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TO MR. LAWRENCE.
Now that the fields are dank, and ways are mire,
b Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son, &c. Of the "virtuous son,” nothing has transpired : the virtuous father,” Henry Lawrence, was member for Hertfordshire in the little parliament which began in 1653, and was active in settling the protectorate of Cromwell. In consequence of his services, he was made president of Cromwell's council; where he appears to have signed many severe and arbitrary decrees, not only against the royalists, but the Brownists, fifthmonarchy men, and other sectarists. He continued high in favour with Richard Cromwell. As innovation is progressive, perhaps the son, Milton's friend, was an independent and still warmer republican. The family appears to have been seated not far from Milton's neighbourhood in Buckinghamshire : for Henry Lawrence's near relation, William Lawrence, a writer, and appointed a judge in Scotland by Cromwell, and who was in 1631 a gentleman commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, died at Bedfont near Staines in Middlesex, in 1682. Hence, says Milton, v. 2
Now that the fields are dank, and ways are mire,
Where shall we sometimes meet, &c. Milton, in his first “Reply to More," written 1654, recites among the most respectable of his friends, who contributed to form the commonwealth,—“Montacutium, Laurentium, summo ingenio ambos, optimisque artibus expositos,” &ć. See Milton's “Prose Works.” Where by “Montacutium” we are to understand Edward Montague, Earl of Manchester; who, while Lord Kimbolton, was one of the members of the house of commons impeached by the king, and afterwards a leader in the rebellion. I believe they both deserved this panegyric.—T. WARTON.
Mr. Warton is mistaken in saying that of the 'virtuous son' nothing has transpired.” This Henry Lawrence, the “virtuous son,” is the author of a work, of which I am in possession, suited to Milton's taste; on the subject of which, I make no doubt, he and the author "by the fire helped to waste many à sullen day.” It is entitled “Of our Communion and Warre with Angels, &c.” Printed Anno Dom. 1646, 4to. 189 pages. The dedication is “To my Most deare and Most honoured Mother, the Lady Lawrence.” I suppose him also to be the same Henry Lawrence, who printed "A Vindication of the Scriptures and Christian Ordinances,” 1649, Lond. 4to. —TODD.
See “Gentleman's Magazine,” about 1825, for the Lawrence pedigree, furnished by Sir James Lawrence, then resident at Paris.' This lineal descendant of the subject of Milton's panegyric has also communicated to the publisher the following important and interesting information on the same subject :
“Henry Lawrence, of whose family and descent a long account is inserted in the "Gent. Mag.' for July 1815, was the eldest son of Sir John Lawrence, of St. Ives in Huntingdonshire, by Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Ralph Waller, Esq., of Clerkenwell, of the Beaconsfield family, who took to her second husband Robert Bathurst of Lecklade, and was the mother of Sir Edward Bathurst, created a baronet 1643. He was educated at Emmanuel-college, and represented Westmorland in the Long Parliament: having. retired into Holland, be published at Amsterdam, in 1646, a book, 'Of our Communion and Warre with Angels, and another book ‘Of Baptism. He afterwards represented Hertfordshire; was a lord of the other house; and after the abdication of Richard Cromwell, continued president of the council of state. He married Ame, daughter of that inveterate antagonist of the house of Stuart, Sir Edward Peyton, of Iselham, in Cambridgeshire, Bart., by whom he had seven sons and six daughters. He died in 1664, and was buried at St. Margaret's Hertfordshire. .
“Henry, the eldest, was the 'virtuous son:' for in a political squib, printed 1660, called “The Receipts and Disbursements of the Committee of Safety,' we find, -'Item, reimbursed to the said Lord Lawrence several sums of money, which his eldest son had squandered away on poets and dedications to his ingenuity, to the value of five hundred
From the hard season gaining ? Time will run
On smoother, till Favonius reinspire
The lily and rose, that neither sow'd nor spun c.
Of Attick taste, with wine, whence we may rise
To hear the lute well touch'd, or artful voice
He who of those delights can judged, and spare
TO CYRIACK SKINNER•.
Of British Themis, with no mean applause
Which others at their bar so often wrench ;
In mirth, that, after, no repenting drawsf!
pounds more. Item, paid for three great saddles for the Lord Lawrence's son, and for provender for his lofty steeds, ever since the Protector's political death, five hundred pounds. Item, paid for a pound of May butter made of a cow's milk that fed on Hermon Hill, given to the said Lady Lawrence for pious uses, 871. 168. Henry died 1679. His son, Sir Edward Lawrence of St. Ives, was created a baronet in January, 1749, and died in May following. Martha, one of the president's daughters, married Richard, Earl of Barrymore, and was married to his successor, Lawrence, Earl of Barrymore; John Lawrence, a younger son, left England with James Bradshaw, a nephew of the judge, and settled in Jamaica, where James Bradshaw, after having been president of the Assembly, died 1699; and John Lawrence, who died 1690, was great-grandfather to the present Sir James Lawrence, Knight of Malta.”
c That neither sow'd nor spun. Alluding, as Dr. Newton observes, to Matt. vi. 26, 28: “They sow not, neither do they spin.” And compare ver. 30 with the preceding hemistich.—TODD.
d He who of those delights can judge, &c. The close of this sonnet is perfectly in the style of Horace and the Grecian lyrics ; as is that of the following to Cyriack Skinner.—T. WARTON.
e Cyriack Skinner was one of the principal members of Harrington's political club. Wood says, that he was "an ingenious young gentleman, and scholar to John Milton ; which Skinner sometimes held the chair,”_-“Ath. Oxon.” ii. 591.
In mirth, that, after, no repenting draws. This is the decent mirth of Martial :
Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis.—T. WARTON.
& And what the Swede intends, &c. Charles Gustavus, king of Sweden, was at this time waging war with Poland, and the French with the Spaniards in the Netherlands : and what Milton says is somewhat in the manner and spirit of Horace, “Od.” 11. xi. 1 :
Quid bellicosus Cantaber, et Scythes,
To measure life learn thou betimes, and know
Toward solid good what leads the nearest way;
For other things mild Heaven a time ordains,
That with superfluous burden loads the day,
TO THE SAME.
To outward view, of blemish or of spot,
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not
Of heart or hope h; but still bear up and steer
The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied i
In liberty's defence), my noble task,
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask
h Of heart or hope, &c. One of Milton's characteristics was a singular fortitude of mind, arising from a consciousness of superior abilities, and a conviction that his cause was just.-T. WARTON,
i To have lost them overplied, &c. When he was employed to answer Salmasius, one of his eyes was almost gone ; and the physicians predicted the loss of both if he proceeded : but he says, in answer to Du Moulin, “I did not long balance whether my duty should be preferred to my eyes.”— T. Warton.
1 In liberty's defence, &c. This Sonnet was not hazarded in the edition of 1673, where the last appears : for the “Defensio pro Populo Anglicano,” of which he here speaks with so much satisfaction and self-applause, at the Restoration was ordered to be burnt by the hands of the common hangman, together with his “Iconoclastes," at which time his person was spared ; and, by a singular act of royal clemency, he survived to write “Paradise Lost.” But Milton's prose was to suffer another disgrace. Twenty-seven propositions, gathered from the writings of our author, Buchanan, Hobbes, Baxter, John Goodwin, Knox, Owen, and others, were proscribed by the university of Oxford, July 21, 1683, as destructive both to church and state ; and ordered to be burnt in the court of the schools. This transaction is celebrated in a poem of the “Musæ Anglicanæ,” called “Decretum Oxoniense,” 1683, vol. ii. p. 180, 181, edit. 1714. I transcribe some of the lines with abhorrence :
Hæ tibi sint laudes immortalesque triumphi,
Miltonum, cælo terrisque inamabile nomen! But by what follows, the writer does not seem to have been insensible to the beauties of Milton's poetry.-T. WARTON.
ON HIS DECEASED WIFE.
Brought to me, like Alcestis from the grave?,
Rescued from death by force, though pale and faint.
Purification in the old Law did save,
Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint ;-
Her face was veil'd; yet to my fancied sight
Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shined
But, O, as to embrace me she inclined,
ON THE MORNING
THE “Hymn on the Nativity” is a favourite poem with me, notwithstanding Thomas Warton, unlike himself, has commenced with a censure on what he calls its conceits : Joseph Warton, in a short but beautiful note on ver. 173, has expressed a very opposite opinion. There is no doubt that the prima stamina of the bard's divine epics are exhibited in this poem ; but it has several peculiarities, which distinguish it from the poet's other compositions: it is more truly lyrical; the stanza is beautifully constructed ; and there is a solemnity, a grandeur, and a swell of verse, which is magical. The images are magnificent, and they have this superiority of excellence; that none of them are merely descriptive, but have a mixture of intellectuality and spirituality. If there are any “conceits,” they are entirely confined to the first two stanzas
* Methought I saw my late espoused saint, &c. This Sonnet was written about the year 1656, on the death of his second wife, Catherine, the daughter of Captain Woodcock of Hackney, a rigid sectarist. She died in child-bed of a daughter, within a year after their marriage. Milton had now been long totally blind ; so that this might have been one of his day-dreams.-T. WARTON.
Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave. Dr. Johnson calls this “a poor Sonnet.” Perhaps he was not struck with this fine allusion to Euripides.—T. WARTON.
* This Ode, in which the many learned allusions are highly poetical, was probably composed as a college-exercise at Cambridge, our author being now only twenty-one years old. In the edition of 1645, in its title it is said to have been written in 1629. We are informed by himself, that he was employed in writing this piece, in the conclusion of the sixth Elegy to his friend Deodate, which appears to have been sent about the close of the month December.-T. WARTON.
of the lyrical part,—“It was the winter wild,” and “Only with speeches fair :" all the rest is essence of poetry; and that of the strongest and most picturesque sort. The ninth stanza, “When such music sweet,” is such as perhaps no one but Milton could have written; and still several, which follow, rise even upon this.
Some one has said that Milton had no ear for the harmony of versification ; this hymn proves that his ear was perfect. Spenser’s Alexandrines are fine; Milton's are more like the deepest swell of the organ.
When it is recollected that this piece was produced by the author at the age of twenty-one, all deep thinkers of fancy and sensibility must pore upon it with delighted wonder. The vigour, the grandeur, the imaginativeness of the conception; the force and maturity of language; the bound, the gathering strength, the thundering roll of the metre; the largeness of the views; the extent of the learning; the solemn and awful tones; the enthusiasm, and a certain spell in the epithets, which puts the reader into a state of mysterious excitement, may be better felt than described.
I venture to pronounce this poem far superior to the “ L'Allegro" and “Il Penseroso," though the popular taste may not concur with me: it is much deeper; much more original ; and of a nobler cast of materials. The two latter poems are mainly descriptive of the inanimate beauties of the creation : it is the grand purpose of poetry to embody invisible spirits; to give shape and form to the ideal ; to bring out into palpable lines and colours the intellectual world ; to associate with that which is material that which is purely spiritual; to travel into air, and open upon the fancy other creations. Fancy is but one faculty of the mind; it is a mirror, of whose impressions the transfer upon paper by the medium of language is a single operation.
Milton, before he could write the Hymn, must have already exercised and enriched all his faculties with vast and successful culture. He had travelled in those dim regions, into which young minds scarcely ever venture; and he had carried a guarded lamp with him, so as to see all around him, before and behind; yet not so peering and reckless as to destroy the religious awe. The due position of the lights and shades was never infringed upon. .
That he our deadly forfeit should release,
That glorious form, that light unsufferable,
Forsook the courts of everlasting day,