Page images
PDF
EPUB

clergy of the church of England, and menacing their leader with the ax, should be permitted to issue from the University press. The speech, indeed, assigned to St. Peter

The pilot of the Galilean lake,

may properly be regarded as the most objectionable part of the composition. The poetry in these nineteen lines is not equal to what precedes and follows them; and to make an Apostle speak, with exultation, of the approaching punishment of a bishop by the hand of the executioner, must certainly be censured as improper and indecorous.

But whatever sentence may be passed on this small portion of the Lycidas, the entire monody must be felt by every reader of taste as an effusion of the purest and most exalted poetry. We may wishi, perhaps, that it had been constructed on some other plan of stanza, or with a different arrangement of its rhymes; we may sometimes be tempted to think its transitions too violent, and its allusions not sufficiently obvious: but, as a whole, it seizes upon our fancy with irresistible force, and will scarcely suffer our judgment to discover its defects. In one place, and in one only, it exhibits a magnificent, though obscure image in a state rather of in

jury from its association with what is little and improper:

Where the great vision of the guarded mount
Looks towards Namancos" and Bayona's hold-
Lcok homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth:
And O ye dolphins waft the hapless youth!

After invoking the great vision, or the Arch Angel seated on his lofty rock and throwing his angel-ken over the sea

Towards Namancos and Bayona's hold,

to turn his countenancc homeward, and to weep for the calamity of that country, which was under his own immediate guardianship, it surely is a most notable anti-climax to call upon the dolphins to waft the hapless youth, when their services could be of no use to him, and when he was so far from hapless, that he was laving his locks with nectar in the blest kingdoms of joy and love. This is certainly to attach the tail of a rat to the head and body of a lion. To enumerate the beauties of this

* This Namancos has puzzled all the commentators. The conjecture that it is a name, found in some Gothic romance, for Numantia, strikes me as improbable; and I am unable to suggest any other. From its situation, not indeed near the coast, but in that line of country towards which St. Michael's Mount looks, Numantia would sufficiently answer the purpose of the poet.

poem would extend our digression beyond its just length, and would noi be consistent with our plan.-We have observed tirat the Comus came into the world unacknowleulon1 by its author, and it is remarkable that the writer of the Lycidas was intimated only by the initials J. M. This great man seems to have felt an awe of the public, by which the herd of small writers are seldom depressed –

For fools rush in, where Angels fear to tread.

But if he published with diffidence, he wrote with boldness, and with the persuasion, resulting from the consciousness of power, of literary immortality. “ After I had (he tells usv) from my first years, by the ceaseless diligence of my father,(whom God recompense!) been exercised in the tongues, and some sciences as my age would suffer, by sundry masters and teachers, both at home and at the schools, it was found that whether ought was imposed on me by them, that had the overlooking, or betaken to of my own choice, in English or other tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly this latter, the style by certain vital symptoms it had, was likely to live.” In a letter, which from its date was

"Reasons of C. Govern. B. 2d. P.W. vol. i. 118.

written about two months before his Lycidas, he lays open to his friend Deodati the lofty hopes and the daring projects of his heart.

“ Cæterum jam curiositali tuæ vis esse satisfactum scio. Multa solicitè quæris, etiam quid cogitem. Audi, Theodote, verûm in aurem ne rubeam; et sinilo paulisper apud te grandia loquar. Quid cogitem quæris?-ità me bonus Deus, immortalitatem! Quid agam vero? 7p/epopuã, et volare meditor: sed tenellis admodum adhuc pennis evehit se noster Pegasus; humilè sapiamus.”_" But you are now anxious, as I know, to have your curiosity gratified. You solicitously enquire even about my thoughts. Attend then, Deodati, but let me spare myself a blush by speaking in your ear; and for a moment let me talk proudly to you. Do you ask me what is in my thought? So may God prosper me, as it is nothing less than immortality. But how shall I accomplish it? My wings are sprouting, and I meditate to fly: but while my Pegasus yet lifts himself on very tender pinions, let me be prudent and humble.”

* For the amusement of my readers I insert the whole letter from which I have made this extract, with a translation by my friend Mr. Wrangham. We find in it that Milton had just accomplished a very rugged journey through some of the most

We shall again have occasion to remark

barren and unsightly tracts of history. Of all the productions of the pen, familiar letters give us the most insight into the sanctuary of the writer's bosom.

CAROLO DIODATO.

“ Quod cæteri in literis suis plerunque faciunt amici, ut unicam tantum salutem dicere sat habeant, tu illud jam video quid sit quod toties impertias; ad ea enim quæ tute prius, et alii adhuc sola afferre possunt vota, jan nunc artem insuper tuam, vimque omnem medicam quasi cumulum accedere vis me scilicet intelligere. Jubes enim salvere sexcenties, quantum volo, quantum possum, vel etiam amplius. Næ ipsum te nuper salutis condum promum esse factum oportet, ita totum salubritatis penum dilapidas, aut ipsa proculdubio sanitas jam tua parasita esse debet, sic pro rege te geris atque imperas ut dicto sit audiens; itaque gratulor tibi, et duplici proinde nomine gratias tibi agam necesse est, cum amicitiæ tuin artis eximiæ. Literas quidem tuas, quoniam ita convenerat, diu expectabam; verum acceptis neque dum ullis, si quid mihi credis, non idcirco veterem meam ergo te benevolentiam tantillum refrigescere sum passus; immo vero qua tarditatis excusatione usus literarum initio es, ipsam illam te allaturum esse jam animo præsenseram, idque recte, nostræque necessitudini convenienter. Non enim in epistolarum ac salutationum momentis veram verti amicitiam volo, quæ omnia ficta esse possunt; sed altis apimi radicibus niti utrinque et sustinere se; cæptamque sinceris, et sanctis rationibus, etiamsi mutua cessarent officia, per omnem tamen vitam suspicione et culpa vacare: ad quam fovendam non tam scripto sit opus, quam viva invicem virtutum recordatione. Nec continuò, ut tu non scripseris, non erit quo illud suppleri officium possit, scribit vicem tuam apud me tua probitas, verasque literas intimis sensibus meis exarat, scribit morum simplicitas, et recti amor; scribit ingenium etiam tuum, haudquaquam quotidianum, et majorem in modum te mihi commendat. Quare noli mihi, arcem illam medicinæ tyrannicam nactus,

« PreviousContinue »