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some dream of prognostication, or some music played by aerial performers."
All genuine poets unconsciously portray themselves; and it can scarcely be doubted, that in these exquisite delineations of temperament and feeling, Milton is representing the impressions which his own mind, in two actual but opposite phases, received from the external causes he depicts. They contain an unbroken succession of the most graceful images which nature and art can supply; and over the whole is shed a tone of delicacy and tenderness which invests the most ordinary scenes with the charm of romance. Any comparison of the beauties of these poems would be alike difficult and unsatisfactory. Probably Il Penseroso was the more natural emanation of the author's habitual sentiment, and, if he ever compared them, the object of his preference.*
On the 3rd of April. 1637, Milton was called to mourn the loss of his mother, who died at Horton, and was buried in the village church ; and shortly after this event, he resolved on a plan of continental travel, with a special design to a sojourn in Italy and Greece. At a date intervening between his family affliction and his departure from England, (Sept. 23, 1637,) we find a letter addressed by him to his college friend, Deodati, which requires a passing reference, as containing the first disclosure which remains to us of the aspiration to an immortality of fame which Milton so early and so prophetically entertained. The letter is in Latin, and the passage referred to is to the following effect :“ But you are now anxious, as I know, to have your curiosity gratified. You solicitously inquire even about my thoughts. Attend, then, Deodati! but let me spare myself a blush by speaking in your ear ; and for a moment, let me talk
* In Lord Teignmouth's Life of Sir William Jones, we find, in a letter from the latter, written on the spot, some very pleasing pages in which he endeavours, with much plausibility, to show that these poems must have been written at Horton, by pointing out, in the scenery of that neighbourhood, almost every natural image and object which the poet describes.
proudly to you. Do you ask me what is in my thought?
God prosper me, as it is nothing less than immortality. But how shall I accomplish it? My wings are sprouting, and I meditate to fly; but while my Pegasus yet lifts himself on very tender pinions, let me be prudent and humble.”
On the eve of his departure, he received a most flattering letter from Sir Henry Wootton, by means of which he was brought into association with Lord Scudamore, the English Ambassador at Paris ; by whom he was, in that capital, introduced to the celebrated Grotius, and from whom he received letters of introduction, which proved of essential service to him in Italy. In the brief recapitulation of his own history, which he introduces perforce into his Second Defence of the People of England, and to which I have already referred, he thus cursorily sketches the events of this part of his history :
“ On my departure, the celebrated Henry Wootton, who had long been King James's Ambassador at Venice, gave me a signal proof of his regard, in an elegant letter which he wrote, breathing not only the warmest friendship, but containing some maxims of conduct which I found very useful in my travels. The noble Thomas Scudamore, King Charles's ambassador, to whom I carried letters of recommendation, received me most courteously at Paris. His lordship gave me a card of introduction to the learned Hugo Grotius, at that time Ambassador from the Queen of Sweden to the French court; whose acquaintance I anxiously desired, and to whose house I was accompanied by some of his lordship's friends. A few days after, when I set out for Italy, he gave me letters to the English merchants on my route, that they might show me any civilities in their power. Taking ship at Nice, I arrived at Genoa, and afterwards visited Leghorn, Pisa, and Florence. In the latter city, which I have always more particularly esteemed for the elegance of its dialect, its genius, and its taste, I stopped
about two months; when I contracted an intimacy with many persons of rank and learning, and was a constant attendant at their literary parties; a practice which prevails there, and tends so much to the diffusion of knowledge, and the preservation of friendship. No time will ever abolish the agreeable recollections which I cherish of Jacob Gaddi, Carlo Dati, Frescobaldi, Coltellino, Buonomattei, Clementillo, Francini, and many others. From Florence, I went to Siena, thence to Rome; where, after I had spent about two months in viewing the antiquities of that renowned city, where I experienced the most friendly attentions from Lucas Holstein, and other learned and ingenious men, I continued my route to Naples. There I was introduced by a certain recluse, with whom I had travelled from Rome, to John Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, a nobleman of distinguished rank and authority, to whom Torquato Tasso, the illustrious poet, inscribed his book on friendship. Dur. ing my stay, he gave me singular proofs of his regard : he himself conducted me round the city, and to the palace of the viceroy; and more than once paid me a visit at my lodgings. On my departure, he gravely apologised for not having shown me more civility, which he said he had been restrained from doing, because I had spoken with so little reserve on matters of religion. When I was pass over into Sicily and Greece, the melancholy intelligence which I received of the civil commotions in England made me alter my purpose; for I thought it base to be travelling for amusement abroad, while my fellow-citizens were fighting for liberty at home. While I was on my way back to Rome, some merchants informed me that the English had formed a plot against me if I returned to Rome, because I had spoken too freely on religion ; for it was a rule which I laid down to myself in those places, never to be the first to begin any conversation on religion ; but if were put to me concerning my faith, to declare it without any reserve or fear. I, nevertheless, returned to Rome. I
took no steps to conceal either my person or my character; and for about the space of two months I again openly defended, as I had done before, the reformed religion, in the very metropolis of popery. By the favour of God, I got safe back to Florence, where I was received with as much affection as if I had returned to my native country. There I stopped as many months as I had done before, except that I made an excursion for a few days to Lucca; and, crossing the Apennines, passed through Bologna and Ferrara to Venice. After I had spent a month in surveying the curiosities of this city, and had put on board a ship the books which I had collected in Italy, I proceeded through Verona and Milan, and along the Leman lake to Geneva. At Geneva I held daily conferences with John Deodati, the learned Professor of Theology. Then, pursuing my former route through France, I returned to my native country, after an absence of one year, and about three months."
To this hurried narrative a few facts should be added, which Milton's modesty led him to conceal. Of the degree of admiration he excited in Italy, some idea may be formed from the poetic offerings he received from the most eminent Italians of the age. He was admitted into those literary societies which had arisen under the patronage of the Medici. In their assemblies, he informs us,
* " it was the custom that every one should give some proof of his wit and reading.” And many of the productions of his earlier years, and others which he composed at the time, were received "with written encomiums, which the Italian is not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps.” Among these panegyrists may be mentioned Carlo Dati and Antonio Francini, at Florence, who addressed to him, the one an Italian ode, and the other a Latin address, filled with enthusiastic prediction and praise. Selvaggi also, and Salsilli, at Rome, presented him with two complimentary epigrams.
* The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy. Works, vol. ii. p. 477.
The former anticipates the idea conveyed in Dryden's wellknown epigram, by making him equal to Homer and Virgil, The latter describes the Thames as rendered more illustrious by Milton than all the streams which were consecrated by the muses of Homer, Virgil, and Tasso. A similar honour was paid him at Naples by Manso, the princely patron of Tasso. Both he and Salsilli were amply repaid for their courtesies; as both are best known to posterity by extended Latin poems which Milton afterwards addressed to them, in which his feelings towards them are described with his own classic elegance and beauty.
At Rome he received the most flattering consideration from Cardinal Barberini, the nephew of Urban VIII. Having invited Milton to a magnificent musical entertainment, the cardinal awaited his arrival at the door, and led him by the hand into the assembly. It is supposed to have been at this entertainment that he saw and heard the beautiful Leonora Baroni, with whose charms he was smitten, and whom he has celebrated in three of his choicest Latin epigrams.
It was amidst the combined inspirations of nature, art, society, and rising reputation, which concentrated on the glowing mind of Milton, during his residence in Italy, that he began to be conscious of his own vast powers, and to conceive, though indistinctly at first, the great project which was destined to make his fame co-extensive with the world, and coeval with the latest date of its history.
It is exceedingly interesting to trace, in Milton's own ingenuous language, the successive states of his mind, and the gradual strengthening of his aspirations, at this time. We have already listened to his first timid announcement of them, in a private letter to his friend Deodati. The next appears at the close of the Latin address to Manso, which we have already mentioned ; and this, that it may
generally understood, must be presented in Sterling's translation, which does sad injustice to the original.