« PreviousContinue »
“ Both spiritual power and civil, what each means
Thou has learned well, a praise which few have won ;" and for “firm hand" in line 13 “right hand.”
SONNET XVIII.-—"the bloody Piemontese, that rolled mother with infant down the rocks." In explanation of this Warton refers to the contemporary account of the massacre by Sir W. Moreland, where there is a print of this particular piece of cruelty, and a story of an infant found alive at the foot of a rock after three days in its dead mother's arms.“Their martyred blood and ashes sow": an adaptation of the aphorism of Tertullian, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church."-" The triple Tyrant”: i.e. the Pope, with his three-tiered crown, called Tricoronifer” in Milton's Latin poem In Quintum Novembris, line 55.-A hundredfold" printed " A hunder'd fold" in edition of 1673.-"the Babylonian woe." The Church of Rome was regarded by the Puritans as the mystical Babylon of the Apocalypse, the doom of which was foretold (Rev. xvii. and xviii.); and Milton in his In Quintum Novembris (line 156) had called the Pope “ Antistes Babylonius."
SONNET XIX.-" Ere half my days.” For the date of Milton's blindness see Introduction to the Sonnet, II. 300, 301.—“that one talent," &c., Matt. xxv. 14–30. Milton speaks of his eyesight as the “one talent” he had received.-" thousands”: viz. of Angelic beings.
SonNET XX.-“ Favonius”: a poetical synonym for Zephyr, the West-wind.—“that neither sowed nor spun,” Matt. vi. 26—29.—“spare to interpose them oft”: interpreted by Mr. Keightley to mean time to interpose them oft ;” but surely rather the opposite—“refrain from interposing them oft.” Parcere in Latin with a verb following had this sense of “refraining from,” and “spare" in English was used in the same way.
SONNET XXI.-“ Let Euclid rest, and Archimedes pause": i.e. lay aside your mathematical and physical studies (see Introd. to the Sonnet, II. 305).— "what the Swede intend, and what the French”: see Introd., II. 304. Most editors print "intends" here; but it is distinctly “ intend” in the edition of 1673. There is a recollection here, as Newton pointed out, of Horace, Od. ii. 11.
Quid bellicosus Cantaber, et Scythes,
Querere, &c. ;" perhaps also of Od. 1. ix. 13, and Eccles. iii. 1.
SonNet XXII.--"this three years' day." See Introd., II. 308. “This day three years " is the prosaic form, and some have unwarrantably proposed that reading here.—“ though clear to outward view," &c. VOL. III.
Milton is equally explicit on this point in a passage in his De. Sat., where he discusses his blindness. His eyes, he says, had totally lost their power of seeing : “ita tamen extrinsecus illæsi, ita sine nube clari ac lucidi, ut eorum qui acutissimum cernunt: in hac solum parte, memet invito, simulator sum.”—“Or sun, or moon, or star," &c. Compare Par. Lost, III. 40 et seq., and Sams. Ag. 80 et seq.—“ conscience," i.e. “consciousness." _"to have lost them overplied in Liberty's defence”: i.e. in writing his great pamphlet Defensio pro Populo Anglicano, published in 1650, in reply to Salmasius, whose Defensio Regia pro Carolo I. had appeared in 1649. In that pamphlet itself Milton had said that, being in ill-health while he wrote it, he had been “forced to write by piecemeal, and break off almost every hour;” and in its sequel, the Defensio Secunda, published in 1654, or perhaps a year before the present Sonnet was written, he had inserted a more express passage, to the effect that when he had undertaken the reply to Salmasius the sight of one eye was already nearly gone, and he had persevered in his task, from a sense of paramount duty, against the positive warnings of physicians that it would accelerate total blindness.-—“ my noble task, of which all Europe rings.” Only in this case have I adopted a reading from Phillips's printed copy of 1694. In the Cambridge draft of the Sonnet, as dictated by Milton, the word is “talks” and not "rings," and I have no doubt
talks is what Milton himself would have printed. But the word
rings," substituted by Phillips, probably because the first line of the Sonnet to Fairfax was still echoing in ‘his ear, has so recommended itself by its energy, and has become so identified with the passage by frequent quotation, that no editor since Newton has had the heart to return to “talks.”—“the world's vain mask.” Ps. xxxix. 6, “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew."
With the exception of “rings” in line 12 (see above), Phillips's deviations from the Cambridge MS. draft of this Sonnet are all for the worse. For “light” in line 3 he substituted “sight"; for “sight” in line 4 "day"; for “of” at the beginning of line 5" or "; for "a jot" in line 7 one jot"; for “the world's.” in line 13 “this world's"; and for “better” in line 14 “other.”—In the Cambridge draft itself, however, there are some corrections. For “ Heaven's hand" in line 7 Milton had originally dictated “God's hand”; for “ bear up and" in line 8“attend to"; and for "Right onward" in line 9" Uphillward."
SONNET XXIII.See Introd. to the Sonnet, II. 308-309.-like Alcestis from the grave, whom Jove's great son,” &c. The reference is to the beautiful drama of Alkestis by Euripides, where it is told how the brave god Herakles, Jove's great son, brought back the dead Alkestis from her grave, and restored her to her husband Admetus. The story is accessible now to English readers in the fine transcript of it, rith poetic comments, in Mr. Browning's Balaustion.--"Purification in the Old Law”; a reference to the regulations of the Mosaic Law in Levit.
xii.—“ Her face was veiled.” See, for the significance of this, Introd., II. 309; but perhaps there is a recollection also of Alkestis, as she was brought back to Admetus by Hercules.
“ There is no telling how the hero twitched
The veil off.”
says Mr. Browning in re-imagining that scene.
The Fifth Ode Of HORACE, LIB. I.—“ Plain in thy neatness ?” Warton objected to this translation, on the ground that Horace's words simplex munditiis"
s” mean plain in her dress, or, more periphrastically, in the manner of adorning herself.” But Milton, in the Latin copy of Horace's ode printed parallel with his translation in the edition of 1673, adopts the reading “simplex munditie;" and to this his translation is exact.
Psalms LXXX.-LXXXVIII.--See Introd., II. 310–315. Milton's statement, in his note prefixed to his version of these Nine Psalms, being that he had translated punctiliously from the original Hebrew, and that all save the Italic phrases in his version were exact renderings of that original, I submitted the proof for this edition, with Milton's marginal Hebrew notes and comments copied in it from the edition of 1673, to the Rev. Dr. A. B. Davidson, Professor of Hebrew in the New College, Edinburgh, with a request that he would report on the accuracy of the marginal notes, and on the amount of knowledge of Hebrew indicated by them. Dr. Davidson has favoured me with the following remarks :
“P. 8. marg. 1: for Be Sether read Besether (one word) as in p. 9; marg. 2 [Be is a preposition, but is always attached to its word.]
“P. 9 marg. 3: Tishphetu would be more accurately pronounced tishpetu ( for ph); but probably the author wrote ph.
"P. 10 marg. 7 : Shifta is read in the Hebrew Bible Shofta (0, not i). Probably Shifta is a mere misspelling. [Some verbs give i for o in this part; and, if an unpointed Bible had been used, the reading shifta might indicate not very accurate knowledge of the language. But the accuracy of the other words seems against this supposition.]
“The printing of the words is extremely accurate. The author must have had, I should say, a familiar acquaintance with the vocalized text; and some of his remarks--such as that on p. 11 marg. 7: elohim bears both "-indicate also familiarity with Hebrew idiom.
“Of course, in the transcription of Hebrew words gn represents the Ayin, and j is to be pronounced y as in Hallelujah.”
While these remarks by a Hebrew scholar will suffice for the main professed feature of the Version of the Nine Psalms, the English reader may judge for himself of the poetical merits. (See Introduction, II. 313, and remember also Landor's remark that “ Milton was never so much a regicide as when he lifted up his hand and smote King David.") One or two verbal notes may be added :-Ps. LXXX. 35, haut, for haughty, an old form, found in Spenser and Shakespeare, but nowhere else in Milton's poetry-Ibid, lines 14, 30, 78, the identical rhyme of vouchsafe and safe; and line 60 vine rhyming with divine. In the edition of 1673 vouchsafe is so spelt in lines 14 and 30, but voutsafe in line 78, as generally in Par. Lost.-Ps. LXXXVI. lines 26—28, the word "works” rhyming to itself.
Psalms I.–VIII.--As was pointed out in the Introduction (II. 315, 316) the peculiarity in this version of the first Eight Psalms is that in each Psalm there is an experiment of a special metre. Psalm I. is in heroic couplets; Psalm 11. in Italian tercets, or rhymes interlinked in threes, as in Dante's Divina Commedia; Psalm III. in a peculiar sixlined stanza; Psalm IV, in a different six-lined stanza; Psalm V. in a peculiar four-lined stanza; Psalm VI. in another kind of four-lined stanza; Psalm VII. in a six-lined stanza different from either of the previous six-lined stanzas; and Psalm VIII. in an eight-lined stanza. But in each metre there are irregularities and laxities. Observe the double rhymes “nations” “ congregations” in Ps. II. 1–3; "glory" "story," and “millions" "pavilions” in Ps. III. 7, 8, and 15-18; “unstable” “ miserable" in Ps. V. 25-27; " reprehend me" "amend me," and weeping“
» “keeping" in Ps. VI. 1-4 and 17-20; "under," “wonder," "asunder," *nation," "habitation," “ foundation," and " offended," “ bended," " intended,” in Ps. VII. 2-5, 25-30, and 44-47. -Note also, as peculiar verbal forms, “sustain used substantively in Ps. III. 12; " deject" used adjectively Ps. VI. 3; and “bearth" for “birth” or “production,” Ps. VII. 4 (compare Par, Lost, IX. 624, and note there).
SCRAPS FROM THE PROSE WRITINGS.--See Introd., II. 316, 317.
THE LATIN POEMS.
“DE AUCTORE TESTIMONIA." -These five pieces of eulogium prefixed to the Latin Poems in the edition of 1645, and repeated in that of 1673, were a selection from complimentary testimonies which Milton had received from the Italian scholars and wits whose acquaintance he had, made during his residence in Italy in 1638-9 (General Introd., II. 161). His reception among these scholars and wits, especially in Florence, Rome, and Naples, had been most cordial; they had entertained him privately, and admitted him to the meetings of their “ Academies,” i.e. the Literary and Philosophical Debating Societies which then abounded in all the Italian cities; and the impression he had made on them, by his conversation, and by incidental specimens of his writing in Latin and Italian (for few, if any, of them knew English), had been quite extraordinary. This appears even through the extravagant Italian politeness of the written compliments they addressed to him before his departure back to England. Milton, while printing these compliments, notes their extravagance, but confesses to his pleasure in being able to produce to his countrymen such proofs of the estimation in which he had been held by honourable men abroad. There can be little doubt that one motive for printing them was a desire to counteract, as much as possible, that opinion of Milton which prevailed among his countrymen in 1645 in consequence of his numerous polemical writings of the four preceding years——the opinion, namely, that he was merely a fierce prose-pamphleteer, of extreme and revolutionary ideas (see General Introduction, Vol. II. pp. 166-168).—About the Neapolitan Manso, the writer of the first of the five testimonies quoted, sufficient information has been given in the Introduction to the Latin Poem “Mansus” (II. 368—371). About the Roman Salsilli, the writer of the second, there is similar information in the Introduction to the Latin Verses addressed to him (II. 366, 367). Of SELVAGGI, the writer of the third, nothing is known, save that he was probably a Roman. ANTONIO FRANCINI and CARLO DATI, the writers of the fourth and fifth, were Florentines, and leading spirits in the Literary Academies of Florence at the time of Milton's visit. Of all the Florentine group they were the two who seem to have recollected Milton most fondly, and whom he recollected most fondly. There is special mention of both by name in his Epitaphium Damonis, written immediately after his return to England (lines 136-138); and Dati, who was a very young man when Milton first saw him in Florence, was one of his correspondents afterwards. Three letters of the correspondence are extant-one in Latin from Milton to Dati, dated “ London, April 21, 1647," and two in Italian from Dati to Milton, dated from Florence, “Nov. 1, 1647," and “Dec. 4, 1648.”