Page images
PDF
EPUB

ELEGIARUM LIBER.

ELEGIA PRIMA.

II-20.

3.

occiduá Deve Cestrensis ab ora." See Introduction, II. 326, 327; and compare Lycidas, 55 and note there.

4. Vergivium . . . salum: the Irish sea. Camden's Britannia, Warton says, had familiarized the name in Milton's time. Drayton, in his Polyolbion, several times uses Vergivian as the name of the sea.

8. Debet, at unde brevi reddere jussa velit." A recollection, as Richardson noted, of Horace, Od. 1. iii. 548.

9. “refluâ . undâ: i.e. its tidal wave.
10. "patria,” in the sense of “my native city."

Fam nec arundiferum," &c. These ten lines are supposed to convey the story of Milton's temporary rustication from Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1626 (see Introd., II. 327, 328); and it seems impossible to evade that interpretation. The phrases most significant are dudum vetiti laris," * duri minas Magistri," Cætera ingenio non subeunda meo,exilium," "profngi nomen,and “exilii conditione." It has indeed been proposed to construe the first of these phrases in a way different from that which has been usual with those who have read it with the story of the rustication in their minds. They (e.g. Cowper in his translation of the Elegy, and Warton, Todd, and Mr. Keightley) have taken “lar" to mean college," or college-chamber," and so have read the whole line thus : “Nor does any love of [longing for] my lately forbidden college-room vex me." But why, it has been asked, not take “ lar” in its more direct sense of "home," "fireside," and so read the line thus : "Nor does longing for my lately forbidden home in London now vex me, as it used to do at Cambridge”-i.e. “Nor, now that I am back in London, have I any longer the feeling of home-sickness”? Plausible as this is, and more consistent than the other reading with the ordinary usage of lar, I am still not sure but the other reading is the right one. It seems to fit in better with the context; and that “lar” might have been used by Milton in the sense of college-room seems the likelier from his subsequent use of patrios benates for his father's house in London. Either way, the interpretation of this particular line leaves the other phrases untouched, and they contain sufficient allusion to some incident in Milton's collegelife equivalent to rustication. “Si sit hoc exilium, &c., can hardly be understood otherwise.-In Buchanan's curious Elegy, entitled Quam misera sit conditio docentium literas humaniores Lutetiæ, there is a distich not unlike lines 15, 16 :

1

Quid memorem interea fastidia mille laborum,

Quæ non ingenuâ mente ferenda putes ?” 21—24. O utinam vates . . . ille," &c. Milton's fondness for Ovid finds here very exaggerated expression.

29-36. “Seu catus," &c. On these eight lines Warton remarks that the comedies hinted at are rather the Terentian than those of the contemporary English stage. “ It is the view of a scholar, and he does not recollect that he set out with describing a London theatre.”

35, 36. “Sæpe novos," &c. Richardson compared two lines in Claudian's De Nuptiis Honorii et Mariæ, 3, 4:

“Nec novus unde calor nec quid suspiria vellent

Noverat incipiens, et adhuc ignarus amandi ;” and also Ovid's lines, Met. iv. 329, 330 :

“pueri rubor ora notavit Nescia quid sit amor ; sed et erubuisse decebat." 37, 38.“ Sive cruentatum furiosa Tragedia," &c. See note, Penseroso, 97-102, 40. " lacrymis dulcis amaror." So Catullus (Ad Manlium) :

Quæ dulcem curis miscet amaritiem.” 41, 42. “Seu puer infelix,&c. Shakespeare's Romeo ?

43, 44 Seu ferus e tenebris," &c. In Shakespeare's Hamlet or his Richard III.?

45, 46. “Seu mæret Pelopeia," &c. He reverts now to Greek Tragedy

49, 50. “Nos quoque lucus habet,&c. The allusion does not seem to be, as Warton fancied, to any country-house of Milton's father, nearer town than the house at Horton he afterwards occupied ; for, as Mr. Keightley asks, what could have brought there the Virgineos choros of line 52 ? Some suburban place of public resort, such as Gray's Inn Garden, or one of the Parks, seems to be intended. Kensington Gardens would be about the present equivalent.

54. "possit.So in Second edition, changed from “ posset” in First.

58. “via.” The more natural construction would have been “viam"; but there are classic precedents for Milton's form.

65. " Achæmenia turritå fronte puellæ.According to Warton, Sandys in his Travels, first published in 1615, described the high headdresses of the women of the part of Persia anciently called Achæmenia.

66. - Memnoniamque Ninon." Mr. Keightley observes that it was Susa, and not Ninos or Nineveh, that was called “the Memnonian city" by Herodotus.

[ocr errors]

69, 70.“ Nec Pompeianas Tarpëia Musa," &c. The “Tarpëia Musa" is here used for the Roman poets generally, or more expressly for Ovid, whose house was near the Tarpeian Rock, and who, in his Art. Amat. Lib. I., recommended Roman gentlemen in pursuit of beauty to walk slowly up and down in the shade of Pompey's Portico, if they did not object to the sera et sapientior atas of the ladies they were likely to see there, but above all never to miss the theatres.

73. Tuque urbs Dardaniis, Londinum," &c. London, in the British legends, was founded by the Trojan settlers who came in with Brutus, and was first called Trinovantum or New Troy.

77-80. “Non tibi tot calo," &c. An expansion of Ovid's, Art. Amat. I. 59%

Quot cælum stellas, tot habet tua Roma puellas." 84.

et roscam posthabitura Cypron.The phrase is from the Æneid, 1. 15 %

“Quam Juno fertur terris magis omnibus unam

Posthabitâ coluisse Samo." 87, 88. Circes atria ... Molyos,” &c.

Molyos,” &c. See notes, Comus, 46-50, 636, 637.

Stat quoque,&c. See note antè, lines 11-20. Whatever was the nature of Milton's absence from Cambridge for a while in the second year of his undergraduateship, it is certain that it did not involve the loss of even one term in his undergraduate course. The "stat," therefore, may imply “ It has been satisfactorily arranged that I return,” &c.

92. alternos . . . modos," i.e. the alternate Hexameters and Pentameters of the Elegy.

89, 90.

ELEGIA SECUNDA.

I, 2.

haculo fulgente ..ciere gregem.See Introduction to the Elegy, II. 328, 329.

5, 6. "plumis sub quibus accipimus delituisse Jovem," i.e. the swanplumage of Jupiter when he wooed Leda. Warton quotes Ovid's line (Heroides, viii. 68);

“Nec querar in plumis delituisse Jovem." 7, 8.Hæmonio juvenescere succo ... in Æsonios . . . dies." A recollection of Medea's occupation in Ovid's Met. VII. 264, 265:

“ Illic Hæmoniâ radices valle resectas,

Seminaque, floresque, et succes incoquit acres,” and of the subsequent description of the result of the process, when

[ocr errors]

9, Io.

Æson, the old father of Jason, had the magical decoction poured into
his veins by Medea, and was straightway made young again. See also
Com. 638, and note there; and compare Mansus, 75.
Dignus quem ..

Coronides." Another Ovidian reference ; more especially, as Mr. Keightley has noted, to Fast. vi. 745 et seg. Æsculapius, the god of medicine, son of Apollo, but here, after Ovid, called Coronides because his mother was Coronis, restored to life Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, whose death had greatly vexed Diana. Multum indignante Diana," Ovid's phrase for the goddess's anger at the death, suggests to Milton the “sæpe rogante deâ ” in the matter of the resuscitation.

12. “ Phæbo": the Vice-Chancellor of the University ?

13-16. Talis in Niacâ," &c. In the allusions in these lines Warton discerns proofs of Milton's early familiarity with Homer. The Eurybates of lines 15, 16, is one of the heralds of Agamemnon in the Iliad sent to the court of Achilles to demand Briseis (1. 320 et seq.); but Mr. Keightley questions the accuracy of the Homeric reference in the two preceding lines to the god Hermes (called Cyllenius from his temple in mount Cyllene in Arcadia). unable,” he says, “to find any instance of Hermes being sent to the palace of Priam; for in the only two instances (II. 11. 786 ; XXIV. 160) it is Iris that is sent.” In this second instance, however, after Iris had delivered Jove's message to the afflicted Priam in his palace, and encouraged him to go forth for the recovery of the dead body of Hector, slain by Achilles, it is Hermes that is specially despatched to complete the mercy by guiding Priam to the tent of Achilles (II. xxiv. 334 et seq.). When Hermes encounters the old king he is certainly no longer in his palace, but in the plain outside Ilium, driving through the darkness in his chariot towards the Greek entrenchment and ships. In the phrase "in Iliacâ stabat Cyllenius aula," therefore, Milton does take a liberty with the Homeric text.

19.pondus inutile terræ.” A literal translation of Homer's phrase STOLOV äydos apoyons (II. XVIII. 104).

Academia.Here, as well as in the only other instance of the use of the word in Milton's Latin poems (Epilogue to Eleg. VII.), the penult is made short, against the usual practice

“ We are

21.

ELEGIA TERTIA.

3—8. “ Protinus en subiit,&c. The reference in these six lines is to the ravages of the Plague in England in 1625 and 1626, mentioned also in the poem On the Death of a Fa Infant (see line 68 of that poem,

and Introd. to it, II. 189). Among the thousands who had died of the Plague (35,417 in London and its neighbourhood alone, according to Whitlocke) there were not a few persons of rank. The mortality by this cause had fallen greatly by the beginning of 1626; but in September or October in that year, when this Elegy was written, the horror was still of recent memory.

9-12. “ Tunc memini," &c. The other recent calamities, which Milton here represents himself as remembering in September or October 1626, were the deaths of some of the conspicuous champions of Protestantism on the Continent in that early stage of the great Thirty Years' War the object of which was the recovery of the Palatinate for its hereditary Prince-Elector, nominally “ King of Bohemia," husband of the English Elizabeth, daughter of James I.

The “ clarus dux" and his “ frater verendusof lines 9, 10, may be, as Sir David Dalrymple suggested to Warton, the young Duke Christian of Brunswick and Count Mansfeldt, chivalrous supporters of the Palatinate cause (called “brothers," as having been “ brothers-in-arms”), both of whom died in 1626, the former by poison ; the “heroes rapti” and “amissi duces" of lines 11, 12, lamented by all Belgia, may, on the same suggestion, include Henry Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, who died at the siege of Breda in 1625. He was a relative of the more celebrated Sir Horace Vere, on whom, and his English troops, much of the hard work in the Palatinate had rested from 1620 to 1624, but who had returned to England in this latter year (to be created Baron of Tilbury in 1625), and may therefore count also among the “amissi duces” of the Low Countries at that epoch.

13. dignissime Præsul.See Introduction, II. 329, 330.

21. fluvio contermina quercus.Conterminus, as Warton pointed out, is a favourite word with Ovid; and in one passage (Met. viii. 620) he has the phrase "tilia contermina quercus."

22. prætereuntis aque." The exact phrase occurs, as Todd noted, in the second of Buchanan's Latin Elegies.

Semideamque animam,&c. Compare On the Death of a Fair Infant, line 21.

32. “Roscidus occiduis Hesperus exit aquis.” Ovid has " Hesperus roscidus” in Fasti, 11. 314; and “ Eois Lucifer exit aquis," in Epist. ex Ponto, II. v. 50. The observation is Warton's. Mr. Keightley adds that the second passage may have led Milton into an astronomical error here, As Lucifer rises in Ovid out of the Eastern waters, why should not Hesperus rise out of the Western ? “This,” says Mr. Keightley, “is an impossibility, for the Evening Star is always to the east of the Sun."

30.

« PreviousContinue »