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first, a serio-comic discourse, in Latin prose, on the theme "that sportive exercises on occasion are not inconsistent with the studies of Philosophy;" secondly, a more expressly comic harangue, also in Latin prose, in which he assumes the character of Father of the meeting, addresses his sons jocularly, and leads off the orgy; and, thirdly, a conclusion in English, partly verse and partly prose, consisting of dramatic speeches:—(1) In the opening Latin discourse, besides an interesting discussion of the theme selected, we have Milton thanking his fellow-collegians for the honour done him in making him president on the occasion-an honour which he appreciates the more because he had had reason to fancy that until now he had not been altogether popular with the majority of them. We have also an expression of his exultation, and yet his diffidence, in finding himself in so conspicuous a place in an assembly of "so many men eminent for erudition, and nearly the whole University." (2) In the middle part, or Latin comic harangue, we have, amid many coarse jocosities, and personal allusions to individual fellow-students not now intelligible, the following passage explanatory of what is to follow: "I turn me, "therefore, as Father, to my sons, of whom I behold a goodly "number; and I see too that the mischievous little rogues " acknowledge me to be their father by secretly bobbing their "heads. Do you ask what are to be their names? I will not, "by taking the names of dishes, give my sons to be eaten by "you, for that would be too much akin to the ferocity of Tan"talus and Lycaon; nor will I designate them by the names of

parts of the body, lest you should think that I had begotten so

many bits of men instead of whole men; nor is it my pleasure "to call them after the kinds of wine, lest what I should say "should be not according to Bacchus. I wish them to be named

according to the number of the Predicaments, that so I may 66 express their distinguished birth and their liberal manner of life." The meaning of which passage seems to be that it was the custom at such meetings for the "Father" to confer nicknames for the nonce on such of his fellow-students as were more particularly associated with him as his "sons," and, as such, had perhaps to take a prominent part, under him, in the proceedings; and that Milton, instead of following old practice, and calling his sons by



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such rigmarole names as Beef, Mutton, Pork, &c. (names of dishes), or Head, Neck, Breast, &c. (names of parts of the body), or Sack, Rhenish, Sherris, &c. (names of wines), proposed to call them after the famous Ten Predicaments or Categories of Aristotle. These Predicaments or Categories-i.e. varieties of cogitable existence, or different heads under one or other of which everything must fall that can be made an object of thought or predication by man at all—were all regarded as subdivisions of the one supreme category of ENS or BEING. First ENS was subdivided into the two general categories of Ens per se or Substance, and Ens per accidens or Accident. By farther divisions and subdivisions, however, Accident was made to split itself into nine subordinate categories—Quantity, Quality, Relation, Action, Passion, Place where, Time when, Posture, and Habit. Prefix to these nine categories, developed out of Accident, the one unbroken category of Substance, and you have the Ten Aristotelian Categories or Predicaments, once so famous in the schools. What Milton said, therefore, was virtually this-I, as Father, choose to represent myself as ENS or Being in general, undivided Being; and you, my sons, Messrs. So and So and So and So (to wit, certain students of Christ's acting along with Milton in the farce), are to regard yourselves as respectively Substance, Quantity, Quality, Relation, Action, Passion, Place, Time, Posture, and Habit. Thus I have assigned you your parts in what is to follow of our proceedings. (3) We have here, then, the key to the dramatic speeches in English with which Milton's address was wound up. After apologizing for having detained the audience so long with his Latin harangue, he announces that he is about to break the University statutes (which ordained that all academic discourses, &c., should be in the learned tongues) by "running across" from Latin to English. At this point, therefore, he suddenly exclaims

"Hail! native language, that by sinews weak

Didst move my first endeavouring tongue to speak,
And mad'st," &c.

He continues this episodic address to his native speech through a goodly number of lines, but then remembers that it is a divergence from the business in hand, and that his Sons are waiting to hear him speak in the character of ENS.

Accordingly, he


does speak in this character, calling up the eldest of his ten sons, Substance, and addressing him in fit terms. Whether Substance made any reply we are not informed; but the next two Predicaments, Quantity and Quality, did speak in their turn-not in verse, however, but in prose. It seems most natural to conclude that these speeches were made by the students of Christ's who represented the Predicaments in question-Milton himself only speaking in his paramount character as ENs. In this character, at all events, he finally calls "by name on the student who represented the fourth category—i.e. Relation; and with this speech of ENS to Relation, the fragment, as we now have it, abruptly ends. "The rest was prose," we are informed—i. e. whatever was said by Relation, and to or by the six remaining Predicaments, was said in prose and has not been preserved. For some farther elucidations, especially as to the particular fellow-student of Milton at Christ's who represented Relation, see our notes on the fragment.

This is a somewhat long introduction to so brief a piece. But the piece is so curious in its kind, and has remained so obscure hitherto, that the introduction seems necessary. Let the reader observe, in conclusion, how it happened that the piece came to be detached from the Latin Prolusio with which it originally stood in context. There can be no doubt that, though the volume containing the Epistola Familiares and the Prolusiones Oratoria bears date 1674, the printing of the volume had begun in 1673, when Milton had also at press the second edition of his Minor Poems. Milton, we can see, was engaged with this edition of his poems when the publisher Aylmer, brought to a stop in the other volume by the impossibility of adding, as originally intended, the "Letters of State" to the "Familiar Letters," applied to him through a friend for something else that might fill up the blank. Searching among his papers, to oblige Aylmer, he finds his old College Prolusiones Oratoria; and these he makes over to Aylmer, with but one exception. The exception is that he clips off from the sixth Prolusio its English ending, preferring to insert it, because it is English and mainly in verse, in the edition of his Poems then being brought out by another publisher. Being too late, however,

to insert it in its proper chronological place in the volume, i. e. at p. 21, he inserts it at p. 64, remedying the mischance by a direction among the Errata. Convenient as this arrangement may have seemed to Milton, the dissociation of the English fragment from the Latin prose essay to which it originally belonged has been the chief cause why the fragment has been such a puzzle to modern readers.


(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)

This magnificent ode, called by Hallam "perhaps the finest in the English language," was composed, as we learn from Milton's own heading of it in the edition of 1645, in the year 1629. Milton was then twenty-one years of age, in his sixth academic year at Cambridge, and a B.A. of a year's standing. There is an interesting allusion to the ode by Milton himself, when he was in the act of composing it, in the sixth of his Latin elegies. In that elegy, addressed to his friend Charles Diodati, residing in the country, in answer to a metrical epistle which Diodati had sent to him on the 13th of December, 1629, there occurs the following passage :—

"At tu siquid agam scitabere (si modo saltem
Esse putas tanti noscere si quid agam).
Paciferum canimus cælesti semine regem,

Faustaque sacratis secula pacta libris ;
Vagitumque Dei, et stabulantem paupere tecto
Qui suprema suo cum patre regna colit;
Stelliparumque polum, modulantesque æthere turmas,

Et subito elisos ad sua fana deos.

Dona quidem dedimus Christi natalibus illa;

Illa sub auroram lux mihi prima tulit.

Te quoque pressa manent patriis meditata cicutis;;
Tu mihi cui recitem judicis instar eris,"

Here we have a distinct description of the Ode on the Nativity, as then finished or nearly so, and ready to be shown to Diodati, together with the express information that it was begun on Christmas-day 1629-information according with that given in the first line of the ode itself:

"This is the month and this the happy morn."

No farther introduction to the poem is here necessary, unless we may bid the reader note particularly the treatment of the gods of the heathen mythology in the closing stanzas of the "Hymn." It is curious to observe how Milton's imagination was possessed thus early with an idea afterwards so fully developed in his Paradise Lost-that of the identity of the gods of the heathen Religions with the devils, or degraded angels, of the Bible, thrust down into Hell after their rebellion, but permitted, after man's Fall, to leave their "infernal jail" and range the upper Earth, in the false guise of gods, till the full coming of Christ.


(Editions of 1645 and 1673; and early Draft, in Milton's own hand, among the Cambridge MSS.)

Having, in the Ode on the Nativity, celebrated the birth of Christ, Milton seems to have intended this little piece, "Upon the Circumcision," as a sequel. This appears from the opening lines, in which distinct allusion is made to the Nativity. We may therefore, with great probability, suppose the piece to have been written on or about the Feast of the Circumcision following the Christmas of the previous ode-i. e. Jan. 1, 1629-30.


(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)

This piece, also, as the opening stanza implies, grew out of the Ode on the Nativity, and is a kind of sequel to it. It was probably written for Easter 1630. It is but the fragment of an intended larger poem, for which, after he had proceeded so far, he thought his powers unequal.


(Editions of 1645 and 1673; and early Draft, in Milton's own hand, among the Cambridge MSS.)

In the draft of this little piece, in Milton's own hand, among the Cambridge MSS., the title is given more at length thus: On

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