Abbildungen der Seite

33. Tartessiaco æquore," ie. in the Atlantic, beyond Tartessus, the southern district of Spain, to the west of the Pillars of Hercules. Tartessius is Ovid's adjective (Met. XIV. 416): "Presserat occiduis Tartessia littora Phoebus"; but Warton finds Tartessiacus in Martial, and in Buchanan's Latin Poems.

41. "Thaumantia proles," i.e. Iris, the Rainbow-goddess, the daughter of Thaumas, who was the son of Pontus and Ge.

43, 44. “Non dea . . hortos Alcinoi Zephyro Chloris amata.” The Greek goddess Chloris is the Roman Flora; and how she became the wife of Zephyrus is told by Ovid, Fasti, v. 195 et seq. :—

"Chloris eram, quæ Flora vocor. Corrupta Latino

Nominis est nostri littera Græca sono.

Chloris eram, Nymphe campi felicis, ubi audis
Rem fortunatam ante fuisse viris.

Ver erat: errabam: Zephyrus conspexit; abibam
Insequitur; fugio. Fortior ille fuit.

Vim tamen emendat dando mihi nomina nuptæ."


The particular gardens over which Milton here fancies Chloris or Flora lavishing her colours are those of Alcinous, the happy king of the Phæacians in the Odyssey. Compare Par. Lost, V. 340, 341, and IX. 439-441; and see also Eleg. IV. 34-36.

46. "Ditior Hesperio flavet arena Tago." The Tagus in Spain was celebrated for its golden sands. Ovid, describing the effects of Phaethon's fiery course in heaven on the various rivers, particularizes that on the Tagus thus (Met. II. 251):—

"Quodque suo Tagus amne vehit fluit ignibus aurum.”

47. "Favoni": i.e. of Zephyrus. See Sonnet XX.

49, 50. "Talis in extremis terræ Gangetidis oris Luciferi regis," &c. Warton, imagining the Lucifer rex to be the Lucifer of Paradise Lost, i.e. Satan, whose palace is described there as being on the northern bounds of Heaven (V. 757 et seq.), could reconcile this passage with that only by a strained interpretation of "in extremis terræ Gangetidis oris" as implying a northern direction; and, besides, he confessed that he could not find any fiction, such as Milton hints at, of a palace of Lucifer in those parts. But "Lucifer rex," as Steevens pointed out, is here not a name for Satan, but simply for the Sun or Light-bringer, whose home is placed by all poets in the far East. Ovid's description of the palace of Sol, at the beginning of Met. II., may have been in Milton's mind.

59. "gemmatis

pennis." Warton quotes from Ovid (Remed.

Am. 39), "movit Amor gemmatas aureus alas.”

63, 64. "Nate, veni," &c. Rev. xiv. 13. But compare the whole of this dream of Heaven in the Elegy, and vision of Bishop Andrewes glorified there, with the close of Lycidas, and also with the close of the Epitaphium Damonis.


I. "Curre per immensum subitò, mea littera, pontum." pares the beginning of Ovid's Trist., III. 7:

"Vade salutatum subitò perarata Perillam,
Littera, sermonis fida ministra mei."

2. "Teutonicos ..


Warton com

agros," i.e. Germany, where Young was.

"Segnes rumpe moras." Quoted verbatim, as Mr. Keightley notes, from Virgil, Georg. III. 42, 43.

5, 6. Sicanio frænantem carcere ventos Eolon." Copied, as Warton noted, from Ovid, Met. XIV. 224:—

"Eolon Hippotaden frænantem carcere ventos;"

where, however, cohibentem appears for frænantem in some editions. See also Virgil, Æn. 1. 52—54.-" Sicanio," because the Island of Lipara (Lipari), where, in most accounts, Æolus had his residence and cave, was off the Sicilian coast. So Virgil, Æn. VIII. 416, 417 :—

"Insula Sicanium juxta latus Æoliamque
Erigitur Liparen."

6. "virides . . . Deos": i.e. the ocean-gods, represented as greenhaired.


7. "Cæruleamque. Dorida": i.e. Doris, the wife of Nereus, and mother of the Nereids, or sea-nymphs: hence, as here, the sea-queen.All this mythological circumstance about the conveyance of a shipletter suggests the hazards of the sea-post in those days, and the anxiety with which the sender of such a letter imagined it on its way.


IO-12. "Vecta quibus Colchis . . . aut queis Triptolemus, Eleusina missus ab urbe," &c. Colchis (the Colchian) is Medea, one of whose exploits was her flight from Corinth and her faithless husband Jason to Athens in a chariot drawn by winged dragons. Triptolemus, a native of Eleusis, and the inventor of agriculture, had such another dragon-drawn chariot, given to him by Demeter or Ceres, in which he rode from his native land over the earth, distributing the blessings of husbandry, even to the Scythian coasts. Warton cites Ovid, Met. v. 648, 649

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

and refers to another passage (Trist. III. viii. 1—4) where Ovid conjoins the chariot of Triptolemus with that of Medea, wishing he had them both for his own use, that he might revisit his native land.-Milton certainly studs the beginning of his letter thickly enough with mythological allusions. He was but nineteen years of age, and he was writing to his old preceptor in the classics.

14. "Hamburga." See Introduction, II. 330, 331.

15, 16. "ab Hamâ," &c. According to Warton, "Krantzius, a Gothic geographer, says that the city of Hamburg in Saxony took its name from Hama, a puissant Saxon champion, who was killed on the spot where that city stands by Starchater, a Danish giant." Hence the Cimbrica clava of line 16.

18. "Præsul": the same title as had been given to Bishop Andrewes in the last Elegy, and a very honourable title to give to Young, who was only chaplain to the English merchants at Hamburg. Was there any early Presbyterian feeling in this selection of the same designation for the Chaplain as for the Bishop?

19, 20. "Ille quidem," &c. A recollection of Horace's well-known words about Virgil, “animæ dimidium meæ" (Od. 1. iii. 8).

23-28. "Charior ille mihi quàm," &c. Here is another bunch of historical and mythological allusions to please his old preceptor :First Young is dearer to Milton than Socrates, the wisest of the Greeks, was to his pupil, Alcibiades, the son of Clinias, and descended from the famous Ajax, the son of Telamon; then he is dearer than Aristotle was to his pupil, Alexander the Great, whose mother was Olympias (called Chaonis from Chaonia, a district of her native country Epirus), and his reputed father Philip, but his real father Jupiter Ammon or Lybian Jove; and, finally, Milton's regard for Young is such as Achilles, King of the Myrmidones, had for his two instructors-viz. (1) Phoenix, King of the Dolopes, and son of Amyntor, and (2) Cheiron, the best of the Centaurs, and the son of Cronos and the nymph Philyra.-Did Milton carry all the names and synonyms in his memory, or did he help himself with a Dictionary as he wrote? For lines 27, 28, at all events, he helped himself, as Warton noted, with recollections from Ovid-Art. Amat. I., 11 and 337, Met. 11. 676 (where Cheiron is expressly called "Philyreius heros"), and Fasti, v. 379 et seq. (where Philyreius heros" occurs again). Here, as all through the Elegies, Milton's special acquaintance with Ovid appears.

29-32. "Primus ego Aonios," &c. Of this interesting acknowledg ment by Milton of his obligations to Young's teaching it has been remarked by Mr. Keightley that the use of the word "primus" is rather awkward. In strict idiom it would imply that Milton was the first or chief of Young's pupils, not that he was first a pupil of Young's. May not Milton, however, have had something of the first sense in his mind?


33-38. Flammeus at signum ter," &c. The dating in this passage has to be noted. Thrice, says Milton, had the flaming Ethon (one of the four heroes of the Sun, according to the enumeration in `Ovid's Met. 11. 153, 154) seen the sign of the Ram, and clothed its woolly back with new gold; and twice had Chloris or Flora (see note, Eleg. III. 43, 44) overspread the old earth with new herbage; and twice had Auster, the South-wind, removed Flora's wealth; nor yet in this interval had it been permitted him to see Young's face, or hear him speak. Literally translated, this means that three vernal equinoxes, or 21sts of March, two summers, and two falls of the year, had passed since Milton and Young last met. Now, the present Elegy is headed by Milton himself “ Anno ætatis 18;" and, by the analogy of his similar datings of other pieces (see Introductions to Elegia II. and III., and to On the Death of a Fair Infant, and to In obit. Procanc. Med. among the Sylvæ), this has to be translated "At eighteen years of age," so as to fix 1627 as the year of the composition of the Elegy. That, accordingly, is the date assumed in the Introduction to it (II. 330-332). If, then, the dating as above, by the three equinoxes, &c., has to be back from that point, we are referred to about February or early March 1624-5 as the time when Milton had last seen Young, and the present Elegy must have been composed about April 1627. Here, however, a puzzle arises. The first of Milton's Latin Familiar Epistles is one to Young, and is dated" London, March 26, 1625" (see Introd., II. 331, 332); and in that Epistle Milton apologizes to Young for not having written to him for more than three years (quod autem hoc plusquam triennio nunquam ad te scripserim, quæso, &c.). He also speaks of his regret at Young's absence, and accounts for his neglect of correspondence by the very pain caused by the thought that one so dear and so often in his imagination should be actually separated from him by so long a tract of intervening earth ("quam longinquo a me distes terrarum intervallo"). This corroborates the idea, otherwise consistent with facts, that Young had ceased his preceptorship to Milton, and gone abroad as a preacher, if not to assume his chaplaincy in Hamburg, early in 1622. But how, then, are we to reconcile the two datings-that of the Familiar Epistle, which sends Young abroad in 1622, and says that for more than three years after that Milton had never written to him; and that of this Elegy, which says that Milton had not seen Young for about two years and a month, i.e., according to the date of the composition of the Élegy itself, since March or February 1625? Two suppositions present themselves (1) Milton may have misdated his Elegy from hazy recollection; and it may actually have been written and sent to Young at Hamburg about the same time as the Latin Familiar Epistle, i.e. in March 1625. What lends plausibility to this supposition is the fact that in the Familiar Epistle Milton does speak of a metrical composition which he meant to accompany it. "Although I had resolved with myself, most excellent Preceptor," so the letter opens, "to send

you an Epistle composed in metrical numbers, yet I did not think I had done enough unless I also wrote something else in prose; for truly the boundless and singular gratitude of my mind, which your deserts justly claim from me, was not to be expressed in that cramped mode of speech, straitened by fixed feet and syllables, but by a free oration, nay rather, were it possible, by an Asiatic exuberance of words." This distinctly implies that Milton had then a metrical Epistle to Young on hand, and it rather implies that Young was to receive it with the Prose Letter. Unless, then, there was some other metrical Epistle to Young, now lost, may not this Elegia Quarta be the very Epistle announced in the Prose Letter? But, if so, is it likely that it would have been delayed for two years and more? Or, even if “anno ætatis 18” is interpreted "in his eighteenth year," in violence of the analogy of other pieces, so as to date the Elegy 1626, would not the delay of a year and more, which would still be involved between the Elegy and the Epistle announcing it, be rather inconceivable? On the whole, then, may we not suppose that this Elegy was composed in March 1625-6, and sent to Hamburg with the Epistle, but afterwards accidentally misdated by Milton when he published it in 1645? (2) It may be maintained that the dating of the Elegy, 1627, is correct, and that the discrepancy of three years between the time it seems to assign to Young's departure from England and the time which the Familiar Epistle seems to assign to the same event can be reconciled. It would be reconciled by the supposition of a temporary visit by Young to England precisely before March 1625, when the Prose Epistle was written. There is nothing inconsistent between this supposition and the language of the Prose Epistle. On the contrary, that Epistle may be read as if it had been evoked, not by a letter from Young at Hamburg complaining that, for more than three years, i.e. since the beginning of 1622, when Young had gone abroad, Milton had never written to him, but by a mild personal remonstrance to the same effect when the preceptor and the pupil met again in London. It may be supposed that Milton, affected by this remonstrance, did not let much time pass after Young's return to Hamburg without making up for the long previous silence by an Epistle to be sent after him, and to be accompanied by a Poem. Then, however, two years and a month or so did pass, during which Milton relapsed into neglect of correspondence with his old teacher; and not till about April 1627 is he again so smitten with a sense of this neglect as to write again. Then, however, he is so smitten; and, to make amends, he sends the Elegy, now numbered Elegia Quarta and dated 1627. The calculation in that Elegy, that three spring equinoxes, two summers, and two autumns, had passed since he had seen Young, would then be literally exact, although Young had first gone abroad in 1622. But what of the Poem promised to Young in the Letter of March 1625? Either that Poem had then been duly sent with the Letter, in which case it is now lost, and the present Elegia Quarta is a totally new one;

« ZurückWeiter »