Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

devotion, without the least trouble imaginable." After the return of Milton's wife, and Milton's reconciliation with her, in or about August 1645, the father passed with them into the larger house that had been taken in the Barbican; where also the wife's father and mother, with others of the Powells, driven from their home near Oxford by the ruin of the King's cause, were guests for some time. Here the old man saw Milton's eldest child, Anne, born July 29, 1646; and here he died eight months afterwards, March 1646-7. He was buried in the neighbouring church of St. Giles's, Cripplegate. If Aubrey's tradition is true that he “read without spectacles at 84," it was not from him that Milton inherited his weakness of eyesight.

GREEK VERSES.

(Editions of 1645 and 1673.) Milton, though an assiduous and enthusiastic reader of the Greek classics, did not give much time to the practice of Greek composition. He has left but three pieces of Greek verse; and the verdict upon them by the critic of subsequent times who has published the minutest examination of them (Dr. Charles Burney, 1757–1817) is that they show imperfect Greek scholarship. He finds lax constructions in them, questionable usages of words, and even false quantities.

Psalm CXIV.—This seems to have been a favourite Psalm with Milton, for it is one of the two which he had paraphrased in English when he was fifteen years of age (see ante, pp. 114-116). The present translation of it in Greek hexameters was done in 1634, as appears by a Latin letter of Milton to Alexander Gill the younger, of date Dec. 4 in that year. Sending Gill a copy of the translation, in return for some verses which he had received from Gill, he explains that he had done it on a sudden impulse, before getting up, at daybreak one morning of the preceding week. “Should anything occur "to you in it,” he adds, “not coming up to your usual opinion of our “ productions, understand that, since I left your school, this is the “ first and only thing I have composed in Greek, -employing my“self, as you know, more willingly in Latin and English matters; “ inasmuch as whoever spends study and pains in this age on Greek

composition runs a risk of singing mostly to the deaf.” Nevertheless Dr. Burney pronounces the version superior to the Greek version

of the same Psalm by James Duport, Milton's contemporary, and Professor of Greek at Cambridge. “It has more vigour," he says, "but is not wholly free from inaccuracies.”

PHILOSOPHUS AD REGEM QUENDAM, ETC.—As these Hexameters appear in the Edition of 1645, and as their tenor suggests that they were done after the Civil War had begun, we may date them between 1642 and 1645. Milton probably imagined himself coming, by some possibility, into the situation of the “Philosophus," and the imaginary “Rex" in that case might be Charles I. The piece has a touch in it of the peculiar spirit of Sonnet VIII., beginning “Captain or Colonel.” The Greek is very much found fault with by Dr. Burney, whose criticism of the five lines extends over a greater number of closely-printed pages.

IN EFFIGIEI EJUS SCULPTOREM.—These satirical Iambics, Milton's savage practical joke at the expense of the engraver, William Marshall, appeared in the Edition of 1645, engraved under Marshall's portrait of Milton : in the Edition of 1673, which did not contain that portrait, they were put into the text. (See the exact story of the affair ante, pp. 92-94.) The Epigram, according to Dr. Burney, is "far inferior to those on Bad Painters which are preserved in the Greek Anthologia : it has no point.” One may differ from Dr. Burney here. But Dr. Burney takes exception also to the Greek. For example, the antepenultimate of the word dvoulumuia in the last line is long, so that Milton either did not know that, or was guilty of the impropriety of making the fourth foot of an Iambic trimeter a spondee. “The Poet does not appear to have suspected,” says Dr. Burney, “that, while he was censuring the Effigiei Sculptor, he was exposing himself to the severity of criticism by admitting into his verses disputable Greek and false metre.” The moral is that, when one makes a practical joke, it may be dangerous to do it in Greek.

AD SALSILLUM, POETAM ROMANUM, ÆGROTANTEM.-SCAZONTES.

(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)

This was written at Rome, either in 1638 or in 1639, in one of Milton's two visits to that city. The person addressed is Joannes Salsillus, or Giovanni Salzilli, a Roman poet, whose acquaintance Milton had made in those visits. The phrase "a Roman Poet”

might now mislead us. Rome then swarmed with wits and men of letters, meeting together in clubs or academies, of which there may have been about twenty in all. There must have been at least 500 authors of one kind or another in Rome then, of whom the majority were “poets" habitually or on occasion. Only a selection of these figure now in the standard Histories of Italian Literature ; and of these Salzilli is not one. He must have been of considerable note in Roman society in his day, however; for I find him a leading contributor to a volume published at Rome in 1637 and dedicated to Cardinal Cesarini under the title of Poesie de Signori Accademici Fantastici, i.e. Poems by Members of the Academy of the Fantastics. There are fifty-one contributors to this volume; but Salzilli's contributions occupy twenty-two pages out of a total of 272, and consist of eleven sonnets, two canzoni, one canzonetta, and one descriptive poem. Probably he was a young man and habitually an invalid. He was in bad health, at all events, when Milton addressed to him these Scazontes: viz. verses written in the "limping measure” employed by the Greek poet Hipponax, the peculiarity of which is that the verse is regular Iambic trimeter till the last foot; where, by the substitution of a spondee or trochee for the expected Iambus, an effect is given as of coming to the last step of a stair with the wrong emphasis. To bring out this effect fully, the fifth or penultimate foot ought always to be an Iambus; but Milton has not attended strictly to this rule. In the verses Milton expresses his wishes for Salzilli's recovery, pays him a compliment on his poetry, and refers to the four lines of Latin elegiac verse in which Salzilli had, with Italian politeness, so hyperbolically praised Milton on slight acquaintance, extolling him above Homer, Virgil, and Tasso. See the lines among the Testimonies to Milton prefixed to the Latin Poems. There are some pleasant references in Milton's verses to his delight in the Italian climate and to his walks about Rome.

MANSUS.

(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)

This is a poem of remarkable interest, addressed to the most distinguished, in some respects, of all the Italians with whom Milton became personally acquainted during his Italian journey: viz. the

Neapolitan Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, and Lord of Bisaccio and Panca.

Manso was born in 1561, three years before Shakespeare; and his long life had been spent chiefly in such occupations as the political condition of Naples and Southern Italy, then subject to the Spaniards and governed by Viceroys from Madrid, permitted to a wealthy and high-minded native of those parts. The cultivation of philosophy, art, and poetry for his own pleasure, and the encouragement of these pursuits in others, and of a life of cheerful sociability where political independence was denied, had been his principal business. He was not unknown as an author. In 1608 there had been published at Milan, under the title of Paradossi, ovvero dell' Amore Dialoghi, some philosophical dialogues of his on Love; another set of his dialogues, of a similar nature, called L'Erocallia, had been published at Venice in 1619, and republished at Milan in 1628 ; and at Venice in 1635 there had appeared a collection of his juvenile poems, chiefly Sonnets and Canzoni, entitled Poesie Nomiche, divise in Rime amorose, sacre e morali. But it was less as an author than as a friend and patron of authors that Manso was loved and honoured. His life had been identified with the history of Italian Literature for half a century. No Italian of note during that period but Manso had known ; few but had known and been indebted to Manso. Above all, he had been the friend, the bosom friend, of the two greatest poets of Italy in his generation, Tasso and Marini. Tasso, in the strange madness that came over him in his manhood, clouding his beautiful mind, but leaving it still capable of the noblest poetry, had been led, in his wanderings over Italy, to Manso's door at Naples (1588). Manso, then in his twenty-eighth year, while Tasso was in his forty-fifth, had received the illustrious unfortunate, had kept him in his splendid villa at Naples and in his countryhouse at Bisaccio, had tended him in his fits of gloom, had soothed him in those moments when the frenzy was at its strongest, and the air around him was full of visions and voices, and he would call on Manso to look and listen. Thus had grown up a friendship which lasted with Tasso's life. Twice again he had been Manso's guest; it was in Manso's house, in one of those visits, that he completed his Gerusalemme Conquistata, in one of the books of which he introduces Manso's name; in his Dialogue on Friendship Manso is one of the speakers, and it is dedicated to Manso and entitled Il Manso;

the poet.

and there are other recognitions of their intimacy in sonnets of Tasso addressed to Manso. On Tasso's death-bed in Rome (1595) he spoke of Manso; a picture of Tasso which Manso had painted was bequeathed back to him ; and it was Manso that, some years afterwards, caused the well-known inscription " Torquati Tassi Ossato be cut on Tasso's tomb. In 1619 there had been published at Naples a Life of Tasso, without Manso's name, but known to be his, and containing an affectionate collection of personal details respecting

It was a popular book in Italy, and had been several times reprinted.--Hardly less intimate than Manso's friendship with his illustrious senior, Tasso, had been his friendship with his junior, Marini (born 1569), Tasso's most celebrated successor in Poetry, though a corruption of Italian taste in Poetry is traced now to his sweet and sensuous genius. Marini, a Neapolitan by birth, but, like Tasso, much of a wanderer, had also been a frequent guest at Manso's villa, had been protected by him, and served in many ways; and, when Marini died, in 1625, two years after the publication of his Adone, the charge of his burial and of erecting his monument was left to Manso. It was understood that Manso was preparing a biography of Marini similar to that he had written of Tasso.—–And now, with all these recollections of the past circling round him, the Marquis Manso, verging on eighty years of age, was living on at Naples, the most venerable man in the city, and indeed, since the death of Molino of Venice and that of Strozzi at Rome, the one conspicuous private patron of Art and Literature in all Italy. In the society of Naples he was supreme. He had founded there a club or academy, called the Oziosi (The Idlers"), of which he was president, and the meetings of which were held in his house; and there was another institution of his foundation, called the College Dei Nobili, the purpose of which was the education of the young Neapolitan nobles in manly arts and exercises. In the meetings of these institutions the old nobleman would be gay as the youngest present, joining even in their frolics. A certain high moral chivalry, however, for which he had been known from his youth, regulated his behaviour, and gave a dignity even to his humours in company. Also he was punctiliously scrupulous in matters of religion, and a most pious and orthodox son of the Catholic Church.

Milton's introduction to Manso, as he tells us himself (Defensio Secunda), was by the management of a certain Eremite Friar, who

« AnteriorContinuar »