Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Tasso; a few more lines, alluding to his recent travels, I shall quote.

"Heu quis me ignotas traxit vagus error in oras,
Ire per aerëas rupes, alpemque nivosam !
Ecquid erat tanti Romam vidisse sepultam?
(Quamvis illa foret, qualem dum viseret olim,
Tityrus ipse suas, et oves et rura reliquit?)
Ut te tam dulci possem caruisse sodale,
Possem tot maria alta, tot interponere montes,
Tot sylvas, tot saxa tibi, fluviosque sonantes.
Ah certe extremum licuisset tangere dextram,
Et bene compositos placide morientis ocellos,
Et dixisse “vale, nostri memor, ibis ad astra.”

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

In these verses37 he repeats his design of writing an epic poem on some part of the ancient British history. Dr. Johnson has observed that this poem is written with the common but childish imitation of pastoral life.' As it is not however intended deeply to move the sources of our sympathy, or to come across a strong and recent sorrow,38 but to express, as in Lycidas, in a pleasing and gentle manner, the poet's affection and regret; the pastoral veil, in imitation of ancient poetry, and of later Italian models, is not inelegantly assumed. Besides, as Warton observes, the common topics are recommended by a novelty of elegant expression; some passages wander far beyond the bounds of bucolic song, and are in his own original style of the more sublime poetry. He might speak of its purpose as he does in his Prolusions (p. 91) of the Province of History; 'Nunc inquietos animi tumultus sedet et componit, nunc delibatum gaudio reddit, mox evocat lacrymas, sed mites eas, et pacatas, et quæ mæstæ nescio quid voluptatis secum afferat.'

Milton's return to England took place about the time of Charles's second expedition against the Scots, in which his

37 See ver. 161-167.

33 · Methinks, said Sancho, the thoughts that give way to verses, are not very troublesome. Therefore versify as much as you list, and I'll sleep as much as I can.' Don Quirote, vol. iv. p. 212. (Shelton's Transl.)

forces were defeated by General Lesly, in the month of August, 1639, and therefore not long before the meeting of the long parliament. In a Bible, once in the possession of Mr. Blackburn, and which is supposed to have been the companion of Milton's travels, are some manuscript remarks, dated Canterbury, 1639, among which is a quotation from Maccabees 1, xiv. 15: “Now when it was heard at Rome, and as far as Sparta, that Jonathan was dead, they were very sorry.'

When that day of death shall come,
Then shall nightly shades prevaile.
Soon shall love and music faile;
Soon the fresh turfe's tender blade
Shall flourish on my sleeping shade.

Of the authenticity of these remarks, and of the book having been the property of Milton, reasonable doubts have been entertained ; but I consider it my duty not to pass over in silence a circumstance which has been recorded and credited by the most industrious and inquisitive among the biographers of the Poet.39

He now hired a lodging in St. Bride's Churchyard, Fleet Street, at the house of one Russel, a tailor, and undertook the education of his two nephews, John and Edward Philips.40 Finding his rooms inconvenient, and not large enough for his books, he soon removed into a handsome garden-house in Aldersgate Street, free from the noise and disturbance of passengers, 41 and received some of his friends' sons to be instructed

39 See Todd's Life (first edit.) p. 39, Gent. Mag. July, Sept. Oct. 1792, Feb. 1790, March, 1803, p. 199.

40 Their mother had married again; therefore Milton might feel it his duty to take these boys under his care. They lived with him about five or six years. Mr. Godwin thinks John Philips's Scarronides (1664) was written in an excessive spirit of spite and malignity against Milton. v. Life of Philips, p. 148. As long as he lived he never relaxed in his unnatural animosity against his uncle, p. 157. Mr. Godwin calls him a shameless unfeeling buffoon, p. 161. Milton made his nephews songsters, and sing from the time they were with him. v. Aubrey, Let. 3. 446.

41 Philips gays, “ He made no long stay in his lodgings in St. Bride's Churchyard, necessity of having a place to dispose his books in, and other goods fit for the furnishing of a good handsome house, hastening him to take one ; and accordingly a pretty gardenhouse he took in Aldersgate St. at the end of an entry, and therefore the fitter for his

6

and educated by him. His father was still living; the allowance which he received was small, and he supplied its deficiences by a respectable employment. The expense of his travels, to which he has alluded in one of his tracts, probably rendered it necessary for him to abstain from pressing more deeply on the limited resources of his father.

My life,' he says, “has not been unexpensive, in learning and voyaging about. The Aubrey Letters mention that Milton went to the university at his own charges only, but in his Latin Epistle to his father, ver. 77, he says;

Tuo pater optime sumptu
Cum mihi Romuleæ patuit facundia linguæ
Et Latii veneres, et quæ Jovis ora decebant,
Grandia magniloquis elata vocabula Graiis
Addere suasisti quos jactat Gallia flores.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

The system of education which he adopted was deep and comprehensive: it promised to teach science with language; or rather to make the study of languages subservient to the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Dr. Johnson has severely censured this method of instruction, but with arguments that might not unsuccessfully be met. The plan recommended by the authority of Milton seems to be chiefly liable to objection, from being too extensive ; and while it makes authors of all ages

contribute to the developement of science, it of course must reject that careful selection, which can alone secure the cultivation of the taste. We may also reply to Johnson, that, although all men are not designed to be astronomers, or geometricians, a knowledge of the principles on which the sciences are built, and the reasonings by which they are conducted, not only forms the most exact discipline which the mind can undergo, giving to it comprehension and vigour, but is the only solid basis on which an investigation of the laws of nature can be conducted, or those arts improved that tend to the advantage of society, and the happiness of mankind. Johnson says, we are not placed here

turn, by the reason of the privacy, besides that there were fcu strects in London more free from noise than that.' v. p. lii. Al. Gill, his old tutor, being driven from St. Paul's, set up a private school in the same street.

Wood's Ath. Or. ii. c. 22.

to watch the planets, or the motion of the stars, but to do good. But good is done in various ways, according to opportunities offered and abilities conferred : a man whose natural disposition, or the circumstances of whose education lead to pursue astronomical discoveries, or the sublime speculations of geometry, is emphatically doing good to others, as he is extending the boundaries of knowledge, and to himself, as he is directing the energies of his mind to subjects of the most exalted contemplation.

But if the word 'good' is restricted to the performance of charitable actions, or the fulfilment of moral duties, we may ask, what opposition is there between the practice of virtue and the pursuit of science ? Every man is bound by the laws of God, and the design of his creation, to do good; for this purpose was he placed here ; but are men of science therefore unfitted for the performance of their civil and religious duties ? Are they, on account of their enlargement of mind or their sublime speculations, less virtuous, less self-denying, or less benevolent than others? Is not their occupation itself almost a school of virtue ? Lessons of civil wisdom and maxims of prudential conduct will be learnt by all; and is not a man eminently doing good, who is subduing the wild powers of nature under the dominion of skill, diminishing the extent of human suffering, or dissipating ignorance; like Franklin disarming the lightning of its fires, or like Watt binding an element of tremendous power into a safe and commodious form ; whose future effects on the social system of the world, even the eye of 'trembling Hope' dares not follow? The philosopher whose discoveries in science can facilitate the communication between distant nations, and carry the arts of civilized life into the bosom of the desert, may well be called the benefactor of mankind; and what fatal delusions may have been expelled by him, who could first calculate with precision the regularity of the comet's return ? The most abstract and exalted departments of science are the foundation of those inventions, that are of practical benefit and vulgar use. 42

42 Johnson's Life of Milton is written with his usual vigour of thought and clearness of expression ; il abounds with many just and striking observations; but it is

[blocks in formation]

To a knowledge of the Greek and Latin writers, Milton added a cultivation of the eastern languages, the Chaldee, Syriack, and Hebrew : he made his pupils “ go through the Pentateuch and gain an entrance into the Targum :” “Nor were the best Italian and French authors forgotten. One part of his method, says Johnson, deserves general imitation ; he was careful to instruct his scholars in religion. Every Sunday was spent upon theology, of which he dictated a short scheme gathered from the writers that were then fashionable in the Dutch universities.' Pearce has observed, that Fagius was Milton's favourite annotator on the Bible. Once in three or four weeks he relaxed from his

spare

diet and hard study, and passed a day of indulgence with some young sparks of his acquaintance, the chief of whom, his nephew says, 'were Mr. Alphry and Mr. Miller, the beaux of those times, but nothing near so bad as those now-a-days; with these gentlemen he made so far bold with his body, as now and then to keep a gaudy day.'

I am now to pass to that period of Milton's life, in which he first engaged in the controversies of the times; and published a Treatise on Reformation, in 1641, in two books, against the bishops43 and Established Church; being willing (he says) to help the Puritans, who were inferior to the prelates in learning;' in this, his earliest publication in prose, he throws out a hint of something like his great poem, that might hereafter be expected from him. Then amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of saints,

deeply coloured with prejudice, and the reasoning is sometimes sophistical and incorrect. I am supported in this opinion by Mr. Hawkins; see Pref. to Newton's Milton, p. 25. ed. 1824. I do not approve of the spirit or manner of Archd. Blackburne’s observations.

43 Dr. Symmons considers Milton as the leader of the attack against the prelates; his tutor Young had been one of the victims of the primate's intolerance; and Milton entered in his career, with the blended feeling of private and public wrong. v. Lifo, p. 226. The fact was, the Puritans were totally unable to compete with such men as Usher, Ilall, Bramhall, and others of the established religion in theological learning and knowledge of Ecclesiastical history, as may be seen by reading the controversy ; and they were glad even of Milton's cloquence; for that was all he brought them, and all the young scholar could be expected to bring. "Nec adhuc maturus Achilles'

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »