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Relation, Action, Passion, Place, Time, Posture, and Habit. Thus I have assigned you your parts in what is to follow of our proceedings.
We have here then the key to the dramatic speeches in English with which Milton's address was wound up. After apologizing for having detained the audience so long with his Latin harangue, he announces that he is about to break the University statutes (which ordained that all academic discourses, &c., should be in the learned tongues) by "running across from Latin to English. At this point, therefore, he suddenly exclaims
"Hail! native language, that by sinews weak
He continues this episodic address to his native speech through a goodly number of lines, but then remembers that it is a divergence from the business in hand, and that his sons are waiting to hear him speak in the character of ENS. Accordingly, he does speak in this character, calling up the eldest of his ten sons, Substance, and addressing him in fit terms. Whether Substance made any reply we are not informed; but the next two Predicaments, Quantity and Quality, did speak in their turn-not in verse, however, but in prose. seems most natural to conclude that these speeches were made by the students of Christ's who represented the Predicaments in question-Milton himself only speaking in his paramount character as ENS. In this character, at all events, he finally calls "by name on the student who represented the fourth category -i.e. Relation; and with this speech of ENS to Relation, the fragment, as we now have it, abruptly ends. The rest was prose," we are informed-i.e. whatever was said by Relation, and to or by the six remaining Predicaments, was said in prose and has not been preserved. Mr. W. G. Clark, of Cambridge, ascertained that among Milton's fellow-students at Christ's were two brothers named Rivers. This explains the words "Rivers, arise," and the sequel.
ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.
This magnificent ode, called by Hallam ". 'perhaps the finest in the English language," was composed, as we learn from Milton's own heading of it in the edition of 1645, in the year 1629. Milton was then twenty-one years of age, in his sixth academic year at Cambridge, and a B. A. of a year's standing. There is an interesting allusion to the ode by Milton himself, when he was in the act of composing it, in the sixth of his Latin elegies. In that elegy, addressed to his friend Charles Diodati, residing in the country, in answer to a friendly epistle which Diodati had sent to him on the 13th of December, 1629, there is a distinct description of the Ode on the Nativity, as then finished or nearly so, and ready to be shown to Diodati, together with the express information that it was begun on Christmas-day 1629.
UPON THE CIRCUMCISION.
Having, in the Ode on the Nativity, celebrated the birth of Christ, Milton seems to have intended his little piece "Upon the Circumcision" as a sequel. This appears from the opening lines, in which distinct allusion is made to the Nativity. We may therefore, with great probability, suppose the piece to have been written on or about the Feast of the Circumcision following the Christ mas of the previous ode-i.e. January 1, 1629-30.
This piece, also, as the opening stanza implies, grew out of the Ode on the Nativity, and is a kind of sequel to it. It was probably written for Easter 1630. It is but the fragment of an intended larger poem, for which, after he had proceeded so far, he thought his powers unequal.
In the draft of this little piece, in Milton's own hand, among the Cambridge MSS., the title is given more at length thus: On Time-To be set on a Clockcase. The piece is assigned, conjecturally, to the year 1630.
AT A SOLEMN MUSIC.
This piece is also assigned, conjecturally, to the year 1630. The title At a Solemn Music" may be translated "At a Concert of Sacred Music." Milton, we know, had been a musician from his childhood, and had had unusual opportunities of hearing the best music in England. See Introd. to the Latin Poem Ad Patrem among the Sylvæ,
SONG ON MAY MORNING.
This little piece is also assigned, but only conjecturally, to the year 1630. If this is correct, the exact date is May 1, 1630.
This famous little piece is sometimes spoken of as Milton's "Sonnet on Shakespeare"; but it is not even laxly a Sonnet, as it consists of sixteen lines. In its anonymous printed form among the commendatory verses prefixed to the Shakespeare Folio of 1632, it is entitled "An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatick Poet, W. Shakespeare.” That it was written two years before its publication in so distinguished a place appears from the date “ 1630" appended to its shorter title in the original editions of Milton's Poems. It seems to me not improbable that Milton originally wrote the lines in a copy of the First Folio Shakespeare in his possession, and furnished them thence to the publisher of the Second Folio.
ON THE UNIVERSITY CARRIER.
The two pieces on this subject are chiefly curious as specimens of Milton's muse in that facetious style in which, according to his own statement, he was hardly at home. They celebrate an incident which must have been of considerable interest to all Cambridge men of Milton's time--the death of old Thomas Hobson, the Cambridge University carrier.
Born in 1544, or twenty years before Shakespeare, Hobson had for more than sixty years been one of the most noted characters in Cambridge. Every week during this long period he had gone and come between Cambridge and
the Bull Inn, Bishopsgate Street, London, driving his own wain and horses, and carrying letters and parcels, and sometimes stray passengers. All the Heads and Fellows of Colleges, all the students, and all the townspeople, knew him. By his business as a carrier, and also by letting out horses, he had become one of the wealthiest citizens in Cambridge-c -owner of houses in the town and of other property. He had also such a reputation for shrewdness and humour that, rightly or wrongly, all sorts of good sayings were fathered upon him. Till his eighty-sixth year he had persisted in driving his carrier's waggon himself. But, in April or May 1630, a stop had been put to his journeys. The Plague, after an interval of five years, was again in England; it was rife in Cambridge this time, so that the colleges had been prematurely closed and all University exercises brought to an end; and one of the precautions taken was to interdict the continued passage of Hobson, with his letters and parcels, between Cambridge and London. Though many of his neighbours among the townspeople died of the Plague, the tough old carrier escaped that distemper. But the compulsory idleness of some months was too much for him. Some time in November or December 1630, just as the Colleges had re-assembled, and, the Plague having abated, he might have resumed his journeys, he sickened and took to his bed. On the 1st of January, 1630-31, he died, aged eighty-six. Before he died he had executed a will, in which he left a large family of sons, daughters, and grandchildren (one of his daughters being the wife of a Warwickshire baronet), well provided for. Nor had he forgotten the town in which he had made his fortunes. Besides other legacies for public purposes to the town of Cambridge, he left money for the perpetual maintenance of the town-conduit; and to this day the visitor to Cambridge sees a handsome conduit, called after Hobson's name, in the centre of the town, and runnels of clear water flowing, by Hobson's munificence, along the sides of the footways in the main streets. In some respects, Hobson is still the genius loci of Cambridge.
Little wonder that the death of such a worthy as old Hobson made a stir among the Cambridge dons and undergraduates, and that many copies of verses were written on the occasion. Several such copies of verses have been recovered; but none so remarkable as Milton's. Milton seems to have had a fondness for the old man, whose horses he must have often hired, and by whom he must often have sent and received parcels. The title of Milton's two pieces is exact to the circumstances of the case: "On the University Carrier, who sickened in the time of his vacancy, being forbid to go to London by reason of the Plague." The gist of the poems themselves, too—in which, through all their punning facetiousness, there is a vein of kindliness--is that Hobson died of ennui. Both pieces must have been written in or about January 1630-31.
AN. EPITAPH ON THE MARCHIONESS OF WINCHESTER.
The date of the composition of this poem is determined by that of the event to which it refers-the death, in child-birth, of Jane, wife of John Paulet, fifth Marquis of Winchester. This lady, who was but twenty-three years of age when she died, and was much spoken of for her beauty and mental accomplishments, was a daughter of Thomas, Viscount Savage, of Rock-Savage, Cheshire, by his wife, Elizabeth, the eldest daughter and co-heir of Thomas Darcy, Earl of Rivers. Her husband, the Marquis of Winchester, who had succeeded to
the title in 1628, was a Roman Catholic; he subsequently attained great distinction by his loyalty during the civil wars; and he did not die till 1674, forty-three years after he had been made a widower by the death of this, his accomplished (first) wife. That event occurred on the 15th of April, 1631, in circumstances thus communicated in a contemporary news-letter, dated the 21st of the same month :-" The Lady Marquis of Winchester, daughter "to the Lord Viscount Savage, had an imposthume upon her cheek lanced; "the humour fell down into her throat, and quickly despatched her, being big "with child whose death is lamented, as well in respect of other her virtues 66 as that she was inclining to become a Protestant." An unusual amount of public regret seems to have been caused by the lady's melancholy death. was the subject of a long elegy by the poet-laureate, Ben Jonson, printed in his "Underwoods"; and there were verses on the occasion by Davenant and other poets. How Milton, then in his twenty-third year, and still at Cambridge, came to be so interested in the event as to make it the subject of a poem, is not known. Warton had been told that there was a Cambridge collection of verses on the occasion, among which Milton's elegiac ode first appeared; and some expressions in the ode might imply that fact; but no such volume has been found.
L'ALLEGRO AND IL PENSEROSO.
These were written as companion-pieces, and are to be read together. There is some doubt as to the time of their composition, there being no drafts of them among the Cambridge MSS. In the edition of 1645 they follow immediately after the pieces on Hobson, and precede the Arcades, with the intervention, however, of the ten Sonnets printed in that edition. With great probability they are assigned to the period immediately subsequent to Milton's student-life at Cambridge, i.e. to the time of his studious seclusion in his father's country house at Horton in Buckinghamshire, near Windsor. Milton retired thither in 1632, after taking his degree of M.A., and he mainly resided there till the beginning of 1638. If the pieces were written at Horton, they were probably written soon after his going there. That they were written in some peaceful country neighbourhood, amid the sights and sounds of quiet English landscape and English rural life, is rendered likely by their nature. But it is a mistaken notion of the poems, and a somewhat crude notion, to suppose that they must contain a transcript of the scenery of any one place, even the place where they were written. That place (and we incline to think it was Horton) may have shed its influence into the poems; but the purpose of the poet was not to describe actual scenery, but to represent two moods, and to do so by making each mood move, as it were, amid circumstances and adjuncts akin to it and nutritive of it. Hence the scenery is visionary scenery, made up of eclectic recollections from various spots blended into one ideal landscape. It is, indeed, the exquisite fitness with which circumstances are chosen or invented, in true poetic affinity with the two moods, that makes the poems so beautiful, and secures them, while the English language lasts, against the possibility of being forgotten.
The poems, we have said, are companion-pieces, and must be read together. Each describes an ideal day-a day of twelve hours. But L'Allegro is the ideal day of the mind of an educated youth, like Milton himself, in a mood
of light cheerfulness. And observe at what point that day begins. It begins at dawn. The first sound heard is the song of the lark; the first sights seen round the rustic cottage, or in the walk from it, are those of new-waked nature, and of labour fresh afield. Then the light broadens on to mid-day, and we have the reapers at their dinner, or the haymakers busy in the sun. And so, through the afternoon merry-makings, we are led to the evening sports and junkets and nut-brown ale round the cottage bench; after which, when the country folks, old and young, have retired to rest, the imaginary youth of the poem, still in his mood of cheerfulness, may protract his more educated day by fit reading indoors, varied by sweet Lydian music. Contrast with all this the day of Il Penseroso. It is the same youth, but in a mood more serious, thoughtful, and melancholy. The season of the year, too, may be later. At all events, the ideal day now begins with the evening. It is the song of the nightingale that is first heard; lured by which the youth walks forth in moonlight, seeing all objects in their silver aspect, and listening to the sounds of nightfall. Such evening or nocturnal sights and sounds it is that befit the mood of melancholy. And then, indoors again we follow the thoughtful youth, to see him, in his chamber, where the embers glow on the hearth, sitting meditatively, disturbed by no sound, save (for it may be a town that he is now in) the drowsy voice of the passing bellman. Later still, or after midnight, we may fancy him in some high watch-tower, communing, over his books, with old philosophers, or with poets, of grave and tragic themes. In such solemn and weirdly phantasies let the whole night pass, and let the morning come, not gay, but sombre and cloudy, the winds rocking the trees, and the rain-drops falling heavily from the eaves. At last, when the sun is up, the watcher, who has not slept, may sally forth; but it is to lose himself in some forest of monumental oaks or pines, where sleep may overtake him recumbent by some waterfall. And always, ere he rejoins the mixed society of men, let him pay his due visit of worship to the Gothic cathedral near, and have his mind raised to its highest by the music of the pealing organ.
The studied antithesis of the two pieces has to be kept in mind in reading them. It needs only be added that the commentators have supposed that Milton may have been aided in his conception of the two poems by some passages in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, by a song in Beaumont and Fletcher's drama of Nice Valor, and by recollections of other pieces of a pensive kind, in octosyllabic measure, including Marlowe's pretty poem, the Passionate Shepherd to his Love, and Sir Walter Raleigh's answer to the same, called The Nymph's Reply. The help from any such quarters, however, must have been very small, the mere suggestion of a cadence here and there.
"Part of an Entertainment presented to the Countess-Dowager of Derby at Harefield by some noble persons of her Family," are the words added by Milton himself to the title of the poem, to explain its nature. In other words, it is part, and only part, of a masque presented before a venerable lady at her country-seat by some members of her family who had chosen this way of showing their affection and respect for her. The rest of the masque has perished; only this fragment of it, supplied by Milton, remains. The date is a little uncertain. Historically, the Arcades is connected so closely with Comus that any Introduction to the one must serve also as partly an Introduction to