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mood of pensive melancholy. In a broad way, the resulting difference in spirit and tone is at once clear. But, as closer consideration will show, the contrast is not of broad effects only ; the parallelism is worked out in detail from scene to scene and from impression to impression. Hence the need of continual reference from either poem to the companion piece. It should, however, be remarked that the contrast does not lie in the difference between the same things differently viewed ; it lies deeper-in the difference between the aspects of nature, art, and human life, as selected now by one mood and now by the other. Two ideal days are represented : the ideal day of a gay, vivacious youth, beginning at morning with the song of the lark and ending with the pleasures of evening ; and the ideal day of a studious, melancholy youth, beginning at evening with the song of the nightingale and, after a period of night study and a snatch of morning sleep, ending with an early service in the cathedral. It is thus the balance between these two days and the skilful way in which the particulars of the one are made to answer those of the other that we should be specially careful to observe. Both pictures are painted with a fine abandonment to the prevailing mood, and the reader may therefore be left to make his own choice between them. It is not difficult, however, to perceive the line of Milton's own preference. A comparison between the closing passages of the two poems will show that while “L'Allegro" rests in the present, “Il
Penseroso" looks forward to the future. This suggests that the more serious thought of life expressed in the second poem has for Milton a more lasting value than the lighter thought set forth in the first.
While primarily interesting, however, by reason of their great beauty, these two idylls are further important as revelations of the poet's mind at the time of their composition. Their spirit is singularly pure and noble , in the gaiety of the one there is nothing that is petty, trivial, or base; in the melancholy of the other, nothing morbid or unworthy. At the same time, there is little that is distinctively Puritan in either, and much that is, in fact, quite antiPuritan in both of them. In “ L'Allegro" the echoes of romance, the dancing and rustic sports, the visit to the playhouse and the references to Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, certainly do not give us any hint of the fanatical austerity which was presently to shut the theatres, pull down the maypoles on
on the village greens, and turn “Merrie England" into “Psalm-singing England." In “Il Penseroso " the poet dwells upon his love of pagan learning, and in imagination he haunts the cathedral, and enjoys the beauty of its dim aisles, the sounds of the rolling organ, and the solemn liturgy of the English Church ; and thus again he shows no trace of sympathy with the extremists to whom all these things were anathema. For the time being, there is still far more of the Hellenic than of the Puritan in Milton, and the influence of the Renaissance, however much tempered by the poet's profoundly religious character, is the dominating influence in his work.
L'ALLEGRO Hence, loathèd Melancholy, Of Cerberus 1 and blackest Midnight born, In Stygian cave a forlorn, 'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights
In dark Cimmerian 3 desert ever dwell.
But come, thou Goddess fair and free,
The three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to the infernal regions.
· His kennel The Cimmerians of Homer ("Odyssey,” xi. 14) lived in a land of perpetual darizness.
Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
Where the great Sun begins his state,
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
Sometimes with secure delight