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John Milton, a poet of the first rank in eminence, (poem, of great elegance. He left Italy by the way was descended from an ancient family, seuled at of Geneva, where he contracted an acquaintance Milton, in Oxfordshire. His father, whose deser- with two learned divines, John Diodati and Frederic tion of the Roman Catholic faith was the cause of Spanheim; and he returned through France, having his disinheritance, settled in London as a scrivener, been absent about a year and three months. and marrying a woman of good family, had two On his arrival, Milton found the nation agitated sons and a daughter. John, the eldest son, was by civil and religious disputes, which threatened a born in Bread-street, on December 9, 1608. He crisis; and as he had expressed himself impatient to received the rudiments of learning from a domestic be present on the theatre of contention, it has been tutor, Thomas Young, afterwards chaplain to the thought extraordinary that he did not immediately English merchants at Hamburg, whose merits are place himself in some active station. But his turn gratefully commemorated by his pupil, in a Latin was not military; his fortune precluded a seat in elegy. At a proper age he was sent to St. Paul's parliament; the pulpit he had declined; and for the school, and there began to distinguish himself by bar he had made no preparation. His taste and his intense application to study, as well as by his habits were altogether literary; for the present, poetical talents. In his sixteenth year he was re- therefore, he fixed himself in the metropolis, and moved to Christ's college, Cambridge, where he undertook the education of his sister's two sons, of was admitted a pensioner, under the tuition of Mr. the name of Philips. Soon after, he was applied to W. Chappel.
by several parents to admit their children to the Of his course of studies in the university little is benefit of his tuition. He therefore took a com. known; but it appears, from several exercises pre- modious house in Aldersgate-street, and opened an served in his works, that he had acquired extraor- academy. Disapproving the plan of education in dinary skill in writing Latin verses, which are of a the public schools and universities, he deviated from purer taste than any preceding compositions of the it as widely as possible. He put into the hands kind by English scholars. He took the degrees of his scholars, instead of the common classics, such both of Bachelor and Master of Arts; the latter in Greek and Latin authors as treated on the arts and 1632, when he left Cambridge. He renounced his sciences, and on philosophy ; thus expecting to inoriginal intention of entering the church, for which stil the knowledge of things with that of words. We he has given as a reason, that, “ coming to some are not informed of the result of his plan; but it maturity of years, he had perceived what tyranny will appear singular that one who had himself drunk had invaded it;" which denotes a man early habitu- so deeply at the muse's fount, should withhold the ated to think and act for himself.
draught from others. We learn, however, that he perHe now returned to his father, who had retired formed the task of instruction with great assiduity. from business to a residence at Horton, in Buck. Milton did not long suffer himself to lie under inghamshire; and he there passed five years in the the reproach of having neglected the public cause study of the best Roman and Grecian authors, and in his private pursuits; and, in 1641, he publishin the composition of some of his finest iniscella- ed four treatises relative to church government, in neous poems. This was the period of his Allegro which he gave the preponderance to the Presby. and Penseroso, his Comus and Lycidas. That his terian form above the Episcopalian. Resuming the learning and talents had at this time attracted con- same controversy in the following year, he num. siderable notice, appears from an application made bered among his antagonists such men as Bishop to him from the Bridgewater family, which pro- Hall and Archbishop Usher. His father, who had duced his admirable masque of “Comus," perform- been disturbed by the king's troops, now came 10 ed in 1634, at Ludlow Castle, before the Earl of live with him ; and the necessity of a female head Bridgewater, then Lord President of Wales; and of such a house, caused Milton, in 1643, to form a also by his “ Arcades," part of an entertainment connexion with the daughter of Richard Powell, presented to the Countess Dowager of Derby, at Esq., a magistrate of Oxfordshire. This was, in Harefield, by some of her family.
several respects, an unhappy marriage; for his father. In 1638, he obtained his father's leave to improve in-law was a zealous royalist, and his wife had achimself by foreign travel, and set out for the con- customed herself to the jovial hospitality of that tinent. Passing through France, he proceeded to party. She had not, therefore, passed above a Italy, and spent a considerable time in that seat of month in her husband's house, when, having pro the arts and of literature. At Naples he was kindly cured an invitation from her father, she went to pass received by Manso, Marquis of Villa, who had the summer in his mansion. Milton's invitations long before deserved the gratitude of poets by his for her return were treated with contempt; upon patronage of Tasso; and, in return for a laudatory which, regarding her conduct as a desertion which listich of Manso, Milton addressed to him a Latin broke the nuptial contract, he determined to punish it by repudiation. In 1644 he published a work however, suffered no eclipse from this loss of his on “The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce ;' sensitive faculties; and he pursued, without interand, in the next year, it was followed by “Te mission, both his official and his controversial occutrachordon, or Expositions upon the four chief pations. Cromwell, about this time, having assumed Places in Scripture which treat of Marriage.” He the supreme power, with the title of Protector, further reduced his doctrine into practice, by pay. Milton acted with a subservience towards this ing his addresses to a young lady of great accom- usurper which is the part of his conduct that it is plishments; but, as he was paying a visit to a neigh- the most difficult to justify. It might have been bor and kinsman, he was surprised with the sud- expected, that when the wisest and most conscienden entrance of his wife, who threw herself at tious of the republicans had become sensible of his his feet, and implored forgiveness. After a short arts, and opposed his ambitious projects, the mind struggle of resentment, he took her to his bosom; of Milton would neither have been blinded by his and he sealed the reconciliation by opening his hypocrisy, nor overawed by his power. Possibly house to her father and brothers, when they had the real cause of his predilection for Cromwell, was been driven from home by the triumph of the re- that he saw no refuge from the intolerance of the publican arms.
Presbyterians, but in the moderation of the ProIn the progress of Milton's prose works, it will tector. And, in fact, the very passage in which he be right to mention his “ Areopagitica; a Speech of addresses him with the loftiest encomium, contains Mr. John Milton, for the Liberty of Unlicensed a free and noble exhortation to him to respect Printing,"—a work, published in 1644, written with that public liberty, of which he appeared to be the equal spirit and ability, and which, when reprinted guardian. in 1738, was affirmed by the editor to be the best Cromwell at length died; and so zealous and sandefence that had ever then appeared of that essen- guine was Milton, to the very last, that one of his tial article of public liberty. In the following year latest political productions was, “A ready and easy he took care that his poetical character should not Way to establish a free Commonwealth.” It was in be lost to the world, and published his juvenile vain, however, to contend, by pamphlets, with the poems, Latin and English.
national inclination; and Charles II. returned in Milton's principles of the origin and end of triumph. Milton was discharged from his office, government carried him to a full approbation of the and lay for some time concealed in the house of a trial and execution of the king; and, in order to friend. The House of Commons desired that his conciliate the minds of the people to that act, he Majesty would issue a proclamation to call in Mil. published, early in 1649, a work entitled, “The ton's Defences of the People, and Iconoclastes, to Tenure of Kings and Magistrates ; proving that it gether with a book of Goodwyn's. The books were is lawful, and hath been so held through all ages, accordingly burnt by the common hangman; but the for any who have the power, to call to account authors were returned as having absconded; nor, in a tyrant or wicked king; and, after due convic- the act of indemnity, did the name of Milton appear tion, to deposo and put him to death, if the ordinary among those of the excepted persons. magistrate have neglected or denied to do it.” He now, in reduced circumstances, and under Certainly, it would not be easy to express, in the discountenance of power, removed to a private stronger terms, an author's resolution to leave no habitation near his former residence. He had doubts concerning his opinion on this important buried his first wife; and a second, the daughter of topic. His appointment to the Latin Secretaryship a Captain Woodcock, in Hackney, died in childbed. to the Council of State was, probably, the conse- To solace his forlorn condition, le desired his friend, quence of his decision.
Dr. Paget, to look out a third wife for him, who The learned Frenchman, Salmasius, or Saumaise, recommended a relation of his own, named Elizahaving been hired by Charles II., while in Holland, beth Minshull, of a good family in Cheshire. His to write a work in favor of the royal cause, which powerful mind, now centered in itself, and unhe entitled, “Defensio Regia,” Milton was employed disturbed by contentions and temporary topics, to answer it; which he did in 1651, by his celebrated opened to those great ideas which were continually " Defensio pro Populo Anglicano," in which he filling it, and the result was, Paradise Lost. Much exercised all his powers of Latin rhetoric, both to discussion has taken place concerning the original justify the republican party, and to confound and conception of this grand performance; but whatvilify the famous scholar against whom he took up ever hint may have suggested the rude outline, it the pen. By this piece he acquired a high reputa. is certain that all the creative powers of a strong tation, both at home and abroad ; and he received imagination, and all the accumulated stores of a a present of a thousand pounds from the English life devoted to learning, were expended in its comgovernment. His book went through several edi- pletion. Though he appears, at an early age, to tions; while, on the other hand, the work of Sal. have thought of some subject in the heroic times of masius was suppressed by the States of Holland, in English history, as peculiarly calculated for English whose service he lived as a professor at Leyden. verse, yet his religious turn, and assiduous study of
Milton's intense application to study had, for the Hebrew Scriptures, produced a final preference some years preceding, brought on an affection of of a story derived from the Sacred Writings, and the eyes, which gradually impaired his sight; and, giving scope to the introduction of his theological before he wrote his “Defensio,” he was warned by system. It would be superfluous, at this time, ic his physicians that the effort would probably end in weigh the merits of Milton's great work, which total blindness. This opinion was soon after justi- stands so much beyond competition; but it may be fied by a gutta serena, which seized both his eyes, affirmed, that whatever his other poems can exhibit and subjected the remainder of his life to those pri- of beauty in some parts, or of grandeur in others, vations which he has so feelingly described in some may all be referred to Paradise Lost as the most passages of his poems. Ilis intellectual powers, /perfect model of both.
Milton, not exhausted by this great effort, fol- With this work his poetical account closes; and a lowed it in 1670 by “ Paradise Regained," written few pieces in prose can scarcely claim particular upon a suggestion of the Quaker Elwood's, and ap- notice. He sunk tranquilly under an exhaustion of parentay regarded as the theological completion of the vital powers, in November, 1674, when he had the Paradise Lost. Although, in point of inven- nearly completed his 66th year. His remains were tion, its inferiority is plainly apparent, yet modern carried from his house in Bunhill-Fields to the criticism has pronounced that there are passages in church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, with a numerous it by no means unworthy of the genius of Milton, and splendid attendance. No monument marked allowance being made for the small compass of the the tomb of this great man; but his memory was subject, and his purpose in writing it. Together honored with a tomb, in 1737, in Westminster with it appeared his tragedy of “Sampson Ago- Abbey, at the expense of Auditor Benson. The nistes," composed upon the model of antiquity, and only family whom he left were daughters. never intended for the stage.
Then to come, in spite of sorrow,
And at my window bid good-morrow, HENCE, loathed Melancholy,
Through the sweet-brier, or the vine, Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,
Or the twisted eglantine: In Stygian cave forlorn,
(holy ! While the cock, with lively din, 'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights un. Scatters the rear of Darkness thin, Find out some uncouth cell,
(wings, And to the stack, or the barn-door Where brooding Darkness spreads his jealous Stoutly struts his dames before ; And the night-raven sings;
Oft listening how the hounds and horn There under ebon shades, and low-brow'd rocks, Cheerly rouse the slumbering Morn, As ragged as thy locks,
From the side of some hoar hill, In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
Through the high wood echoing shrill : But come, thou goddess fair and free,
Some time walking, not unseen, In Heaven yclep'd Euphrosyne,
By hedge-row elms, on hillocks green, And by men, heart-easing Mirth ;
Right against the eastern-gate Whom lovely Venus, at a birth,
Where the great Sun begins his state, With two sister Graces more.
Rob'd in flames, and amber light, To ivy-crowned Bacchus bore :
The clouds in thousand liveries dight; Or whether (as some sager sing)
While the plowman, near at hand, The frolic wind, that breathes the spring, Whistles o'er the furrow'd land, Zephyr, with Aurora playing,
And the milkmaid singeth blithe, As he met her once a-maying;
And the mower whets his sithe, There on beds of violets blue,
And every shepherd tells his tale And fresh-blown roses wash'd in dew,
Under the hawthorn in the dale. Fill'd her with thee a daughter fair,
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures, So buxom, blithe, and debonair.
Whilst the landscape round it measures ;
Where the nibbling flocks do stray ;
Mountains, on whose barren breast, Nods, and Becks, and wreathed Srniles. The laboring clouds do often rest ; Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
Meadows trim with daisies pied, And love to live in dimple sleek;
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide : Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
Towers and battlements it sees And Laughter holding both his sides.
Bosom'd high in tutted trees, Come, and trip it, as you go,
Where perhaps some beauty lies, On the light fantastic toe;
The Cynosure of neighboring eyes. And in thy right hand lead with thee
Hard by, a cottage chimney smokes, The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty ;
From betwixt two aged oaks, And, if I give thee honor due,
Where Corydon and Thyrsis, met, Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
Are at their savory dinner set, To live with her, and live with thee.
Of herbs and other country messes, In unreproved pleasures free.
Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses; To hear the lark begin his flight,
And then in haste her bower she leaves, And singing startle the dull Night,
With Thestylis to bind the sheaves; From his watch-tower in the skies,
Or, if the earlier season lead, Till the dappled Dawn doth rise ;
ITo the tann'd haycock in the mead.
Sometimes with secure delight
And ever, against eating cares,
These delights if thou canst give Mirth, with thee I mean to live
Dwell in some idle brain,
And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess, As thick and numberless As the gay notes that people the sunbeams; Or likest hovering dreams,
The fickle pensioners of Morpheus' train.
And oft, as if her head she bow'd,
IL PENSEROSO. HENCE, vain deluding Joys, The brood of Folly, without father bred! How little you bested,
Or fill the fixed mind with all your toys!
With such consort as they keep,
But let my due feet never fail
And may at last my weary age
Where I may sit and rightly spell
These pleasures, Melancholy, give,
Over some wide-water'd shore,
But, O sad virgin, that thy power
Thus, Night, oft see me in thy pale career,
Yet once more, O ye laurels, and once more,
Begin then, Sisters of the sacred well,
20 And, as he passes, turn And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.
For we were nurs'd upon the self-same hill, Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill. Together both, ere the high lawns appear'd Under the opening eye-lids of the Morn, We drove afield, and both together heard What time the grey-fly winds her sultry horn, Battening our flocks with the fresh dews of nigh Oft till the star, that rose, at evening bright, 30 Toward Heaven's descent had slop'd his westering