Imágenes de páginas

became a scrivener or attorney, and married Sarah Caston, whose family was related to the Bradshaws and the Haughtons. By her he had a daughter, Anne, and two sons, John and Christopher. Christopher, the younger, was a royalist; became one of the barons of the Exchequer, and a judge of the Common Pleas under James II.; and died in obscurity, having been dismissed from his office shortly after or before the revolution of 1688. John, the elder, was a republican, and died unnoticed, like his brother; but a very different cause removed him from the public gaze. To him may be applied what he says of the holy hill in heaven, that it was not seen because it was obscured by excess of light.

Milton's father was fond of the arts. He composed an In nomine for forty parts, and some old airs by him are preserved in Wilby's collection. Apollo, dividing his gifts between the father and the son, had bestowed music on the one and poesy on the other.

Dividuumque deum genitorque puerque tenemus.
Milto ad Patrem.

Between us we receive,

Father and son, the whole inspiring god*.

This and the following poetical quotations from Milton's Latin and Italian poems, are borrowed from the version of Cowper.-Translator.

The father was probably born in France. His immortal son came into the world on the 9th of December, 1608, in Bread-street, in the city of London, at the sign of the Spread Eagle, an omen and an emblem. Shakspeare was still living. Milton received his first instruction at home, in the shade of the tomb of that great uncultivated genius. His domestic tutor was Thomas Young, who was compelled to quit his country on account of religious opinions; when his pupil was placed at St. Paul's school, under the care of Alexander Gill. His intense application to study brought on him at an early age, violent pains in the head, and great weakness of sight-constitutional ailments, the germ of which he had received from his mother. At seventeen he was removed to Christ College, Cambridge, and placed under the care of the learned William Chapel, afterwards bishop of Cork and Ross, in Ireland. His handsome person gained him the appellation of "the Lady of Christ's College”—an appellation which he complacently calls to mind in one of his addresses to the University. He furnished evidence of his poetic talents in several Latin compositions and paraphrases of the Psalms in English. The hymn on the Nativity, in particular, is admirable for its rhythm and its unexpected effect.

"It was the winter wild,

While the heav'n-born child

All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies; Nature, in awe to him,

Had dofft her gaudy trim,

With her great Master so to sympathise:

It was no season then for her

To wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour.

Only with speeches fair

She woos the gentle air,

To hide her guilty front with innocent show;

And, on her naked shame,

Pollute with sinful blame,

The saintly veil of maiden white to throw.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The idle spear and shield were high up hung; The hooked chariot stood

Unstained with hostile blood,

The trumpet spake not to the armed throng,

And kings sat still with awful eye,

As if they surely knew their sov'reign Lord was by.

But peaceful was the night,

Wherein the Prince of Light

His reign of peace upon the earth began:

The winds, with wonder whist,

Smoothly the waters kist,

Whisp'ring new joys to the mild ocean,

Who now hath quite forgot to rave,

While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.

The stars, with deep amaze,

Stand fixed in stedfast gaze,

Bending one way their precious influence;

And will not take their flight,

For all the morning light,

Or Lucifer, that often warn'd them thence;

But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
Until their Lord himself bespake and bid them go."

Having taken his degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1628, and Master in 1632, Milton left Cambridge, and refused, from a feeling of independence, to enter into the church, as he went to the University with the intention of doing. "Whoso taketh orders," said he, "must subscribe slave, and take an oath withal, which, unless he take with a conscience that can retch, he must straight perjure himself."

Some passages in his first Latin elegy, in which he appears to prefer the pleasures of London to the discomforts of Cambridge, furnished occasion for calumnies which were afterwards circulated concerning him; he was charged with having been vomited forth by the University after an inordinate and riotous youth: and it is asserted in pamphlets that he was obliged to go abroad and hide himself in Italy. Johnson is of opinion that Milton was "the last student in either University that suffered the public indignity of corporal punishment." In all this there is no truth whatever; nay, it is at variance with the dates of a life not less correct than religious.


MILTON's father, having amassed a small fortune, had retired into the country, to Horton, near Colebrooke, in Buckinghamshire. Milton returned to him there, and spent five years absorbed in the study of the Greek and Latin authors. From time to time he made excursions to London, to purchase books, and to take lessons in mathematics, fencing, and music.

To a friend who reproached him for secluding himself from the world, he thus wrote:

"Yet if you thinke that too much love of learning is in fault, and that I have given myselfe to dreame away my years in the arms of a studious retirement, like Endymion with the moon on Latmus hill; yet, consider that, if it were no more but this to overcome this, there is on the other side both ill more bewitchful to entice away, and natural years more swaying, and good more available to withdraw to that you wish me: as

« AnteriorContinuar »