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To day deep thoughts resolve with me to drench 5
In mirth, that after no repenting draws ;
Let Euclid rest and Archimedes pause,
Toward solid good what leads the nearest way;
For other things mild Heav'n a time ordains, And disapproves that care, though wise in Ihow,
That with superfluous burden loads the day, And, when God sends a chearful hour, refrains.
“ a free Commonwealth, &c.” This was soon afterwards attacked in a burlesque pamphlet, pretended to be written by Harrington's club, under the title of “The cenfure of the Rota upon Mr. Mil. “ ton's Book entitled The Ready and easy way, &c. Lond. Printed by " Paul Giddy printer to the Rota, at the figne of the WINDMILL “ in Turne againe Lane, 1660.” But Harrington's club, which en. couraged all proposals for new models of government, was very unlikely to have made such an attack; and Milton's very familiar inti. macy with Skinner, to whom he addresses two Sonnets, full of confidence and affection, was alone' suficient to have prevented any remonftrance from that quarter. Aubrey says, that Milton's Idea THEOLOGIÆ in manuscript is “in the hands of Mr. Skinner a Mer. « chant's son in Mark-Lane. Mem. There was one Mr. Skinner of the “ Jerker's office up two pair of stayres at the Custom - house." MS. AsHm. ut infr. See below, Sonn. xxii. 4.
6. In mirth, that after no repenting draws.] This is the decent mirth of Martial,
Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis.
Cyriac, this three years day these eyes, though clear,
To outward view, of blemish or of spot,
Nor to their idle orbs doth fight appear
6 Against Heav'n's hand or will, nor bate a jot Of heart or hope ; but still bear up
4. Nor to their idle orbs, &c.] Compare Sams. Acon. v. 80. And PARAD. Lost, B. iii. 23. Whitelocke mentions Milton only once. Speaking of some articles of treaty, he says, "they were sent to one " Mr. Milton a blind man to put into Latin." Milton being Latin secretary. Milton gives an account of the beginning and progress of his blindness, in a Letter to Leonard Philaras Envoy from the Duke of Parma to the king of France, dated at Westminster, Sept. 28, 1654. In which he says, he began to be totally blind about three years ago. See Prose-WORKS, vol. ii. 575. This Sonnet was therefore written about 1654. Wood says, that Skinner, who lived with his father a merchant in Mark-Lane, had in his possession Milton's Idea THEO. LOGIÆ, never published.
8. One of Milton's characteristics was a singular fortitude of mind, arising from a consciousness of superiour abilities, and a convi&tion that his cause was juft. The heart which he presents to Leonora is thus described, Sonn. vi. 4.
- Io certo a prove tante
De pensieri leggiadro, accorio, e buono ;
S'arma di se, e d'intero diamante,
Di timori, &c. He concludes, with great elegance, writing to a lady, that it was not proof againtt love.
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask? The conscience, Friend, to have lost them overply'd
In liberty's defense, my noble task, Of which all Europe talks from side to side. This thought might lead me through the world's
vain mask Content though blind, had I no better guide.
Methought I saw my late espoused saint
Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
9. Right onward. -] Mr. Harris, in his notes on the Treatise on HAPPINESS, observes on this expression of Rigbt onward, p.306. “ One “ would imagine that our great countryman Milton had the reasoning “ of Marcus Antoninus in view. L. 5. §. 5. Where in this Sonnet,
speaking of his own Blindness, he says with a becoming magnani. “ mity, yet I argue not, &c. The whole Sonnet is not unworthy of “ perusal, being both simple and sublime.” Dr. J. Warton.
11. In liberty's defence, &c.] This Sonnet was not hazarded in the edition of 1673, where the last appears. For the DeFENSIO PRO POPULO ANGLICANO, of which he here speaks with so much satisfa&ion, and self-applause, at the restoration was ordered to be burnt by the hands of the common hangman, together with his Icono. CLASTES, at which time his person was spared ; and, by a singular act of royal clemency, he survived to write PARADISE Lost. It is more remarkable, that Goodwin, a famous Independent preacher, should have been indemnified, whose books were also burnt, in which he juftified the king's murther.
1. Melbought I saw my late efpoufed faint, &c.] Raleigh's elegant Sonnet, called a vision upon the conceipt of the Faerie QUEENE, begins thus,
Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay. And hence perhaps the idea of a Sonnet in the form of a vision was suggested to Milton,
Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave, Rescued from death by force, though pale and
faint. Mine, as whom wash'd from spot of child-bed taint Purification in the old Law did save,
5 And such, as yet once more I trust to have
Full sight of her in Heav'n without restraint, Came vested all in white, pure as her mind :
Her face was veild, yet to my fancied sight
This Sonnet was written about the year 1661, on the death of his second wife, Catharine, the daughter of captain Woodcock of Hackney, a rigid fectarist. She died in child-bed of a daughter, within a year after their marriage. Milton had now been totally blind for two or three years : so that this might have been one of his day-dreams.
Captain Woodcock had a brother Francis, as I collect, a covenan. ter, and of the assembly of divines, who was presented by the ufurp. ing powers to the benefice of S. Olave in Southwark, 1646. One of his surname, perhaps the same with this Francis, was appointed by parliament in 1659, to approve of ministers; was a great frequenter of conventicles, and has some puritanical sermons extant in Tbe morning exercije met bodized, 1676.
2. Brought to me like Alceslis. - ] The last scene of the ALCESTIS of Euripides, our author's favourite writer, to which he alludes in this paffage, is remarkably pathetic ; particularly at v. 1155.
Ω φιλτάτης γυναικός όμμα, &c. And all that follows on Hercules's discovering that it was his wife whom Hercules had brought to him covered with a veil. And equally tender and pathetic is the passage in the first Act, which describes Alcestis taking leave of her family and house, when she had resolved to die to save her husband : particularly from v. 175. to v. 196. Thomson closely copied this paffage in his EDWARD and ELEONORA. I have often wondered, that Addison, who has made so obser. vations on the allegory of Sin and Death, in the PARADISE Lost, did not recollect, that the person of Death, was clearly and obviously taken from the OANATO E of Euripides in this Tragedy of Alcestis. Dr. J. WARTON.
Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin’d So clear, as in no face with more delight.
But O, as to embrace me the inclin’d,
* Birch has printed a Sonnet said to be written by Milton, in 1665, when he retired to Chalfont on account of the plague, and to have been lately seen inscribed on the glass of a window in that place. Life, p. xxxviii. It has the word sheenE as a substantive. But Milton was not likely to commit a scriptural miftake. For the Sonnet improperly represents David as punished by a pestilence for his adul. tery with Bathsheba. Birch, however, had been informed by Vertue, that he had seen a satirical medal, struck upon Charles the second, abroad, without any legend, having a correspondent device.