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as respondent in the philosophic disputation. Dr. George Hakewill, Archdeacon of Surrey, had published his Apology for the Power and Providence of God in the Government of the World, in which he controverted the commonplace of the perpetual and universal decay of nature. Milton's verses maintaining Hakewill's opinion are not of remarkable merit or comparable in force or elegance to the noble lines the Vacation Exercise of the same year. On his admission as B.A. (March 29, 1629) the future Puritan signed, “willingly and ex animo,' the three articles of assent to the Royal Supremacy, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-nine Articles.
In April, Milton wrote his poem De Adventu Veris; in July, at the Commencement, his friend Charles Diodati and Rubens received the same honorary degree of M.A.; and in September, Lord Holland (the successor of Buckingham as Chancellor of the University) visited Cambridge, accompanied by the French ambassador. A Latin play was performed, and it seems probable that Milton refers to this entertainment in his Apology for Smectymnuus. 'I was a spectator; they thought themselves gallant men, and I thought them fools; they made sport, and I laughed; they mispronounced and I misliked; and to make up the Atticism', they were out, and I hissed.'
On the Christmas morning of this year (1629) at daybreak, Milton conceived the Hymn on the Nativity, as we are told in his sixth elegy, wherein we also find the first enunciation of his theory of the nature and office of a true poet. Lighter bards may indulge in wine; but he who would sing of the divine counsels of the gods, or of the gloomy realms guarded by Cerberus, must live on herbs like Pythagoras, and drink clear water from a beechen cup. His youth must have been pure from crime, and his hands stainless. Such were the bards and seers of old, Tiresias, Linus, Calchas and Homer.
The pieces on the Circumcision, Time, and the Passion,
1 The passage being imitated from the series of antithetical taunts addressed by the Attic orator Demosthenes in his oration On the Crown, to his opponent Æschines.
probably followed closely on the Nativity Ode; and the lines on Shakespeare are dated 1630 by their author. These last were prefixed to the second folio edition (1632) of the plays, and were the first English verses of Milton that appeared in print.
Three epitaphs—two on Hobson, and one (written from Cambridge) on the Marchioness of Winchester - mark the year 1631; and in July 1632, Milton, having taken his M.A. degree and again subscribed the three articles, went home ' regretted by most of the Fellows, who held him in no ordinary esteem.'
He had already (in Dec. 1631, or early in 1632) penned the memorable reply to a Cambridge friend who had taken him to task for making little use of his time. He says that 'the very fear of the punishment denounced against him who hid the talent restrains him so, that he takes no thought of being late so it gave advantage to be more fit; for those that were latest lost nothing when the master of the vineyard came to give every man his hire.' Enclosed is the noble Sonnet I. (On being arrived at the Age of 23), 'which must have been written on or near Dec. 9, 1631 2.'
He had no reason to be diffident. Even while pursuing the ordinary academic routine, he had given evidence of unusual powers of thought and expression. Of his college exercises generally he said afterwards, whether aught was imposed upon me by them that had the overlooking, or betaken to of my own choice, in English or other tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly this latter, the style by certain vital signs it had was likely to live.'
He retired to his father's house at Horton. The elder Milton did not send his poet son “into the resorts of commerce, nor hurry him into the study of the law, but allowed him to wander a happy companion of Apollo far from the noise of town and shut up in deep retreats.' Of this indulgence the poem Ad Patrem, written about this time, is the grateful acknowledgment.
1 Printed by Birch in his Life of Milton, and quoted in Masson's Life. 2 Masson's Life.
At Horton, Milton lived for five years, absorbed in classical, mathematical, or musical studies. During this retirement were produced (to follow the probable suggestion of Mr. Masson) the Nightingale Sonnet, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Arcades, Comus, and Lycidas; and their author was incorporated M. A. at Oxford, in 1635.
The deaths of his mother, on April 6, 1637, and of his friend Edward King, on the oth of the following August, may have troubled, but did not turn the current of his life. About six weeks after the latter event, he writes to Diodati an account of his studies and plans. His readings in early Italian history, his wish to remove to some quiet nook in a London Inn of Court, are recorded side by side with more intimate revelations. He is thinking of immortality’; the 'wings are already growing' that in time are to
soar above the Aonian mount.'
His desire of seeing foreign lands, especially Italy, was satisfied by his father's permission (1638) to undertake a continental journey, designed to extend over several years. He was courteously received at Paris by Lord Scudamore, Viscount Sligo (the English ambassador, and son of the Sir James Scudamore celebrated in the Faerie Queene), who introduced him to Hugo Grotius, then engaged in an abortive scheme for uniting the Protestant Churches of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and England. Grotius was then in the service of Oxenstiern as Swedish ambassador to France, having renounced the citizenship of his native Holland. In a few days Milton left Paris for Italy, taking ship at Nice, landing at Genoa, and proceeding thence by Leghorn and Pisa to Florence.
At Florence he was hospitably entertained by the 'Academies' (private societies of learned dilettanti), and was allowed full liberty of speech on religious subjects—a concession “singularly polite,' as he himself allows. Those of his productions that, as was customary, he recited before these societies, were received with written encomiums, which the Italian not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps.'
From Florence he proceeded to Rome, for a sojourn of
nearly two months. He was shewn the treasures of the Vatican by its librarian, Lucas Holsten, and entertained by Cardinal Barberini, who had constituted himself a voluntary British consul at Rome. At one of his public musical entertainments, the Cardinal waited for Milton at the door, and taking him by the hand, led him into the assembly. At these concerts the poet heard the celebrated Leonora Baroni, who, singing with her mother and sister, was the delight of all her hearers. Their audience sometimes included the Pope himself. Three several tributes of Latin verse were dedicated by Milton to the songstress. The compliments are extravagant enough:
- One Leonora made Tasso mad : this would have brought him back to reason.' 'Parthenope the Siren is not buried (as is fabled) in Naples, but lives at Rome.' God himself, mutely diffused through all else, speaks only in her.' This last,' observes Charles Lamb, 'requires some candour of construction (besides the slight darkening of a dead language) to cast a veil over the ugly appearance of something very like blasphemy.' But the writer was in an unhealthy, heated atmosphere of exaggerated flattery. At Rome a poet named Salsillus anticipated Dryden's famous lines with a difference, making Milton superior to Homer, Virgil, and Tasso. The compliment was repaid in kind. It was the custom of the time and of the country—' flattery and fustian 1.'
Milton left Rome for Naples, where he became (Nov. 1638) acquainted with Manso, Marquis of Villa (patron of Tasso and Marini), now in his seventy-seventh year. The Marquis paid his visitor great attention, and apologized for not carrying his civilities even further, as he would have done if the young Englishman had not spoken so freely on religious subjects. In that particular Milton did not follow the maxima commended as a 'Delphian oracle' by Sir Henry Wootton in the Letter prefixed to Comus, although he found it in other matters ' most useful,' as he acknowledges. He was never the first to begin any conversation on religion ; but if any questions
1 Areopagitica. See p. lvii. infra. 2 • I pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto'-(close thoughts, and open face.) were put to him concerning his faith, to declare it without any reserve or fear :'
In the same independent spirit he “found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a prisoner (in his own house) to the Inquisition for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought?.'
Manso's courtesies were acknowledged in some Latin verses, complimenting him upon his biographies of the poets, whom he had cherished in life, and expressing the writer's desire that when he too should sing a lofty theme-the wars of Arthur and the 'Table Round'— his fate would assign him such a friend. The answer of the Marquis was a gift of two engraved goblets, and an accompanying epigram, that Milton would be 'non Anglus sed Angelus' if only his creed were the true one.
The traveller (February 1639) went back to Rome, although he had heard that the English Jesuits there had laid a plot against him. But he fearlessly stayed two months, defending the reformed religion in the very metropolis of popery. He then, unharmed, revisited Florence, 'where he was received with as much affection as if he had returned to his native country.' He left after two months, passing through Bologna and Ferrara to Venice. At or near Bologna he appears to have met with an Italian lady who 'praised her native tongue as that in which Love delighted. To her Milton dedicated five attempts in Italian verse. That addressed to Diodati is a description of the fair one, and an avowal of his own captivity.
In Venice Milton remained for a month, shipping off to England a great quantity of books and music. Thence he went to Geneva, where he was daily in the society of Diodati's uncle, John, thé Professor of Theology. There, in the album of a Neapolitan nobleman, he wrote the last two lines of Comus, adding . Cælum, non animum muto, qui trans mare curro.' (June 10, 1639.)
Through Paris he returned to England, late in July or
| Defensio Secunda.