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has left on record the short time in which he finished both the Homeric Poems. What then might not Milton's enthusiastic pursuit of knowledge, and his unwearied industry perform? He says of himself at this time,
Et totum rapiunt, me, mea vita, libri.'
In this studious retirement, and under the shelter of his paternal roof, it is believed that he wrote his Arcades, Comus, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas. In the neighbourhood of Horton, the Countess Dowager of Derby resided, and the Arcades was performed by her grandchildren at their seat, called Harefield Place. Was ever lady on her return to the hall of her ancestors, crowned with such poetic garlands, or greeted by a welcome so 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 says) that I am naturally slow in writing, and averse to write. It is also in my favour, that your method of study is such as to admit of frequent interruptions, in which you visit your friends, write letters, or go abroad ; but it is my way to suffer 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? niepoqữa. I am letting my wings grow and preparing to fly, but my Pegasus has not yet feathers enough to soar aloft in the fields of air.
You shall likewise have some information respecting my studies. I went through the perusal 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 stream of these languages, but, in proportion to my years, have swallowed the most copious draughts, can yet sometimes retire with avidity and delight to feast on Dante, Petrarch, and many others; nor has Athens itself been able to confine me to the transparent wave of its Ilissus, nor ancient Rome to the banks of its Tiber, so as to prevent my visiting with delight the stream of the Arno, and the hills of Fæsolæ.'
Thel7 Masque of Comus was presented at Ludlow, in 1634, then the residence of the Lord President of Wales, and was acted by the18 Earl of Bridgewater's sons, and his young daughter the Lady Alice Egerton. The story is said to have been founded on a circumstance that took place in the family of the Earl not long before; and Milton wrote his Masque at the request of Henry Lawes, the celebrated musician. Dr. Johnson observes that the fiction is derived from Homer's Circe, but later investigations have discovered a closer resemblance in the Comus of Erycius Puteanus, and the Old Wives' Tale of George Peele.19 It is one of the most beautiful and, with the exception of
17 The original manuscript of Comus is in Trin. Coll. Library; it was found among other papers that once belonged to Sir Henry Newton Puckering, a benefactor to the library, and was printed at London in 1637, 4to. Warton says, “It was with great difficulty and reluctance that Milton first appeared as an author.' Some account of Sir N. Puckering may be read in Warton's Milton, p. 578, and the original various readings to the Lycidas, Comus, and smaller poems from the Manuscript, p. 578 to 590. On the few variations not noticed by Warton, see Class. Journal, No. xxiii. p. 211. There is one rather curious :
"While all the starry rounds, and arches blue
Resound, and echo Hallelu!' A manuscript copy of Comus is also in the Bridgewater library, at Ashridge, (sce Todd's Comus, p. 165,) before it was corrected.
18 Milton lost the friendship of the Bridgewater family by his Defensio. In a copy of it in Lord Stafford's library, the Earl (who performed the part of the first brother) wrote · Liber igne, autor furca dignissimi.' On this account Lawes' dedication is supposed to have been withdrawn from the subsequent editions. v. Todd, p. 2.
19 See G. Peele's Works by the Rev. A. Dyce, vol. i. p. 204. ed. 1829. Is. Reed first directed attention to this play, then almost unknown. For extracts from Puteanus, see Todd's ed. of Comus, p. 57. 02.
a few passages, one of the most finished Poems in our language. It has all the sweetness of Fletcher, with a richer structure of versification, more foreign idioms, more learned allusions, and a higher reach of fancy. It does not rise into all the wildness of the romantic fable, only because it is guarded and subdued by a chaste and elegant judgment. Sir Henry Wotton was 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.20 T. Warton observes that Comus is a suite of speeches not interesting by discrimination of character, not conveying variety of incidents, nor gradually exciting curiosity; but perpetually attracting attention by sublime sentiment, and fanciful imagery of the richest vein, by an exuberance of picturesque description, poetical allusion, and ornamental expression.' 21
In November, 1637, he wrote Lycidas, an elegy occasioned 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 small volume of Elegies, with which the University honoured the mem
20 On the system of 'orthography' adopted by Milton in this and his other poems, consult Capel Loft's Preface to Par. Lost, 4to. 1792, and Todd's Preface to Comus, p. viii., and Richardson’s Life, p. cxxx. 21 It has been asked where an illustration must be sought for the expression, ver. 252,
"At every fall, smoothing the raven down
Of darkness till it smiled :' and the entire silence of the commentators has been remarked. I shall, therefore, observe that there can be no doubt, but that Milton had the following passage in Heywood's Love's Mistresse before him. Act iii. sc. 1.
Time's eldest daughter, Night, mother of Ease,
ory of their student. Some of the songs of Lycidas I have read, for
they are, for the most part, complimentary effusions on the birth of the children of Charles the First; but I have discovered nothing that I could extract with advantage.22 The beautiful monody of Lycidas shows an intimate acquaintance with the Italian metres; and to one poem, the Alcon23 of Balth. Castiglione, it is more peculiarly indebted for some of its imagery. It discovers also Milton's familiarity with our elder poets, and supported by the authority of his 'Master Spenser,"24 in similar allusions; it has mixed up with its pastoral beauties a stern and early avowal of his hostility to the church.25 The short, but
22 Edward King, of Christ's Coll. Camb. son of Sir John King, Secretary for Ireland in the time of Elizabeth, James, and Charles. He was drowned on the passage 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, II. More, J. Beaumont, Cleaveland, W. Hall, are in the list 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, see Warton's Milton, p. 39, second ed.
23 See Class. Journal, No. Ixiii. p. 356, by G. N. Ogle.
24 There is among Spenser'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 Spenser, vol. viii. p. 76.
25 Mr. Peck thinks that the manner in which Milton has dispersed his rhymes In Lycidas, is an attempt, though secretly, to give a poetical image or draught of the mathematical canon of music: he informs us how to make this out, ‘by drawing a bow line from rhyme to rhyme,' he considers the whole poem as a lesson of music consisting of such a number of bars. The rhymes aro the several chords in the bar: the odd dispersion of the rhymes may be compared to the beautiful way of sprinkling the keys of an organ. He says, Dryden imagined the rhymes fell so, because Mister Milton could not help it. I think they lie so, because Mr. Milton designed it. v. New Memoirs, 4to. p. 32. Mr. Peck has favoured us with stage directions for Paradise Lost; as-Enter Adam, with his arms across. Adam pauses. Thunder and Lightning. Eve approaches him. Adam kicks at her. Eve embraces his legs. Eve is ready to faint, &c. He considers Paradise Lost as partly formed out of Gusman d'Alfarache, the Spanish Rogue. He says Mr. Fenton was a good judge when he took time to consider things, p. 83; he has composed an epitaph for Mr. Milton, out of Val. Maximus, p. 101. Ile says, 'His tip, and whiskers (an essay towards a beard), were of a thick, lightish colour,' p. 103; that his eyes were black at twenty-six, but blue at sixty. He is satisfied that Milton could take an organ to pieces, and clean it, and put it together without help, p. 111; this he deduces from Par. Lost, i. 709; he thinks ducks ana nods' in Comus a sneer at the country people. He mentions Eve's instituting a religious order of young women, who
poem, called 'the Arcades,' was, as I have previously said, composed about this time; Milton wrote only the poetical part, the remainder probably consisted of prose and machinery.
Having completed his circle of study in the retirement of the country, Milton became anxious to enjoy the learned society, and the refined amusements of town. “Excipit hinc fessum sinuosi pompa
Theatri.' He writes to Deodati, I will tell you seriously what I design.—' To take chambers in one of the inns of court, where I may have the benefit of a pleasant and shady walk, and where with a few associates I may enjoy more comfort, when I choose to stay at home, and have a more elegant society when I choose to go abroad : in my present situation you know in what obscurity I am buried, and to what inconveniences I am exposed.'—His seventh Elegy discovers that these shady26 and suburban walks were enlivened by forms that made no light impression even on a scholar's heart.
Et modo qua nostri spatiantur in urbe Quirites,
Et modo villarum proxima rura placent;
Splendida per medias itque reditque vias.
Impetus et quo me fert juvenilis agor.
Principium nostri lux erat illa mali.
Sic regina deûm conspicienda fuit.
Ablata est, oculis non reditura meis.
Et dubius volui sæpe referre pedem.
were to continue virgins, 196; he speaks of Milton's great intimacy with Mrs. Thompson, p. 274. He considers King Charles the First a very proper person for Milton to present a poem to, by order of the House of Commons, p. 281. The Biography of Milton reads very differently through the medium of the laborious Mr. Todd, and the lepid Mister Peck.
26 In the time of Milton's youth, the fashionable places of walking in London were Hyde Park, and Gray's Inn Walks. See Warton's Quotations from Sir A. Cockaine's Poems, p. 470. In his Prolusiones, p. 113, he mentions the pleasures of London ; ‘Cum ex ea urbe, quæ caput urbium est, huc nuper me reciperem, Academici, deliciaruin omnium, quibus is locus supra moduin afluit, usque ad saginam, prope dixerim, satur ;