Page images

She'll make you start at every noise you hear,
And visions strange shall to your eyes appear,
Thus would it be, if you to her were wed:
Nay, better far it were that you were dead.
Her voice is low, and gives a hollow sound;
She hates the light, and is in darkness found;
Or sits with blinking lamps, or tapers small,
Which various shadows make against the wall.
She loves nought else but noise which discord makes
As croaking frogs, whose dwelling is in lakes;
The raven's hoarse, the mandrake's hollow groan,
And shrieking owls, which fly in th' night alone;
The tolling bell, which for the dead rings out;
A mill, where rushing waters run about;
The roaring winds, which shake the cedars tall,
Plough up the seas, and beat the rocks withal.
She loves to walk in the still moonshine night, .
And in a thick dark grove she takes delight;
In hollow caves, thatch'd houses, and low cells,
She loves to live, and there alone she dwells.
Then leave her to herself alone to dwell,
Let you and I in Mirth and Pleasure swell,
And drink long lusty draughts from Bacchus' bowl,
Until our brains on vaporous waves do roll;
Let's joy ourselves in amorous delights;
There's none so happy as the carpet knights.

Then Melancholy, with sad and sober face,
Complexion pale, but of a comely grace,
With modest countenance thus softly spake
May I so happy be your love to take?
True, I am dull, yet by me you shall know
More of yourself, and so much wiser grow;
I search the depth and bottom of mankind,
Open the eye of ignorance that's blind;
All dangers to avoid I watch with care,
And do 'gainst evils that may come prepare;
I hang not on inconstant fortune's wheel,
Nor yet with unresolving doubts do reel;
I shake not with the terrors of vain fears,
Nor is my mind fill'd with unuseful cares;
I do not spend my time, like idle Mirth,
Which only happy is just at her birth;
And seldom lives so long as to be old,
But if she doth, can no affections hold;
Mirth good for nothing is, like weeds doth grow,
Or such plants as cause madness, reason's foe.
Her face with laughter crumples on a heap,
Which makes great wrinkles, and ploughs furrows deep;
Her eyes do water, and her skin turns red,
Her mouth doth gape, teeth bare, like one that's dead,
She fulsome is, and gluts the senses all,
Offers herself, and comes before a call;
Her house is built upon the golden sands,
Yet no foundation has, whereon it stands;

A palace 'tis, and of a great resort,
It makes a noise, and gives a loud report,
Yet underneath the roof disasters lie,
Beat down the house, and many kill'd thereby:
I dwell in groves that gilt are with the sun,
Sit on the banks by which clear waters run;
In summers hot, down in a shade I lie,
My music is the buzzing of a fly;
I walk in meadows, where grows fresh green grass,
In fields, where corn is high, I often pass;
Walk up the hills, where round I prospects see,
Some brushy woods, and some all champaigns be;
Returning back, I in fresh pastures go,
To hear how sheep do bleat, and cows do low;
In winter cold, when nipping frosts come on,
Then I do live in a small house alone:
Although 'tis plain, yet cleanly 'tis within,
Like to a soul that's pure and clear from sin;
And there I dwell in quiet and still peace,
Not fill'd with cares how riches to increase;
I wish nor seek for vain and fruitless pleasures,
No riches are, but what the mind intreasures.
Thus am I solitary, live alone,
Yet better loved the more that I am known;
And though my face ill-favor'd at first sight,
After acquaintance it will give delight.
Refuse me not, for I shall constant be,
Maintain your credit and your dignity.


O Love, how thou art tired out with rhyme !
Thou art a tree whereon all poets climb;.
And from thy branches every one takes somo
Of thy sweet fruit, which Fancy feeds upon.
But now thy trce is left so bare and poor,
That they can hardly gather one plum more.

Calamity was laid on Sorrow's hearse,
And coverings had of melancholy verse ;
Compassion, a kind friend did mourning go,
And tears about the corpse, as flowers, strow,
A garland of deep sighs, by Pity maile,
Upon Calamity's sad corpse was laid;
Belis of complaints did ring it to the grave,
Poets of monument of fame it gave.

[ocr errors]

JOHN MILTON. 1608—1674.
Is pot each great, each amiable Muse
Of classic ages, in thy Milton met 1
A genius universal as his theme;
Astonishing as Chaos; as the bloom
or blowing Eden fair; as Heaven sublime.

Nor second is, that rode sublime
Upon the seraph-wings of Ecstasy,
The secrets of th' abyss to spy.
He pans'd the flaming bounds of place and time:
The living Throne, the sapphire-blaze,
Where angels tremble while they gaze,
He saw ; but, blasted with excess of light,
Closed his eyes in endless night. GRAY.

Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice, whose sound was like the sea ;
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free;
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness: and yet thy heart
The lowest duties on herself did lay.

WORDSWORTI Far above all the poets of his own age, and, in learning, invention, and sublimity, without an equal in the whole range of English literature, stands John Miltox. He was born in London, December 9, 1608. His father, who was a scrivener, and who had suffered much for conscience sake, doubtless infused into his son those principles of religious freedom which made him, in subsequent years, the bulwark of that holy cause in England. He was also early instructed in music, to which may doubtless be attributed that richness and harmony of his versification which distinguished him as much as his learning and imagination. His early education was conducted with great care. At sixteen he entered the University of Cambridge. After leaving the university, where he was distinguished for his scholarship, he retired to the house of his father, who had relinquished business, aral bad purchased a small property at Horton in Buckinghamshire. Here he lived five years, devoting his time most assiduously to classical literature, raking the wellknown remark that he “CARED NOT HOW LATE HE CAME INTO LIFE, ONLI THAT HE CAME FIT.” While in the university he had written his grand “ Hymn on the Nativity, any one verse of which was sufficient to show that a new and great light was about to rise on English poetry :'' and there, at his father's, he wrote his Comus,” and “ Lycidas," his « L'Allegro," and " Il Penseroso," and his “ Arcades."

In 1638 he went to Italy, the most accomplished Englishman that ever visited her classical shores. Here his society was courted by “the choicest Italian wits," and he visited Galileo, then a prisoner in the Inquisition. On his return home, he opened a school in London, and devoted himself with great assiduity to the business of instruction. In the mean time, he entered into the religious disputes of the day, engaging in the controversy single. handed against all the royalists and prelates; and though numbering among his antagonists such men as Bishop Hall and Archbishop Usher, proving him. self equal to them all. In 1043 he married the daughter of Richard Powell, a nigh royalist; but the connection did not prove a happy one, his wife being utterly incapable of appreciating the loftiness and purity of the poet's character. In 1649 he was appointed foreign secretary under Cromwell, which office he held till the death of Cromwell, 1658.

1 "The Tuscan artist." Paradise Lost, book i. line 288.

For ten years Milton's eyesight had been sailing, owing to the “ wearisome studies and midnight watchings" of his youth. The last remains of it were sacrificed in the composition of his “ Defensio Populi," (Defence of the Peo ple of England;) and by the close of the year 1652 he was totally blind: « Dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon.” At the Restoration he was obliged to conceal himself till the publication of the act of oblivion released him from danger. He then devoted himself exclusively to study, and especially to the composition of « Paradise Lost.” The idea of this unequalled poem was probably conceived as early as 1642. It was published in 1667. For the first and second editions the blind poet received but the sum of fire pounds each! In 1671 he produced his « Paradise Regained,” and “Samson Agonistes.” A long sufferer from an hereditary disease, his life was now drawing to a close. His mind was calm and bright to the last, and he died without a struggle, on Sunday, the 8th of November, 1674.

It is hardly necessary here to make any criticisms upon the works of this "greatest of great men," as essays almost numberless may be found upon his life and writings.' His chief poetical works are-1. His · Paradise Lost," in (welve books, which is an account of the temptation and fall of our first parents. 2. “ Paradise Regained," in four books, depicting the temptation and triumph of “ the second Adam, the Lord from Heaven." 3. “ Samson Agonistes, a dramatic poem, relating the incidents of the life of the great cham. pion of the Israelites, from the period of liis blindness to the catastrophe that ended in his death. 4. “ Lycidas," a monody on the death of a beloved

1 The best edition of Milton's poetry is that of Todd: London, 1809, 7 vols. This contains the invaluable verbal index. Another excellent edition has been edited by Sir Egerton Brydges, in 6 vols., the first volume of which is taken up with his life, written with that taste and discrimination so characteristic of the author, to whom English literature is under lasting obligations. The best edition of his prose works is by Symmons, 7 vols. 8vo. His prose and poetry have been published in London in one large royal 8vo. An edition of his prose works has been edited in this country by the Rev. Rufus W. Griswold. An eloquent Essay on Milton may be found in Macaulay's Miscellanies; another in the Retrospective Review, xiv. 282; and another in the London Quarterly, xxxvi. 29. In the following numbers of the Spectator, Addison has written a series of admirable criticisms on the " Paradise Lost:" 262, 267, 273, 279, and so on for fifteen more numbers, at intervals of six, being published every Saturday. In No. 76 of the Observer, by Cumberland, there are some remarks upon the “ Samson Agonistes." Consult, also, Hallan's “ Literature of Europe;" and read an admirable article on Milton in Dr. Channing's works. or Johnson's "Life," Sir Egerton Brydges justly remarks: “It is written in a bad, malignant, and

a even vulgar spirit. The language is sometimes coarse, and the humor pedantic and gross. The criticism on the Paradise Lost is powerful and grand: the criticism on the other poems is mean, false, and execrable.”- Imaginatije Biography, i. 149. Or Addison's " Essay," the same writer says: "It ought to be studied and almost got by heart by every cultivated mind which understands the English larguage. It is in all respecto a masterly performance; just in thought, full of taste and the finest sensibility, eloquent and beautiful in composition, widely learned, and so clearly explana. tory of the true principles of poetry, that whoever is master of them capuot mistake in his decision of poetical merit. It puts Milton above all other poets on such tests as cannot be resisted." Life, i. 221.

2 That is, “the champion," "the combatant," from the Greek ayovotns, (agonistes,) "a combatant at the public games."

[ocr errors]

friend, (Mr. Edward King) who was shipwrecked in the Irish Sea. 5. “L'Allegro," an ode to mirth. 6. « Il Penseroso," an ode to melancholy. 7. Comus, a mask,' the purest and most exquisite creation of the imagina. tion and fancy in English literature. 8. “ Arcades,"? a part of a mask. 9. Hymn on the Nativity." 10. “Sonnets."



This is the month, and this the happy morn,

Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King,
Or wedded Maid and Virgin-Mother born,

Our great redemption from above did bring;

For so the holy sages once did sing,
That he our deadly forfeit should release,
And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.


That glorious form, that light unsufferable,

And that far-beaming blaze of majesty,
Wherewith he wont at Heaven's high council-table

To sit the midst of Trinal-Unity,

He laid aside; and, here with us to be,
Forseok the courts of everlasting day,
And chese with us a darksome house of mortal clay.


Say, heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein

Afford a present to the Infant God?
Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,

To welcome him to this his new abode,

Now while the Heaven, by the sun's team untrod,
Hath took no print of the approaching light,
And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?


See how from far upon the eastern road

The star-led wizards haste with odors sweet;
O run, prevent them with thy humble ode,

And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;

Have thou the honor first thy Lord to greet,
And join thy voice unto the angel quire,
From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire.

1 « Arcades," that is, the Arcadian shepherds: of course, it is of a pastoral character.

"When it is recollected that this piece was produced by the author at the age of twenty-one, an deep thinkers, or fancy and sensibility, must pore over it with delighted wonder. The vigor, the grandeur, the imaginativeness of the conception; the force and maturity of language; the bound, the gathering strength, the thundering roll of the metre; the largeness of the views; the extent of the learning; the solemn and awful tones; the enthusiasın, and a certain spell in the epithets, which puts the reader into a state of mysterions excitement,-all these may be better felt than described."-Sir Egerton Brydges.

« PreviousContinue »