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TO THE LADY MARGARET LEY.
DAUGHTER to that good earl ", once president
Who lived in both, unstain'd with gold or fee,
Kill'd with report that old man eloquent".
Madam, methinks I see him living yet;
So well your words his noble virtues praise,
That all both judge you to relate them true,
ON THE DETRACTION WHICH FOLLOWED UPON MY WRITING CERTAIN TREATISES.
A BOOK was writ of late call'd "Tetrachordon P,"
And woven close, both matter, form, and style;
m Daughter to that good earl.
She was the daughter of Sir James Ley, whose singular learning and abilities raised him through all the great posts of the law, till he came to be made Earl of Marlborough, and Lord High Treasurer, and Lord President of the Council to King James I. He died in an advanced age; and Milton attributes his death to "the breaking of the parliament;" and it is true that the parliament was dissolved the 10th of March, 1628-9, and he died on the 14th of the same month. He left several sons and daughters; and the Lady Margaret was married to Captain Hobson, of the Isle of Wight. It appears, from the accounts of Milton's life, that in 1643 he used frequently to visit this lady and her husband; about which time we may suppose this Sonnet to have been composed.-NEWTON.
Kill'd with report that old man eloquent.
Isocrates, the orator. The victory was gained by Philip of Macedon over the Athenians. -T. WARTON.
• Dr. Johnson says of this and the next Sonnet, that "the first is contemptible, and the second not excellent;" and yet he had unfairly selected the contemptible Sonnet as a specimen, in his Dictionary, of this species of verse in English. But Milton wrote this Sonnet in sport.-TODD.
After this proved fact, who can doubt Johnson's malignity and dishonesty towards Milton?
PA book was writ of late call'd Tetrachordon.
This elaborate discussion, unworthy in many respects of Milton, and in which much acuteness of argument and comprehension of reading were idly thrown away, was received with contempt, or rather ridicule, as we learn from Howell's "Letters." A better proof that
it was treated with neglect is, that it was attacked by two nameless and obscure writers only; one of whom Milton calls, " a serving-man turned solicitor." Our author's divorce was on Platonic principles: he held, that disagreement of mind was a better cause of separation than adultery or frigidity: here was a fair opening for the laughers. This and the following Sonnet were written soon after 1645. For this doctrine Milton was summoned
Cries the stall-reader, Bless us! what a word on
Stand spelling false, while one might walk to Me-
Those rugged names to our like mouths grow sleek,
When thou taught'st Cambridge, and king Edward, Greek.
ON THE SAME.
I DID but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known rules of ancient liberty,
before the lords: but they not approving his accusers, the presbyterian clergy, or thinking the business too speculative, he was quickly dismissed. On this occasion Milton commenced hostilities against the presbyterians. He illustrates his own system in this line of - Par. Lost," b. ix. 372. "Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more." Milton wished he had not written this work in English. This is observed by Mr. Bowle, who points out the following proof, in the "Defensio Secunda:"-" Vellem hoc tantum, sermone vernaculo me non scripsisse: non enim in vernas lectores incidissem, quibus solenne est sun bona ignorare, aliorum mala irridere." This was one of Milton's books published in consequence of his divorce [separation] from his first wife. "Tetrachordon" signifies expositions on the four chief places in Scripture which mention marriage or nullities in marriage. -T. WARTON.
a Colkitto, or Macdonnel, or Galasp.
Milton is here collecting, from his hatred to the Scots, what he thinks Scottish names of an ill sound. "Colkitto" and "Macdonnel," are one and the same person; a brave officer on the royal side, an Irishman of the Antrim family, who served under Montrose: the Macdonalds of that family are styled, by way of distinction, "Mac Colleittok," i. e. descendants of lame Colin. "Galasp" is a Scottish writer against the independents; for whom see Milton's verses "On the Forcers of Conscience," &c. He is George Gillespie, one of the Scotch members of the assembly of divines, as his name is subscribed to their letter to the Belgic, French, and Helvetian churches, dated 1643 in which they pray, "that these three nations may be joined as one stick in the hands of the Lord; that all mountains may become plains before them and us; that then all who now see the plummet in our hands, may also behold the top-stone set upon the head of the Lord's house among us, and may help us with shouting to cry, Grace, grace to it." Rushw. p. 371. Such was the rhetoric of these reformers of reformation!-T. WARTON.
Sir John Cheek.
Or Cheke he was the first professor of the Greck" tongue in the university of Cam bridge, and was highly instrumental in bringing that language into repute, and restoring the original pronunciation of it; though with great opposition from the patrons of ignorance and popery, and especially from Gardiner, bishop of Winchester and chancellor of the university. He was afterwards made one of the tutors to Edward VI. See his Life by Strype, or in the "Biographia Britannica."-NEWTON.
The preceding Sonnet is evidently of a ludicrous, the present of a more contemptuous There is a portrait of the celebrated Spanish poet, Lopez de Vega, painted when he was young; surrounded by dogs, monkeys, and other monsters, and writing in the midst of them, without attending to their noise. It is not improbable that Milton might have seen, or heard of, this curious picture of his contemporary; and be led, in consequence, to describe so minutely, in this Sonnet, the "barbarous noise that environed him."TODD.
When straight a barbarous noiset environs me
Which after held the sun and moon in fee.
TO MR. H. LAWES, ON THE PUBLISHING HIS AIRS.
HARRY, whose tuneful and well-measured song
That with smooth air couldst humour best our tongue.
When straight a barbarous noise, &c.
Milton was violently censured by the presbyterian clergy for his " other tracts of that tendency.-T. WARTON.
u As when those hinds, &c.
The fable of the Lycian clowns changed into frogs is related by Ovid, "Met." vi. fab. 4: and the poet, in saying "Which after held the sun and moon in fee," intimates the good hopes which he had of himself, and his expectations of making a considerable figure in the world.-NEWTON.
▾ When truth would set them free.
Compare St. John, viii. 32. free."-TODD.
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
w Loss of blood.
The latter part of this Sonnet is very fine, and contains a most important political truth.
With Midas ears, committing short and long.
"Committing is a Latinism, as Mr. Warton observes; and, as Mr. Richardson had remarked, conveys with it the idea of offending against quantity and harmony.-TODD. y Exempts thee from the throng.
Horace, "Od." 1. i. 32. "Secernunt populo."--RICHARDSON.
2 Thou shalt be writ the man.
This also is in the style of Horace, "Od." 1. vi. 1:
Scriberis Vario fortis, et hostium
a Or story.
"The story of Ariadne set by him to musick." This is a note in the margin of this Sonnet,
as it stands prefixed to "Choice Psalms put into musick by Henry and William Lawes, Lond. for H. Moseley, 1648." The inscription is there,
Henry Lawes."-T. WARTON.
To my friend Mr.
Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher
ON THE RELIGIOUS MEMORY OF MRS. CATHARINE THOMSON,
WHEN Faith and Love, which parted from thee never,
Of death, call'd life; which us from life doth sever.
Love led them on; and Faith, who knew them best
TO THE LORD GENERAL FAIRFAX!
FAIRFAX, whose name in arms through Europe rings,
b Than his Casella, &c.
Dante, on his arrival in Purgatory, sees a vessel approaching the shore, freighted with souls under the conduct of an angel, to be cleansed from their sins, and made fit for Partdise when they are disembarked, the poet recognises in the crowd his old friend Casella the musician. The interview is strikingly imagined, and, in the course of an affectionate dialogue, the poet requests a soothing air; and Casella sings, with the most ravishing sweetness, Dante's second Canzone. By "milder shades," our author means, shades comparatively much less horrible than those which Dante describes in the "Inferno."T. WARTON.
See a notice of Henry Lawes in the notes prefixed to "Comus."
SONNET XIV.-e Mrs. Catharine Thomson.
I find in the accounts of Milton's life, that when he was first made Latin Secretary, he lodged at one Thomson's, next door to the Bull-head tavern at Charing-cross. This Mrs. Thomson was in all probability one of that family.-NEWTON.
d Stay'd not behind, nor in the grave were trod.
"Nor in the grave were trod," is a beautiful periphrasis for "good deeds forgotten at her death," and a happy improvement of the original line in the manuscript;-" Straight follow'd thee the path that saints have trod."-T. WARTON.
e With her golden rod.
Perhaps from the golden reed in the Apocalypse.-T. WARTON.
f For obvious political reasons, this Sonnet, the two following, and the two to Cyriack Skinner, were not inserted in the edition of 1673; they were first printed at the end of Philips's Life of Milton prefixed to the English version of his public letters, 1694. They are quoted by Toland in his Life of Milton, 1698, p. 24. 34. 35. Tonson omitted them in¦ his editions of 1695, 1705: but growing less offensive by time, they appear in his edition of 1713. The Cambridge manuscript happily corrects many of their vitiated readings.
And all her jealous monarchs with amaze
Victory home, though new rebellions raise
(For what can war but endless war still breed?)
TO THE LORD GENERAL CROMWELL.
CROMWELL, Our chief of men, who through a cloud,
Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough'd,
They were the favourites of the republicans long after the Restoration it was some consolation to an exterminated party to have such good poetry remaining on their side of the question. These five Sonnets, being frequently transcribed, or repeated from memory, became extremely incorrect: their faults were implicitly preserved by Tonson, and afterwards continued without examination by Tickell and Fenton. This Sonnet, as appears from Milton's manuscript, was addressed to Fairfax at the siege of Colchester, 1648.—T. WARTON.
g Daunt remotest kings.
Who dreaded the example of England, that their monarchies would be turned into republics.-T. WARTON.
h Her broken league.
Because the English parliament held, that the Scotch had broken their covenant, by Hamilton's march into England.-HURD.
iTo imp their serpent-wings.
In falconry, to imp a feather in a hawk's wing, is to add a new piece to a mutilated stump. From the Saxon impan, to ingraft.-T. WARTON.
Of public fraud.
The presbyterian committees and sub-committees. The grievance so much complained of by Milton in his "History of England." "Publick 'fraud " is opposed to "publick faith," the security given by the parliament to the city contributions for carrying on the war.- -WARBURTON.
* Written in 1652. The prostitution of Milton's Muse to the celebration of Cromwell, was as inconsistent and unworthy, as that this enemy to kings, to ancient magnificence, and to all that is venerable and majestic, should have been buried in the chapel of Henry VII. but there is great dignity both of sentiment and expression in this Sonnet : and, unfortunately, the close is an anticlimax to both. After a long flow of perspicuous and nervous language, the unexpected pause at "Worcester's laureat wreath," is very emphatical and has a striking effect.-T. WARTON.
1 Not of war only.
A "cloud of war" is a classical expression: "Nubem belli," Virg. “ En.”x. 809.— NEWTON.
m Crowned Fortune.
His malignity to kings aided his imagination in the expression of this sublime sentiment -HURD.