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prominent in literature and scholarship. Then towards the end of November he pushed on to Naples, where he remained two months, and where he received “ singular proofs ” of regard from a nobleman of great distinction, named Manso, who in earlier life had been a friend and patron of the famous Italian poet Tasso. His plans had been laid for an extension of his journey by way of Sicily into Greece, for if he had felt the spell of Italy, he felt no less that of Athens :
Athens, the Eye of Greece, Mother of Arts
And Eloquence.1 But at this point his course was suddenly checked. “When I was preparing to pass over into Sicily and Greece," he tells us, “the melancholy intelligence which I received of the civil commotions in England made me alter my purpose ; for I thought it base to be travelling for amusement abroad while my fellow-citizens were fighting for liberty at home.” 2 The political and religious struggle in England was now, as he learned, passing into a critical stage ; and much as he must have regretted the abandonment of his plans, he responded without hesitation to what seemed to him to be the unmistakable call of duty; for in such a juncture the place of every Englishman was in England. Yet, curiously enough, instead of hastening on, as might in the circumstances have been expected, he loitered much upon his 1 "Paradise Regained,” IV. 240, 241. " Defensio Secunda."
homeward way. A second stay of two months in Rome was followed by a sojourn of equal length in Florence, where, it is specially interesting to remember, he now found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought." i His visit to the blind old astro
1 nomer, who is not only one of the world's great scientists but also one of the noble army of martyrs in the cause of intellectual freedom, evidently made a deep impression upon him ; many years later he recalled Galileo's use of the telescope, of which he then doubtless learned, in some lines in “ Paradise Lost” comparing Satan's shield with the moon :
Rivers or mountains on her spotty globe.2 Crossing the Apennines, he then went through Bologna and Ferrara to Venice, where, first despatching by ship the books and music he had collected in Italy, he spent a month “ in surveying the curiosities of this city"; after which he“ proceeded through Verona and Milan, and along the Leman Lake to Geneva." There, he tells us, he “ held daily conferences" with the well-known theologian Giovanni Diodati, uncle of his dear friend Charles Diodati, whom he had 1.“ Areopagitica.”
• I. 287-295.
left on the point of commencing practice as a physician in London. It is a singular coincidence that it was during his stay in Geneva that news reached him of Charles's death. This sad event inspired a little later the last and the best of his Latin poems, the “Epitaphium Damonis," or “Lament for Damon." Though, like “Lycidas," this follows the strict pastoral convention, it is, despite its alien language, far more tender in feeling and personal in tone than the English elegy. With the sadness of his loss weighing heavily upon him, he now retraced his former course through France, reaching London in August 1639. He had been absent just fifteen months.
Two matters connected with this Continental tour are worthy of passing remark. In the first place, we have his word for it that, wherever he went and whatever might be the society in which he found himself, though it was his invariable rule “never to be the first to begin any conversation on religion,” yet, if any question were put to him concerning his own faith, he answered it “ without any reserve or
This freedom of utterance under repressive conditions which he deplored led occasionally to slight difficulties, and once almost to serious trouble ; for on his way back from Naples to Rome he learned from some merchants that the English Jesuits in the latter city had laid a plot against him because he had spoken too boldly about religion. Nevertheless, he adds, “ I again openly defended, as I had done
before, the Reformed religion in the very metropolis of Popery." Secondly, an element of romance pertains to his Italian travels which is the more interesting on account of the mystery which still surrounds it. Some years afterwards, replying to the loose accusations of one of his many calumniators, Milton proudly declared that “ in all those places in which vice meets so little discouragement and is practised with so little shame, I never once deviated from the paths of integrity and virtue." No one who knows him would for a moment question his statement. Yet we wholly misconceive his character if we imagine that his absolute rectitude and austere purity of life betokened any deficiency on the emotional side. On the contrary, his was indeed an ardent nature, and one extraordinarily sensitive to the fascinations of beauty and the influences of love. This is strikingly illustrated by the romantic incident now referred to. Somewhere in Italy, perhaps towards the end of his tour there, though regarding both place and time we are in entire uncertainty, he met an Italian lady, dark-eyed, dark-haired, who at once took his heart captive by her personal loveliness and the charm of her singing, and aroused in him a passion so strong that, as it would seem, he had to seek safety from it in flight. The patient searchings of the biographers have thus far failed to bring to light any particulars of this episode ; no clue has been discovered to the identity of the lady ; nothing is known of the circumstances in which he met her or of the details of their relationship. Five Italian sonnets and a canzone which will be found in any complete edition of Milton's poetical works remain as our only record of what must have been, at the time, a critical passage in his life. I mention it here because it brings into such clear view an aspect of Milton's complex character which, in our preoccupation with his Puritanism, we are too apt to overlook.
The news which had reached Milton in Naples had not exaggerated the gravity of the situation at home. On his arrival in England he found the king engaged in what is known as the Bishops' war with the Scots, who were resisting by force of arms the attempt of Laud to dictate to them in matters of Church government and religious worship. Disaffection spread; things went from bad to worse; supported by his two evil counsellors, Laud and Strafford, Charles pursued his reckless policy of high-handed tyranny, vacillation, and childish blundering. For eleven years—from March 1629 to April 1640——he had persisted in ruling the country without a Parliament. The Parliament which he was then compelled to convene—the Short Parliament as it is called—was dissolved by him in twenty-three days because it made demands upon him which in his unwisdom he saw fit to reject. His action greatly exasperated the Commons. In the November of the same year Parliament was again called together, and this time the king did not dare to interfere. Then the storm broke. Strafford was impeached,