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INTRODUCTIONS TO THE POEMS
The Poems divide themselves in this edition, as in Milton's own editions, into two sets :-The English POEMS (with which go five Italian Sonnets and one Italian Canzone); and THE LATIN POEMS (with which go three scraps of Greek). We shall divide our Introductions to the Poems correspondingly into two Parts, as follows:
PART I.-THE ENGLISH POEMS.
PART II. THE LATIN POEMS.
INTRODUCTIONS TO THE POEMS
THE ENGLISH POEMS.
THE following is the order of the English Poems as published by Milton himself in the editions of 1645 and 1673, an asterisk being prefixed to those which appeared first in the later edition :
"ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY," with "THE HYMN." "A PARAPHRASE ON PSALM CXIV."
"A PARAPHRASE ON PSALM CXXXVI."
* ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT DYING OF A COUGH."
"UPON THE CIRCUMCISION."
66 AT A SOLEMN MUSIC."
"AN EPITAPH ON THE MARCHIONESS OF Winchester."
"SONG ON MAY MORNING."
"ON THE UNIVERSITY CARRIER."
"ANOTHER ON THE SAME.
V. "Per certo."
VII. "How soon hath Time."
* "THE FIFTH ODE OF HORACE, Lib. I., ENGLISHED.”
*" AT A VACATION EXERCISE IN THE COLLEGE."
"ON THE NEW FORCERS OF CONSCIENCE UNDER THE LONG PARLIA
COMUS: "A Mask presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634.”
* TRANSLATIONS OF PSALMS I.-VIII.
* TRANSLATIONS OF PSALMS LXXX.-LXXXVIII.
English pieces which did not appear in either of Milton's own editions of his Poems, but have been added in later editions, to complete the collection, are the following:
Four SONNETS :
Sonnet to Fairfax, beginning "Fairfax, whose name.
Second Sonnet to Cyriack Skinner, beginning "Cyriack, this threeyears'-day."
SCRAPS OF Verse from the Prose PAMPHLETS.
It is difficult to see on what principle Milton arranged the English pieces in his editions of 1645 and 1673. In some degree, however, he attended to chronological order, making the more juvenile pieces, on the whole, precede the later. For example, though the piece At a Vacation Exercise in the College, which is one of the interpolations in the second edition, actually occupies pp. 64-68 of that edition, there is a statement in the "Errata" to the effect that it is out of its place there, and should have followed immediately after the Elegy On the Death of a Fair Infant, which ends at p. 21. The association thus signified in Milton's mind
between the two pieces is clearly one of time: both pieces belonging to his Cambridge days. And, on the whole, though in neither edition is the chronological principle of arrangement paramount, one can see that a subordinate respect is paid to it. The state of the case may be described by saying that in both editions we see a tendency to the chronological arrangement, interfered with by such motives as might induce an author or a publisher to depart from it in bringing out a volume of poems. There was the desire, for example, to open the volume, not with a slight piece, but with a poem, like that on the Nativity, giving a sufficient foretaste of the author's quality; and there was care also to give due mechanical prominence in the sequel to such considerable poems as Lycidas and Comus.
As these reasons, however, need not actuate an editor of Milton now, and as a reprint of the poems in the exact order of the edition of 1673 would on other grounds be confusing, it seems desirable, in an edition like the present, to adopt throughout that chronological principle of arrangement which Milton did to some extent mark with his approval. For all purposes of a study of Milton this principle is the best, and for no purpose is it inconvenient. As far as may be, accordingly, the arrangement of the minor English poems in this volume is chronological. The deviations are where certain of the poems go naturally in groups. Thus, instead of scattering the SONNETS through the rest of the poems by placing each particular Sonnet in its own chronological niche, it has been deemed best to keep all the Sonnets together, arranged chronologically in their series. For a similar reason the ARCADES and COMUS are brought close together.
We shall now enumerate and introduce the English Poems successively as they stand in this edition :
PARAPHRASES ON PSALMS CXIV. AND CXXXVI.
(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)
These were done, as the author himself takes care to tell us, "at fifteen years old ”—¿. e. in 1624. They are, in fact, the only specimens now extant of Milton's muse before he went to Cambridge. They are the relics, doubtless, of a little collection
of boyish performances, now lost, with which he amused himself, and perhaps pleased his father and his teachers, when he lived in his father's house in Bread Street, Cheapside, and attended the neighbouring school of St. Paul's. They prove him to have been even then a careful reader of contemporary English poetry, and, in particular, of Spenser, and of Sylvester's quaint and oldfashioned, but richly poetical, translation of Du Bartas.
Du Bartas, or, to give his name more fully, Guillaume de Salluste, Sieur du Bartas, was a French Protestant soldier and poet (born 1544, died 1590). His great work, left unfinished, was a religious Poem, consisting first of a Description of the Seven Days of Creation, founded on the account of creation in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis, and then of a narrative of Biblical History, from Adam onwards, arranged in seven metaphorical Days, to correspond with the Seven Days of the creative week. It was immensely popular abroad both before and after the author's death, and was translated into many languages. The English translator was Joshua Sylvester (1563-1618), an English Puritan poet of some note by his own writings, who came to be called "Silver-tongued Sylvester." He began the translation of Du Bartas about 1590, and finished it in 1605, when it was published under the title of Du Bartas: His Divine Weekes and Workes. The book, which was published by Humphrey Lownes, a well-known printer of Bread Street Hill, close to Milton's father's house, was as popular in England as the original was on the Continent. It went through several editions while Sylvester lived, and almost every pious English household of literary tastes possessed a copy. Dryden tells us that even in his boyhood (about 1650) Sylvester's Du Bartas remained a favourite; and Milton's acquaintance with the same book thirty years earlier cannot be doubted. It was first distinctly argued, however, by the Rev. Charles Dunster, in his Considerations on Milton's Early Reading, published in 1800.
Sylvester's Du Bartas, with all its poetical richness, is a book of quaint, and often uncouth and absurd, taste. But young Milton had a corrective in Spenser. His early familiarity with Spenser might be presumed from the fact that, from Spenser's death in 1599, on for fifty years, the Spenserian influence was all-dominant