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In this second edition, as compared with the first, the following particulars are to be noted : (1) There were certain additions. The chief of these were, of course, those English and Latin pieces which had been written by Milton since the first edition was published. For obvious reasons, indeed, Milton did not think it advisable, at that date, to publish his sonnets to Fairfax, Vane, and Cromwell, nor that second one to Cyriack Skinner in which he speaks with exultation of his own services in the Republican cause. With these exceptions, however, all the pieces written since 1645 were now published by Milton himself in this second edition. But there were also included in this edition those two English pieces, which, though written long before the publication of the first edition, had not appeared in it, viz.: the elegy “On the Death of a fair Infant dying of a Cough," written in 1626, and the fragment, “At a Vacation Exercise at College," written in 1628. Copies of these two pieces had apparently been recovered by Milton, and their insertion in the new edition was certainly a gain to that edition. (2) To some copies of this second edition of the Poems there was prefixed a new portrait of Milton, superseding the caricature by Marshall prefixed to the first edition. But the jocular Greek lines on Marshall's portrait which had appeared in the first edition were still preserved. They were printed among the Sylvæ in the new edition, with the title “In Effigiei ejus Sculptorem.” °(3) From the new edition were omitted Moseley's Preface to the first edition, and also the two pieces of English prose which had been specially inserted in the first as introductions to the Comus-viz. Lawes's Dedication of the Comus to Lord Brackley in 1637, and Sir Henry Wotton's letter of 1638. Milton probably thought that these laudatory introductions were no longer required. He still kept, however, the complimentary verses, &c., of his foreign friends, prefixed to the Latin poems.
To most of the editions of the Minor Poems that have appeared since Milton's own second edition of 1673 there have, of course, been added such scraps of verse, not inserted in that edition, as Milton would himself have included in any final edition. Thus the scraps of verse, whether in English or Latin, interspersed through his prose-writings, are now properly collected and inserted among the Poems. Those four English Sonnets, also, which Milton had, from prudential reasons, omitted in the edition of 1673, are now in their places. After the Revolution of 1688 there was no reason for withholding these interesting sonnets from the public; and, accordingly, when Milton's nephew, Edward Phillips, published, in 1694, an English edition of the “ Letters of State which had been written by his uncle as Latin Secretary during the Commonwealth, and prefixed to these Letters his Memoir of his uncle, he very properly printed the four missing sonnets as an appendix to the Memoir. From that time they have always been included in editions of the Poems.
Even had Milton not given his Minor Poems to the world in print during his lifetime, those interesting productions of his genius would not have been wholly lost. From the time when he had first begun to write poems or other things, he had carefully kept the MSS.; and it so chances that a larger quantity of Milton's original MSS, has been preserved than of the original MSS. of most other English poets of that age. Not a few of Milton's papers, either loose, or forming a kind of large draft-book, had come into the possession of Sir Henry Newton Puckering, Bart., a scholar and book-collector of the seventeenth century; and as, on his death in 1700, he left his collection of books to the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, these papers lay about in that Library till 1736, when they were carefully put together and bound in morocco. Accordingly,
this thin morocco-bound volume of Milton MSS. is to this day one of the most precious curiosities in the Library of Trinity College. It is shown to visitors in à glass table-case, arranged so as to gratify them with the sight of a page or two of Milton's autograph. By permission of the Master and Fellows, but only in the presence of one of the Fellows, it may be removed from the case for more leisurely examination. The volume consists of fifty-four pages, all of folio size, except an interpolated leaf or two of small quarto. Eight of the pages are blank; all the other forty-six are written on, most of them very closely. The following is a list of the contents in the order in which they stand :- Arcades (draft in Milton's cwn hand); Song, At a solemn Music (Milton's own hand); Sonnet on his having arrived at the age of twenty-three (in Milton's own hand, as part of Prose Letter to a Friend, of which there are two drafts) ; On Time (Milton's own hand); Upon the Circumcision (Milton's own hand); Sonnel VIII. (in the hand of an amanuensis) ; Sonnets IX. and X. (Milton's own hand); Comus and Lycidas, entire drafts, much corrected (in Milton's own hand); Seven pages of Jottings of Subjects for Tragedies (Milton's own hand : see Introd. to P. L., to P. R., and to Sams. Ag.); Sonnets X1.-XIV. (in Milton's own hand, but with copies in another hand); Sonnet XV.: To Fairfax (in Milton's own hand); Sonnet XVI. : To Cromwell (in the hand of some amanuensis); Sonnet XVII.: To Vane (also in another hand); Lines on the Forcers of Conscience (also in another hand); Sonnets XXI.-XX111. (also in the hands of amanuenses). It thus appears that in this precious volume at Cambridge there are preserved (mostly in Milton's own hand, but occasionally in the hands of amanuenses, who either transcribed from his original drafts before he was blind, or, after he was blind, wrote to his dictation) actual MS. copies of much the larger part of all Milton's MINOR ENGLISH POETRY.
TO THE ENGLISH POEMS
PARAPHRASES ON PSALMS CXIV. AND CXXXVI.
THESE were done, as the author himself takes care to tell us,
at fifteen years old”-i.e. in 1624. They are, in fact, the only specimens now extant of Milton's muse before he went to Cambridge. They are the relics, doubtless, of a little collection of boyish performances, now lost, with which he amused himself, and perhaps pleased his father and his teachers, when he lived in his father's house in Bread Street, Cheapside, and attended the neighbouring school of St. Paul's. They prove him to have been even then a careful reader of contemporary English poetry, and, in particular, of Spenser, and of Sylvester's quaint and old-fashioned, but richly poetical, translation of the Divine Weekes and Workes of the French religious poet Du Bartas. This book, which had been published in 1605 by Humphrey Lownes, a well-known printer of Bread Street Hill, close to Milton's father's house, was as popular in England as the original was on the Continent. It went through several editions while Sylvester lived, and a.must every pious English household of literary tastes possessed a copy.
ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT DYING OF A COUGH.
Over this poem Milton has himself placed the words “ Anno ætatis 17," implying that it was written in his 17th year. Now, as Milton entered his seventeenth year on the 9th of December, 1624, and ended it on the 9th of December, 1625, this would place the poem between these dates. But, when Milton placed Arabic figures after the phrase anno ætatis in these headings of his poems, it was his habit to give himself the benefit of a year by understanding the figures as noting cardinal and not ordinal numbers. “ Anno ætatis 17” meant, with him, not strictly “in his seventeenth year,” but at seventeen years of age.” The present poem, accordingly, was actually written in the winter of 1625-6, or during Milton's second academic year at Cambridge. It is the first of his preserved English pieces of the Cambridge period, but seems to have been written, not at Cambridge, but in the course of a brief visit mad: