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Milton's prediction was very speedily fulfilled. months after Young had received the Elegy, he returned to England; and on the 27th of March 1628, being then about forty years of age, he was inducted into the united Vicarages of St. Peter and St. Mary in Stowmarket, Suffolk. The living was a good one, and he is said to have been indebted for it to the influence of a Mr. John Howe, of Stowmarket, one of a wealthy family of cloth-manufacturers. He had not been four months in his Vicarage at Stowmarket at the date of a second letter to him from Milton, preserved among the Latin Familiar Epistles. It is dated "Cambridge, July 21, 1628," and shows that Milton and he must again have come together since his return to England. Young had invited Milton to come and see him at Stowmarket, and Milton accepts the invitation and promises to come soon. Accordingly, the tradition at Stowmarket to this day is that Milton was a frequent visitor to Young during his incumbency; and they point out, if not the room which he occupied in the Vicarage, at least the old mulberry-tree in the garden which they will have it that he planted, and which we may grant that he may have seen.
Young's incumbency at Stowmarket lasted all the rest of his life. But he was destined to a wider celebrity than attached merely to that incumbency. As he was of strict Puritan principles, it is difficult to imagine how he continued to tide through the time of the Laudian supremacy in the Church and State (1628—1640), during which Laud and his subordinate diocesans were so zealous in calling to account parish ministers of too Calvinistic doctrine, or too Puritanical in their dislike of vestments and ceremonies. Luck or prudence did carry him through, however; so that, at the close of Laud's supremacy, and the beginning of a new era for England with the Long Parliament (Nov. 1640), he was still Vicar of Stowmarket. During the two preceding years he had been sympathising with his fellow-countrymen, the Scots, in their Covenant, and their struggles against Laud and Charles; and in 1639 he had published a treatise in Latin entitled Dies Dominica, and consisting of a defence of the Puritan idea of the Sabbath-day and its proper observance. He had published this treatise all but anonymously, signing himself, in the preface,
only Theophilus Philo-Kuriaces Loncardiensis; which may be made out now to mean "Theophilus Church-lover (or Lover of the Lord's Day), native of Luncarty," but which cannot have been very intelligible then. He was probably known as the author, however, and otherwise distinguished among the Puritan parish clergy; for, after the meeting of the Long Parliament, he is found coming decidedly to the front among the advocates of a radical Church Reform. In conjunction with four other parish ministers of noted Puritan principles-viz. Stephen Marshal, Edmund Calamy, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurstow-he wrote the famous Smectymnuan Pamphlet, or Treatise by SMECTYMNUUS (a grotesque fancy-name composed of the initials of the five writers), in reply to Bishop Joseph Hall's defences of Episcopacy and of the English Liturgy. Of this Smectymnuan treatise, which was published in 1641, and was the first loud manifesto of Anti-Episcopal opinions within the Church itself, Young, it is now known, was the principal author. As Hall replied, and the Smectymnuans replied again, the controversy prolonged itself through a series of pamphlets, all now regarded as belonging to the Smectymnuan set, and two of which ("Animadversions on the Remonstrant's Defence against Smectymnuus," and "An Apology against a Pamphlet called a Modest Confutation of the Animadversions") were from Milton's own pen. He had been in Young's confidence from the beginning of the controversy, and had thought it right at last to plunge in personally to the rescue of Young and his brother Smectymnuans.
It is doubtful whether the cordial intimacy between Milton and Young which this co-operation indicates lasted much beyond those years, 1641-42, when the Smectymnuan controversy raged. Milton's subsequent Divorce Speculations, and his rupture with the Presbyterians, may have interfered with their intimacy, though not with their mutual regard. For Young was one of the divines of the Westminster Assembly, and went wholly with the great majority of that body in their aims towards the establishment in England of a strict Presbyterian system like that of Scotland. By this time he was so conspicuous a person that the Scots remembered he was their countryman, and would fain have induced him to return to Scotland by the offer of some suitable
post. But England could outbid Scotland for him, and retained him to the end. In 1644, when the University of Cambridge was visited by Parliamentary authority and refractory Heads of Houses and Fellows were turned out, and their places filled with new men, Young was appointed to the Mastership of Jesus College, in place of the ultra-Royalist and Laudian Dr. Richard Sterne. On the 12th of April in that year he was incorporated in the University ad eundem,-.e. to the same degree of M.A. which he had taken at St. Andrews nearly forty years before. On the 28th of February 1644-5 he preached a Fast-day Sermon before the House of Commons, which was published under the title of Hope's Encouragement. He lived for ten years longer, holding his Mastership of Jesus College in conjunction with his Vicarship of Stowmarket, and honoured as D.D. and otherwise. He died in 1655 at Stowmarket, at the age of about sixty-seven, and was there buried. A portrait of him, which was kept in the Vicarage, is still extant, and I have seen a photograph from it, exhibiting, through the blur of age that had come over the original, a really powerful, calm, and well-featured face.1
Anno ætatis 20.
In Adventum Veris.
(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)
This Elegy is of a general poetic nature, and requires little introduction. It is dated by Milton "Anno ætatis 20;" which, according to his habit (see Introductions to Elegia Secunda and Elegia Tertia), has to be translated "At twenty years of age." The Elegy, therefore, may be referred to the early part of 1629, when Milton had just taken his B.A. degree at Cambridge. Bachelor-like, he exults in the arrival of Spring, hailing the glad season of Nature's renewal in a poem which may be described
1 I owe the sight of this photograph to Mr. David Laing, of the Signet Library, Edinburgh; who, while I write, is about to add to his already numerous publications, so richly and accurately illustrative of Scottish and English History, a special memoir of Milton's preceptor, Thomas Young.
as a laborious Latin amplification of the sentiment of Tennyson's lines:
"In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
Ad Carolum Diodatum, ruri commorantem.
(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)
Of the above heading there is this extension in the original: “qui, cum Idibus Decemb. scripsisset, et sua carmina excusari postulasset si solito minus essent bona, quod inter lautitias quibus erat ab amicis exceptus haud satis felicem operam Musis dare se posse affirmabat, hunc habuit responsum." That is to say, the Elegy was an epistle sent by Milton to his friend Charles Diodati, in reply to a metrical letter from Diodati, dated the Ides of December, in which Diodati, then staying in the country, had asked Milton to excuse his verses if they were not so good as usual, on the ground that the friends among whom he was staying were treating him so hospitably that he had no leisure for careful composition. Though the exact day of Diodati's letter is here given, the year is not. It was, however, the year 1629. Diodati's letter was dated the 13th of December 1629, and Milton's Elegy in reply was written about Christmas in that year.
The life of Diodati, and the history of Milton's friendship with him, as far as to the year 1626, have been sketched in the Introduction to the Elegia Prima. Three years had elapsed since then, and th two friends had been pursuing their separate courses— Diodati with the medical profession in prospect, but retaining his connexion with Oxford, where he graduated M.A. in July 1628, and Milton persevering at Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in Jan. 1628-9. But their friendship was firm as ever, and they may have had meetings in the interval. One such meeting, of more than ordinary interest to both, may have been at Cambridge in July 1629; for I find that Diodati, though then an Oxford M.A. of but one year's standing, was incorporated ad eundem at Cambridge in the July Commencement of that year. So early an
incorporation of an Oxonian in the sister University was unusual, and I seem to see in the fact an arrangement between the two friends.
The heading of the Elegy tells the rest. The sprightly, quickwitted Italian had gone again into the country, either to the neighbourhood of Chester, as on the occasion of the First Elegy, or to some other part of England. There, in some pleasant country-mansion, and among pleasant and hospitable friends, he is having a delightful winter holiday. It is but the 13th of December, but they are making Christmas of it already-good cheer, blazing fires, wine, music, dancing, games of forfeits, &c. So Diodati informs Milton, pleading these festivities in excuse for neglect of Poetry. The reply is very characteristic. After messages of affection, Milton playfully objects to Diodati's excuse, and maintains that festivity and poetry, Bacchus and Song, Venus and Song, are naturally kin and always have gone together. Suddenly, however, in this vein he checks himself. What he has said is true, he explains, only of certain kinds of poetry, and certain orders of poets. For the greatest poetry there must be a different regimen. For those who would speak of high matters, the deeds of heroes and the counsels of the gods, for those whose poetry would rise to the prophetic strain, not wine and conviviality were fitted, but spare Pythagorean diet, the beechen bowl of pure water, a life even ascetic in its abstinence, and scrupulously pure. This is an eminently Miltonic idea, perhaps pre-eminently the Miltonic idea; and it occurs again and again in Milton's writings. Nowhere, however, is it more finely expressed than in the passage in this Elegy beginning "At qui bella refert" and ending "ora Jovem " (lines 55-78). These twenty-four lines are about Milton's noblest in Latin, and deserve to be learnt by heart with reference to himself, or to be written under his portrait. They give a value to the whole Elegy. The lines that follow them, however (79-90), have also a peculiar interest. They inform us that, at the very time when Milton was writing this Elegy to Diodati, he was engaged on his English Ode "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity." He had begun it, he says, on Christmas-day, and he promises to show it to Diodati. As the Ode, in its place among the English Poems in Milton's First Edition, is dated " 1629," this fixes the date of the Elegy.