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the History of Venice by Justiniani? And what is Diodati doing? Is he crowing over his medical dignity? Is he troubling himself too much with family matters? Unless this step-motherly war is very bad indeed, worse than Dacian or Sarmatian, may not one hope to see him soon in winter quarters? (Nisi bellum hoc novercale vel Dacico vel Sarmatico infestius sit, debebis profecto maturare, ut ad nos saltem in hyberna concedas.) I can only construe this passage as implying that Diodati had recently received a step-mother, and was not much pleased with the acquisition. His father, Dr. Theodore Diodati, after having been some time a widower by the death of Diodati's mother, had married, as I understand, a second wife in his old age. The house of the old physician in Little St. Bartholomew's may not have been so pleasant, therefore, for his son Charles, when he came to town. Charles's brother, however, the younger Theodore, and also a physician, may have taken the matter more easily, or may have had a house of his own. He was in London, we learn from Milton's letters, while Charles was in the north.
Seven months after Milton had written these letters to Diodati, he went abroad on his Italian journey (April 1638). It is very possible that he and Diodati may have met in the interval, and talked over the intended tour. Diodati, as half an Italian, and acquainted with the Italian traditions and connexions of his family, may have had hints to give to Milton for his use abroad, or even letters of introduction. At all events, we find Milton, while abroad, thinking much of Diodati. He mentions expressly in his Defensio Secunda that, in the second two months he spent at Florence (March and April 1639) he found time for an excursion of "a few days" to Lucca, about forty miles distant; and I suspect that his main motive in the excursion was to see the town whence the Diodati family had derived their origin. Then, again, in one of the Five Italian Love Sonnets, written, as is generally believed, in the north of Italy, towards the end of Milton's Italian tour, we find Diodati directly addressed, and, as it were, taken, though absent, into his friend's confidence in the sudden love-incident that had befallen him (see Introd. to the Italian Sonnets). I feel sure that Milton talked of Diodati, his half-Italian friend at home, to the various groups of Italian wits
and literati in the midst of whom he found himself in the different Italian cities he visited, and especially to his acquaintances of the Florentine group, Gaddi, Dati, Frescobaldi, Coltellini, Chimentelli, Francini, and others. It is not a matter of fancy, but of actual information by Milton himself, that, as he parted from these groups of new friends, and took his way at length back from Italy, homewards, through Switzerland and France, it was with a kind of impatience to meet Diodati again, after so long an absence, so as to pour into his ear, in long sittings within-doors, or in walks together through English fields and country lanes, the connected story of all he had done and seen in the wondrous southern land of olives and myrtles, blue skies and soft winds, art and antiquities, poetry and beauty.
All the more terrible was the shock that awaited Milton. His friend Diodati was no longer alive. He had died very soon after Milton had left England, or in the summer of 1638, though no news of the fact had reached Milton till the Italian part of his tour was completed, or all but completed, and he was on his way back. The news did reach him while he was still on the Continent, and most probably at Geneva, in June 1639; for he tells us that, while there, on his return, he was much in the company of the celebrated theologian, Jean Diodati, the uncle of Charles Diodati (see Introd. to Elegia Prima), and it is natural to suppose that the uncle had heard of his nephew's death. Not till Milton was in England, however, did he fully ascertain the particulars. Of these he might be informed by Diodati's father, old Dr. Theodore, or by the surviving brother, young Dr. Theodore. Whatever they were, they impressed Milton greatly. For some time he seems to have gone about, between London and Horton, thinking of little else than Charles Diodati's death. His return to England, his reminiscences of Italy and all the delights of his tour, were saddened and spoiled to him by this one irremediable loss. At length his musings over it take poetic form, and some time in the late autumn of 1639, or in the winter of 1639-40, he writes his Epitaphium Damonis.
The poem is, beyond all question, the finest, the deepest in feeling, of all that Milton has left us in Latin, and one of the most interesting of all his poems, whether Latin or English. It
is purely the accident of its being in Latin that has prevented it from being as well known as Lycidas, and that has transferred to the subject of that English pastoral, Edward King of Christ's College, Cambridge, the honour of being remembered and spoken of as the preeminent friend of Milton's youth and early manhood. We have already, in the Introduction to Lycidas, cautioned against that impression; and the caution must now be repeated even more strongly. Not Lycidas but Damon, not the Irish-born Edward King, but the half-Italian Charles Diodati, was Milton's dearest, most intimate, most peculiar friend. The records prove this irresistibly, and a careful perusal of the two poems will add to the impression. Whoever will read the Latin Epitaphium Damonis will perceive in it a passionateness of personal grief, an evidence of bursts of tears and sobbings interrupting the act of writing, to which there is nothing equivalent in the English Lycidas, affectionate and exquisitely beautiful as that poem is. Yet the two poems are, in a sense, companions, and ought to be recollected in connexion. Both are pastorals; in both the form is that of a surviving shepherd bewailing the death of a dear fellow-shepherd. In the one case the dead shepherd is named Lycidas, while the surviving shepherd who mourns him is left unnamed, and only seen at the end as the "uncouth swain" who has been singing; in the other the dead shepherd is named Damon, and Milton, under the name of Thyrsis, is avowedly the shepherd who laments him. The reader may here refer to what has been said, in the Introduction to Lycidas, concerning the Pastoral form of Poetry and the objections that have been taken to it. What was said there in defence of the Pastoral form, or in explanation of its real nature, is even more necessary here; for not only is the Epitaphium Damonis also a pastoral, but it is a pastoral of the most artificial variety. It is in Latin; and this, in itself, removes it into the realm of the artificial. But, in the Latin, the precedents of the Greek pastoralists, Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, as well as of the Latin Virgil, have been studied, and every device of classic pastoralism has been imitated. There are the sheep, the kids, the reeden flutes, the pastures, the shepherds and shepherdesses wondering at the mourner and coming round him to comfort him; the measure used is the Virgilian Hexameter, and the poem is broken
into musical parts or bursts by a recurring phrase as in some of the Greek Idylls; the names used for the shepherds and shepherdesses are from the Greek Idyllists or from Virgil; the very title of the poem is an echo of that of the third Idyll of Moschus, Epitaphium Bionis. All the more strange, to those whose notion of the Pastoral has not gone beyond Dr. Johnson's in his criticism of Lycidas, may seem the assertion that in this Latin pastoral, the Epitaphium Damonis, the pastoralism of which is more subtle and artificial in every point than that of the corresponding English poem, Milton will be found, undeniably, and with an earnestness which breaks through the assumed guise and thrills the nerves of the reader, speaking his own heart. For my own part, I risk the assertion and will leave the verification to the reader. To the reader also I will leave the pleasure of finding out what is interesting in this extraordinary poem. Only, while he notes the keen and varied expression of Milton's grief and affection for his lost friend, and the mingling of this grief and affection with his recollections of Italy and the new friends he had made there, especially those of the Florentine group and the Neapolitan Manso, let him rest a little, for special reasons, over the memorable passage beginning "Ipse etiam" (line 155) and extending to "Orcades undis" (line 178). That passage is an important shred of Milton's autobiography. It tells, more minutely, and in a more emphatic manner, what he had already hinted in his Latin poem to Manso, viz. that at this period of his life his thoughts were full of the project of an Epic poem founded on British legendary History, and especially on the subject of King Arthur. Combined with this glimpse of what was shaping itself in Milton's mind at that time (1639-40) is the farther information that he had then also resolved to give up Latin for the purposes of Poetry, and to confine himself to English.
In both Milton's editions of his Poems the Epitaphium Damonis is treated with special typographical respect. In the edition of 1645 it comes last in the volume, and with the title and argument, at the beginning, printed on a right-hand page, so as to separate the poem from the preceding contents. In the edition of 1673 there is the same distinction of title and argument on a separate right-hand page, though in that volume some
additional matter follows the Epitaphium. There is proof that the memory of Diodati never faded from Milton's mind. In a Latin letter, among his Epistolæ Familiares, dated "London, April 21, 1647," and addressed to his Florentine friend Carlo Dati, the death of Diodati, then nine years past, is mentioned, with peculiar solemnity, as still in his thoughts and ever to be sacredly present there. The similarity of the names of the Carlo Dati so addressed and the Charles Diodati spoken of is very curious; but the reader ought to remember them as two perfectly distinct persons in Milton's Biography.
AD JOANNEM ROUSIUM,
OXONIENSIS ACADEMIE BIBLIOTHECARIUM.
JANUARY 23, 1646-7.
(Edition of 1673.)
John Rous, M.A. and Fellow of Oriel College, was elected Chief Librarian of the Bodleian May 9, 1620, and he remained in that post till his death in April 1652. Milton may have become acquainted with him in some visit to Oxford during the Cambridge period of his life, or, at all events, in 1635, when, as a Cambridge M.A. of three years' standing, he was incorporated, in the same degree, at Oxford. It is almost certain that 66 our common friend Mr. R." mentioned by Sir Henry Wotton in his letter to Milton of April 13, 1638, as having sent to Wotton a copy of Lawes's anonymous edition of Comus of the previous year, bound up with a volume of inferior poetry printed at Oxford, was this John Rous, the Oxford Librarian. In any case, Milton had come to know Rous. Who in those days could avoid doing so that had dealings with books, and was drawn to the sight of such a collection of books as that in the great Bodleian? It may have been a recommendation of Rous in Milton's eyes that, Oxonian though he was, his sympathies were decidedly Parliamentarian. Possibly he was a relative of Francis Rous, the Puritan member of the Long Parliament for Truro.
Milton's present verses to Rous are dated by himself "Jan. 23, 1646" (i.e. Jan. 23, 1647, as we should now write); and, in his