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Pickering edition of Milton's Works), Mr. Panizzi of the British Museum, now Sir Antonio Panizzi. Subjoined to the text were several notes by Mr. Panizzi, pointing out solecisms or obscurities in Milton's Italian. To the word “possa” in line 10 of the first Italian Sonnet (Sonnet III.) this note was appended : “ This possa is an Anglicism :
mover possa’ here seems to be used as “can move,' and `possa 'is ‘may.'' On the phrase "io a l' altrui peso” in line u of the second Italian Sonnet (Sonnet IV), Mr. Panizzi wrote, “I do not recollect any such Italian phrase : this seems unintelligible, although I guess the meaning.” To the word “ Altri” in line 8 of the Canzone the comment subjoined was “ This and the following three lines are not very clear;” and to the phrase " il gran mondo” in line 7 of the last Italian Sonnet there was appended simply the note “ Quære," as if the phrase seemed exceptionable. Only in three or four places, therefore, did Mr. Panizzi find Milton's Italian noticeably at fault
. (2.) The late Mr. G. Rossetti, the commentator on Dante, read these Italian pieces at Mr. Keightley's request, and furnished some observations on the Italian, which Mr. Keightley has printed, with added remarks of his own, in his edition of Milton's Poems. Mr. Rossetti was more severe than Mr. Panizzi had been. He objected to “qual” in line 4 of the first Italian Sonnet (Sonnet III.), saying cui would be better; he objected to “ meco" for a me in line 6, and to “mai” for non mai in line 12, of the second Sonnet (Sonnet IV.); in the Canzone, he noted the phrases “ Al accostandosi” (line 2) and “Dinne, se” (line 5), and the construction
Perchè," &c. in line 12, as not quite idiomatic, and proposed substitutes; in the third Sonnet (Sonnet V.) he found line 10 beginning “ Parole" inharmonious, the word “ faticosa” in line 12 a little strange, and " degli” for dagli in line 13 perhaps an error of the press ; in the fourth Sonnet (Sonnet VI.) he thought “ ' uscendo poco” in line 10 used
n for mere metrical reasons instead of “uscendone poco," and he saw no difference between “s'agghiaccia” and “s' ingiela” in line 11; and in the last Sonnet (Sonnet VII.) he said “ Poichè fuggir me stesso, &c. ought to have been “ Poichè di fuggir me stesso,” &c. Some of these criticisms seem to have been on grounds of personal taste rather than of mere grammar and idiom ; and, indeed, Mr. Keightley, in quoting them, defended Milton against some of them, and produced examples in his justification from the old Italian poets, especially Dante,--On the whole, the conclusion is that, though Milton was an accomplished reader and student of Italian, he was not so perfect in the literary use of it but that the foreigner might be detected in some of his phrases and constructions. At first sight, this might seem to favour the idea hinted at in the Introduction (pp. 284, 285), that these Italian pieces might have been written by Milton in England before he had visited Italy. But, on the other hand, it has to be remembered that a year in Italy would not make even the ablest English scholar perfect in the Tuscan idiom, and also that, as Milton certainly published the pieces as they
now stand after he had had all the benefit of his residence in Italy, they do gauge his knowledge of Italian at its best.--I may mention that the Italian text in this edition has been kindly revised for me by my friend Mr. W. M. Rossetti.
SONNET VIII.-For the date and circumstances of the Sonnet see Introd. (antè, pp. 285, 286).—“ Colonel” (line 1) has to be pronounced as a trisyllable: the old English word was coronel ; which, says Wedgwood, meant “ the captain coronal of a regiment, the chief captain, from corona, a crown.”—For“charms" (line 5) see note, P. L. IV. 642.—“The great Emathian conqueror” (line 10) is Alexander the Great, so called from Emathia, a part of Macedonia, and used poetically for the whole ; of whom it is told that, when he sacked the Boeotian city Thebes and razed it to the ground (B.C. 335), he ordered the house of the Theban poet Pindar, who had died more than a century before, to be left untouched.—“ Sad Electra's poet” (line 13) is Mil n's favourite Euri. pides, one of whose tragedies is “ Electra.” The story is that, when the Spartan Lysander had taken Athens, and it was proposed to destroy it utterly (B.C. 404), the victors were so moved by the casual recitation of some verses from a chorus in the play of Euripides, at one of their banquets, that they resolved to spare the city and only raze the fortifications, Euripides was then recently dead (B.C. 406).
We have printed line 3 as it stands in the edition of 1673, and also in the Cambridge MS. ; but in the edition of 1645 it ran thus : “If ever deed of honour did thee please.”
SONNET IX.-See Introd. (II. 286). Observe the rhyme of “Ruth,” the proper name (line 5), with “ruth,” the abstract noun, meaning
pity” (line 8). Such rhymes of words identical in sound and spelling, though differing in meaning, are now accounted illegitimate in English verse; but formerly they were allowed. Chaucer has them (a familiar instance is in lines 17 and 18 of the Prologue to his Canterbury Tales), and Spenser has them frequently. In Italian and Spanish poetry they are still allowed. They seem to have been vanishing from English poetry in Milton's time; and this is the only instance in Milton's original poetry, as distinct from his translations. —Biblical passages in Milton's mind in the Sonnet are Matt. vii. 13; Luke x. 42 ; Ruth i. 14--17; Matt. xxv. 1-13 , and Rom. v. 5.
In the Cambridge MS. we find that Milton had originally written blooming virtue” for “growing virtues ” in line 7, and that line 13 ran originally thus : “ Opens the door of bliss that hour of night.” Both passages are corrected into their present form on the margin.
SonNet X.-See Introd. (II. 286, 287). “ That old man eloquent is the Athenian orator Isocrates, who died B.C. 338 at the age of ninety-eight years, just after the great battle of Chæroneia, in which Philip of Macedon defeated the conjoined Athenians and Baotians.
and crushed the liberties of Greece.—“ Though later born," &c. As the Earl of Marlborough died in March 1628-9, when Milton was ful twenty years of age and already a writer of poetry, the expression in the text is not strictly correct, unless we suppose that by “the days wherein your father flourished" he referred to the earlier portion of the lawyer-statesman's career.
SONNET XI.-Though the title prefixed to this and the following Sonnet in the Cambridge MS. is “ On the Detraction which followed upon my writing certain Treatises” it is but one of those treatises that is especially referred to in the present Sonnet, and the subject is treated humorously in the main (see Introd., II. 288, 289). The treatise in question was the third in order of Milton's four Divorce Tracts. It appeared in March 1644-5, or eighteen months after the first edition of the original Tract on *The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce," the principles of which it was intended to confirm. It consisted of about a hundred small quarto pages, and had a very full title-page. “ TerraCHORDON : Expositions upon the foure chief places in Scripture which treat of Mariage or nullities in Mariage" : such was the upper part of the title-page ; after which followed a citation, chapter and verse, of the four places in question, a farther description of the purpose of the book, a Greek motto from the “Medea ” of Euripides, and the imprint “ London : Printed in the yeare1645." Only the author's initials appeared on the title-page, -thus “By the former author, J. M."; but the name " John Milton” in full was affixed to a prefatory dedication of the Treatise “ To the Parlament.” Altogether, in form, as well as in substance, it was a portentous treatise, amusing and puzzling ordinary people who saw it in shop-windows, as much as it shocked the theologians. The word “ Tetrachordon," in particular, was a puzzle for all less literate folks about Aldersgate Street and Cheapside. “Have you seen this Tet - Tetra-Tetra-what's its name ?” they said to each other, giving it up. Hence Milton's Sonnet, written perhaps a year after the publication of the book, and when, his wife having returned to him, he had removed from Aldersgate Street to the adjacent street called Barbican.—He comes to the defence of the book, title and all: The book was a careful and serious one, and had interested good intellects in London for some time after its appearance, though now, it seemed, its day was past, and there remained only stray copies in stalls, and the wonder of common-place street-passengers gaping at its extraordinary title-page! Yes! there they were-- Milton himself had seen them three or four at a time, in front of a book-stall, staring at a copy, and spe!l-spelling at the name till one might have walked to Mile-End Green! (Mile-End is in Whitechapel, and was
so called from its distance, roughly measured, from the central parts of London : it was a common in Milton's time, and the favourite terminus of a citizen's walk). But surely Londoners had not been so fastidious of
late in the matter of the pronunciability of the names they adopted!
for, though the Army of Fairfax and Cromwell had been carrying all before them in England, such a Scottish diversion in favour of Charles was of tremendous consequence, and threatened to protract the war indefinitely by encouraging Charles to continued resistance. Never had there been more anxiety in England as to the state of affairs in Scotland ; never had the names of Scottish persons and Scottish things been more frequent on English lips; and, even after there had come the relief of Montrose's sudden defeat and ruin by General David Leslie at the battle of Philiphaugh (Sept. 1645), people still talked in London of the audacious Scottish Marquis, his enterprise, his wild Highlanders, and his other associates. Now, among these associates the chief was Montrose's Lieutenant-general, the immediate commander of that horde of mixed Irish and West-Scottish Celts that had first flocked to Montrose's standard and begun the rising. He was a gigantic Highlander from the Island of Colonsay, but with family connexions with the Irish Macdonnels, Earls of Antrim, and recently in the service of the Earl of Antrim in Ireland ; and his name in its full Gaelic form was “ Alastair Macdonnell, Mac-Cholla-Chiotach, MhicGuillesbuig, Mhic-Alastair, Mhic-Eoin Chatanic": i.e.“ Alexander Macdonald, son of Colkittoch (the left-handed), son of Gillespie, son of Alexander, son of John Cathanach.” By more convenient LowlandScottish abbreviation he was “ Alexander Macdonald the younger," or “young Colkitto" (i.e. left-handed, like his father “Old Colkitto,” who was still alive); but his additional designation of " Macgillespie” was also in occasional use. What a name to reach London! It had struck Milton; and so, when he wanted a set of words as hard as Tetrachordon, here they were ready for him in the name of one Highland barbarian, well enough known to the Londoners, who was " Macdonnel or Colkitto or Galasp" all in his own single person. I am confirmed in this beliet as to the Galasp by the opinion of Mr. David Laing, the greatest living authority in Scottish literary antiquities (see his edition of Baillie's Letters, II. 499), and also by the fact that the other Scottish name immortalized in the Sonnet is taken from Montrose's following. Among Montrose's most influential adherents in his enterprise there were several Gordons, of whom the most prominent were George, Lord Gordon, the eldest son of the Marquis of Huntley, and his next brother Charles Gordon, Viscount Aboyne. Lord Gordon was killed in one of Montrose's battles, and the subsequent behaviour of Lord Aboyne and the Gordons generally had much to do with the final issue of the enterprise. Hence the word Gordon also had been borne on the wings of the wind to London. It is rather curious to note, if only as a point in the history of phonetics, that the four names selected by Milton, two of which are now rather musical than otherwise to English ears, should then have seemed so rugged.--They "woulil have made Quintilian stare and gasp,” says Milton ; and he could not have named a better referee in such a matter than this most famous teacher of Rhetoric