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unwearied persistence in producing, an evolution on and on, until the sudden end of all in predestined crash and conflagration. The verses being in this strain, we are led to think that the Philosophical Thesis which they were written to illustrate must have been some form of the same proposition. It is certainly known, at all events, that a question much debated in the speculative world of England about 1628 was the question whether there were signs of decay in Nature, whether the Present were necessarily inferior to the Past, or whether endurance, or even general progressiveness and improvement, might not be the rule. Bacon's influence, opposed as it was to that abject reverence for antiquity which had prevailed since the Revival of Letters, had given an impulse to what was still perhaps the heterodox sentiment, namely faith in the present and in the future. But a more recent contribution expressly on the same side of the question had been a work by Dr. George Hakewill, Archdeacon of Surrey, published at Oxford in 1627 under the title "Apologie of the Power and Providence of God in the Government of the World; or an Examination and Censure of the common Error touching Nature's perpetual and universal Decay." The motto prefixed to the book was the text, Eccl. vii. 10, “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this ;" and the work throughout is an. able argument, though in a rather old style, against the notion of a gradual degeneracy in Nature. The book appears to have produced a great impression, most of the older men standing out for the Past and for Nature's degeneracy, but the younger spirits and some of the older taking part with Hakewill; and perhaps the subject of the Cambridge Philosophical Act of 1628 was some form of Hakewill's thesis.
DE IDEA PLATONICA QUEMADMODUM ARISTOTELES INTELLEXIT. (Editions of 1645 and 1673.)
This is, clearly, also an academic exercise; but in which year of Milton's residence at Cambridge it was written, and for what occasion, I cannot determine. Warton tells us that he had found it "inserted at full length, as a specimen of unintelligible meta
physics," in a scarce book of burlesques published about the year 1716. But the poem, though metaphysical, and with an intentional touch of the burlesque in it, is quite intelligible, and really interesting. It answers exactly to its title, "On the Platonic Idea as understood by Aristotle." That is to say, with an evident admiration of Plato, and an imaginative sympathy with his doctrine of an eternal Idea or Archetype, one and universal, according to which Man was formed, and which reproduces itself in men's minds and thoughts, it yet shows how, by a too physical or too coldly rational construction of this doctrine, it may be turned into burlesque. Where shall that famous personage, the Idea or Archetype, be sought, or who has ever been. able to lay salt on his tail? Is he among the stars, or is he in the moon, or does he slumber somewhere in the under-world, or does he walk the earth somewhere as some huge giant? Well, really, if this imaginary and uncatchable monster, which the Aristotelians were fond of figuring as Plato's Idea or Archetype, was to be considered the Idea or Archetype of Plato's own teaching, all that one could say was that Plato must either recall Poets into his Republic, as being himself the biggest fabler of all, or else leave his Republic to get on without Plato!
(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)
These Hexameters are undated, but their date is hinted by their meaning. They are an affectionate address to the poet's father, apparently in reply to some mild remarks of the father on the subject of the son's dedication of himself to a life of mere Poetry and Literature, and not, as had been hoped, to one of the professions. They were written, therefore, after Milton had left Cambridge, and had begun his secluded life of study at his father's country-place at Horton in Buckinghamshire. In lines 73-76 the reference to Horton seems to be distinct.
Milton's father was himself an excellent and interesting man. He was from the neighbourhood of Oxford, where a Roman Catholic family of Miltons, the poet's ancestors, are found living, in the rank of yeomen, from about 1550 onwards. One of the
family, Richard Milton, of Stanton St. John's, yeoman, was very resolute in his adherence to the old Religion, and is mentioned twice in the Recusant Rolls for Oxfordshire as among those who were heavily fined towards the end of Elizabeth's reign (1601) for obstinate non-attendance at their parish churches. He was the poet's grandfather, one of his sons, John Milton, being the poet's father. This John Milton, who became a Protestant, and is said to have been cast off by his father on that account, had settled in London, and was in business there as a scrivener, before the above-mentioned date of his father's fines for recusancy. He was admitted to the freedom of the Company of Scriveners in Feb. 1599-1600, having previously for some time been apprentice to a scrivener named Colbron. Mr. Hyde Clarke, by whose researches these facts were ascertained (Athenæum of March 19, 1859), concludes that he cannot have been then much over twenty-one years of age, the usual age of the termination of apprenticeship in those days, and therefore that the tradition, through Aubrey, which would refer his birth to about 1563, makes him sixteen years older than he really was. The business of a scrivener in Old London was an important, and sometimes a lucrative, one. It consisted in the drawing up of wills, marriage settlements, and other deeds, the lending out of money for clients, and much else now done partly by attorneys and partly by law-stationers. The house of the new scrivener, John Milton, which was also his place of business, was the Spread Eagle in Bread Street, Cheapside, in the very heart of London. Though the Great Fire of 1666 swept away old Bread Street, the exact site of the house may yet be pointed out in the present Bread Street. There the scrivener married, probably in 1600, and there his children were born. They were six in all; of whom only three survived to maturity-the eldest, a daughter Anne, afterwards Mrs. Phillips, and again, by a second marriage, Mrs. Agar; John Milton, the poet, born Dec. 9, 1608; and Christopher Milton, afterwards Sir Christopher Milton and a judge, born Dec. 3, 1615. The household in Bread Street seems to have been a peculiarly peaceful and happy one, with a tone of pious Puritanism prevailing in it, but with the liberal cheerfulness belonging to prosperous circumstances and to ingenious and
cultivated tastes. For one thing, music was perpetual in it. The scrivener was not only passionately fond of music, but even of such note as a composer that, apart altogether from the great fame of his son, some memory of him might have lingered among us to this day. Madrigals, songs, and psalm-tunes of his composition are to be seen yet in music-books published before his son was born, or while he was but in his boyhood, and not in mere inferior music-books, but in collections in which Morley, Wilbye, Bull, Dowland, Ellis Gibbons, Orlando Gibbons, and others of the best artists of the day, were his fellow-contributors. Thus in the Triumphes of Oriana, a collection of madrigals in honour of Queen Elizabeth, published in 1601, one of the pieces is Milton's; in the Teares and Lamentations of a Sorrowfull Soule, a collection of sacred songs, edited in 1614 by Sir William Leighton, Knight, three of the songs are to Milton's music; and, in Ravenscroft's Whole Book of Psalmes, a compendium of Church-music published in 1621, the two tunes called "Norwich" and "York" are of Milton's composition. As York tune is a favourite to this day, there may be said to remain, through it, some direct thrill from the spirit of Milton's father in the English air. But what music round about himself while he lived! There must have been frequent musical evenings, with one or more musical acquaintances present, in the house in Bread Street; books of music and musical instruments were parts of its furniture; and the young poet was taught by his father both to sing and to play the organ. But the scrivener's designs for his children went beyond their mere training in his own art. It was his care to give them the best education possible, and to grudge nothing of his means towards that end. From the first there is proof that his heart was bound up in his son John, and that he had conceived the highest expectations of what that son would turn out to be. A portrait of the poet, as a sweet, serious, round-headed boy, at the age of ten, still exists, which his father caused to be done by the foreign painter then most in fashion, and which hung on the wall of one of the rooms in the house in Bread Street. Both father and mother doted on the boy and were proud of his promise. And so, after the most careful tuition of the boy at home, by his Scottish preceptor Young (see antè, p. 330), and his farther training by the two Gills
at St. Paul's School, close to Bread Street (see antè, p. 331), he was sent to Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1625, whither his younger brother, Christopher, followed him in Feb. 1630-31. The expense of maintaining two sons at Cambridge was considerable, and proves that the scrivener must have succeeded well in his business.
That the scrivener's business had been a flourishing one is farther proved by the fact that he was able to retire from it, in whole or in part, in or about 1632, to the country-house at Horton, which he either took then, or had already been in possession of for some time. Thither, in that year, his son, having completed his seven years at the University and taken his M.A. degree, went to reside with him. So far all his highest hopes of that son had been fulfilled. He was then twenty-three years of age; and what youth comparable to him had the University sent out-what youth of such fair grace of form, of such genius and accomplishments, of character so manly and noble? A second portrait of Milton, done in the time of his Cambridge studentship, when he was about twenty-one years of age, attests the continued pride in him of his father and mother. Only one thing a little troubled the elderly people, and particularly the father. This son of theirs, whom they had destined for the Church, had clearly and resolutely abjured that destination of himself as against his conscience; the profession of the Law, thought of for a moment, had also been set aside; and here he was back on their hands, with no clear line of life before him, such as other young men of his age had, but buried in books and lost in Poetry. Some remonstrances to this effect may have been expressed by the father; but, if so, they must have been in the mildest and most hesitating terms (for Milton, I fancy, had learnt to be master and more in his father's house). Or, without any such remonstrances, Milton may have divined what was passing in the minds of his parents and in their colloquies concerning him. And so, on some occasion when the subject had been broached, or it was strong in Milton's musings, he writes the poem Ad Patrem. The ex-scrivener had had a pretty good education himself, and could perhaps make out a bit of Latin at any time, if you did not hurry him.
One can fancy him reading this pleading of his son. Very