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SONNET XX.: TO MR. LAWRENCE. 73
and abroad, as a divine judgment on him for his defences of the execution of Charles I., and for the part he had otherwise taken in the English Revolution. Again and again in Milton's later writings, in prose and in verse, there are passages of the most touching sorrow over his darkened and desolate condition, with yet a tone of the most pious resignation, and now and then an outbreak of a proud conviction that God, in blinding his bodily eyes, had meant to enlarge and clear his inner vision, and make him one of the world's truest seers and prophets. The present Sonnet is one of the first of these confidences of Milton on the subject of his blindness. may have been written any time between 1652 and 1655; but it follows the Sonnet on the Piedmontese Massacre in Milton's own volume of 1673.
SONNET XX. : To MR. LAWRENCE.
One naturally refers such a mood of cheerfulness as this Sonnet exhibits to the time of Milton's life which preceded his blindness. Accordingly it has been argued by some that the Sonnet must have been written about 1646, and ought to be placed beside the Sonnet to Henry Lawes. In that case, however, the person addressed, "Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son," cannot have been, as these words have always suggested, a son of the well-known Henry Lawrence of St. Ives, who, after having been member for Westmoreland in the Long Parliament, became a staunch Oliverian, and was made President of Cromwell's Council (1654) and one of his House of Lords (1657). For there is a letter of this Henry Lawrence extant which proves that in the year 1646 his eldest son was exactly thirteen years of age (Wood's Athena, IV. 64 Note by Bliss). Milton's invitation to a neat repast and wine cannot have been to a youngster like that. Hence, still on the supposition that the Sonnet must have been written about 1646, some commentators have concluded that the person addressed was no other than Henry Lawrence himself, the future President, but then no more than M. P. for Westmoreland. But that this Henry Lawrence was only "the virtuous father" of the Sonnet, and not its recipient, is settled by Phillips in his Life of Milton, where, among the "particular friends" of Milton, who visited him most frequently during the eight years when he lived in his house in Petty
France, Westminster (1652-1660), he mentions " Young Lawrence (the son of him that was President of Oliver's Council), to whom there is a Sonnet among the rest in his printed poems." He does not mention which of the sons of the President was the "Young Lawrence" so often at Milton's house; but it was probably the second son, Henry Lawrence, who became heir in 1657, succeeded to the property on his father's death in 1664, and lived till 1679, or five years beyond Milton. In 1656 this "Young Lawrence" was about two-and-twenty years of age. The Sonnet, then, we should say, was written about that time, and when Milton was in his condition of total blindness. And, though this may not at first seem consistent with the cheerful vein of the Sonnet, the explanation is easy. Phillips's account of his uncle's life gives us a glimpse of the household in Petty France which is not altogether one of gloom. Especially after Milton's marriage with his second wife in Nov. 1656, the house was enlivened by the little hospitalities that had to be shown to the numerous visitors that came to see him. Some of these were foreigners of distinction; others were Londoners of rank; but most assiduous of all were former pupils, and other enthusiastic young men, who accounted it a privilege to read to him, or act as his amanuenses, and to hear him talk. There was a group of such young admirers, and "Young Lawrence" was one of them. Sometimes, as we are to fancy, he accompanied Milton in his walks, yielding him the tendance which a blind man required; and Milton's Sonnet is to be taken as a kindly message to the youth, in some season of bad weather, not to stop his visits on that account, but to let him have his company now and then within doors.
SONNET XXI.: To CYRIACK SKINNER.
This Sonnet also, like the last, might appear, on a first reading, to belong to a time before Milton's blindness. For it also is in a hospitable vein, and invites to leisure and mirth. all that we know of Cyriack Skinner and his connexion with Milton confirms the notion that the two Sonnets were written about the same time, i.e. about 1655, after Milton was blind and when he was living in his house in Petty France. Phillips, in his list of the friends of Milton who visited him there, men.
tions, "above all, Mr. Cyriack Skinner"; words which imply that Skinner was even a more frequent visitor than young Lawrence. There is even a probability that he had been one of Milton's pupils; for Wood describes him (Ath. Oxon. III. 1119) as "a merchant's son of London, an ingenious young gentleman and scholar to Jo: Milton," informing us farther that he became a leading member of Harrington's celebrated political debating club, called The Rota, which held its meetings in 1659 at the Turk's Head in the New Palace Yard at Westminster." From the Sonnet itself we learn that, besides being thus interested in political speculations, or before being so interested, Skinner was an eager student of mathematical and physical science. Wood was wrong in calling him " merchant's son of London"; for he is otherwise known as the third son of William Skinner, a Lincolnshire squire, who had married Bridget, second daughter of the famous lawyer and judge Sir Edward Coke. This explains the compliment of pedigree in the first line of the Sonnet. As this William Skinner died in 1627, Cyriack, his son, though described as "an ingenious young gentleman" in 1659, must have been considerably older than young Lawrence. There is extant a deed of conveyance, of the date May 7, 1660, by which Milton makes over to "Cyriack Skinner, of Lincoln's Inn, Gentleman," a Bond for £400 given to Milton by the commissioners of Excise. The transaction proves how intimate Milton was with Skinner; for it was on the eve of the Restoration, when property invested in Excise Bonds was not likely to be worth much to Milton or his representatives.
SONNET XXII.: SECOND SONNET TO CYRIACK SKINNER.
This touching Sonnet must have been written some little time after the last; perhaps in 1655, but certainly not later than 1656. It is a Sonnet on Milton's blindness, written, as it purports, on the third anniversary of the day from which he dated the completeness of that calamity. The tenor of the closing lines prevented its publication in 1673.
SONNET XXIII.: TO THE MEMORY OF HIS SECOND WIFE.
After some years of widowhood, Milton, still residing in Petty France, Westminster, had married, Nov. 12, 1656, at
St. Mary Aldermanbury, London, his second wife, Catherine Woodcock, daughter of a Captain Woodcock, of Hackney. His wedded life with her, however, was doomed to be brief. She died in childbirth fifteen months after her marriage, and was buried at St. Margaret's, Westminster, Feb. 10, 1657-8. The infant daughter she had borne survived but about a month. Thus, in his fiftieth year, Milton was left in second widowhood, with his three young daughters by his first wife, the eldest not twelve years of age, partly depending on his charge, and partly deputed to take charge of him. There can be no sadder picture than that of the blind, stern man, in 1658, going about his vacant house in Petty France, the poor children not understanding him, and half afraid of him. Going about in that house, or seated by himself in one of its rooms, Milton thinks much of his dead wife, far more really a partner of his heart than the first wife had been, but remembers also that first wife, the mother of his children, and wonders what may become of these children, left now with neither mother nor substitute. From his despondency, as we know, he roused himself to resume that poem of Paradise Lost which he had schemed eighteen years before. But the sense of his loss recurs, and intrudes itself into his dreams. One night his dream is strangely happy. He sees his lately dead wife, not dead, but alive, and returned to him, clad all in white like one of the Saints, her face veiled, and stooping to embrace him. He wakes from his dream to find it but a dream, and his night brought back but he commemorates the dream in a Sonnet. The reader ought to notice the full significance of the words of the Sonnet. It seems to be implied that Milton had never actually beheld his second wife with his bodily eyes, but had married her after he was blind, and with no acquaintance with her dating from before his blindness. Hence, though in his dream he sees her, it is as a radiant figure with a veiled face. He had not carried into sleep the recollection out of which the face could be formed, and could only know that love, sweetness, and goodness must have dwelt in one who had that saint-like figure.
"THE FIFTH ODE OF HORACE, Lib. I., ENGLISHED."
The particular Ode of Horace on the translation of which Milton bestowed so much pains is one on which many translators have since tried their hands; but it may be doubted whether any of them has beaten Milton. On the whole, however, the thing is a trifle. It must have been written after 1645, as it does not appear in the edition of that year.
"NINE OF THE PSALMS DONE INTO METRE, WHEREIN
ALL BUT WHAT IS IN A DIFFERENT CHARACTER ARE
THE VERY Words of the Text, transLATED FROM
The Psalms grouped together under this heading are Psalms LXXX.—LXXXVIII.; and the group is ushered in with the dating " April 1648: J. M.," showing at what time they were translated. There can be no doubt, I think, that Milton was moved to his experiment by the interest which was then felt both in England and in Scotland, and had been felt for some years, in the project of a complete new Version of the Psalms, which should supersede, for public worship, the old English Version of Sternhold and Hopkins, first published complete in 1562, and the Version, partly the same, that had been in use in Scotland since 1565, and was known as Lekprevik's, from the name of the printer who had published it that year in Edinburgh. In spite of competing Versions of the Psalms, or of some of them, these had remained substantially the authorised Psalters in the two countries till the meeting of the Long Parliament. But, after the meeting of that body, and especially after the Westminster Assembly had been convoked to aid it in religious matters (July 1643), a revision or renovation of the Psalter had been much discussed. It was one of those matters on which the Westminster Assembly were especially required to deliberate, and report to the Parliament. Hence a consider