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genius in an idiom not his own, and were honoured with the approbation of his learned Italian friends. When publishing his Poems in 1645, he inserted among them five Sonnets and a short Canzone in the language of Italy. Johnson says of these pieces, “I have heard them com

“ mended by a man well qualified to decide their merit. The person he meant was Baretti, and his opinion has, we believe, been the prevalent one ever since, and as far as regards the poetry it is evidently just. But it always struck us in reading these poems, that they had the fault common and almost inevitable to modern Latin poetry, namely, that of confounding the language and style of different periods ; that, in fact, though written in the middle of the seventeenth century, they presented forms peculiar to Dante and the poets of the fourteenth century. We therefore marked the passages in which we thought we had discerned this fault, and then submitted them to the criticism of our friend, the late Gabriele Rossetti, himself a poet of a high order, and inferior to none in the critical knowledge of the poetry of his native language. In every instance our conjectures were right. In our notes on these poems we have given our friend's observations: his concluding remark is as follows :

“Io per me mene uscirei con poche parole, dicendo che lo scrivere in lingua straniera è stato per Milton un' audacia di cui il solo successo potrebbe giustificarlo; ma che sventuratamente non è così.”

These and two Latin poems were the products of the Miltonic muse in the bright regions of the South. After his return to England, and during a space of more than twenty years, all that he has left us is a few sonnets, some translations, and two more Latin poems.

SONNET VIII. Captain, or Colonel, or knight in arms. When, in 1642, the King's forces had advanced to Brentford, and it was expected that he would make an attack on the city, and not without a fair prospect of success, Milton, revolving in his mind the events which often occurred in such cases, composed the following ideal address to the conquerors. The poet was at this time residing in his garden-house in Aldersgate Street.

This sonnet is one of the two which Johnson allowed to be “not bad;" Warton terms it one of his best ; the same was the opinion of Wordsworth.


Lady that in the prime of earliest youth. As this and the following sonnet both appeared in the edition of his Poems in 1645, they must have been written before that year, and the most likely date appears to be 1644. We know not who this “virtuous young lady” was ; but it is not impossible that she may have been the Miss Davis to whom he paid his addresses when his wife had deserted him. If such was the case, we may regard it as a piece of grave and elegant religious courtship, and it gives a high idea of the lady's virtues, at least in the eyes of her admirer.

SONNET X. Daughter to that good Earl, once President. The person to whom this sonnet is addressed was the Lady Margaret Ley, daughter of Sir James Ley, who being an able lawyer had risen through the great posts of the Law under James I., who created him Earl of

Marlborough, and made him Lord High Treasurer and President of the Council. He died on the 14th of

. March, 1628-9; and as the last Parliament which King Charles convoked previous to entering on his course of reckless despotism was dissolved only four days previously, Milton chooses to ascribe his death to grief at that event. Lady Margaret was married to Captain

. Hobson, of the Isle of Wight; and Milton, when deserted by his wife, was a frequent visitor at their house in London. The sonnet is a pleasing composition, and we do not discern in it any defects.



A book was writ of late called Tetrachordon.

I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs. These two sonnets were written apparently in 1645, on account of the reception which his works on the subject of divorce had met with from the Presbyterians, who were then in power. The first expresses his contempt and dislike of the Scots; the second, his scorn of those who claimed a liberty for themselves which they would not accord to others. On account probably of their personal and political character, he did not insert them in his edition of his Poems; he printed them however in 1673. Johnson says of them, “ The first is contemptible, and the second not excellent.” To show his aversion to the sonnet, as a mode of poetic composition, he gives the former as the specimen of it in his Dictionary.


When Faith and Love which parted from thee never. This sonnet, which first appeared in the edition of 1673, is inscribed in the Cambridge MS. “On the religious memory of Mrs. Catherine Thomson, my Christian friend, deceased 16 Decemb. 1646.” When it was written Milton was living at his house in Barbican. Who Mrs. Thomson was (for it is plain from v. 5 that she was married), is quite uncertain. Newton, observing that when Milton was made Latin Secretary (in 1648) he went to lodge at one Thomson's at Charing Cross, thinks that she may have been one of this family. It may have been so, but we have no proof of it. The sonnet is excellent, redolent of pure and exalted religion.

Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son.

Cyriac, whose grandsire on the royal bench. It might seem that, after the death of his father, Milton, who probably found no great pleasure in the insipid society of his wife, used to hold social meetings (perhaps at taverns), with some of his more intellectual friends, where their conversation was enlivened by wine 'and music, Henry Lawes being probably one of the party. Possibly, however, these sonnets might have been written during his bachelor-days, and he regarded them as of too personal a nature to be printed among his Poems. In composing them he had evidently some of Horace's odes in view, and candour must acknowledge that he is very far from attaining, if he sought it, to the ease and gaiety of the Sabine bard. We have above noticed Lawrence and Skinner among Milton's friends.

SONNET XVI. (XIII.) Harry, whose tuneful and well-measured song. The date of this sonnet in Milton's MS. is February 5,

1645-6, though the work to which it alludes was not published till 1648. Possibly the poet, knowing that the work was in preparation, got his sonnet ready for presentation on its appearance. It is not one of Milton's best productions, but it is a pleasing testimony to the talents and merits of a friend.

In our account of Henry Lawes, given in the First Part of this work, we observed that Dr. Burney spoke slightingly of him as a composer.

We will here give the opposite opinion of a learned and scientific musician on Lawes and on Milton's sonnet, which is, we believe, equivalent to that of Burney.

Of Milton's sonnet I would say, that it is the language of simple truth, and sound and discriminating criticism, conveyed in the dress of poetry. Milton sees, knows, describes his friend's peculiar excellence. He is the exception to the general rule. Other writers, ancient or modern, in prose or in poetry, rarely speak of music without betraying their ignorance of it. They deal in vague generalities, or, if they attempt anything more, blunder. Milton, whenever he speaks of music-and how often does the divine Art present itself to his mind!—is always strictly, technically correct. Whoever is acquainted with Henry Lawes' music, and especially whoever compares it with the compositions of his predecessors, will see the truth and discrimination of Milton's commendation. Lawes was one of the earliest of the English melodists— the father of that style of writing which was successively cultivated by Purcell, Eccles, Weldon, Howard, Boyce, Battishill, Arnold, and Shield; and, in that department of his art, was in no respect behind his Italian contemporaries, Cesti, Caccini, and Cavalli.

In this sonnet Milton alludes to Lawes' Cantata “ Theseus and Ariadne ;" for as a marginal note-not preserved in modern editions of it-to the eleventh line these words are added, The story of Ariadne by him set to Musick.” This composition Milton must have seen in MS., for it was not published till 1653, seven years after he wrote his sonnet. I mention this as an accidental proof of the intimacy that continued between Lawes and

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