Page images
PDF
EPUB

NOTE 45. SONNETS.

It is remarkable that all the sublimest poets of the modern world, Dante, Camoens, Tasso, Shakespeare, and Milton, seem to have taken a delight in the com position of sonnets, as if they had all entertained the sentiment expressed in a verse of Boileau.

" Un sonnet parfait vaut seul un long poeme.”

Nor is it less remarkable, that Shakespeare, the poet of this lofty group, who possessed in general the most extensive mastery of language, both serious and sportive, appears the most deficient in the graces of this petty composition. The Italians are said to have invented this popular little poem before Petrarch was born, but Faria, the indefatigable commentator of Camoens, in one of his discourses prefixed to the minor poems of his favorite author, disputes the title of Italy 10 this invention, by relating, that Jordi and Febrer two poets of Valentia, who happening to be with their king Don Jayme, in a storm at sea, in the year 1250, composed sonnets on that event. He goes still farther for the honour of Portugal, and cites some Portuguese verses of the year 1090, addressed by a valiant knight Gonzalo Hermiguez to his wife Oroana. This profound scholar was so fond of sonnets, that he intimates he had composed almost two thousand sonnets himself; his modesty however sets but little value on his own compositions, and declares Petrarch and Camoens to be the chief sonneteers of the world, or to cite

his own more lofty language es indubitable que estos dos felicissimos Heroes en este son los Polos, sobre que se libra este genero de escritura.”

Faria cites a sonnet written by Don Pedro, Prince of Portugal, son of King John the First, in praise of the Portuguese knight Vasco de Lobeyra, whom he styles the inventor of books of chivalry by his Amadis.

To compose sonnets was so fashionable an amusement of the great in the different kingdoms of Europe, that a complete catalogue of sonneteers would include several princes and sovereigns. When Milton employed himself on this attractive species of composition, he imparted to it the force and dignity of sentiment, that were the characteristics of his elevated mind. The following verse that closes oue of his sonnets may serve to impress on a contemplative spirit a deep sense of all our duties

“For ever in my great Task-master's eye.”

NOTE 46. My heart, which I have found

By certain proofs not few, intrepid sound,

Good, and addicted to conceptions high. It has ever been thought difficult for an author to speak gracefully of himself, especially in commendation, but Milton, who was gifted with powers to overcome difficulties of every kind, is eminently happy in this particular. He has spoken frequently of himself both in verse and prose, and he continually shews, that he thought highly of his own endowments; but if he praises himself, he does it with that dignified frankness and simplicity of conscious truth, which render even egotism respectable and delightful; whether he describes the fervent and tender emotions of his juvenile fancy, or delineates his situation in the decline of life, when he had to struggle with calamity and peril, the more insight he affords us into his own sentiments and feelings the more reason we find both to love, and to revere, him.

NOTE 47. Giovane piano, e semplicetto amante.

This is the last Italian sonnet of Milton, that has reached our time, but others have existed, which are mentioned in the following note of Mr. Warton.

" In 1762, the late Mr. Thomas Hollis examined the Laurentian library at Florence for six Italian sonnets of Milton, addressed to his friend Chimentelli: and for other Italian and Latin compositions, and variousoriginal letters said to be remaining in manuscript at Florence. He searched also for an original bust in marble of Milton, supposed to be somewhere in that city: but he was unsuccessful in his curious enquiries."

REFERENCE TO THE NOTES.

Page.

Note.
25
26

27

28
29

30

[ocr errors]

221
222
222
222
225
226
226
227
227
228
228
228
231
231
231
232
235
235
235
239
242
244
244
245

31
32
33
34 • .
35
36
37
38
39
40
41

Page.
246
249
251
251
256
256
256
256
256
257
257
258
262
266
266
266
270
276
280
291
306
310
311

42

Note.

.

co voor A co ng mode

5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23 •••••

43
44
45
46
47

24 •

END OF THE THIRD VOLUME.

« PreviousContinue »