« PreviousContinue »
gentleman, his company was peculiarly acceptable. His tenth Sonnet, inscribed to this discerning lady, is a grateful acknowledgement of his esteem. His time also had been employed in collecting together his early poems, both English and Latin, for the press. They were first published by Humphrey Moseley, the general publisher of the poets of his day, in 1645; who tells us, in his Address to the Reader, that “ the author's more peculiar excellency in these studies was too well known to conceal his papers, or to keep me from attempting to sollicit them from him. Let the event guide itself which way it will, I shall deserve of the age, by bringing into the light as true a birth as the Muses have brought forth since our famous Spencer wrote; whose poems in these English ones are as rarely imitated, as sweetly excelled.” Mosely was not more discerning than Milton was modest. But modesty was a principal feature in Milton's character. He affixed only his initials to Lycidas ; he acknowledged, with hesitation, Comus. It is rather surprising, that Mr. Warton should have · asserted that, for seventy years after their first publication, he recollects no mention of these poems in the whole succession of English literature ; and that the quantity of an hemistich, quoted from them, is not to be found in the Collections of those who have digested the Beauties or Phrases of the English Poets from 1655 to 1738 inclusively. I can positively assert that in the edition of Pople's
2 In the Prefaces to both his Editions of the Smaller Poems..
English Parnassus, or. Help to English Poesie, published in 1677, there are few pages in which quotations may not be found from Milton's poetry. In the preface also to Ayres's Lyrick Poems, published in 1687, Milton is thus noticed: “If any one quarrel at the oeconomy or structure of these poems, many of them being Sonnets, Canzons, Madrigals, &c. objecting that none of our great men, either Mr. Waller, Mr. Cowley, or Mr. Dryden, whom it was most proper to have followed, have ever stooped to any thing of this sort; I shall very readily acknowledge, that, being sensible of my own weakness and inability of ever attaining to the performance of one thing equal to the worst piece of theirs, it easily disswaded me from that attempt, and put me on this; which is not without president: For many eminent persons have published several things of this nature, and in this method, both Translations and Poems of their own; as the famous Mr. Spencer, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Richard Fanshaw, Mr. Milton, and some few others : The success of all which, in these things, I must needs say, cannot much bę boasted of; and though I have little reason, after it, to expect credit from these my slight Miscellanies, yet has it not discouraged me from adventuring on what my genius prompted me to.” I may further observe that L'Allegro and Il Penseroso appear to have sometimes caught the notice of Robert Herrick, in his
* And, to the credit of Poole's selection, I may add that the examples are very often taken from Lycidas, L'Allegro and 11 Penseroso, and the Ode on the Nativity,
Hesperides, published in 1648; and that both the ease and imagery of these poems are certainly copied, in a few instances, by Andrew Marvell, the intimate friend of Milton.
· In 1647 Milton removed to a smaller house in Holborn, which opened backward into Lincoln's-Inn fields; and continued to instruct a few scholars. Phillips tells us, that “ he is much mistaken, if there was not about this time a design of making him an adjutant-general in Sir William Waller's army. But the new modelling of the army proved an obstruction to the design.” This perhaps may be doubted, when it is considered that Waller was esteemed a leader of the Presbyterians against the designs of the Independents. Milton, in his military capacity. could not have served cordially under a general so disposed.
Early in 1648 he appears to have rendered, into English metre, nine of the Psalms, which are printed with his Poetical Works; while the first séven are found not to have been thus translated by him before 1653. There were now in circulation other new metrical versions of the Psalms, none of which acquired popularity, although recommended by puritanical influence. Nor was the criticism of bishop Henry King, himself a versifier of this description, successful in reforming these metrical labours : “I was discouraged,” he says, in a letter to archbishop Usher in 1651, “in my translation, knowing that
Mr. George Sandys, and lately one of our pretended reformers, had failed in two different extremes ; the first too elegant for the vulgar use; the other as flat and poor, as lamely worded, &c. as, the old.” The pretended reformer, perhaps, was Francis Rouse, the Presbyterian provost of Eton college. ..
Till the overthrow of the kingly government in the death of Charles, the pen of Milton now appears. to have been unemployed. It was resumed in order: to silence the outcry, raised by the Presbyterians, against the deed of blood; and to advance the interests of the infant commonwealth. . The product of it was entitled, “ The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, proving that it is lawfull, and hath been held so through all ages, for any, who have the power, to call to account a tyrant, or wicked king; and, after due conviction, to depose, and put him to, death, if the ordinary magistrate have neglected or denied to do it : And that they, who of late so much blame deposing, are the men that did it themselves, 1648-9.” Milton seems to have been not correct in
b« Liber iste, [The Tenure &c.] non nisi post mortem regis prodiit, ad componendos potius hominum animos factus, quàm ad statuendum de Carolo quicquam,” &c. Milton, Def. Sec. This treatise, Phillips says, reviving the fame of other things Milton had formerly published; he was more and more taken notice of for his excellency of style, and depth of judgement; was courted into the service of the new Cominonwealth ; and at last prevailed with (for he never hunted after preferment, nor affected the hurry of publick business,) to take upon him the office of Latin secretary, &c.
his charge. He should have added the Papists and Independents, who were banded in firm league against the Church and the King. He remembered, however, the assistance which had been afforded by the Pope, when he wrote his treatise Of True Religion four and twenty years afterwards; of whom he says, “ we have shaken off his Babylonish yoke, [who] hath not ceased by his spies and agents, bulls and emissaries, once to destroy both King and Parliament.” On this part of English history it cannot be uninteresting to enlarge. “ I shall here say no more;” says the editor of a very curious
tract, “ than that the doctrine which was practis'd in forty eight, was published in English in twenty one, in the book entitled The Rights of the Prelate and the Prince, as good Roman Catholick divinity, by J. E. with Licence of Superiors; and consequently, that John Goodwin and John Milton were not the first broachers of it in England. The strain of the whole book is of that nature, and the following words are part of it, ch. 15. p. 375. And if Kings, who were not excommunicated nor deprived by the Pope, may by the Commonwealth be depos'd and kill'd, where they are intolerable tyrants; why may not the Commonwealth exercise the same power over tyrants excommunicated and deprived by the
.c“ Certaine passages which happened at Newport in the Isle of Wight, Nov. 29, 1648, relating to King Charles I. Written by Mr. Edward Cooke, of Highnam in Gloucestershire, sometime Colonel of a Regiment under Oliver Cromwell. Lond.
1690.” 46. of.a Regiment imam in Gloucestership