페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

spare Pythagorean diet, the beechen bowl of pure water, a life even ascetic in its abstinence, and scrupulously pure. This is an eminently Miltonic idea, perhaps pre-eminently the Miltonic idea; and it occurs again and again in Milton's writings. Nowhere, however, is it more finely expressed than in the passage in this Elegy beginning " At qui bella refert" and ending "ora Jovem" (lines 55-78). These twenty-four lines are about Milton's noblest in Latin, and deserve to be learnt by heart with reference to himself, or to be written under his portrait. They give a value to the whole Elegy. The lines that follow them, however (79-90), have also a peculiar interest. They inform us that, at the very time when Milton was writing this Elegy to Diodati, he was engaged on his English Ode "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity." He had begun it, he says, on Christmasday, and he promises to show it to Diodati. As the Ode, in its place among the English Poems in Milton's First Edition, is dated "1629," this fixes the date of the Elegy.

ELEGIA SEPTIMA.

Anno ætatis undevigesimo.

This Elegy, which is the last of any length in the Book, and the last to which Milton attached a number, is out of its proper chronological place. "Anno ætatis undevigesimo" ("in his nineteenth year") is the dating; and, as Milton here uses the numeral adjective, and not, as in other cases, the Arabic figures for the number, it is perhaps to be understood exactly,-i.e. as implying that the Elegy was written between Dec. 9, 1626, and Dec. 9, 1627. Possibly, however, even with the use of the numeral adjective, Milton gives himself the benefit of a year, and means "at nineteen years of age," or between Dec. 9, 1627, and Dec. 9, 1628. In either case the precise month is fixed by the Elegy itself as May. The date therefore is either May 1627 or May 1628.

The Elegy is more decidedly and thoroughly a love-poem than any of the others. In the First Elegy, Ad Carolum Diodatum, there is a gallant mention of the London beauties to be seen in the parks and public gardens; and in a part of the Fifth, In Adventum Veris, there is a poetical recognition of Cupid's activity as one of the phenomena of Spring. But

the present Elegy is a love-confession throughout, and quite precise and personal. It was May time, we are told, and Cupid had sworn to be revenged on Milton for his contempt of love and his boasts of being heart-whole. Fifty lines are taken up in telling this and describing the little love-god and his threats. Then, at line 51, the real story begins. Forgetting all about the love-god, he takes his walks, as usual, now in those parts of London where the citizens promenade, and now in the neighbouring country, with its hamlets and villas. He observes, in the streets more especially, the crowd of beauties, perfect goddesses, that pass and repass. He indulges in the sight, as often before, pleased, but little thinking what was to come of it this time. For alas! one fair one, supereminent among all, caught his glance, and the wound was fatal. It was but the sight of a moment, for she was gone, never again to be seen on earth; but her face and her form were to remain with him a vision for ever. No longer now is he heart-whole, for he goes about sweetly miserable. Cupid has had his revenge, and he acknowledges now that little god's power. Oh, if ever he and such a fair one should meet again, might one arrow transfix both their hearts!

A peculiar circumstance about this elegy is that it is followed by a Postscript. For the ten lines, beginning "Hac ego" and ending "ipsa Venus," which I have caused to be printed in italics in the present edition, are not, as might be supposed at first sight, and has been generally assumed, an epilogue to the whole series of Seven Elegies preceding them. If the Epilogue is carefully read, it will be seen that in no mood of sternness could it be applicable to all the seven numbered Elegies, or to most of them. There were some of them of which, juvenile though they were, Milton could still approve in his manhood. But, in 1645, when he looked over those pieces before giving them to the printer for Moseley's volume, that love-confession of the Seventh Elegy delayed him. He thought it maudlin; perhaps he re

membered the exact incident and its circumstantials with half a blush. Ought he to print the thing? His hesitation to do so accounts perhaps for its coming out of its proper chronological place; but at last he lets it go, only adding the Postscript of recantation. That Postscript, therefore, has to be dated 1645, or eighteen years after the Elegy to which it is attached.

EPIGRAMS.

"IN PRODITIONEM BOMBARDICAM and IN INVENTOREM BOMBARDÆ.”—The anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot seems to have been a regular occasion for versifying in English Schools and Colleges in Milton's time. Among the Sylvæ there is a long poem in Hexameters by Milton on this subject, entitled In Quintum Novembris; and the four little pieces on the same subject among the Elegies may have been Milton's easier tributes to University custom on some one, or on several, of the Fifths of November of his Cambridge undergraduateship. They express rather wittily the popular Protestant horror of Guy Fawkes and his attempt. The fifth piece, not on the Gunpowder Treason, but on the Inventor of Gunpowder, is but a variation of the general theme; and the five together may be called the Gunpowder Group.

"AD LEONORAM ROMÆ CANENTEM."-These three pieces of compliment must have been written at Rome in one or other of Milton's two terms of residence in that city during his memorable Italian tour. His first visit, in October and November 1638, is the more likely time. An incident of that visit, recorded by Milton himself in one of his Familiar Epistles (Luca Holstenio, Roma, in Vaticano), was his presence at a magnificent musical entertainment given by Cardinal Francesco Barberini in his palace. All the élite of Rome were present at this concert; but the courteous cardinal, receiving the crowding guests at the doors, had singled out the English stranger, and welcomed him with special attention. To Milton, with his love of music, this concert may have been an unusual pleasure, especially if it was there that he heard the singer Leonora to whom the present pieces are addressed. There or elsewhere in Rome he did hear that paragon of voices. For, throughout the world, or at all events the musical and Italian world, there was no singer then so renowned as Leonora Baroni. There is an article on her in Bayle's Dictionary, the substance of which, apart from minuter information in the notes, runs thus: "BARONI, LEONORA, an Italian lady, one of the finest voices of the world, flourished in the seventeenth century. She was the daughter of the beautiful ADRIANA, a Mantuan, and was so admired that an infinity of beaux

esprits made verses in her praise. There is a volume of excellent pieces, in Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and Spanish, printed at Rome under the title of ‘Applausi Poetici alle glorie della Signora Leonora Baroni." Leonora went about usually with her mother, the beautiful Adriana Baroni, and a sister called Katarina. Though Bayle makes the family Mantuan, it was originally Neapolitan, and had migrated from Naples to Mantua. From 1637 onwards, how ever, Rome was the headquarters of the fascinating three.

"APOLOGUS DE RUSTICO ET HERO."-There is nothing to date this Apologue, except that its non-appearance in the edition of 1645 suggests that it was written after that year.

DE MORO. So we may entitle the lampoon on Milton's antagonist Morus, or Alexander More, which appeared in Milton's Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano (1654), and was reproduced in his Pro se Defensio contra Alexandrum Morum (1655). More was a Frenchman, of Scottish parentage, born in 1616, who, after a varied career of celebrity as a Protestant preacher and Professor of Greek and of Theology in various parts of the Continent,—at Geneva, in Holland, and again in France,-died in Paris in 1670, four years before Milton. His collision with Milton dates from the year 1652, when he caused to be printed, at the Hague, a treatise against the English Commonwealth entitled "Regii Sanguinis Clamor ad Cælum adversus Parricidas Anglicanos' ("Cry of the King's Blood to Heaven against the English Parricides"). In this treatise Milton was attacked for his Defences of the Regicide; and, though it was anonymous, and was really not by More, but by Peter du Moulin the younger, Milton made More responsible. In his Defensio Secunda and in his Pro se Defensio he dragged More through a perfect ditch of invective, publishing all sorts of scandals against More's private character, which had come to him from correspondents in Geneva and elsewhere. The distich under notice is one of these unsavoury scandals, embalmed in a Latin pun on More's name. Though twice used by Milton, however, it is all but certainly not his own. It seems to have been concocted originally in Holland by some Dutch wit. At all events, it first appeared in England in the Mercurius Politicus of Sept. 30, 1652, as from a Dutch correspondent, twenty months before the publication of Milton's Defensio Secunda; and Milton, when he quotes it there, speaks

of the anonymous author as certainly a clever fellow, whoever he was.

AD CHRISTINAM, SUECORUM REGINAM, NOMINE CROM. WELLI.—The lines printed with this title in most modern editions of Milton's poems are supposed to have been written for Cromwell in 1654, the first year of his Protectorate, to accompany a portrait of himself which he then sent to the eccentric, and then famous, Christina, Queen of Sweden. Being in elegiac verse, they have their proper place here in the Elegiarum Liber, if they are Milton's. But, almost certainly, they are Andrew Marvell's. They appeared as his, with only slight verbal variations, in his Miscellaneous Poems, published by his widow in 1681, three years after his death.

SYLVARUM LIBER.

IN OBITUM PROCANCELLARII MEDICI.

Anno ætatis 17.

In both Milton's editions this piece is dated "Anno ætatis 16." This date is a blunder. For, even if we allow Milton his ordinary liberty of dating, according to which the phrase must be translated "at the age of 16 years" and not "in the 16th year of his age" (see Introductions to Elegies Second and Third), the dating will not correspond with the incident of the poem. That incident was the death of John Gostlin, M.D., Master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, from 1618, and Vice-Chancellor of the University for the second time in the year 1625-6. His Vice-Chancellorship would have expired Nov. 3, 1626; but he died some days before that date, still holding the office: viz. on the 21st of October 1626. The Michaelmas Term of Milton's third academic year had just begun, and Milton was full seventeen years of age, and, in fact, verging on eighteen. The dating anno ætatis 16" was, therefore, a slip of memory.—The Dr. Gostlin whose death is lamented in the poem, in very pretty mythological language and in good Horatian verse, was a Norwich man by birth, educated at Caius College, admitted M.D. in 1602, and afterwards Regius Professor of Physic in the University. When his turn came round to be Vice-Chancellor, it was something of a rarity in the Uni

66

VOL. I.

H

« 이전계속 »