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Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Chor. All is best, though we oft doubt
UNDER the date Oct. 6, 1645, this entry occurs in the books of the London Stationers' Company: “Mr. Moseley entered for his copie, under the hand of Sir Nath. Brent and both the Wardens, a booke called Poems in English and Latyn by Mr. John Milton, 6d.” The meaning of the entry is that on that day Humphrey Moseley, then the most active publisher in London of poetry, old plays, and works of pure fancy, registered the forthcoming volume as his copyright, showing Brent's licence for its publication, and the signatures of the Wardens of the Company besides, and paying sixpence for the formality. The following is the complete title of the volume when it did appear :
“Poems of Mr. John Milton, both English and Latin, compos'd at several times. Printed by his true Copies. The Songs were set in Musick by Mr. Henry Lawes, gentleman of the King's Chappel, and one of His Majesties private Musick.
VIRGIL, Eclog. 7.
From a copy of this first edition of Milton's Poems among the King's Pamphlets in the British Museum, bearing a note of the precise day of its publication written on the title-page, I learn that the day was Jan. 2, 1645-6. Milton had then been some months in his new dwelling-house in Barbican ; where, besides his pupils, there were now domiciled with him his reconciled wife, his aged father, and several of his wife's relations.
The volume published by Moseley is a small and rather neat octavo of more than 200 pages. The English Poems come first and fill 120 pages ; after which, with a separate title-page, and filling 88 pages, separately numbered, come the Latin Poems. The poems contained in the volume, whether in the English or the Latin portion, include, with two exceptions, all those which are now known to have been written by Milton, at different periods, from his boyhood at St. Paul's School to the year 1645, in which the volume was published. The exceptions are the little elegy On the Death of a fair Infant dying of a Cough” (1626), and the curious little fragment, At a Vacation Exercise at College” (1628). Prefixel to the volume as a whole, and doubtless with Milton's sanction, was a very eulogistic Preface by Moseley, entitled “The Stationer to the Reader” (see it at the beginning of the Minor Poems). Then, before Comus, which begins on p. 67 of the volume, there is a separate title-page, as if to call attention to its greater length and importance-besides which,
Lawes's eulogistic dedication of this poem to Lord Brackley, in his separate edition of 1637, is reproduced (see it prefixed to Comus in this ed.), and the poem is farther introduced by a copy furnished by Milton of Sir Henry Wotton's remarkable letter to him in 1638 (also prefixed to Comus in this ed.). Finally, prefixed to the Latin Poems in the volume, after the separate title-page which distinguishes them from the English portion, are copies of the commendatory verses, &c., with which Milton had been favoured when abroad by the distinguished foreigners who had seen some of these poems, or otherwise become acquainted with him. Only in one peculiarity of the volume was there a miscarriage. It had been proposed, apparently by Moseley, that there should be a portrait of Milton prefixed to the volume ; and the engraver to whom Moseley had entrusted the thing was one W. Marshall, who had executed other portraits of men of the day, and was of some respectability in his profession. But, whether Marshall worked carelessly from an oil-painting then in Milton's possession, or only concocted something out of his own head, the print which he produced bore no earthly resemblance to Milton, or indeed to any possible human being. Though entitled " Joannis Miltoni Angli Effigies anno ætatis viges. primo,” (“Portrait of John Milton, Englishman, in the 21st year of his age,”) it exhibited a stolid, grim-looking, long-haired gentleman, of about fifty, with a background of trees and a meadow, and shepherds dancing and piping, seen through a window. What Milton thought when this engraving of himself was shown him we can only guess. But, instead of having it cancelled, he let it go forth with the volume-only taking his revenge by a practical joke at the engraver's expense.
He offered him some lines of Greek verse to be engraved ornamentally under the portrait; and these lines the poor artist did innocently engrave, little thinking what they meant. An English translation of them may run thus
That an unskilful hand had carved this print
Laugh at the wretched artist's mis-attempt. Such was the First Edition of Milton's Miscellaneous Poems, published in 1645, when the author was thirty-seven years of age. The volume seems to have had no great circulation ; but it sufficed to keep alive, for the next two-and-twenty years, or till the publication of Paradise Lost in 1667, the recollection that the man who, through this long period, was becoming more and more known for his Revolutionary principles and his connexion with the Commonwealth government, had begun life as a poet.
Paradise Lost having been followed, in 1671, by Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, the popularity of these three great poems of Milton's later years seems to have re-awakened so much demand for his earlier Poems as to make a new edition of them desirable. Accordingly, in 1673, or twentyeight years after Moseley had published the first edition, a second edition of the Minor Poems did appear, under Milton's own superintendence. This Second Edition, which, like the first, was a small octavo, bore the following title :
“Poems, &c., upon Several Occasions. By Mr. John Milton: both English and Latin, &c. Composed at several times. With a small Tractate of Education. To Mr. Hartlib. London, Printed for Tho. Dring, at the White Lion, next Chancery Lane End, in Fleet Street. 1673.” [So in copies which I have seen; but in a copy now before me, the latter part of the imprint runs thus : "London : Printed for Thos. Dring, at the Blew Anchor next Mitre Court over against Fetter Lane in Fleet Street. 1673."