« ZurückWeiter »
frolics. A certain high moral chivalry, however, for which he had been known from his youth, regulated his behaviour, and gave a dignity even to his humours in company. Also he was punctiliously scrupulous in matters of religion, and a most pious and orthodox son of the Church.
Milton's introduction to Manso, as he tells us himself (Defensio Secunda), was through a certain Eremite Friar, who was his companion in his journey from Rome to Naples in November 1638. The Marquis appears to have taken a great liking to the young Englishman, and to have been particularly gracious to him. "As long as I staid at Naples," says Milton, "I found him truly most
friendly to me, he himself acting as my guide through the different parts "of the city and the palace of the Viceroy, and coming himself more than once "to my inn to visit me; and at my going away he seriously excused himself "to me in that, though he wished extremely to have shown me much greater "attention, he had not been able to do so in that city, because I would not be "more close in the matter of Religion." In the two Latin lines of compliment given by Manso to Milton, and included by Milton among the Testimonies prefixed to his Latin Poems, there is a hint at this Protestantism of Milton as the only fault he had in the old man's eyes. "Were but your creed like your "mind, form, grace, face, and morals, then you would not be Anglic only, but, "in faith, Angelic," says the old man, reviving in Milton's favour the play upon the words Anglus and Angelus attributed in the legend to Pope Gregory when he beheld the English youths in the Roman slave-market and grieved that such comely youths should be Pagans. But Milton carried away with him another token of Manso's regard. He describes distinctly in his Epitaphium Damonis (lines 181-197) two cups which Manso had given him as a keepsake, carved round or painted by Manso himself with two designs, the one of an oriental subject, the other of a subject from classic mythology.
In return for Manso's distich and his cups, or possibly before receiving them, and in mere acknowledgment of Manso's great courtesy generally, Milton, before leaving Naples (Jan. 1638-9), sent to Manso the hundred hexameter lines now under notice. They are a very graceful acknowledgment indeed. There is one passage, of information and compliment finely blended, which may have told Manso more about the stranger than he already knew, and roused his curiosity. It is the passage beginning "O mihi si mea sors" at line 78, and containing the first published hint by Milton of his contemplated Arthurian Epic, or poem from British legendary History. The passage is worth reading, not only on this account, but also for its pathos and eloquence. Manso must have admired it, and may have thought of the young Englishman sometimes through the next few years, and wondered what he was doing in his native land. Much news of Milton, however, in Poetry at least, can hardly have reached Manso before his death. He died at Naples, at the age of eighty-four, in 1645, the very year when Milton's first edition of his Poems was published.
In the Introductions to the Elegia Prima and the Elegia Sexta, the story of Milton's friendship with the half-Italian youth Charles Diodati has been brought down to the end of the year 1629. Since then there had been no interruption of the friendship, but rather a strengthening of it by new ties as the two friends grew older. Two Latin letters of Milton to Diodati, both written in September 1637, and now printed among Milton's Epistola Familiares, are the best informa
tion we have as to the mutual position of the two friends at that date, when Milton was in his thirtieth year and Diodati had just passed that age. Diodati, it appears from those letters, had finished his medical education, and was in practice somewhere in the north of England; near Chester, it has been supposed, but that is only a guess from the fact that he had been in that neighbourhood in 1626, the date of the Elegia Prima. Milton, on the other hand, was mainly at Horton, but sometimes in London; whence, indeed, his two letters are written. They are full of gossip and affection. "How is it with you, pray?" asks Milton in the first, dated Sept. 2. "Are you in good health? Are there in those parts "any learned folks or so with whom you can willingly associate and chat, as we were wont, together? When do you return? How long do you intend to dwell among those hyperboreans?" Again, in the second, dated Sept. 23, Diodati having replied in the meanwhile, and there having been the usual excuses on both sides for laziness in letter-writing: "Your probity writes with me in your "stead and indites true letters on my inmost heart; your blamelessness of "morals writes to me, and your love of the good; your genius also, by no means a common one, writes to me, and commends you to me more and more. Know that it is impossible for me not to love men like you.' There is added some talk about Milton's doings. He is thinking, he says, of taking chambers in London, in one of the Inns of Court, having begun to find Horton inconvenient. He has been engaged in a continuous course of historical reading, and has reached the medieval period. Could Diodati lend him 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 hiberna 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.
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 I ucca, 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,
All the more terrible was the shock that awaited Milton. His friend Diodati
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 pre-eminent friend of Milton's youth and early manhood. Not Lycidas but Damon, not the Irish born Edward King, but the halfItalian 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 applies especially to the Epitaphium Damonis; for 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 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 (163940) 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.
AD JOANNEM ROUSIUM,
OXONIENSIS ACADEMIE BIBLIOTHECARIUM.
, January 23, 1646-7.
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 " 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, at Rous's request, had sent him, for the Bodleian, in 1646, a set of
his published writings complete to that date: to wit, his eleven Prose-pamphlets of 1641-4 (the five on the Episcopacy question, the four on Divorce, the Areopagitica, and the tract on Education); and, separately bound, the edition of his Poems in English and Latin published by Moseley in the end of 1645. Of these, however, only the Prose-pamphlets had reached their destination; the Poems had been lost or stolen on their way to Oxford, or had otherwise gone astray. Rous, accordingly, both in his own behalf and in the interest of the Library, begs for another copy, to make the set of Milton's writings complete, as had been intended. Milton complies with the request, and sends a second copy of the Poems. But, amused by the incident of the loss of the first, he composes a Latin Ode on the subject; and a transcript of this Ode, carefully written out on a sheet of paper by himself, or some one else, in an Italian hand, he causes to be inserted in the second copy, between the English and the Latin contents of the volume. Accordingly, there are now in the Bodleian two volumes of Milton's writings, his own gift to the Library. One is the volume of the eleven collected Prose-pamphlets, with an inscription in Milton's undoubted autograph; the other is the supplementary volume of his Poems, sent to Rous, "ut cum aliis nostris reponeret" (" that he might replace it beside our other things"), and containing the Ode to Rous in an inserted sheet of MS., generally supposed to be also Milton's autograph, in an unusual form of laboured elegance, but probably, I think, a transcript by some calligraphist whom he employed.
The Ode is a curious one, in respect of both its form and its matter.—The form, as Milton takes care to explain in a note (appended in his edition, though now more conveniently prefixed), is peculiarly arbitrary. It is a kind of experiment in Latin, after few classical precedents in that language, of the mixed verse, or verse of various metres, common in the Greek choral odes. Even within that range Milton has taken liberties at the bidding of his own ear, paying regard, as he says, rather to facility of reading than to ancient rule. Altogether, the experiment was very daring.-The matter of the Ode is simple enough. It is addressed not directly to Rous, but to the little volume itself. The double contents of the volume, Latin and English, are spoken of in modest terms; the loss of the first copy, mysteriously abstracted from the bundle of its brothers, when they were on their way from London to Oxford, is playfully mentioned, with wonder what had become of it and into what rough hands it may have fallen; Rous's friendly interest, both in having repeatedly applied at first for the whole set of writings and in having applied again for the missing volume, is acknowledged; and there are the due applauses of Oxford and her great Library. In this last connexion there is an amplification of what had been hinted in the inscription in the volume of the Prose-pamphlets. The time would come, he had there hoped, when even his Prose-pamphlets, now procuring him nothing but ill-will and calumny, might be better appreciated. This hope he now repeats more strongly with reference to his Poems. The following is Cowper's translation of the Epode, or closing strain :
"Ye, then, my works, no longer vain
Gift of kind Hermes, and my watchful friend,
Shall entrance find,