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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 modestyled 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 former anticipates the idea conveyed in Dryden's well-.
known 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. Hav-
ing 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
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 be gene-
rally understood, must be presented in Sterling's translation,
which does sad injustice to the original.
Oh! might a friend, endow'd like you by Heaven,
To adorn the bard and judge the strain be given,
Whene'er my Muse shall sound the British strings,
And wake again to song her native kings:
Hail her great Arthur ! who, from mortals far,
Now pants for his return, and burns for war:
Record the hero-knights who sheathed the sword,
Link'd in strong union, round the mighty board,
And break (if daring genius fail not here)
The Saxon phalanx with the British spear.
Then when, not abjectly discharged, my trust
Of life was closed, and dust required its dust,
Oh! might that friend, with dewy eye-lids near,
Catch my last sigh, and tell me I was dear:
Then my pale limbs, resolved in death's embrace,
Beneath an humble tomb devoutly place;
And haply, too, arrest my fleeting form
In marble, from the sculptor's chisel warm
And full of soul; while round my temples play
The Paphian myrtle, and Parnassian bay.
Meantime composed in consecrated rest,
I share the eternal Sabbath of the bless'd.
If faith deceive not, if the mighty prize
Be fix'd for ardent virtue in the skies;
There, where the wing of holy toil aspires,
Where the just mingle with celestial quires,
There, as my fates indulge, I may behold
These pious labours from my world of gold:
There while a purple glory veils my face,
Feel my mind swell to fit her heavenly place:
And, smiling at my life's successful fight,
Exult and brighten in ethereal light.
In terminating my notices of the Latin poetry of Milton with this his most admired effort, I pause in my narrative, to present the reader with Mr. Macaulay's admirable observations on this accomplishment, as possessed by the great bard.
“Versification,” he says, “in a dead language, is an exotic, a far-fetched, costly, sickly imitation of that which elsewhere may be found in healthful and spontaneous per
The soils on which this rarity flourishes are, in
general, as ill suited to the production of vigorous native
poetry, as the flower-pots of a hothouse to the growth of
oaks. That the author of the Paradise Lost should have
written the epistle to Manso was truly wonderful. Never
before were such marked originality and such exquisite
mimicry found together. Indeed, in all the Latin poems of
Milton, the artificial manner, indispensable to such works,
is admirably preserved, while, at the same time, the rich-
ness of his fancy, and the elevation of his sentiments, give
to them a peculiar charm, an air of nobleness and freedom,
which distinguishes them from all other writings of the
same class. They remind us of the amusements of those
angelic warriors who composed the cohort of Gabriel,
‘About him exercised heroic games
The unarmed youth of heaven. But o'er their heads
Celestial armoury, shield, helm, and spear,
Hung bright with diamond flaming and with gold.'
We cannot look upon the sportive exercises for which the
genius of Milton ungirds itself, without catching a glimpse
of the gorgeous and terrible panoply which it is accustomed
to wear. The strength of his imagination triumphed over
every obstacle. So intense and ardent was the fire of his
mind, that it not only was not suffocated beneath the weight
of its fuel, but penetrated the whole superincumbent mass
with its own heat and radiance.”
xILTON CONTEMPLATES THE PRODUCTION OF AN EPIC POEM-VISITs GALILEO-RETURNS TO ENGLAND-NOTICE OF DR. JoHNSON's DISPARAGING REMARKs — MILTON's JUSTIFICATION OF HIMs ELF— PUBLISHEs His TREATIs E “of REFORMATION IN ENGLAND”—ANALYSIS OF THE WORK-NOBLE INWOCATION AT THE CLOSE.
To explain some of the allusions to early British history which the epistle to Manso contains, and to manifest the further development of the great idea in Milton's bosom, it is necessary to anticipate chronology, and to have recourse to his own description of his state of mind at this time, as given in his “Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy,” published in 1641. “I must say, therefore,” he commences, “that after I had, for my first years, by the ceaseless diligence and care of my father (whom God recompense!) been exercised to the tongues, and some sciences, as my age would suffer, by sundry masters and teachers, both at home and at the schools, it was found that, whether aught was imposed by them that had the overlooking, or betaken to of mine own choice, in English, or other tongue, prosing, or versing, but chiefly by this latter, the style, by certain vital signs it had, was likely to live.” Then, having referred to his Italian encomiasts, he adds, “I began thus far to assent both to them and divers of my friends here at home, and not less to an inward prompting which now grew daily upon me, that by