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"I did but prompt, &c.," being numbered for the press as the first of the two, and the other, "A book was writ, &c.," as the second. In the edition of 1673, however, the order was reversed. "A book was writ, &c." appeared first, without any title; and "I did but prompt" followed with the title "On the Same." There are allusions in the Sonnets, and especially in the first, which require explanation in the Notes.
"ON THE NEW FORCERS OF CONSCIENCE UNDER THE
(Edition of 1673; and copy, in the hand of an amanuensis, among the
In the copy among the Cambridge MSS. this piece bears the simpler title "On the Forcers of Conscience," and there is a direction, in Milton's own hand, that it should follow the two Sonnets relating to his Divorce Treatises. In the volume of 1673, however, the piece appears by itself under its present fuller title, and detached from the Sonnets. place originally intended for it. or extension of the vein of the two Divorce Sonnets, and must have been written about the same time, or hardly later than 1646. Partly on account of the outcry against Milton's Divorce Pamphlets among the Presbyterians, partly on more general grounds, he had parted company with them, and had attached himself rather to the party, or combination of parties, of which Cromwell was becoming the recognised head, and who were called by the general name of The Independents. It was the leading principle of this party, or combination of parties, to oppose the too rigorous establishment of that system of Presbyterian Church Government and Discipline, after the Scottish model, which had been decreed in England by the Long Parliament, and in part carried into effect, after the abolition of Episcopacy. It was their effort, at all events, to secure that, if this system were permanently established by the majority as the national English system, there should be room under it for freedom of conscience and worship for the dissenting minority. Gradually the notion of a Toleration of Independents and other Sects within certain limits under the established Pres
It is best now to restore it to the
byterianism was gaining ground in Parliament, chiefly in consequence of the power of the Parliamentarian Army, which was composed largely of Independents, Baptists, and more extreme sectaries; but the rigid Presbyterians, and especially the Presbyterian Divines of the Westminster Assembly, and most especially the small group of Scottish Divines who sat in that Assembly as assessors to their English brethren, were loud in their denunciations of the arch-heresy of Toleration, as they called it, and their calls for a suppression of all Sects and the enforcement of an absolute Presbyterian uniformity by the civil power. It is against these claims of strict Presbyterian supremacy that Milton speaks out in the present piece of verse. He intended it to be what may be called an Anti-Presbyterian and Pro-Toleration Sonnet; and the first fourteen lines, it may be observed, really do make a Sonnet. But, when he had reached the fourteenth line, Milton had not packed in all he meant to say; and so he adds six lines more of jagged verse, converting the piece into a kind of Sonnet with a scorpion's tail to it. There were precedents for such "Sonnets with tails" in Italian poetry. Although not published till 1673, the piece was probably in private circulation, and doing service. for Independency and Liberty of Conscience, from 1646 onwards. The allusions in it, and especially the personalities, need explanation. It will be given in the Notes.
SONNET XIII.: "To MR. H. LAWES, ON HIS AIRS."
(Edition of 1673; and two Drafts, in Milton's own hand, with a copy in another hand, among the Cambridge MSS.)
One of the Cambridge drafts of this Sonnet fixes its date as Feb. 9, 1645-6. That Draft is headed "To my Friend, Mr. Henry Lawes Feb. 9, 1645," and signed "J. M.;" the other Draft, though also in Milton's hand, bears this heading in another, "To Mr. Hen. Lawes, on the publishing of his Aires." Actually, the Sonnet first appeared in print, with Milton's name attached, as one of a few pieces of eulogistic verse prefixed to a volume published by Moseley in 1648 and entitled Choice Psalmes, put into Musick for three Voices: composed by Henry and William Lawes,
Brothers, and Servants to His Majestie. The inference is that, though written in Feb. 1645-6, and presented to Lawes about that time in mere private friendship, the lines were used by Lawes two years afterwards, with Milton's consent, for the public purpose of his volume, and that then their appropriation to this use was signified by a new title inserted in the second MS. draft.
Milton's friendship from his boyhood with the musician Henry Lawes, and the main facts of that interesting person's life till his cooperation with Milton in the production of the Arcades at Harefield, and of Comus at Ludlow, have been recorded in the Introductions to those two poems (see antè, pp. 220—222, and 231 et seq.). It will be remembered also that the original publication of Comus by itself in 1637, without the author's name, was owing to Lawes, and that, in his dedication of the poem to the young Lord Brackley, the musician had shown his high regard for the author by the terms in which he had spoken of it (see antè, p. 244). We have now to add that, in the intervening years, the reputation of Lawes in his art had been steadily growing, till there was perhaps no musical composer of his time more generally known and liked. Still retaining, along with his brother William, his position as one of the King's musicians and gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, and still connected by special professional engagements with the Bridgewater family, he had done much work in the way of setting to music songs by Carew, Herrick, Waller, Cartwright, and other popular poets. These songs of Lawes were favourites in English households, and the poets whose words were thus recommended by his airs could not thank him enough. There are verses by Herrick and others in which affectionate mention is made of “Harry" and his musical skill. And so the publisher Moseley, or perhaps Milton himself, in bringing out the first edition of Milton's Poems in 1645, did not forget that Lawes's name might be an advantage to the volume. "The Songs were set in Musick by Mr. Henry Lawes, Gentleman of the King's Chappel, and one of His Majesties private Musick," was the announcement on the title-page, referring to the songs in Arcades and Comus, and perhaps to others in the volume; and in the body of the volume was reprinted Lawes's dedication of Comus to Lord Brackley. Clearly, therefore, Milton's intimacy with Lawes had not been
interrupted even by the Civil War and the division of all Englishmen into Royalists and Parliamentarians. By his position, if not from his artistic temperament, Lawes was a Royalist; and indeed his brother William had been slain in the King's cause at the siege of Chester (1645), greatly to the King's grief, who is said to have put on private mourning for him. Not the less had Henry Lawes, who remained in London, his meetings with his old friend Milton, when they would lay politics aside and agree in music.
The present Sonnet is a tribute to this continued friendship. It was written, it may be noted, about a month after the publication of Milton's Poems, and may have been a gift to Lawes in acknowledgment of the use of his name in that volume. Milton, however, did not object to its publication, with other verses, in Lawes's Choice Psalmes published by Moseley in 1648, even though that volume contained a portrait of Charles I., then in his fallen and captive state, and was dedicated to Charles by Lawes in terms of devoted loyalty. By reproducing the Sonnet as late as 1673 in the second edition of his Poems, Milton may be supposed to have testified even then his affectionate recollection of Lawes. The Musician had then been dead eleven years. He died in 1662, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, after having lived to see the Restoration, to have the honour of composing the Coronation Ode for Charles II., and to be replaced in his position near Royalty, while his friend Milton, then the blind ex-Secretary of Cromwell, was in danger and disgrace. In addition to his Choice Psalmes of 1648 Lawes had published in his lifetime Ayres and Dialogues for one, two, and three Voices: in three Books (1653-58); and later publications attest the demand for his music after his death.
SONNET XIV.: “On the Religious MEMORY OF MRS. CATHERINE THOMSON, MY CHRISTIAN FRIEND. DECEASED 16 DECEMB. 1646."
(Edition of 1673; and two Drafts, in Milton's own hand, one of them erased, among the Cambridge MSS.)
The Sonnet itself, with its heading, which does not occur in the printed volume, but is taken from the Cambridge MS., supplies all the information we have respecting the person addressed.
Phillips, indeed, mentions that, some time in 1649, Milton "lodged at one Thomson's, next door to the Bull Head Tavern at Charing Cross, opening into the Spring Garden;" his stay there, however, being but by way of temporary accommodation, after he had left his house in Holborn, till his official rooms in Scotland Yard could be got ready (see antè, p. 169). It has been supposed that the Mrs. Catherine Thomson who died in 1646 may have been one of the Charing Cross family with whom Milton thus afterwards lodged. This is mere guess. Thomson, then as now, was a very common name in London.
SONNET XV.: "ON THE LORD GENERAL FAIRFAX AT THE Siege of Colchester.”
(First printed by Phillips, at the end of his Life of Milton, prefixed to the English translation of Milton's State-Letters in 1694; but Draft, in Milton's own hand, among the Cambridge MSS.)
This Sonnet is usually headed now "To the Lord General Fairfax ; but it is better to restore the original title from Milton's own MS. Draft, though the pen is there drawn through the title to erase it. For one thing, this title fixes the date of the Sonnet. The siege of Colchester in Essex lasted from the 15th of June to the 28th of August, 1648, and was one of the most memorable incidents of what is called "the Second Civil War," i.e. of that spasmodic new rising of the English and Scottish Royalists on behalf of Charles I., then a prisoner in the Isle of Wight, which it required all the energy of Fairfax, the Parliamentarian commander-in-chief, and of Cromwell, his lieutenant-general, to put down, and which led very speedily to the King's trial and doom. While Cromwell managed the northern department of the war, meeting and beating the Duke of Hamilton and the Royalist Scots and English at Preston, Fairfax in person superintended the siege of Colchester; which town had been seized for the King, and was defended by the Earl of Norwich, Lord Capel, Sir Charles Lucas, Sir George Lisle, and other Royalist chiefs. As Fairfax offered quarter only to the soldiers, but required the leaders to surrender at discretion, the defence was desperate, and both the garrison and the towns