ページの画像
PDF
ePub

can refuse to any modern the liberty of borrowing from Homer :

a quo ceu fonte perenni Vatum Pieriis ora rigantur aquis. His next production was Lycidas, an elegy, written in 1637, on the death of Mr. King, the son of Sir John King, secretary for Ireland in the time of Elizabeth, James, and Charles. King was much a favourite at Cambridge, and many of the wits joined to do honour to his memory. Milton's acquaintance with the Italian writers may be discovered by a mixture of longer and shorter verses, according to the rules of Tuscan poetry, and his malignity to the Church by some lines which are interpreted as threatening its extermination.

He is supposed about this time to have written his Arcades ; for while he lived at Horton he used fometimes to steal from his studies a few days, which he spent at Harefield, the house of the countess dowager of Derby, where the Arcades inade part of a dramatick entertainment.

He began now to grow weary of the country; and had some purpose of taking chambers in the Inns of Court, when the death of his mother set him at liberty to travel, for which he obtained his father's consent, and Sir Henry Wotton's directions, with the celebrated

Notwithstarving Dr. Johofon's affertion, that the fiction is derived from Homer's Circe, it may be conjectured, that it was rather taken from the Conus of Erycius Puteanus, in which, under the fiction of a dream, the characters of Coinus and his attendants are delineated, and the delights of' tentialists exposed au reprobared. This little tract was publiihed at Lourain in 1011, and afterwards at Oxford in 1034, the very year in which Wilton's Conus was written,

Precept

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

precept of prudence, i penfieri Aretti, ed il viso fciolto;

thoughts close, and looks loose.”

In 1638 he left England, and went first to Paris; where, by the favour of Lord Scudanore, he had the opportunity of visiting Grotius, then residing at the French court as ambassador from Christina of Sweden, From Paris he hasted into Italy, of which he had with particular diligence studied the language and literature : and, though he seems to have intended a very quick perambulation of the country, staid two months at Florence; where he found his way into the academies, and produced his compositions with such applause as appears to have exalted him in his own opinion, and confirmed him in the hope, that, “ by labour and in"« tense study, which," says he, “ I take to be my

portion in this life, joined with a strong propensity $s of nature,” he might “ leave something so written

to after-times, as they should not willingly let it 6 die."

It appears, in all his writings, that he had the usual concomițant of great abilities, a lofty and steady confidence in himself, perhaps not without some contempt of others; for scarcely any man ever wrote so much, and praised so few. Of his praise he was very frugal; as he set its value high, and considered his mention of a name as a security against the waste of çime, and a certain preservation from oblivion.

At Florence he could not indeed complain that his merit wanted distinction. Carlo Dati .presented him with an encomiaftick inscription, in the tumid lapidary style ; and Francini wrote him an ode, of which the first stanza is only empty noise; the rest are perhaps too diffuse on common topicks : but the last is natural and beautiful,

From

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

From Florence he went to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he was again received with kindness by the Learned and the Great. Holstenius, the keeper of the Vatican Library, who had resided three years at Oxford, introduced him to Cardinal Barberini : and he, at a musical entertaininent, waited for him at the door, and led him by the hand into the assembly*. Here Selvaggi praised him in a distich, and Saltilli in a tetrastick: neither of them of much value. The Italians were gainers by this literary commerce ; for the encomiums with which Milton repaid Sallilli, though not secure against a stern grammarian, turn the balance indisputably in Milton's favour.

Of these Italian testimonies, poor as they are, he was proud enough to publish them before his poems; though he says, he cannot be suspected but to have known that they were said non tam de fe, quam supra fe. . At Rome, as at Florence, he staid only two months; a time indeed sufficient, if he desired only to ramble with an explainer of its antiquities, or to view palaces and count pictures; but certainly too short for the contemplation of learning, policy, or manners.

From Rome he passed on to Naples, in company of a hermit; a companion from whom little could be expected, yet to him Miltonowed his introduction to Manso marquis of Viila, who had been before the patron of

* Here it is conjectured that Milton heard Leonora Baroni fing, a lady whom he has honoured with three Latin epigrains. She and her mother Adriana of Mantua, celebrated for her beauty and exquilite hand on the lute, were deemed the finest fingers in the world. A volume of poems in Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish, in praise of Leonora, was published at Rome; and there is a fine eulogium on her in the Lifcours sur la musique d'Italie, printed with the life of Malherbe. Vide Bayle, -Art. BARONI. Gen. Hift. of the Science and Practice of Mulic, vol. IV. page 196.

Taffo.

2

[ocr errors]

Tafso. : Manso was enough delighted with his accom- . plishments to honour him with a sorry distich, in which he commends him for every thing but his religion; and Milton, in return, addressed him in a Latin poem, which must have raised an high opinion of English elegance and literature.

His purpose was now to have visited Sicily and.: Greece ; but, hearing of the differences between the king, and parliament, he thought it proper to hasten home, rather than pafs his life in foreign amusements : while his countrymen were contending for their rights, : He therefore came back to Rome, though the merchants informed him of plots laid against him by the , Jesuits, for the liberty of his conversations on religion. He had sense enough to judge that there was no danger, and therefore kept on his way, and acted as before, : neither obtruding nor shunning controversy. He had · perhaps given some offence by visiting Galileo, then a prisoner in the Inquisition for philosophical heresy; and at Naples he was told by Manso, that, by his declarations on religious questions, he had excluded himself from fome distinctions which he flould otherwisc. have paid him. But such conduct, though it did not please, was yet sufficiently safe ; and Milton staid two months more at Rome, and went on to Florence without molestation.

From Florence he visited Lucca. He afterwards went to Venice; and having sent away a collection of, musick and other books, travelled to Geneva, which he probably considered as the metropolis of orthodoxy.

Here he reposed, as in a congenial element, and became acquainted with John Diodati and Frederick Spanheim, two learned professors of Divinity. Fron :

[ocr errors]

Geneva he passed through France ; and came home, after an absence of a year and three months.

At his 'return he heard of the death of his friend Charles Diodati; a man whom it is reasonable to suppose of great merit, since he was thought by Milton worthy of a poem, intituled, Epitaphium Damonis, written with the common but childish imitation of pastoral life.

He now hired a lodging at the house of one Ruffel, a taylor in St. Bride's Church-yard, and undertook the education of John and Edward Philips, his fifter's fons. Finding his rooms too little, he took a house and

garden in Aldersgate-street *, which was not then so much out of the world as it is now ; and chose his dwelling ar the upper end of a passage, that he might avoid the noise of the street. Here he received more boys, to be boarded and instructed.

Let not our veneration for Milton farbid us to look with some degree of merriment on great promises and small performance, on the man who hastens home, because his countrymen are contending for their liberty, and, when he reaches the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in a private boarding-school. This is the period of his life from which all his biographers seem inclined to fhrink. They are unwilling that Milton

* This is inaccurately expressed : Philips, and Dr. Newton after him, say a garden house, i. e, a house fituate in a garden, and of which there were especially in the north suburbs of London very many, if not few else. The term is technical, and frequently occurs in the Athen. and Faft. Oxon. The meaning thereof may be collected from the article Thomas Farnabe, the famous schoolmatter, of whom the author fays, that he taught in Goldfinith's Rents, in Cripplegate parifh, behind Redcross-street, where were large gardens and handsome houses. Milton's house in Jewin-itreet was alto a garden-house ; as were indeed most of his dwellings after his settlement in London,

should

1

« 前へ次へ »