Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

When straight a barbarous noise' environs me
Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs:
As when those hinds" that were transform'd to frogs
Rail'd at Latona's twin-born progeny,

Which after held the sun and moon in fec.
But this is got by casting pearl to hogs ;
That bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
And still revolt when truth would set them free '.
Licence they mean when they cry liberty;
For who loves that, must first be wise and good;
But from that mark how far they rove we see,
For all this waste of wealth, and loss of blood w.

dw.

[ocr errors]

TO MR. H. LAWES, ON THE PUBLISHING HIS AIRS.

HARRY, whose tuneful and well-measured song
First taught our English musick how to span
Words with just note and accent, not to scan
With Midas ears, committing short and long ;
Thy worth and skill exempts thee from the throng,
With praise enough for Envy to look wan:

To after age thou shalt be writ the man',

That with smooth air couldst humour best our tongue.
Thou honour'st verse, and verse must lend her wing
To honour thee, the priest of Phoebus' quire,

That tunest their happiest lines in hymn or story ".

When straight a barbarous noise, &c.

Milton was violently censured by the presbyterian clergy for his "Tetrachordon,” and other tracts of that tendency.-T. WARTON.

u 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.

When truth would set them free.

Compare St. John, viii. 32. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."-TODD.

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. y Exempts thee from the throng.

Horace, "Od." 1. i. 32. "Secernunt populo."--RICHARDSON.

2 Thou shalt be writ the man.

This also is in the style of Horace, "Od." 1. vi. 1 :—

Scriberis Vario fortis, et hostium
Victor.-NEWTON.

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.

Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher
Than his Casella, whom he woo'd to sing
Met in the milder shades of purgatory.

XIV.

ON THE RELIGIOUS MEMORY OF MRS. CATHARINE THOMSON,
MY CHRISTIAN FRIEND, Deceased dec. 16, 1646,

WHEN Faith and Love, which parted from thee never,
Had ripen'd thy just soul to dwell with God,
Meekly thou didst resign this earthly load

Of death, call'd life; which us from life doth sever.
Thy works, and alms, and all thy good endeavour,
Stay'd not behind, nor in the grave were trodd;
But, as Faith pointed with her golden rod",
Follow'd thee up to joy and bliss for ever.
Love led them on; and Faith, who knew them best
Thy handmaids, clad them o'er with purple beams
And azure wings, that up they flew so drest,
And spake the truth of thee on glorious themes
Before the Judge; who thenceforth bid thee rest,
And drink thy fill of pure immortal streams.

XV.

TO THE LORD GENERAL FAIRFAX.

FAIRFAX, whose name in arms through Europe rings,
Filling each mouth with envy or with praise,

b Than his Casella, &c.

Dante, on his arrival in Purgatory, sees a vessel approaching the shore, freighted with souls under the conduct of an angel, to be cleansed from their sins, and made fit for Paradise: when they are disembarked, the poet recognises in the crowd his old friend Casella the musician. The interview is strikingly imagined, and, in the course of an affectionate dialogue, the poet requests a soothing air; and Casella sings, with the most ravishing sweetness, Dante's second Canzone. By "milder shades," our author means, shades comparatively much less horrible than those which Dante describes in the "Inferno."T. WARTON.

See a notice of Henry Lawes in the notes prefixed to "Comus."

SONNET XIV.-e Mrs. Catharine Thomson.

I find in the accounts of Milton's life, that when he was first made Latin Secretary, he lodged at one Thomson's, next door to the Bull-head tavern at Charing-cross. This Mrs. Thomson was in all probability one of that family.-NEWTON.

d Stay'd not behind, nor in the grave were trod.

"Nor in the grave were trod," is a beautiful periphrasis for "good deeds forgotten at her death," and a happy improvement of the original line in the manuscript;"Straight follow'd thee the path that saints have trod."-T. WARTON.

e With her golden rod.

Perhaps from the golden reed in the Apocalypse.-T. WARTON.

f For obvious political reasons, this Sonnet, the two following, and the two to Cyriack Skinner, were not inserted in the edition of 1673; they were first printed at the end of Philips's Life of Milton prefixed to the English version of his public letters, 1694. They are quoted by Toland in his Life of Milton, 1698, p. 24. 34. 35. Tonson omitted them in his editions of 1695, 1705: but growing less offensive by time, they appear in his edition of 1713. The Cambridge manuscript happily corrects many of their vitiated readings. |

[ocr errors][merged small]

And all her jealous monarchs with amaze
And rumours loud, that daunt remotest kings";
Thy firm unshaken virtue ever brings

Victory home, though new rebellions raise
Their hydra heads, and the false North displays
Her broken league to imp their serpent-wings1.
O, yet a nobler task awaits thy hand,

(For what can war but endless war still breed?)
Till truth and right from violence be freed,
And publick faith clear'd from the shameful brand
Of publick fraud'. In vain doth Valour bleed,
While Avarice and Rapine share the land.

XVI.

TO THE LORD GENERAL CROMWELL.

CROMWELL, Our chief of men, who through a cloud,
Not of war only', but detractions rude,

Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,

To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough'd,
And on the neck of crowned Fortune" proud

They were the favourites of the republicans long after the Restoration it was some consolation to an exterminated party to have such good poetry remaining on their side of the question. These five Sonnets, being frequently transcribed, or repeated from memory, became extremely incorrect: their faults were implicitly preserved by Tonson, and afterwards continued without examination by Tickell and Fenton. This Sonnet, as appears from Milton's manuscript, was addressed to Fairfax at the siege of Colchester, 1648.-T. WARTON.

g Daunt remotest kings.

Who dreaded the example of England, that their monarchies would be turned into republics.-T. WARTON.

h Her broken league.

Because the English parliament held, that the Scotch had broken their covenant, by Hamilton's march into England. - HURD.

i To imp their serpent-wings.

In falconry, to imp a feather in a hawk's wing, is to add a new picce to a mutilated stump. From the Saxon impan, to ingraft.-T. WARTON.

Of public fraud.

The presbyterian committees and sub-committees. The grievance so much complained of by Milton in his "History of England." "Publick 'fraud " is opposed to "publick faith," the security given by the parliament to the city contributions for carrying on the war.-WARBURTON.

* Written in 1652. The prostitution of Milton's Muse to the celebration of Cromwell, was as inconsistent and unworthy, as that this enemy to kings, to ancient magnificence, and to all that is venerable and majestic, should have been buried in the chapel of Henry VII. but there is great dignity both of sentiment and expression in this Sonnet: and, unfortunately, the close is an anticlimax to both. After a long flow of perspicuous and nervous language, the unexpected pause at "Worcester's laureat wreath," is very emphatical and has a striking effect.-T. WARTON.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

1 Not of war only.

a classical expression : "Nubem belli," Virg. "En." x. 809.

m Crowned Fortune.

His malignity to kings aided his imagination in the expression of this sublime sentiment -HURD.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Hast rear'd God's trophies, and his work pursued;
While Darwen stream", with blood of Scots imbrued,
And Dunbar field resounds thy praises loud,

And Worcester's laureat wreath. Yet much remains
To conquer still; Peace hath her victories
No less renown'd than War: new foes arise
Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains P.
Help us to save free conscience from the paw
Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw 9.

XVIL

TO SIR HENRY VANE THE YOUNGER".

VANE, young in years, but in sage counsel old,
Than whom a better senator ne'er held

While Darwen stream.

The Darwen, or Derwen, is a small river near Preston in Lancashire; and there Cromwt routed the Sestrh army under Duke Hamilton in August 1648. The battles of Dunbar and Worrester are too well known to be particularised; both fought on the memorable third of September, the one in 1650, and the other in 1651.-NEWTON.

• And Worcester's laureat wreath.

This seems pretty, but is inexact in this place. However, the expression alludes to what Cromwell said of his success at Worcester, that it was his "crowning mercy.”—Huas. The bemistich eriginally stood, “And twenty battles more." Such are often our first thenghis in a fine passage. I take it, that one of the essential beautics of the Sonnet is often to carry the pauses into the middle of the lines. Of this our author has given many striking examples, and here we discern the writer whose ear was tuned to blank verse.-T. WARTON.

? Secular chains.

The ministers moved Cromwell to lend the secular arm to suppress sectaries.—WARBURTON. 4. Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw.

Hence it appears that this Sonnet was written about May 1652. By "hireling wolves," be means the presbyterian clergy, who possessed the revenues of the parochial benefices on the old constitution, and whose conformity he supposes to be founded altogether on motives of emolument. There was now no end of innovation and reformation. In 1649, it was proposed in parliament to abolish tithes, as Jewish and antichristian, and as they were authorised only by the ceremonial law of Moses, which was abrogated by the gospel: but as the proposal tended to endanger lay-impropriations, the notion of their divine right was allowed to have some weight, and the business was postponed. This was an argument in which Selden had abused his great learning. Milton's party were of opinion, that as every parish shonid elect, so it should respectively sustain, its own minister by public contribution: others proposed to throw the tithes of the whole kingdom into one common stock, and to distribute them according to the size of the parishes: some of the independents urged, that Christ's ministers should have no settled property at all, but be like the apostles, who were sent out to preach without staff or scrip, without common necessaries; to whom Christ said, "Lacked ye any thing?" A succession of miracles was therefore to be worked, to prevent the saints from starving. Milton's praise of Cromwell may be thought inconsistent with that zeal which he professed for liberty; for Cromwell's assumption of the protectorate, even if we allow the lawfulness of the rebellion, was palpably a violent usurpation of power over the rights of the nation, and was reprobated even by the republican party. Milton, however, in various parts of the "Defensio Secunda," gives excellent admonitions to Cromwell, and with great spirit, freedom, and eloquence, not to abuse his new authority; yet without an intermixture of the grossest adulation.-T. WARTON.

not

Perhaps written about the time of the last, having the same tendency. Sir Henry Vane the younger was the chief of the independents, and therefore Milton's friend: he was the contriver of the solemn league and covenant: he was an eccentric character, in an age of eccentric characters. In religion the most fantastic of all enthusiasts, and a weak writer, he was a judicious and sagacious politician : the warmth of his zeal never misled his public

The helm of Rome, when gowns, not arms, repell'd
The fierce Epirot and the African bold :
Whether to settle peace or to unfold

The drift of hollow states hard to be spell'd;
Then to advise how War may, best upheld,
Move by her two main nerves, iron and gold,

In all her equipage: besides to know

Both spiritual power and civil, what each means,

What severs each, thou hast learn'd, which few have done :
The bounds of either sword to thee we owe :
Therefore on thy firm hand Religion leans
In peace, and reckons thee her eldest son.

XVIII.

ON THE LATE MASSACRE IN PIEMONT.

AVENGE, O Lord, thy slaughter'd saints, whose bones
Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold;
Ev'n them who kept thy truth so pure of old,

When all our fathers worship'd stocks and stones",

measures: he was a knight-errant in every thing but affairs of state. The sagacious bishop Burnet in vain attempted to penetrate the darkness of his crecd. He held, that the devils

and the damned would be saved: he believed himself the person delegated by God to reign over the saints upon earth for a thousand years. His principles founded a sect called the Vanists. On the whole, no single man ever exhibited such a medley of fanaticism and dissimulation, solid abilities and visionary delusions, good sense and madness. In the pamphlets of that age he is called Sir Humorous Vanity. He was beheaded 1662. On the scaffold, he compared Tower Hill to Mount Pisgah, where Moses went to die, in full assurance of being immediately placed at the right hand of Christ. Milton alludes to the execution of Vane and other regicides, after the Restoration, and in general to the sufferings of his friends on that event, in a speech of the Chorus on Samson's degradation, "Sams. Agon." v. 687. This Sonnet seems to have been written in behalf of the independents, against the presbyterian hierarchy.-T. WARTON.

Hollow stales.

Peace with the hollow states of Holland.-WARBURTON.

In 1655, the Duke of Savoy determined to compel his reformed subjects in the valleys of Piedmont to embrace popery, or quit their country; all who remained and refused to be converted, with their wives and children, suffered a most barbarous massacre: those who escaped fled into the mountains, from whence they sent agents into England to Cromwell for relief. He instantly commanded a general fast, and promoted a national contribution, in which near £40,000 were collected. The persecution was suspended, the duke recalled his army, and the surviving inhabitants of the Piedimontese valleys were reinstated in their On this business there are several cottages, and the peaceable exercise of their religion.

state-letters in Cromwell's name written by Milton. One of them is to the duke of Savoy,
and is published in his "Prose Works." Milton's mind, busied with this affecting
subject, here broke forth in a strain of poetry, where his feelings were not fettered by cere-
mony or formality. The protestants availed themselves of an opportunity of exposing the
horrors of popery, by publishing many sets of prints of this unparalleled scene of religious
butchery, which operated like Fox's "Book of Martyrs." Sir William Moreland, Crom-
well's agent for the valleys of Piedmont, at Geneva, published a minute account of this
whole transaction, in "The History of the Valleys of Piemont, &c. Lond. 1658." fol. with
numerous cuts. Milton, among many other atrocious examples of the papal spirit, appeals
66 Testes
to this massacre, in Cromwell's letter to king Charles Gustavus, dat. 1656.
Alpine valles miserorum cæde ac sanguine redundantes," &c.-T. WARTON.

"Ev'n them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worship'd stocks and stones.

It is pretended that, when the church of Rome became corrupt, they preserved the

UU

« AnteriorContinua »