« PreviousContinue »
WHEN THE ASSAULT WAS INTENDED TO THE CITY.
CAPTAIN, or Colonel, or Knight in arms,
Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize,
Guard them, and him within protect from harms.
That call fame on such gentle acts as these,
Whatever clime the sun's bright circle warms.
The great Emathian conquerour bid spare
whether it proceed from a principle bad, good, or naturall, it could not have held out thus long against so strong opposition on the other side of every kind. For, if it be bad, why should not all the fond hopes, that forward youthe and vanitie are fledged with, together with gaine, pride, and ambition, call me forward more powerfully, than a poor, regardless, and unprofitable sin of curiosity should be able to withhold me, whereby a man cuts himselfe off from all action, and becomes the most belplesse, pusillanimous, and unweaponed creature in the world ; the most unfit and unable to do that, which all mortals most aspire to; either to be usefull to his friends, or to offend bis enemies. Or, if it be to be thought a natural pronenesse, there is against that a much more potent inclination inbred, which about this time of a man's life sollicits post the desire of house and family of his owne, to wbich nothing is esteemed more helpful, than the early entering into credible employment, and nothing more hindring than this affected solitarinesse ; and tho' this wero enough, yet there is to this another act, if not of pure, yet of refined nature, no lesse availeable to dissuade prolonged obscurity; a desire of honour, and repute, and immortal fame, seated in the breast of every true scholar ; which all make haste to, by the readiest ways of publishing and divulging conceived merits, as well those that shall, as those that never shall obtain it. Nature would presently work the more prevalent way, if there were nothing but this inferiour bent to restraine her. Lastly, the love of learning, as it is the pursuit of something good, it would sooner follow the more excellent and supreme good known and presented, and so be quickly exempted from the emptie and fantastic chase of shadows and notions, to the solid good flowing from due and tyinely obedience to that command in the Gospel, sett out by the terrible seasing of him that hid the talent. It is more probable therefore that, not the endlesse delight of speculation, but this very consideration of that great commandment, does not presse forward as soon as many doe to undergoe, but keeps off with a sacred reverence and religious advisement bow best to undergoe; not taking thought of being late, so it give advantage to be more fit; for those that were latest lost tothing when the maister of the vineyard came in to give each one his hire. And here I ain come to a stream-head, copious enough to disburthen itself like Nilus at seven mouths into an ocean : but then I should also run into a reciprocall contradiction of ebbing and flowing at once, and do that which I excuse myself for not doing, preach and not preach. Yet that you may see I am something suspicious of myselfe, and do take notice of a certain belatednessc in me, I am the bolder to send you some of my nightward thoughts, some while since, because they come in not altogether unfitly, made up in a Petrarchian stanza, which I told you
How soon hath Time, &c. By this I believe you may well repent of having made mention at all of this matter; for if I have not all this while won you to this, I have certainly wearicd you of it. This therefore alone may be a sufficient reason for me to keep me as I am; least, having thus tired you singly, I should deal worse with a whole congregation, and spoyle all the patience of a parish ; for I myself do not only see my own tediousnesse, but now grow offended with it, that has hindered me thus long from coming to the last and best period of my letter, and that which must now chiefly work my pardon ;—that I am your true and unfained friend,
The house of Pindarus', when temple and t
Of sad Electra's poet' had the power
TO A VIRTUOUS YOUNG LADY.
Lady, that in the prime of earliest youth
Wisely hast shunn'd the broad way and the
That labour up the hill of heavenly truth;
Chosen thou hast; and they that overween,
No anger find in thee, but pity and ruth.
To fill thy odorous lamp with deeds of light
And hope that reaps not shame. Therefoi Thou, when the bridegroom with his feastful f
Passes to bliss at the mid hour of night, Hast gain'd thy entrance, Virgin wise and pure
i The great Emathian conquerour bid spe
The house of Pindarus. As a poet, Milton had as good right to expect this favour as Pin monarch less a protector of the arts, and a lover of poetry, than A Milton was too conscious that his situation was precarious, and th forfeited all pretensions to his sovereign's mercy. Mr. Bowle here c. 29:-“ Alexander Magnus Pindari vatis familiæ penatibusque caperet ;' and to the old commentator on Spenser's “ Pastorals," more at large, and where it might bave first struck Milton, as a Ælian says, that in this haroc, Alexander honoured the family of house alone to stand untouched and entire ; having killed 90 30,000 prisoners.—T. Warton.
1 of sad Electra's poet, &c. Plutarch relates, that when the Lacedemonian general Lysander posed in a council of war entirely to rase the city and convert its during the debate, at a banquet of the chief officers, a certain anastrophics from a chorus of the “ Electra " of Euripides ; whic that they declared it an unworthy act, to reduce a place, so celebra illustrious men, to total ruin and desolation. The lines of Eirip appears, however, that Lysander ordered the walls and fortification the epithet“ sad," Milton denominates the pathetic character of I signifies recited. But it has been ingeniously suggested, that the e Electra, who very often so calls herself in Euripides o play; and sa her the same appellation.-T. WARTON.
Electra had been before denominated “sad” by Drummond, i Henry's death :''
And sad Electra's sisters, who still weepe. This is one of Milton's best Sonnets, as Mr. Warton observes. when the king's army was arrived at Brentford, and had thrown t sternation-TODD.
* And hope that reaps not shame. Rom. v. 5.-HURD.
When the bridegroom with his feastful friends " Feastful" is an epithet in Spenser. He alludes to the midnig before the consummation of marriage.—T. WARTON.
TO THE LADY MARGARET LEY.
DAUGHTER to that good earl", once president
Broke him, as that dishonest victory,
Kill’d with report that old man eloquent ".
Wherein your father flourish'd, yet by you,
Madam, methinks I see him living yet ;
That all both judge you to relate them true,
ON THE DETRACTION WHICH FOLLOWED UPON MY WRITING CERTAIN
A BOOK was writ of late call’d “ Tetrachordon ?,"
And woven close, both matter, form, and style ;
m Daughter to that good earl. She was the daughter of Sir James Ley, whose singular learning and abilities raised him through all the great posts of the law, till he came to be made Earl of Marlborough, and Lord High Treasurer, and Lord President of the Council to King James I. He died in an advanced age ; and Milton attributes his death to “ the breaking of the parliament;" and it is true that the parliament was dissolved the 10th of March, 1628-9, and he died on the 14th of the same month. He left several sons and daughters ; and the Lady Margaret was married to Captain Hobson, of the Isle of Wight. It appears, from the accounts of Milton's life, that in 1643 he used frequently to visit this lady and her husband; about which time we may suppose this Sonnet to have been composed.-Newton.
Killd with report that old man eloquent. Isocrates, the orator. The victory was gained by Philip of Macedon over the Athenians. -T. WARTON.
• Dr. Johnson says of this and the next Sonnet, that “the first is contemptible, and the second not excellent;" and yet he had unfairly selected the contemptible Sonnet as a specimen, in his Dictionary, of this species of verse in English. But Milton wrote this Sonnet in sport. — Todd.
After this proved fact, who can doubt Johnson's malignity and dishonesty towards Milton ?
P A book was writ of late call'd Tetrachordon. This elaborate discussion, unworthy in many respects of Milton, and in which much acuteness of argument and comprehension of reading were idly thrown away, was received with contempt, or rather ridicule, as we learn from Howell's “Letters. A better proof that it was treated with neglect is, that it was attacked by two nameless and obscure writers only; one of whom Milton calls, “ a serving-man turned solicitor." Our author's divorce was on Platonic principles: he held, that disagreement of mind was a better cause of separation than adultery or frigidity : here was a fair opening for the laughers. This and the following Sonnet were written soon after 1645. For this doctrine Milton was summoned
Cries the stall-reader, Bless us! what a word
A title-page is this ! and some in file
End Green. Why is it harder, sirs, than
Those rugged names to our like mouths gro
That would have made Quintilian stare and
Hated not learning worse than toad or asp,
I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known rules of ancient liberty, before the lords : but they not approving his accusers, the presby the business too speculative, he was quickly dismissed. On this oco hostilities against the presbyterians. He illustrates his own syste Lost,” b, ix. 372. “Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee mie had not written this work in English. This is observed by Mr the following proof, in the “ Defensio Secunda :"__"Vellem hou naculo me non scripsisse : non enim in vernas lectores incidissem bona iguorare, aliorum mala irridere." This was one of Milton's sequence of his divorce (separation) from his first wife.
* Tetra sitions on the four chief places in Scripture which mention marriag -T. WARTON.
9 Colkitto, or Macdonnel, or Galasp. Milton is here collecting, from his hatred to the Scots, what he an ill sound. “Colkitto" and " Macdonnel," are one and the sam, on the royal side, an Irishman of the Antrim family, who serve Macdonalds of that family are styled, by way of distinction," descendants of lame Colin. " Galasp" is a Scottish writer again whom see Milton's verses *On the Forcers of Conscience," &c. one of the Scotch members of the assembly of divines, as his na letter to the Belgic, French, and Helvetian churches, dated 164 " that these three nations may be joined as one stick in the hand mountains may become plains before them and us; that then all w in our hands, may also behold the top-stone set upon the head of us, and may help us with shouting to cry, Grace, grace to it." R the rhetoric of these reformers of reformation T, WARTON.
r Sir John Cheek. Or Cheke: he was the first professor of the Greek tongue in bridge, and was highly instrumental in bringing that language in the original pronunciation of it; though with great opposition fro rance and popery, and especially from Gardiner, bishop of Winch the university. He was afterwards made one of the tutors to Ed by Strype, or in the “ Biographia Britannica."—Newton.
• The preceding Sonnet is evidently of a ludicrous, the present o cast. There is a portrait of the celebrated Spanish poet, Lopez de was young ; surrounded by dogs, monkeys, and other monsters, a of them, without attending to their noise. It is not improbable scen, or heard of, this curious picture of his contemporary ; and to describe so minutely, in this Sonnet, the “barbarous noise Todd.
When straight a barbarons noise environs me
Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs :
Raild at Latona's twin-born progeny,
But this is got by casting pearl to hogs ;
And still revolt when truth would set them free'.
Licence they mean when they cry liberty ;
But from that mark how far they rove we see,
TO MR. H. LAWES, ON THE PUBLISITING HIS AIRS.
Harry, whose tuncful and well-measured song
First taught our English musick how to span
With Midas ears, committing short and long *;
With praise enough for Envy to look wan :
That with smooth air couldst humour best our tongue.
To honour thee, the priest of Phæbus' quire,
• Then straight a barbarous noise, &c. Milton was violently censured by the presbyterian clergy for his " Tetrachordon," and other tracts of that tendency.- T. Warton.
As when those hinds, &c. The fable of the Lycian clowns changed into frogs is related by Ovid, “Met.” vi. fab. 4: and the poet, in saying “ Which after held the sun and moon in fee," intimates the good hopes which he had of himself, and his expectations of making a considerable figure in the world.---NEWTON.
"M'hen truth would set them free. Compare St. John, viii. 32. “ Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - TODD.
w Loss of blood. The latter part of this Sonnet is very fine, and contains a most important political truth.
* With Midas ears, committing short and long. “ Committing" is a Latinism, as Mr. Warton observes ; and, as Mr. Richardson had remarked, conveys with it the idea of offending against quantity and harmony.—Todd.
* Exempts thee from the throng. Horace, “ Od." 1. i. 32. “ Secernunt populo."'--RICHARDSON.
2 Thou shall be rorit the man. This also is in the style of Horace, “ Od.” 1. vi. 1 :
Scriberis Vario fortis, et hostium
a Or story. “ The story of Ariadne set by him to musick.” This is a note in the margin of this Sonnet, as it stands prefixed to “ Choice Psalms put into musick by Henry and William Lawes, Lond. for H. Moseley, 1648.” The inscription is there, To my friend Mr. Henry Lawes."-T. Warton.