Page images
PDF
EPUB

imagery, so much admired in Milton, appears to me to be much more practicable than many readers seem to suppose.”

I bad adieu to bolts and bars,
And soar'd with angels to the stars,
Like him of old, to whom 'twas given
To mount on fiery wheels to Heaven.
Boötes' waggon, slow with cold,
Appall’d me not; nor to behold
The sword that vast Orion draws,
Or e'en the Scorpion's horrid claws, &c. &c.

The same elegant and classical commentator remarks, that “the poet's natural disposition, so conspicuous in the · Paradise Lost,' and even in his prose works, for describing divine objects, such as the bliss of the saints, the splendour of Heaven, and the music of the angels, is perpetually breaking forth in some of the earliest of his juvenile poems, and here more particularly in displaying the glories of Heaven, which he locally represents, and clothes with the brightest material decorations: his fancy, to say nothing of the Apocalypse, was aided and enriched with descriptions in romances.”

The next poem, · Naturam non pati senium,' a college exercise, is also praised by Warton. He says that it “is replete with fanciful and ingenious allusions. It has also a vigour of expression, a dignity of sentiment, and elevation of thought, rarely found in very young writers.”

The poem consists of sixty-nine lines. The whole is beautiful. In answer to those who

assert the liability of nature to old age, the poet says,

At Pater Omnipotens, fundatis fortius astris,
Consuluit rerum summæ, certo que peregit
Pondere fatorum lances, atque ordine summo
Singula perpetuum jussit servare tenorem.
Volvitur hinc lapsu mundi rota prima diurno;
Raptat et ambitos sociâ vertigine cælos.
Tardior haud solito Saturnus, et acer' ut olim
Fulmineum rutilat cristatà casside Mavors.
Floridus æternum Phæbus juvenile coruscat,
Nec fovet effætas loca per declivia terras
Devexo temone Deus; sed, semper amicâ
Luce potens, eadem currit per signa rotarum.
Surgit odoratis pariter formosus ab Indis,
Æthereum pecus albenti qui cogit Olympo,
Mane vocans, et serus agens in pascua cæli;
Temporis et gemino dispertit regna colore.
No! the Almighty Father surer laid
His deep foundations, and providing well
For the event of all, the scales of Fate
Suspended, in just equipoise, and bade
His universal works, from age to age,
One tenour hold, perpetual undisturb’d.

Hence the prime mover wheels itself about
Continual, day by day, and with it bears
In social measure swift the heavens around.
Not tardier now is Saturn than of old,
Nor radiant less the burning casque of Mars.
Phæbus, his vigour unimpair’d, still shows
The effulgence of his youth, nor needs the god
A downward course, that he may warm the vales;
But ever rich in influence, runs his road,
Sign after sign, through all the heavenly zone.
Beautiful, as at first, ascends the star
From odoriferous Ind, whose office is
To gather bome betimes the æthereal flock,
To pour them o'er the skies again at eve,

And to discriminate the night and day.-CowPER. Gray, a century afterwards, wrote tripos verses, at Cambridge, on the subject, • Anne Luna est habitabilis ?

In 1627, anno ætatis 18, Milton wrote his elegy "Ad Thomam Junium præceptorem suum, apud mercatores Anglicos Hamburgæ agentes, Pastoris munere fungentem.' This Thomas Young was Milton's tutor before he went to St. Paul's school. He was a Puritan, of Scotch birth. He returned to England in 1628, and was afterwards preferred by the parliament to the mastership of Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1644, whence he was ejected for refusing the engagement. He died, and was buried at Stow-market, in Suffolk, where he had been vicar thirty years.* .

From Young, Milton says that he received his first introduction to poetry.

Primus ego Aonios, illo præeunte, recessus

Lustrabam, et bifidi sacra vireta jugi;
Pieriosque hausi ļatices, Clioque favente,

Castalio sparsi læta ter ora mero.

* See Mitford's Poetical Dedication to his edition of Parnell.

CHAPTER III.

THE SUBJECT OF Milton's COLLEGE POETRY

CONTINUED.

It does not appear at what exact date Milton wrote his beautiful Latin poem to his father, (who lived till 1647,) excusing his devotion to the Muses : it was probably before he left Cambridge. Though it assumes that his father did not oppose his pursuits, yet I think we may infer that he had endeavoured to persuade him to occupy himself with some lucrative profession:-

Nec tu perge, precor, sacras contemnere Musas, &c.
The poet ends in this noble manner :-

Et vos, o nostri, juvenilia carmina, lusus,
Si modo perpetuos sperare audebitis annos,
Et domini superesse rogo, lucemque tueri,
Nec spisso rapient oblivia nigra sub Orco;
Forsitan has laudes, decantatumque parentis

Nomen, ad exemplum, sero servabitis ævo. This is an aspiration which Warton praises with congenial enthusiasm; and which was duly fulfilled to its utmost extent.

This poem may be taken as perfectly biogra

phical, as well as poetical : I think it proper, therefore, to give the whole poem, as translated by Cowper.

TO HIS FATHER.

(TRANSLATED BY WILLIAM COwper.)

0, that Pieria's spring would through my breast
Pour its inspiring influence, and rush
No rill, but rather an o'erflowing food!
That, for my venerable Father's sake,
All meaner themes renounced, my Muse on wings
Of duty borne, might reach a loftier strain.
For thee, my Father! howsoe'er it please,
She frames this slender work : nor know I aught
That may thy gifts more suitably requite ;
Though to requite them suitably, would ask
Returns much nobler, and surpassing far
The meagre stores of verbal gratitude ;
But such as I possess, I send thee all :
This page presents thee in their full amount
With thy son's treasures, and the sum is nought;
Nought save the riches that from airy dream,
In secret grottos and in laurel bowers,
I have by golden Clio's gift acquired.
Verse is a work divine : despise not thou
Verse, therefore, which evinces (nothing more)
Man's heavenly source, and which, retaining still
Some scintillations of Promethean fire,
Bespeaks him animated from above.
The gods love verse : the infernal powers themselves
Confess the influence of verse, which stirs
The lowest deep, and binds in triple chains
Of adamant both Pluto and the shades.
In verse the Delphic priestess, and the pale
Tremulous sibyl, make the future known:
And he who sacrifices, on the shrine
Hangs verse, both when he smites the threatening bull,
And when he spreads his reeking entrails wide
To scrutinize the fates inveloped there.

« PreviousContinue »