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the web depends on its combination and extension. The poet scorns all prettiness or littleness: I do not wonder, therefore, that in these short compositions he has not hit tho popular taste: I am rather surprised, that, fond as he was of the Italian poets, he did not here catch more of their manner; at least, of the solemn and sombre inspiration of Dante, if not of the amatory tenderness of Petrarch.
Loftiness of understanding, and the resolution of a bold, virtuous, strong, and uncompromising heart, the bard had at all times; they were inseparable from his nature: but I persevere in the conviction, that during that long period of his middle life, when he was engaged in political controversy and state affairs, the fire and tone of the Muse were suppressed, and partly forgotten. Mighty poet as he was, I am sure that he would have been still greater if he had never engaged in politics: these politics weighed down and stifled all the romantic predilections and golden arrays of his youthful taste and enthusastic imagination: chivalry was his early delight, and how could chivalry and democracy co-exist ?
Such are the inconsistencies of the most highly endowed and greatest of men! for what man has been greater or more virtuous than Milton? Though the idle pomps and riches of the world were not with him,-empty possessions which he scorned; yet how much greater was he than kings and heroes! In his solitary study, working out his glorious fables by the midnight lamp, how infinitely more exalted than in his office of secretary ; or than if he had been performing the acts of Cromwell and Fairfax, the themes of his majestic Muse!
TO THE NIGHTINGALE.
Warblest at eve, when all the woods are still;
While the jolly Hours lead on propitious May.*
First heard before the shallow cuckoo's bill,
Have link'd that amorous power to thy soft lay,
Foretell my hopeless doom in some grove nigh;
As thou from year to year hast sung too late
Whether the Muse or Love call thee his mate,
L'herbosa val di Rheno, e il nobil varco;
a While the jolly Hours lead on propitions May.
b First heard before the shallow cuckoo's bill, &c. That is, if they happen to be heard before the cuckoo, it is lucky for the lover. Milton laments afterwards, that hitherto the nightingale had not preceded the cuckoo as she ought: had always sung too late, that is, after the cuckoo.--T. WARTON.
c Of their train am I. This sonnet has been commended rather more than it deserves: the nightingale is a common theme of poets, and has been often better sung.
Che dolcemente mostra si di fuora
De sui atti soavi giamai parco,
La onde l' alta tua virtu s' infiora.
Che mover possa duro alpestre legno,
Guardi ciascun a gli occhi, ed a gli orecchi
Gratia sola di su gli vaglia, inanti
Qual in colle aspro, al imbrunir di sera
L'avezza giovinetta pastorella
Che mal si spande a disusata spera
Cosi Amor meco insù la lingua snella
Mentre io di te, vezzosamente altera,
E'l bel Tamigi cangio col bel Arno.
Amor lo volse, ed io a l'altrui peso
Deh! foss' il mio cuor lento e 'l duro seno
Ridonsi donne e giovani amorosi
M'accostandosi attorno, e perche scrivi,
Canzon dirotti, e tu per me rispondi
d It is from Petrarch, that Milton mixes the canzone with the sonnetto. Dante regarded the canzone as the most perfect species of lyric composition, “Della Volg. Eloqu." c. iv. but, for the canzone, he allows more laxity than for the sonnet. He says, wher the song is written on a grave or tragic subject, it is denominated canzone; and when on a comic cantilena, as diminutive.-T. WARTON,
Diodati, e te 'l dirò con maraviglia,
Quel ritroso io ch' amor spreggiar soléa
Gia caddi, ov' huom dabben talhor s' impiglia.
M'abbaglian sì, ma sotto novo idea
Portamenti alti honesti, e nelle ciglia
Parole adorne di lingua piu d' una,
E’l cantar che di mezzo l' hemispero
la faticosa Luna, E degli occhi suoi auventa si
fuoco Che ” incerar gli orecchi mi fia poco.
Per certo i bei vostri occhi, Donna mia
Esser non puo che non sian lo mio sole
Si mi percuoton forte, come ei suole
Da quel lato si spinge ove mi duole,
Chiaman sospir; io non so che si sia :
Scosso mi il petto, e poi n' uscendo poco
Quivi d' attorno o s' agghiaccia, o s' ingicla;
Tutte le notti a me suol far piovose
Giovane piano, e semplicetto amante
Poi che fuggir me stesso in dubbio sono,
Farò divoto; io certo a prove tante
De pensieri leggiadro, accorto, e buono;
il gran mondo, e scocco il tuono,
e Portamenti alti honcsti. So before, " Son." iii. 8. “Vezzosamente altera." Portamento expresses the lofty dignified deportment, by which the Italian poets constantly describe female beanty; and which is strikingly characteristio of the composed majestic carriage of the Italian ladies, either as contrasted with the liveliness of the French, or the timid delicacy of the English.--T. Warton.
i Colma di rose. The forced thoughts at the close of this sonnet are intolerable: but he was now in the land of conceit, and was infected by writing in its language. He had changed his native Thames for Arno, “Son." iii. 9.
Canto, dal mio buon porol non inteso,
Tanto del forse, e d'invidia sicuro,
Di timori, e speranze, al popol use,
Quanto d'ingegno, e d'alto valor vago,
Sol troverete in tal parte men duro,
ON HIS BEING ARRIVED TO THE AGE OF TWENTY-THREE.
Stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year!
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
That I to manhood am arrived so near;
It shall be still in strictest measure even
To that same lot, however mean or high,
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
& L'insanabil ago. Milton had a natural severity of mind. For love-verses, his Italian sonnets have a remarkable air of gravity and dignity: they are free from the metaphysics of Petrarch, and are more in the manner of Dante: yet he calls his seventh sonnet, in a letter printed from the Cambridge manuscript by Birch, a composition in the Petrarchian stanza. In 1762, the late Mr. Thomas Hollis examined the Laurentian library at Florence, for six Italian sonnets of Milton, addressed to his friend Chimentelli; and for other Italian and Latin compositions and various original letters, said to be remaining in manuscript at Florence: he searched also for an original bust in marble of Milton, supposed to be somewhere in that city: but he was unsuccessful in his curious inquiries.-T. WARTON.
This bust of Milton is now in England: it is beautifully carved, small, and in a very architectural case of mahogany. The likeness shows both the features and the age of the poet.-J. B.
Mr. Hayley justly considers this sonnet as a very spirited and singular sketch of the poet's own character.-TODD.
h How soon hath Time, &c. This sonnet was written at Cambridge in 1631, and sent in the following letter to a friend, who had importuned our author to take orders :
“Sir,—Besides that, in sundry other respects, I must acknowledge me to profit by you whenever we meet; you are often to me, and were yesterday especially, as good a watchman to admonish that the hours of the night pass on (for so I call my life, as yet obscure and unserviceable to mankind), and that the day with me is at hand, wherein Christ commands all to labour while there is light: which because I am persuaded you do to no other purpose, than out of a true desire that God should be honoured in every one, I therefore think myself bound, though unaskt, to give you account, as oft as occasion is, of this my tardy moving, according to the precept of my conscience, which I firmly trust is not without God. Yet now I will not streine for any set apologie, but only refere myself to what my mind shall have at any time, to declare herself at her best ease. But if you think as you said, that too much love of learning is in fault, and that I have given up myself to dreame away my years in the arms of a studious retirement, like Endymion with the Moone, as the tale of Latmus goes; yet consider, that if it were no more than the meer love of learning, whether it proceed from a principle bad, good, or naturall, it could not have held out thus long against so strong opposition on the other side of every kind. For, if it be bad, why should not all the fond hopes,
WHEN THE ASSAULT WAS INTENDED TO THE CITY,
Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize,
Guard them, and him within protect from harms.
That call fame on such gentle acts as these,
Whatever clime the sun's bright circle warms.
The great #mathian conquerour bid spare
The house of Pindarus,' when temple and tower
Went to the ground: and the repeated air that forward youthe and vanitie are fledged with, together with gaine, pride, and ambition, call me forward more powerfully, than a poor, regardless, and unprofitable sin of curiosity should be able to withhold me, whereby a man cuts himselfe off from all action, and becomes the most helplesse, pusillanimous, and unweaponed creature in the world; the most unfit and unable to do that, which all mortals most aspire to; either to be usefull to his friends, or to offend his enemies. Or, if it be to be thought a natural pronenesse, there is against that a much more potent inclination inbred, which about this time of a man's life sollieits most the desire of house and family of his owne, to which nothing is esteemed more helpful, than the early entering into credible employment, and nothing more hindring than this affected solitarinesse ; and tho' this were enough, yet there is to this another act, if not of pure, yet of refined nature, no less availeable to dissuade prolonged obscurity; a desire of honour, and repute, and immortal fame, seated in the breast of every true scholar; which all make haste to, by the readiest ways of publishing and divulging conceived merits, as well those that shall, as those that never shall obtain it. Nature would presently work the more prevalent way, if there were nothing but this inferiour bent to restraine her. Lastly, the love of learning, as it is the pursuit of something good, it would sooner follow the more excellent and supreme good known and presented, and so be quickly exempted from the emptie and fantastic chase of shadows and notions, to the solid good flowing from due and tymely obedience to that command in the Gospel, sett out by the terrible seasing of him that hid the talent. It is more probable therefore that, not the endless delight of speculation, but this very consideration of that great commandment, does not presse forward as soon as many doe to undergoe, but keeps off with a sacred reverence and religious advisement how best to undergoe; not taking thought of being late, so it give advantage to be more fit; for those that were latest lost nothing when the maister of the vineyard came in to give each one his hire. And here I am come to a stream-head, copious enough to disburthen itself like Nilus at seven mouths into an ocean: but then I should also run into a reciprocall contradiction of ebbing and flowing at once, and do that which I excuse myself for not doing, preach and not preach. Yet that you may see I am something suspicious of myselfe, and do take notice of a certain belatedness in me, I am the bolder to send you some of my nightward thoughts, some while since, because they come in not altogether unfitly, made up in a Petrarchian stanza, which I told you of:
How soon hath Time, &c. By this I believe you may well repent of having made mention at all of this matter; for if I have not all this while won you to this, I have certainly wearied you of it. This therefore alone may be a sufficient reason for me to keep me as I am; least, haring thus tired you singly, I should deal worse with a whole congregation, and spoyle all the patience of a parish; for I myself do not only see my own tediousnesse, but now grow offended with it, that has hindered me thus long from coming to the last and best period of my letter, and that which must now chiefly work my pardon ;-that I am your true and unfained friend,
“Joan MILTON." i The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
The house of Pindarus. As a poet, Milton had as good right to expect this favour as Pindar; nor was the | English monarch less a protector of the arts, and a lover of poetry, than Alexander.