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and follow the bent of his genius ; but they seem to me as if there were conveyed in them something approaching almost to the language of gentle and respectful reproach for neglecting literature too much, and confining himself so exclusively to music. If anything could raise a probability that the Six-fold Politician is the work of the elder John Milton, it would be the tone of the chapter in that work on “Poets,” when it is compared with the language of this Epistle.
It is indeed sufficiently apparent that the father had but small literary power, and acted very wisely when, as joint sons of Apollo, he left the nobler province to his son. The Biographers and Editors of Milton have in this respect dealt gently, shall I say generously, with his memory. Yet it is something to know what kind of person the father of so great a man was, and therefore I venture to place upon this page that which is perhaps the only specimen which remains of attempts in verse by the elder Milton; for he who could write the lines which follow could never have attained to the delicacy of the Madrigal in Oriana, to which his music was set. The lines are a complimentary sonnet addressed to Lane-John Lane, the “fine old Queen Elizabeth's gentle. man" of Philips' “ Theatrum Poetarum.” They were addressed to him on his poem, entitled Guy Earl of Warwick, which he finished in 1621. This poem no one has thought it worth his pains to draw from its obscurity of a manuscript life, and indeed it does not deserve the pains. It may be found in the Museum by those who desire to consult it.*
* Harl. 6243. The manuscript has the appearance of an author's autograph, and seems to have been intended for the press, having an imprimatur, dated July 13, 1617, signed John Taverner.
If virtue this be not, what is ? tell quick!
For childhood, manhood, old age, thou dost write
Instanced in Guy of Warwick, knighthood's light.
For Guy's true being, life, death, eke hast sought,
Manuscript, Chronicle, if might be bought,
Trophies, traditions delivered of Guy,
To exemplify the flower of chivalry
For Christian imitation, all are here.
I believe I am the first and shall be the last who prints these lines, which prove, beyond all dispute, that the elder Milton formed a just conception of his own powers, when he contented himself with “ Melody's unmeaning notes, without the sense of words.”
Mr. Todd, without any show of probability, would relieve the memory of the elder Milton from the burden of these verses, and lay them on John Melton, the worthy author of the book called “ The Astrologaster;" but the John Melton (Milton) who wrote these lines was a citizen of London, while the author of the Astrologaster was a lawyer, and dates the dedication of his very curious and useful book from his chamber. Milton addresses Lane as his friend, and the passage in the Theatrum of Philips, who was grandson of the elder Milton, to which we have already adverted, is plain evidence that there was a private intimacy and friendship between the families of Milton and Lane, else we should never have found even the qualified praise which, in that treatise, is bestowed on one who is surely among the least in, the Muses train. But if more were wanting to prove the inti macy which existed between Lane and the Miltons, and to fix on the elder Milton the verses above transcribed, it would seem to be supplied by a passage in Lane's poem on the Twelve Months. When, speaking of music, he names no other English composer but Milton, whom he calls Meltonus.
Accenting, airing, curbing, ordering
Lane is the only writer of verse with whom, on grounds of high probability, Milton can be supposed to have become acquainted before he left his father's house for the Univer. sity, and there appears to have been a kindly recognition of him in Milton's mind, when he wrote
Call up him who left half told
For Lane took the adventurous step of completing Chaucer's Squire's Tale. There was a copy of this attempt in possession of Dr. Farmer, with the date 1616, and there is now another copy in the Ashmolean Library, with the date 1630, both in manuscript, for no one has ventured to commit it to the press.*
* See Black's Catalogue of the Ashmolean Manuscripts, No. 53, and Catalogue of Dr. Richard Farmer's Library, No. 8047.- Lane's con. nection with the Miltons gives him a claim to attention, to which nothing
The precise time when the elder Milton retired from London has not been determined. Mr. Todd says that he had left London in 1632, when his son also took leave of
of his own could entitle him. His Guy of Warwick contains notices of Sidney, Spenser, Daniel, Rowland, and Brown ; but I cannot bring myself to quote more from Lane's manuscript. Another poem of his, of considerable length, is entitled “ Triton's Triumph to the Twelve Months, husbanded and moralized.” It is partly georgical and partly moral. There is a copy with the date 1621, in the Royal Manuscripts, at the Museum, 17 B. xv., and in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, is another copy, which belonged to Prince Charles, O. ii. 68. He has prefixed an address to all lovers of the Muses, in which he writes in a strain of despondency, as an old man who had survived most of his friends. He speaks of his earlier poetical compositions, his Guy of Warwick, Squire's Tale, and Poetical Visions. He names again several of the older poets, and has more about Spenser than any other. Chaucer, Lydgate, Sidney, Daniel are there, together with poets of less note, as Hugh Holland.
And Hugo Holland, who my lines did chide,
For he an ill-made verse could ne'er abide. And this explains a passage in the “ Theatrum,” where Philips says, speaking of Holland, that “he is thought worthy by some to be men. tioned with Spenser, Sidney, and others, the chief of English Poets.” Lane names also Sandford, a poet of still smaller fame :
But first old Sanford call and Daniel fet,
Two sweetly singing swans of Somerset. Lane was himself of that county, or at least of some county in the West of England, for be writes thus :
So here ends Eastern Tusser's Husbandry,
Of his Poetical Vision and Alarm to Peets, two other poems named by Philips, I have yet found no trace.
the University and joined him. The place to which he retired was Horton in Buckinghamshire, near the point at which the river Colne joins the Thames. We see that when he sought a country residence his mind turned towards the beechy groves of Buckinghamshire and the forest scenery of his native Oxfordshire. While here he lost his wife: she died on the 3rd of August, 1637, as appears by an inscription which is or was over her grave in the church of Horton, in the most ordinary style of such compositions. *
According to Aubrey he did not end his days at Horton. “He died 1647, and was buried in Cripplegate Church from his house in the Barbican :” and with this agrees what is said by Mr. Todd, that he came to live with his son the poet, after the surrender of Reading to the Earl of Essex in 1643. His son Christopher lived at Reading. Milton's house would, it is to be feared, not be at that time the quiet abode which suited a person who had now it is supposed numbered eighty years, for it was in that year that Milton married the wife who so soon deserted him, an event which appears to have wrought up his mind to a state of high exasperation at the time, and to have brought dark shades of habitual discontentment over a mind originally perhaps light and cheerful, which were never wholly dispersed. And this leads me to a very painful part of my subject, one that I have hesitated much about the propriety of introducing at all, but seeing how many hard things are said of
* “Here lyeth the body of Sara Milton, the wife of John Milton, who died the 3rd of August, 1637.” I give it as communicated to the Gentle. man's Magazine, vol. lvii. p. 779, without any other voucher of its au. thenticity.