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and gained a reputation quite extraordinary. “Performed the Collegiate and Academical Exercises to the admiration of all, and was esteemed to be a virtuous and sober person, yet not to be ignorant of his own parts,” is Anthony Wood's summary of the information he had received on the subject. He took his B.A. degree, at the proper time, in Jan. 1628-9, and the M.A. degree, also at the proper time, in July 1632. On each occasion, with the other graduates, he went through the formality of signing Articles of Religion implying faith in the constitution, worship, and doctrines of the Church of England ; and on the second occasion his signature “ Joannes Milton” stands at the head of the list of twenty-seven who so signed from Christ's College. This looks as if the foremost place in his college was then unanimously accorded to him. By that time, one may say, he was recognised as without an equal among his coevals in the University.
The reputation won by Milton during his seven years at Cambridge was doubtless due in part to his personal impressiveness in walks and talks with select companions, and in all those daily chances of intercourse between seniors and juniors, in hall or in college-rooms, which University life affords. There were, however, the more formal opportunities of those scholarly displays called by Wood “the Collegiate and Academical Exercises”: viz. the periodical Latin debates and declamations, in College or in the Public Schools of the University, which formed so conspicuous a part of the old system of Cambridge training. Seven specimens of Milton's ability in such things have been preserved under the title of Prolusiones Quædam Oratoriæ, and are interesting both as revelations of Milton's own character and habits of intellect at this period, and also as curious glimpses of old Cambridge life. See the Introduction to At a Vacation Exercise. There are preserved also four Latin Familiar Epistles written by Milton during the Cambridge period,-two of them to his former preceptor, Thomas Young ; and two to Alexander Gill the younger, his former teacher at St. Paul's School. More important products of the seven Cambridge years, however, were the poems, in English or in Latin, written at intervals. Here is a list of these in chronological order, the more important printed in capitals, and the Latin distinguished from the English by italics :
ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT. 1626.
Eandem; In Inventorem Bombardæ (all annexed to the Elegi
arum Liber). Ad Thomam Junium, Præceptorem Suum (Elegia Quarta). 1627. “Nondum blanda tuas,” etc. (Elegia Septima). 1628. NATURAM NON PATI SENIUM (among the Sylvæ). 1628. AT A VACATION EXERCISE IN THE COLLEGE. 1628. De Ideâ Platonicâ quemadmodum Aristoteles intellexit (among the
Sylvæ). In Adventum Veris (Elegia Quinta). 1628-9. ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY. 1629. AD CAROLUM DIODATUM, RURI COMMORANTEM
(Elegia Sexta). 1629. The Passion. Song on May Morning. ? ON SHAKESPEARE. 1630. On the University Carrier. 1630-1. Another on the Same. 1630-1. AN EPITAPH ON THE MARCHIONESS OF WINCHESTER.
1631. Sonnet to the Nightingale (Sonnet I.) ? SONNET ON ARRIVING AT THE AGE OF TWENTY
THREE. (Sonnet II.) Dec. 1631. From these pieces there may be gathered, as the Introductions to them will indicate, many particulars of Milton's life and the nature of his occupations during his seven years at Cambridge. If published in a little volume in 1632, they would have given young Milton a place of some distinction among contemporary poets. With the exception, however, of Naturam non pati Senium, of which printed copies were made at Cambridge for an academic purpose, and the lines “On Shakespeare,” which appeared anonymously in the Second Folio Edition of Shakespeare, published in 1632, all the pieces appear to have remained in manuscript.
The Sonnet which closes the list of the Cambridge pieces is especially interesting. When Milton went to Cambridge, he had been destined, by himself and his friends, for the
Church ; but the seven years of his residence there had entirely changed his purpose. This was owing, in part, to the great change that had occurred in the political condition of England. Charles I., married in May 1625 to the French princess Henrietta-Maria, had adopted a policy in Church and State compared with which his father's efforts towards Absolutism had been mild. Having quarrelled successively with three Parliaments, and dismissed the last of them with anger and insult in March 1628-9, he had resolved to have nothing more to do with Parliaments, but to govern in future by his own authority through ministers responsible only to himself. England was in the fourth year of this Reign of Thorough, as it has been called, when Milton's course at the University came to an end. Since the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham in August 1628, Charles's chief advisers and ministers had been Laud, Wentworth, Cottington, and a few other select Lords of his Privy Council. In ecclesiastical matters, Laud, Bishop of London since 1628, and with the Archbishopric of Canterbury in prospect, was single and paramount. Under his vigilant supervision there had been going on, in all the dioceses of England, that systematic repression and even persecution of Calvinistic Theology and of all forms of Puritan opinion and practice, and that equally systematic promotion and encouragement of Arminian Theology, the rights of high Prelacy, and a strict and florid ceremonial of worship, which had already, as the Puritans thought, undone all that was essential in the English Reformation, and brought the Church of England back into the shadow of the Church of Rome. Nor did there seem any hope of deliverance. Laud's supremacy in England seemed to be growing surer and surer every day; Wentworth, as Viceroy of Ireland, was to impose the same system on that country ; even Scotland, though an independent kingdom, was to be reclaimed, as soon as Laud should be at leisure, from the meagre half-Episcopacy which was all that King James had persuaded her to adopt, and brought into conformity with Laud's ideal of a Church. Unable to endure this state of things, many of the bolder Puritans had gone into exile in Holland or had emigrated to America, while those that remained at home, forming a large mass of the population of England, lay in a dumb agony of discontent, sighing for a Parliament, but not daring to mutter the word. With these Milton was in sympathy. Whatever he had intended in 1625, it was clear to him in 1632 that he could not take orders in the Church of England. This necessarily involved also the abandonment of all idea of continued residence in the University, whether in a Fellowship or for other chances.
1632—1638 : ætat. 24–30. On leaving the University in July 1632, Milton went to reside at Horton, in Buckinghamshire, a small village near Windsor, and about twenty miles from London, where his father, who had meanwhile retired from business, had taken a country house. At first there seems to have been some gentle remonstrance on his father's part on his abandonment of the Church and his disinclination to any other profession; but very soon the excellent man, whose trust in his son was boundless, acquiesced generously in what was proposed. That was that Milton should devote himself thenceforward exclusively to study, speculation, and literature. The tenor of the five years and eight months which he spent at Horton is, accordingly, thus described by himself : “At my father's country residence, whither he had retired to pass his old age, I was wholly intent, through a period of absolute leisure, on a steady perusal of the Greek and Latin writers, but still so that occasionally I exchanged the country for the city, either for the purpose of buying books, or for that of learning anything new in Mathematics or in Music, in which I then took delight.” From this succinct account we should not gather that it was also during those five summers and winters, passed mainly in the flat, verdant, well-wooded and well-watered scenery about Horton, with the towers of Windsor in view, that Milton composed the finest and most classic of his minor English poems. Such, however, is the fact. Here is the list :
AD PATREM (among the Sylvæ). 1632?
COMUS : A Masque presented at Ludlow Castle. 1634.
LYCIDAS. Nov. 1637. We may pass over this interesting Horton period the more lightly because in the Introductions to these pieces there is an ample filling up of minutiæ. The admission of Milton to the M. A. degree at Oxford in 1635 may, however, be noted here. Three of his Latin Familiar Epistles, it ought also to be added, belong to the period. One of these (December 4, 1634) is again to his former teacher Alexander Gill the younger; the other two (both dated September 1637) are to his friend Charles Diodati. In the last he speaks of leaving Horton permanently, and taking chambers in London. The intention was not fulfilled. He went back to Horton, to write his Lycidas there (so it may be guessed), and to remain there till April 1638. Three incidents mark the closing months of his Horton life. One was the appearance in 1637, with his permission, but anonymously, of a printed edition of his Comus by itself at the charge of his friend Henry Lawes, the musical composer. Another was his introduction, early in 1638, to the celebrated Sir Henry Wotton, Provost of Eton, not far from Horton. The third was the actual appearance of his Lycidas, with his initials “J. M.,” at the end of a collection of obituary poems, in Latin, Greek, and English, in memory of Edward King, contributed by thirtytwo friends of the deceased, and printed at the Cambridge University press. But an event earlier than any of these, and which had already made Horton a sadder home to Milton than it had been, was the death of his mother. She died at Horton April 3, 1637, and was buried in the old church there. á visit to Horton any summer's day, to see the simple stone that covers her grave, and then, after having the spot near the church pointed out to one where the house of Milton's father stood, to stroll among the meadows and pollards by the banks of the sluggish Colne, where Milton must have so often walked and mused, may be recommended to lovers of Literature and of English History.
The quiet time at Horton, bringing Milton from the twentyfourth to the thirtieth year of his age, was a continuation of the Reign of Thorough in the British Islands. Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury since 1633, was still crushing Calvinism and Puritanism in England ; Wentworth was ruling Ireland