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They name the virgins, who arrived of yore
Upis, on whose bless'd lips the future hung;
All deck'd with Pictish hues, and all with bosoms bare.
The upland elms descended to the plain,
Arthur the chief, who even now prepares,
Shall bind my brows,-but I shall rest the while.
These rites, as Fate permits, I shall survey
And, every cloud from my pure spirit driven,
We may conceive what delight Milton had in talking with Manso about Tasso, and how it encouraged his own desire of poetical immortality. The honours paid to Tasso as a poet were of a kind of which the cold northern clime of England gave no example. Spenser had died in poverty, ruined and neglected: Shakspeare seems to have been little personally known in his lifetime; for nothing is recorded of his habits and private character.
But though Tasso was cruelly used by his inglorious and base prince, his countrymen worshipped him, and bore with all his eccentricities. In England, except by Chaucer and Spenser, there had been no great epics of fiction. The
metrical narratives were, for the most part, dull chronicles that fiery force, where life breathes in every line and every image, was almost unknown. It is by the invention of grand fables that poets must stand high: little patches of flowers a style of similes and metaphors, will not do. The manners and credences of Europe, from the commencement of the crusades, afforded inexhaustible subjects of heroic poetry: fictions improved upon the romantic tales of the Provençal bards could never be wanting to the imagination or the lyre.
Milton returned by Venice, where he made a large collection of music for his father; and thence passed through Geneva, at which he made a short sojourn with John Deodate, a learned theologian and professor, the relation of his friend Charles Deodate, and became acquainted with Frederic Spanheim. Here he is supposed to have renewed his Calvinistic and puritanical prejudices. It is somewhat strange that this small place should have been the focus of all that troubled the governments of Europe for more than a century. They were not content with forming a republican government for their own petty canton, for which it was well suited, but struggled to turn all the great monarchies into republics.
The poet must have been delighted with the lake-scenery and Alpine summits of this magnificent country: yet, after the pomp of Italy, its splendid arts, its princely societies, its genial
skies, its imaginative delights, men must have seemed here to have dwindled into formal and dull automatons. Here might be learning; but it was dry and tasteless : here was now no Beza, or D'Aubigné; nor any anticipation of the eloquent and passionate Rousseau, or spiritual De Stael, or historic and philosophical Sismondi.
I have endeavoured to find some traces of Milton's visit in Geneva; but have yet discovered none. I am told it is a mistake that the Deodate campagne at the adjoining village of Cologny on the Savoy side, which Byron inhabited in 1816, was that which belonged to the Deodate family when Milton was here. In the
Livre des Anglais,' preserved in the statearchives at the Hotel de Ville, are registers of the English (including John Knox), who took refuge here from 1554 to 1558, and had an English chapel in Geneva.
ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF MILTON'S PROSE
IN 1639 Milton returned to England: he had the grief of finding that his friend Charles Deodate was already dead: on that occasion he wrote the Latin pastoral entitled Epitaphium Damonis.' He now undertook the tutorship of his two nephews, John and Edward Phillips, and added to them some other pupils. Having professed to have been drawn back to England to take a part in the cause of liberty, then breaking out into open contest, Johnson considers this occupation a falling off from his boasted high intentions, and utters a growling sort of merriment at the failure. This is in the tone of the biographer's usual insults on the great bard: he is on these occasions coarse, pompous, and unjust. Milton did not come home to take a part by the sword, but by the pen: if therefore he endeavoured to aid an incompetent income by taking pupils, what inconsistency was there in this? The sneer comes doubly ill from one who had been himself a schoolmaster.