페이지 이미지

love of freedom on all subjects, and in every situation, forbade him to conceal. It is probable that he underwent a temporary rustication. This however is certain,—that all misunderstanding was removed, and that he soon acquired the kindness and respect of the society with which he lived: he says,—“ It hath given me an apt occasion to acknowledge publicly with all grateful mind, that more than ordinary favour and respect, which I found above any of my equals at the hands of these courteous and learned men, the fellows of the college wherein I spent some years; who, at my parting, after I had taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified many ways, how much better it would content them, if I would stay, as by many letters full of kindness, and loving respect, both before that time and long after, I was assured of their singular good affection towards me :"—and in another place he speaks of himself, as

'Procul omni flagitio, bonis omnibus probatus.'

In 1628, he wrote some lines on the subject, 'Naturam non pati senium,' as an Academical exercise, to oblige one of the fellows of the college; and T. Warton says of it,' that it is replete with fanciful and ingenious allusions, it has also a vigour of expression, a dignity of sentiment, and elevation of thought rarely found in very young writers.' This praise is just but its Latinity is not so flowing, or elegant, as that of his later poems.

Milton was designed by his parents for the profession of the church; but during his residence at the University, he changed his intention. Dr. Newton considers that he had conceived early prejudices against the doctrine and discipline of the church; but Johnson seems to think that his objections lay not so much against subscription to the articles, but related to canonical obedience. His own account is as follows;15 "By the intention of my parents and friends, I was destined of a child to the service of the church, and in mine own resolutions. Till coming

15 See Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy. Vol. i. p. 123 VOL. I.


to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the church, that he who would take orders, must subscribe Slave, and take an oath withal, which unless he took with a conscience that he would relish, he must either straight perjure or split his faith; I thought better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing."

In whatever line his objections lay, his youthful decisions seem to have been but little controlled by the exercise of parental authority; for in the beautiful lines which he addresses to his father, in the Latin language, he says,

Neque enim, Pater, ire jubebas,
Qua via lata patet, qua pronior area lucri
Certaque condendi fulget spes aurea nummi,
Nec rapis ad leges, male custoditaque gentis
Jura, nec insulsis damnas clamoribus aures.
Sed magis excultam cupiens ditescere mentem,
Me procul urbano strepitu, secessibus altis
Abductum, Aoniæ jucunda per otia Ripæ,

Phabeo lateri comitem sinis ire beatum ?"

In 1632, he left the University, and retired to his father's house at Horton,16 in Buckinghamshire, making occasional visits to London to meet his friends, to buy books, or to learn something new in mathematics or music. Here he resided five years, passing his time in regular and severe study; for he is said to have read over all the Greek and Latin writers: Johnson says, 'that this account must be received with limitations ;' but five years well employed would leave few of the ancient authors unperused: I think Wyttenbach has mentioned his having read through Athenæus in fourteen days; and Joseph Scaliger

16 This house at Horton was pulled down about fourteen years ago. See Symmons's Life, p. 93. Milton's father had some country house besides this, nearer to London, of which we have had no notice. Milton's letter to A. Gill is dated E nostro Suburbano,' Dec. 4, 1634. And see his Elegy i. ver. 50.

'Nos quoque lucus habet vicinâ consitus ulmo,
Atque Suburbani nobilis umbra loci.'

and in Prolusiones (p. 136.) he says, Testor ipse lucos, et flumina, et dilectas villarum ulmos, sub quibus æstate proxime præterita (si dearum arcana eloqui liceat), summam cum musis gratiam habuisse me jucunda memoria recolo, ubi et ego inter rura, et semotos saltus velut occulto ævo crescere mihi potuisse visus sum.'

has left on record the short time in which he finished both the Homeric Poems. What then might not Milton's enthusiastic pursuit of knowledge, and his unwearied industry perform? He says of himself at this time,

'Et totum rapiunt, me, mea vita, libri.'

In this studious retirement, and under the shelter of his paternal roof, it is believed that he wrote his Arcades, Comus, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas. In the neighbourhood of Horton, the Countess Dowager of Derby resided, and the Arcades was performed by her grandchildren at their seat, called Harefield Place. Was ever lady on her return to the hall of her ancestors, crowned with such poetic garlands, or greeted by a welcome so elegant as this? Some of his letters to Charles Deodati give us interesting particulars of his studies and habits of life. You well know (he says) that I am naturally slow in writing, and averse to write. It is also in my favour, that your method of study is such as to admit of frequent interruptions, in which you visit your friends, write letters, or go abroad; but it is my way to suffer no impediment, no love of ease, no avocation whatever, to chill the ardor, to break the continuity, or divert the completion of my literary pursuits.' In a subsequent letter, the honourable ambition of his youthful mind opens itself without reserve to his familiar friend: 'Hear me,' he writes, 'my Deodati, and suffer me, for a moment, to speak without blushing in a more lofty strain. Do you ask what I am meditating? by the help of heaven, an immortality of fame; but what am I doing? лεоош. I am letting my wings grow and preparing to fly, but my Pegasus has not yet feathers enough to soar aloft in the fields of air. You shall likewise have some information respecting my studies. I went through the perusal of the Greek authors to the time when they ceased to be Greeks. I was long employed in unravelling the obscure history of the Italians under the Lombards, the Franks, and Germans, to the time when they received their liberty from Rodolphus, King of Germany.'

To B. Bonmatthaei he writes of his proficiency in the richest and most melodious of modern tongues. I who certainly have not merely wetted the tip of my lips in the stream of these languages, but, in proportion to my years, have swallowed the most copious draughts, can yet sometimes retire with avidity and delight to feast on Dante, Petrarch, and many others; nor has Athens itself been able to confine me to the transparent wave of its Ilissus, nor ancient Rome to the banks of its Tiber, so as to prevent my visiting with delight the stream of the Arno, and the hills of Fæsolæ.'

The Masque of Comus was presented at Ludlow, in 1634, then the residence of the Lord President of Wales, and was acted by the18 Earl of Bridgewater's sons, and his young daughter the Lady Alice Egerton. The story is said to have been founded on a circumstance that took place in the family of the Earl not long before; and Milton wrote his Masque at the request of Henry Lawes, the celebrated musician. Dr. Johnson observes that the fiction is derived from Homer's Circe, but later investigations have discovered a closer resemblance in the Comus of Erycius Puteanus, and the Old Wives' Tale of George Peele. 19 It is one of the most beautiful and, with the exception of

17 The original manuscript of Comus is in Trin. Coll. Library; it was found among other papers that once belonged to Sir Henry Newton Puckering, a benefactor to the library, and was printed at London in 1637, 4to. Warton says, 'It was with great difficulty and reluctance that Milton first appeared as an author.' Some account of Sir N. Puckering may be read in Warton's Milton, p. 578, and the original various readings to the Lycidas, Comus, and smaller poems from the Manuscript, p. 578 to 590. On the few variations not noticed by Warton, see Class. Journal, No. xxiii. p. 211. There is

one rather curious:

'While all the starry rounds, and arches blue
Resound, and echo Hallelu!'

A manuscript copy of Comus is also in the Bridgewater library, at Ashridge, (see Todd's
Comus, p. 165,) before it was corrected.

18 Milton lost the friendship of the Bridgewater family by his Defensio. In a copy of it in Lord Stafford's library, the Earl (who performed the part of the first brother) wrote 'Liber igne, autor furcâ dignissimi.' On this account Lawes' dedication is supposed to have been withdrawn from the subsequent editions. v. Todd, p. 2.

19 See G. Peele's Works by the Rev. A. Dyce, vol. i. p. 204. ed. 1829. Is. Reed first directed attention to this play, then almost unknown. For extracts from Puteanus, see Todd's ed. of Comus, p. 57. 62.

a few passages, one of the most finished Poems in our language. It has all the sweetness of Fletcher, with a richer structure of versification, more foreign idioms, more learned allusions, and a higher reach of fancy. It does not rise into all the wildness of the romantic fable, only because it is guarded and subdued by a chaste and elegant judgment. Sir Henry Wotton was peculiarly delighted in the lyrical parts, with what he quaintly, but not incorrectly calls-' a certain Doric delicacy in the songs and odes.' And Warburton speaks of the bright vein of its poetry, intermixed with a softness of description.20 T. Warton observes 'that Comus is a suite of speeches not interesting by discrimi nation of character, not conveying variety of incidents, nor gradually exciting curiosity; but perpetually attracting attention by sublime sentiment, and fanciful imagery of the richest vein, by an exuberance of picturesque description, poetical allusion, and ornamental expression.' 21

In November, 1637, he wrote Lycidas, an elegy occasioned by the death of a young and very accomplished person, Mr. King, who was the friend of Milton, and a great favourite at Cambridge. Milton's Poem was published at the end of a small volume of Elegies, with which the University honoured the mem

20 On the system of 'orthography' adopted by Milton in this and his other poems, consult Capel Loft's Preface to Par. Lost, 4to. 1792, and Todd's Preface to Comus, p. viii., and Richardson's Life, p. cxxx.

21 It has been asked where an illustration must be sought for the expression, ver. 252, 'At every fall, smoothing the raven down

Of darkness till it smiled:'

and the entire silence of the commentators has been remarked. I shall, therefore, observe that there can be no doubt, but that Milton had the following passage in Heywood's Love's Mistresse before him. Act iii. sc. 1.


'Time's eldest daughter, Night, mother of Ease,

Thou gentle nurse, that with sweet lullabies

Care-waking hearts to gentle slumber charm'st!

Thou smooth cheek'd negro, Night, the black eyed Queen,

That rid'st about the world on the soft backs

Of downy Ravens sleeke and sable plumes,
And from thy chariot silent darknesse flings,

In which man, beast, and bird enveloped,
Takes their repose and rest.'

« 이전계속 »