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effigy of the Countess, in a crimson robe and gilt coronet, recumbent under a canopy of pale green and gold, and, on the side, effigies of her three daughters in relief and also painted. The Countess is represented as in her youth, beautiful, and with long fair hair. The three daughters have
the same long fair hair and like features.
AT A SOLEMN MUSIC.
This piece must have been written after the Arcades, for the original draft of it in Milton's own hand follows the original draft of the Arcades in the Cambridge volume of preserved Milton MSS. There are, indeed, in that volume no fewer than four drafts of the piece, exhibiting, in perhaps a more extraordinary manner than any other extant specimen of Milton's autograph, his extreme fastidiousness in composition, his habit of altering, correcting, rejecting, erasing, and enlarging, till he had brought a piece to some satisfactory perfection of form. The title, "At a Solemn Music," may be translated "At a Concert of Sacred Music.' Milton, as we know, had been a musician from his childhood, accustomed to the society of musicians, and with opportunities of access to the best musical performances in London or Westminster. The present seems to be his testimony to the effects of one such performance. The metrical structure of the piece is peculiar, and without precedent in the Minor Poems hitherto. It is not in mere
couplets, or in stanzas, but is a single continuous burst of twenty-eight lines of Iambics of varying length, interlinked irregularly in rhyming pairs. It seems to have been a new metrical experiment of the author.
This piece looks like a continuation of Milton's mood of new metrical experimentation. Like the last piece, it is a single continuous burst of Iambic lines of different lengths, rhyming irregularly in pairs. This fact, with the fact that the copy of the piece in Milton's hand in the Cambridge volume follows the drafts of the last piece, seems to certify that the date of the composition was the end of 1633 or the beginning of 1634. The copy in the Cambridge volume
bears the title, "On Time: to be set on a Clock-case"; and in the beginning of the piece itself the poet seems to be thinking of the mechanism of a clock, and watching the slow swing of the pendulum.
UPON THE CIRCUMCISION.
This follows the last piece in the Cambridge volume of drafts, and is therefore assignable, perhaps, to Circumcision Day, or January 1, 1634. The mood of metrical experimentation visible in the two preceding pieces seems still continued; for, though the piece breaks itself into two symmetrical stanzas, each stanza is a complex combination of fourteen Iambic lines of varying lengths, rhymed capriciously.
"A Masque, presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634, before the Earl of Bridgewater, Lord President of Wales."
The history of this, the most important of all the minor poems of Milton, is closely connected with that of the Arcades, and our introduction to the Arcades is partly also an introduction to the Comus. What of more specific introduction is necessary remains to be given here.
One branch of the relatives of the venerable CountessDowager of Derby, the heroine of the Arcades, consisted, as we have seen, of the members of the noble family of Bridge. water to wit, John, 1st Earl of Bridgewater, the Countess's stepson, being the son of her second husband, Lord Chancellor Ellesmere; this nobleman's wife, Lady Frances Stanley, the Countess's second daughter by her first husband, Ferdinando, 5th Earl of Derby; and the numerous children born to this pair,-two of them daughters already married and with houses of their own, but other daughters still unmarried, and residing, together with their two boy-brothers, Viscount Brackley and Mr. Thomas Egerton, sometimes at their father's town-house in the Barbican, and sometimes at his country-seat of Ashridge in Hertfordshire. It is with these members of the Bridgewater family that we have chiefly to do in the Comus.
The Earl of Bridgewater, now about fifty-four years of age (he had been born in 1579), had a place among the nobility of the Court of Charles I. for which he was probably indebted to the fame and long services of his father, the Lord Chancellor. Already a Privy Councillor, etc., he had, on the 26th of June 1631, been nominated by Charles to the high office of the Viceroyalty of Wales, or, as it was more formally called, the office of "Lord President of the Council in the Principality of Wales and the Marches of the same." This office, including military command and civil jurisdiction, not only over the Welsh principality itself but also over the four contiguous English counties of Gloucester, Worcester, Hereford, and Shropshire,-had been filled, in Elizabeth's reign, by Sir Henry Sidney, the father of Sir Philip Sidney, and after him by Henry, 2d Earl of Pembroke ; and men of scarcely inferior note had held it since. The official seat of the Lord President was the town and castle of Ludlow in Shropshire, about twenty miles south from Shrewsbury, and beautifully situated in one of those tracts of green hilly country which mark the transition from England proper into Wales. The town, which was formerly walled, is mainly on an eminence near the junction of two streams, the Teme and the Corve, whose united waters flow on to meet the Severn in Worcestershire. On the highest ground of the town, and conspicuous to a great distance over the surrounding country, is Ludlow Church, a large building of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Near it, at a point where the ascending slope on which the town is built ends in a precipitous rock overhanging a steep valley through which the river runs, is Ludlow Castle, now a romantic ruin, but once a garrisoned place of strength, separately walled in from the town, and approached by a gateway from a kind of esplanade at the top of the main street. It was this Castle, with its outer court, inner court, keep, barracks, drawbridge, etc., that was more immediately the abode of the Presidents of Wales. The older portions of the Castle dated from the Conquest, when they had been built by the Conqueror's kinsman, Roger de Montgomery; and there was hardly a part of the edifice but had its interesting legends and associations, legends and associations connected with the old wars of race between the Welsh and the Norman-English, or with those subsequent Wars of the
Roses in which the Welsh had taken so active a share. Thus, there were shown in the Castle certain rooms called * "the Princes' Apartments," where Edward, Prince of Wales, and his young brother, the sons of Edward IV., had lived from 1472 to 1483, when they left Ludlow on that fatal journey which ended in their murder in the Tower.
Although appointed Lord President of Wales in June 1631, the Earl of Bridgewater does not seem to have assumed his functions actively, or to have gone near Ludlow, till some time afterwards. On the 12th of May 1633, his powers in his office were defined afresh by a Royal Letter of Instructions, which was also to regulate the future proceedings, judicial and administrative, of the Council over which he presided. This Council was ostensibly to consist of upwards of eighty persons named in the Letter, among whom were many bishops and the chief state officers of England, besides a number of knights and gentlemen of the Welsh border.
In October 1633 the Earl sent his new Letter of Instructions to his Council at Ludlow, to be read and registered before his own arrival. At what time he followed in person we do not accurately know; but when he did follow, the ceremonial of his inauguration was unusually splendid. He was attended "by a large concourse of the neighbouring nobility and gentry,"-i.e., we may suppose, by all of his Council then in those parts, and by other persons of local consequence. He had brought his Countess with him, and probably his whole family, from London or Ashridge, including, as we certainly know, his youngest daughter, the Lady Alice Egerton, a beautiful young girl, fourteen or fifteen years old, and her two younger brothers, Viscount Brackley and Mr. Thomas Egerton. The festivities and hospitalities proper to such an occasion as the Earl's inauguration would naturally protract themselves over a considerable time. They did protract themselves, at all events, to Michaelmas-night, the 29th of September 1634, when all Ludlow was astir with an unusual thing in those parts, nothing less than a complete masque, or poetical and musical entertainment, performed in the great hall of Ludlow Castle, by members of the Earl's family, before the Earl and an audience of assembled guests.
At this particular time the English Court and aristocracy
may be said to have been masque-mad. Nothing so magnificent, for example, in the shape of a pageant had ever been seen in England as that got up by the lawyers of the Four Inns of Court in February 1633-4, "as an expression of their love and duty to their Majesties," i.e. to King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria. Months were spent in the preparation. Shirley was engaged to write the poetry; Mr. Simon Ivy and Mr. Henry Lawes to compose the music; Inigo Jones to construct the machinery; while some of the ablest and most eminent lawyers of the time, such as Selden, Attorney-General Noy, Bulstrode Whitelocke, and Mr. Hyde, acted zealously on the Committee of General Management. When the day came, February 3, there was a gorgeous afternoon and evening procession of the masquers, with painted chariots, flaming torches, music, and wondrous grotesque accompaniments, from Holborn down Chancery Lane to Whitehall, the whole population of London having gathered along the route to see and to cheer; and afterwards, in the Banqueting - house at Whitehall, the main masque itself, Shirley's Triumph of Peace, was performed before their Majesties with every possible magnificence. The whole affair cost the Four Inns of Court £21,000; whereof £1000 were spent on the music,—Lawes and his fellow-composer receiving £100 apiece for their share. The actors in this masque were chiefly handsome lawyers of the Four Inns, whose names are now unknown. But a fortnight later, in the same Banqueting-house at Whitehall, there was another masque, of scarcely inferior magnificence, given by their Majesties themselves, and in which the actors were the King, fourteen of the chief nobles, and ten young sons of noblemen. This was Carew's Calum Britannicum, performed on Shrove Tuesday night, Feb. 18, 1633-4. The music to this masque was by Henry Lawes; the machinery by Inigo Jones; and among_the young noblemen who took juvenile parts in it were the Earl of Bridgewater's two sons, Viscount Brackley and Mr. Thomas Egerton, and their cousin Lord Chandos.
With a recollection of the Arcades, and probably of many other such private theatrical delights, traditional in the Bridgewater family; with the two young boys fresh from the glory of their small parts in the recent royal masque of Calum Britannicum; above all, with Lawes, the musical tutor of