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Flames in the forehead of the morning sky :
Now, Lycidas, the shepherds weep no more ;
With this great elegy we reach the close of Milton's first period of poetic production. Let the reader now look back and consider how the writings of these six quiet years at Horton provide a record of intellectual growth, of deepening moral fervour, of a steady change in the poet's whole temper and attitude to life. Step by step, as I have tried to show, we can trace in them the gradual movement of his mind toward the Puritanism with which henceforth he was to be so intimately associated. As Mr. Stopford Brooke, reversing the order of our own study, has said, "The Milton of 'Lucidas' is not the Milton of “Comus.' The Milton of Comus' is not the Milton of the ' Penseroso,' still less of the 'Allegro while, again, to push the analysis a stage further back, “The Milton of the 'Penseroso' is not the Milton of the • Ode to the Nativity.' Nothing of the Renaissance is left now but its learning and its art." Yet, as the last sentence should remind us, Milton's progressive Puritanism did not involve the repudiation of the classic culture in which he had been bred. If at the age of thirty nothing of the Renaissance was left to him but its learning and its art, we must never forget that at least these were left. Had they not been left, " Paradise Lost " would have been an impossibility. The great fact upon which we have to fix our attention is that Milton became a Puritan without ceasing to be a humanist; only, from this time onward, the art and the learning of the Renaissance were not to be cultivated for their own sakes; they were to be employed in the service of those religious and moral truths which had now become the dominant factors in his life.
IV ILTON did not at once carry out his plan of settling in London. He
resolved instead upon a Continental tour. He had become, in his own words, " anxious to visit foreign parts, and particularly Italy." His craving for Italy, the centre and home of Renaissance culture, shows the continued strength of the humanist and the artist in him. Accordingly he left London in May 1638, well provided with letters of introduction which assured his admission to the best literary circles of the Continent, and designing to spend at least three years abroad. He went first to Paris, where he met the celebrated Dutch philosopher and theologian, Grotius. Thence he made his way to Nice, where he took ship for Genoa, and passing on through Leghorn and Pisa, reached Florence in August. In Florence, which he had "always more particularly esteemed for the elegance of its dialect, its genius, and its taste," he lingered about two months, living on terms of intimacy " with many persons of rank and learning," and regularly frequenting the “ literary parties," or clubs of dilettanti, which he notes as a delightful feature in the life of the Tuscan capital. In Rome, which was the next place on his itinerary, he spent nearly three months, immersed in the antiquities of the Eternal City, and again finding a warm welcome from men
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. 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.
8“ 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
His visit to the blind old astronomer, 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.3 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.”
* 1. 287-291.