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that Hall before he was made a Bishop. Milton, who had just written his Elegy on Andrewes's death (Elegia Tertia), paid a similar honour to his brother-bishop, but employed Iambic verse of alternate Trimeters and Dimeters instead of Elegiacs. Hence this piece on Felton comes among the Sylva.
NATURAM NON PATI SENIUM.
From one of Milton's Epistola Familiares, dated "Cambridge, July 2, 1628," and addressed to his former master at St. Paul's School, Alexander Gill the younger, it appears that these Latin Hexameters were one of the pieces of verse printed copies of which were distributed, according to custom, by the University Bedels at the Cambridge Commencement ceremonial, or annual meeting for the conferring of degrees, held in St. Mary's Church on Tuesday the 1st of July 1628.
The ceremonial, though held at the end of the academic year, was called the "Commencement," because those who graduated in Divinity, Arts, Law, Physic, and Music, were then said to "commence" in their respective faculties, and were designated Inceptores. Part of the business in the graduation in each faculty consisted of what was called an Act or Disputation in that faculty, carried on in Latin between one appointed debater-in-chief, called the Respondent (in the Divinity Act there were generally two Respondents), and other debaters who attacked him successively and were called Opponents. First, early in the morning, as soon as all had assembled in St. Mary's Church, the Vice-Chancellor presiding, there began the Divinity Act, or Debate, accompanied by a distribution of copies of verses, and ending in the ceremonious conferring of the degree of D.D. on all the candidates of the year for that degree. Next, and usually about mid-day, came on the Philosophical Act and Graduation in Arts. This was a richer and more diversified affair than the Divinity Graduation which had preceded it, not only because the candidates for the M.A. degree each year were a very numerous body, consisting of young men from all the Colleges, but also because custom tolerated a great deal of liberty and even of fun in the philosophical discussion. Here also, however, the backbone of the business was the Latin
logomachy between the appointed representative of the Arts faculty, called the Respondent, and the Opponents who successively attacked him; and here also the logomachy began with the reading of the Respondent's thesis, and the distribution of his verses, while he was reading it, by the University Bedels. After the Act was over, there was only a specimen of the actual graduation in Arts within the church, in the persons of the ten or twelve Commencers from King's College; and the rest were marched off to receive their M.A. degree in the Public School. For by this time it was growing late, and the Law Act, the Physic Act, and the Music Act, with their accompanying graduations, had still
Milton may have been present already at three Commencements; but that of 1628 had a peculiar interest for him. Bainbrigge, Master of his own College of Christ's, was ViceChancellor of the University for the year 1627-8, and there was a relish for the undergraduates of Christ's in this fact, and in the prospect of his presidency in the Comitia of July 1628. Nor was that all. One of the Senior Fellows of Christ's, it appears, had been selected for the important post of Respondent in the Philosophical Act for that year; and he had found the bit of verse expected from him quite out of his habits, or had broken down over it at the last moment, and had asked Milton to help him out. With some pains, from the shortness of the time, Milton had furbished up what he thought would pass; and so the Christ's College people might congratulate themselves triply on the representation of their College at the Commencement of 1628. Not only would their master preside as Vice-Chancellor, and not only would a Fellow of their College be Respondent in the Philosophical Act, but the Latin verses which the University Bedels would distribute in connection with that Act would be (but perhaps it was a secret) by an undergraduate of Christ's. Actually the verses were put into print and distributed by the Bedels; and on the 2d of July, or the day after the Commencement, Milton was able to send a copy, or some copies, of them to Gill in London.
One would like now to know which of the thirteen Fellows of Christ's it was that begged Milton's poetical help, and what was the subject of the thesis which the verses were to illustrate. We have light only on the last point from Milton's
"That Nature is not subject to old age" is the proposition they maintain. They are, in fact, a powerful, and very eloquent and poetical, protest against the notion of a gradual decadence or deterioration of the physical Universe or visible frame of things. 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.
DE IDEA PLATONICÂ QUEMADMODUM ARISTOTELES
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. 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.
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 small husbandmen, 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. 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.
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 musicbooks, 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. 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, and his farther training by the two Gills at St. Paul's School, close to Bread Street, 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