunday the 8th of November, 1674. By his first assembled deliberations in the infernal council, are rash and ill-assorted marriage, Milton left three astonishing efforts of human genius—their appeardaughters, whom, it is said, he taught to read and ance dwarfs every other poetical conception. At a pronounce several languages, though they only un- time when the common superstition of the country derstood their native tongue. He complained that presented the Spirit of Evil in the most low and the children were ·undutiful and unkind' to him ; debasing shapes, Milton invested himn with colossal and they were all living apart from their illustrious strength and majesty, with unconquerable pride and parent for some years before his death. His widow daring, with passion and remorse, sorrow and tearsinherited a fortune of about £1500, of which she the archangel ruined, and the excess of glory obgave £100 to each of his daughters.
scured.' Pope has censured the dialogues in heaven Milton's early poems have much of the manner as too metaphysical, and every reader feels that they of Spenser, particularly his 'Lycidas.' In · Comus' are prolix, and, in some instances, unnecessary and there are various traces of Fletcher, Shakspeare, unbecoming. The taste of Milton for argumentative and other poets.* Single words, epithets, and images, speech and theology had overpowered his poetical he freely borrowed, but they were so combined and imagination. It has also been objected, that there is improved by his own splendid and absorbing ima- a want of human interest in the poem. This objecgination, as not to detract from his originality. tion, however, is not felt. The poet has drawn the His imperial fancy (as was said of Burke) laid all characters of Adam and Eve with such surpassing art and nature under tribute, yet never lost its art and beauty, and has invested their residence in own original brightness.' Milton's diction is pecu- Paradise with such an accumulation of charms, that liarly rich and pictorial in effect. In force and dig. our sympathy with them is strong and unbroken; pity he towers over all his contemporaries. He it accompanies them in their life of innocence, their is of no class of poets : ‘his soul was like a star, daily employment among fruits and flowers, their and dwelt apart.' The style of Milton's verse was purity, affection, and piety, and it continues after moulded on classic models, chiefly the Greek tra. the ruins of the fall. More perfect and entire symgedians; but his musical taste, his love of Italian pathy could not be excited by any living agents. literature, and the lofty and solemn cast of his own in these tender and descriptive scenes, the force and mind, gave strength and harmony to the whole. His occasional stiffness of Milton's style, and the march minor poems alone would have rendered his name | of his stately sonorous verse, are tempered and immortal, but there still wanted his great epic to | modulated with exquisite skill. The allegorical complete the measure of his fame, and the glory of figures of Sin and Death have been found fault his country.
with: 'they will not bear exact criticism,' says • Paradise Lost,' or the fall of man, had long been | Hallam, yet we do not wish them away. They familiar to Milton as a subject for poetry. He at appear to us to be among the grandest of Milton's first intended it as a drama, and two draughts of his conceptions - terrific, repulsive, yet sublime, and scheme are preserved among his manuscripts in sternly moral in their effects. Who but must enterTrinity college library, Cambridge. His genius, how | tain disgust and hatred at sin thus portrayed ? ever, was better adapted for an epic than a dramatic The battle of the angels in the sixth book is perhaps poem. His • Samson,' though cast in a dramatic open to censure. The material machinery is out of form, has little of dramatic interest or variety of place in heaven, and seems to violate even poetical character. His multifarious learning and uniform probability. The reader is sensible how the combat dignity of manner would have been too weighty for must end, and wishes that the whole had been more dialogue; whereas in the epic form, his erudition was veiled and obscure. “The martial demons,' remarks vell employed in episode and illustration. He was Campbell, who charmed us in the shades of hell, perhaps too profuse of learned illustration, yet there I lose some portion of their sublimity when their is something very striking and imposing even in his artillery is discharged in the daylight of heaven.' long catalogues of names and cities. They are gene- | The discourses of the angel Raphael, and the vision rally sonorous and musical. •The subject of Para- of Michael in the two last books-leading the reader dise Lost,' says Mr Campbell, was the origin of gently and slowly, as it were, from the empyrean evil-an era in existence-an event more than all heights down to earth-have a tranquil dignity of others dividing past from future time--an isthmus | tone and pathos that are deeply touching and imin the ocean of eternity. The theme was in its pressive. The Christian poet triumphs and predonature connected with everything important in the minates at the close. circumstances of human history; and amidst these circumstances Milton saw that the fables of Pagan
[Hymn on the Natirity.] ism were too important and poetical to be omitted. As a Christian, he was entitled wholly to neglect | It was the winter wild, them; but as a poet, he chose to treat them, not as While the heaven-born child dreams of the human mind, but as the delusions of All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies; infernal existences. Thus anticipating a beautiful | Nature, in awe to him, propriety for all classical allusions, thus connecting
Had doff" and re
reconciling the co-existence of fable and truth. With her great Master so to sympathise: and thus identifying his fallen angels with the It was no season then for her deities of “ gay religions full of pomp and gold,” he To wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour. yoked the heathen mythology in triumph to his
Only with speeches fair subject, and clothed himself in the spoils of super
She woos the gentle air, stition. The two first books of Paradise Lost' are
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow; * Dryden, in his preface to the · Fables,' says, Milton has
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinful blame, acknowledged to me that Spenser was his original.' Browne, Fletcher, Burton, and Drummond, also assisted: Milton, as The saintly veil of maiden white to throw : has been happily rernarked, was a great collector of sweets Confounded, that her Maker's eyes from these wild flowers.
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.
But he, her fears to cease,
Such music, as 'tis said,
Before was never made,
While the Creator great
His constellations set, With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing; And the well-balanc'd world on hinges hung, And, waving wide her myrtle wand.
And cast the dark foundations deep, She strikes a universal peace through sea and land. And bid the weltering waves their oozy channel keep. No war or battle's sound,
Ring out, ye crystal spheres,
Once bless our human ears,
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time; The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And let the base of Heaven's deep organ blow; And kings sat still with awful eye,
And, with your ninefold harmony, As if they surely krew their soy'reign lord was by. Make up full concert to the angelic symphony. But peaceful was the night,
For, if such holy song Wherein the Prince of Light
Enwrap our fancy long, His reign of peace upon the earth began :
Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold; The winds, with wonder whist,
And speckled Vanity Smoothly the waters kissid,
Will sicken soon and die, Whispering new joys to the mild Ocean,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould; Who now hath quite forgot to rare,
And Hell itself will pass away, While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave. |
| And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day. The stars, with deep amaze,
Yea, Truth and Justice then Stand fix'd in steadfast gaze,
Will down return to men, Bending one way their precious influence;
Orb’d in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing, And will not take their flight,
Mercy will sit between, For all the morning light,
Thron'd in celestial sheen, Or Lucifer that often warn’d them thence;
With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering; But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
And Heaven, as at some festival, Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go. Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall. And, though the shady gloom
But wisest Fate says no, Had given day her room,
This must not yet be so, The sun himself withheld his wonted speed,
The babe yet lies in smiling infancy, And hid his head for shame,
That on the bitter cross As his inferior flame
Must redeem our loss, The new-enlightend world no more should need;
should need : So both himself and us to glorify: He saw a greater sun appear
Yet first, to those ychain'd in sleep, Than his bright throne, or burning axletree, could bear.
The wakeful trump of doom must thunder througb
the deep, The shepherds on the lawn, Or ere the point of dawn,
With such a horrid clang Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;
As on mount Sinai rang, Full little thought they then
While the red fire and smould’ring clouds out brake; That the mighty Pan
The aged carth aghast, Was kindly come to live with them below;
With terror of that blast, Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
Shall from the surface to the centre shake;
When, at the world's last session, Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy kecp.
The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread his When such music sweet
throne. Their hearts and cars did greet, As never was by mortal finger strook,
And then at last our bliss, Divinely-warbled voice
Full and perfect is, Answering the stringed noise,
But now begins; for, from this happy day, As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The old dragon, under ground,
In straiter limits bound,
And, wroth to see his kingdom fail,
Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail. Of Cynthia's seat, the airy region thrilling,
The oracles are dumb; Now was almost won,
No voice or hideous hum To think her part was done,
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving. And that her reign had here its last fulfilling; Apollo from his shrine She knew such harmony alone
Can no more divine, Could hold all Heaven and Earth in happier union. With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving. At last surrounds their sight
No nightly trance, or breathed spell, A globe of circular light,
Inspires the pale-ey'd priest from the prophetic cell. That with long beams the shamefac'd night array'd ; The lonely mountains o'er, The helmed cherubim,
And the resounding shore,
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
Edg’d with poplar pale,
With flower-inwoven tresses torn,
Sonnet on his own Blindness. mourn.
When I consider how my light is spent In consecrated earth,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And on the holy hearth,
And that one talent which is death to hide, The Lars and Lemurs mourn with midnight plaint;
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent In urns and altars round,
To serve therewith my Maker, and present A drear and dying sound
My true account, lest he, returning, chide; Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint;
• Doth God exact day-labour, light denied ?' And the chill marble seems to sweat,
I fondly ask; but Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, 'God doth not need While each peculiar power foregoes his wonted seat.
Either man's work, or his own gifts; who best Peor and Baälim
Bears his mild yoke, they serve him best; his state Forsake their temples dim,
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
They also serve who only stand and wait !'
(In Anticipation of the Attack of the Royalists upon The Libyac Hammon shrinks his horn;
the City.] In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz
Captain, or colonel, or knight in arms, mourn.
Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize, And sullen Moloch, fled,
If deed of honour did thee ever please, Hath left in shadows dread
Guard them, and him within protect from harms. His burning idol all of blackest hue;
He can requite thee; for he knows the charms In vain with cymbals' ring
That call fame on such gentle acts as these, They call the grisly king,
And he can spread thy name o'er lands and seas, In dismal dance about the furnace blue :
Whatever clime the sun's bright circle warms. The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
Lift not thy spear against the Muse's bower: Isis, and Orus, and the dog Anubis, haste.
The great Émathian conqueror bid spare Nor is Osiris seen
The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower In Memphian grove or green,
Went to the ground: And the repeated air
To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare.
Nought but profoundest hell can be his shroud ; [On the Massacre of the Protestants in Piedmont.)
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughter'd saints, whose bones
Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold; He feels from Judah's land
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old, The dreaded infant's hand,
When all our fathers worshipp'd stocks and stones, The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn; Forget not: in thy book record their groans Nor all the gods beside
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold Longer dare abide,
| Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that roll'd Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine :
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans Our babe, to show his Godhead true,
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they Can in his swaddling bands control the damned crew.
To Heaven. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow So, when the sun in bed,
O’er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway Curtain'd with cloudy red,
The triple tyrant; that from these may grow Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,
| A hundred fold, who, having learn'd thy way, The flocking shadows pale,
Early may fly the Babylonian wo.
[Scene from Comu.] And the yellow-skirted fays
The Lady enters. Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-lor'd maze.
This way the noise was, if mine ear be true,
My best guide now: methought it was the sound But see, the Virgin blest
Of riot and ill-manag'd merriment, Hath laid her Babe to rest;
Such as the jocund flute or gamesome pipe Time is, our tedious song should here have ending:
Stirs up among the loose unletter'd hinds, Heaven's youngest-teemed star
When for their teeming flocks, and granges full, Hath fix'd her polish'd car,
In wanton dance they praise the bounteous Pan, Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending;
p attending ; And thank the gods amiss. I should be loath And all about the courtly stable
To meet the rudeness and swill'd insolence Bright-harness'd angels sit in order serviceable.
Of such late wassailers; yet 0 ! where else
Shall I inform my unacquainted feet
In the blind mazes of this tangled wood !
Stept, as they said, to the next thicket side, Hail bounteous May! that dost inspire
To bring me berries, or such cooling fruit Mirth, and youth, and warm desire;
As the kind hospitable woods provide. Woods and groves are of thy dressing,
They left me then, when the gray-hooded Even, Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Like a sad votarist in palmer's weed, Thus we salute thee with our early song,
Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phæbus' wain. And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
But where they are, and why they came not back,