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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.
Milton's friendship from his boyhood with the musici Henry Lawes, and the main facts of that interesting person's life till his co-operation 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. 414-15, and 418-19). 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, in association 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.
SONNET XIV.: "ON THE RELIGIOUS MEMORY OF MRS. CATHERINE THOMSON, MY CHRISTIAN FRIEND, DECEASED 16 DECEMB. 1646."
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; and 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."
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 townspeople were reduced to the last straits of starvation, having to eat grass and the flesh of horses, cats, and dogs. When the surrender did take place, Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle were tried by court-martial, and immediately shot, as released prisoners of war who had broken their parole to the Parliament in again taking arms for the King. The Earl of Norwich and Lord Capel were left to the mercy of Parliament; and Lord Capel was afterwards executed. The taking of Colchester was heard of with triumph by the Parliamentarians throughout England, and went as an addition to the renown of Fairfax acquired by his many actions since he had been made Parliamentary commander-in-chief in December 1644. Milton, in this Sonnet, expresses the general feeling of the hour, not only about the particular victory, but also about the character of Fairfax, and England's farther hopes from him. Although Fairfax afterwards retired from his connexion with the Commonwealth, and even co-operated at last in the Restoration, this Sonnet to him savoured too much of pre-Restoration politics to be allowable in Milton's edition of his Minor Poems in 1673. It was first published by Phillips in 1694, at the end of his memoir of Milton.
SONNET XVI.: “To the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652: ON THE PROPOSALS OF CERTAIN MINISTERS AT THE COMMITTEE FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL."
Milton's admiration of Cromwell is attested by many proofs, and, amongst them, by a long and impassioned outburst of Latin eulogium in the Defensio Secunda. No two men, I believe, were more essentially like-minded, more one at heart in their thoughts about the great problems of the English nation at that time, than the two whom fate had drawn together in such different capacities-Cromwell, the supreme soldier and man of action, raised at length to be the ruler; Milton, the poet and idealist, brought beside this ruler as a scholarly official. The Sonnet under notice, however, is not, as the mere title "To Cromwell" sometimes given to it might lead one to imagine, Milton's estimate of Cromwell from the whole of his career, or even after Milton's Secretaryship to him singly had begun. It is an address by Milton to Cromwell at a particular moment of Cromwell's career and on a particular occasion. The
date was May 1652. Cromwell was not yet Protector, though he was the first man in the Republic, and they were proposing to make him its head. Since the execution of the King, and the establishment of the Commonwealth under the government of the Parliament with a Council of State, he had been away in Ireland, as Lord-Lieutenant of that country, trampling down its long Rebellion and reducing it to order (1649-50); he had also been in Scotland, and had fought the Battle of Dunbar (Sept. 3, 1650) there, and taken other measures which, when followed up by the crowning victory of Worcester (Sept. 3, 1651), utterly ruined the cause of Charles II. in Scotland, as well as in England, and united both parts of the island in one Commonwealth. These were the acts of Cromwell freshest in men's minds, and he had been again in London through the winter of 1651-2, when the Sonnet was written. The Sonnet breathes the feeling of many at that hour with respect to him. Now that he was at home again, would not things be better managed than they had been in his absence by the persistent Rump of the Long Parliament and the Council of State? Especially in matters of Religion was not fresh zeal necessary? Throughout England and Wales, or in many parts of them, Church matters were in chaos-Presbyterian ministers here and Independents there, mixed with the wrecks of the old parish clergy; no regular arrangement for the provision of ministers; disputes as to the method of such provision, whether by a common fund out of the tithes, or by voluntary contribution without tithes at all; many districts meanwhile in spiritual destitution for want of fit pastors and preachers. For the consideration of such questions and the remedying of such evils there had been appointed a Parliamentary "Committee for the Propagation of the Gospel ;" and this Committee seems to have been in unusual activity after Cromwell's return. There was then some new form of the controversy respecting a State Church and endowments for the clergy, and the Presbyterian ministers more especially seemed to their enemies to be trying to get for themselves all the property that had belonged to the abolished Prelatic Church. It was expected that Cromwell, whose sympathies had been with the Independents and Sectaries, would have something to say to this; and Milton's Sonnet expresses that expectation. Cromwell's Protectorate (Dec. 1653-Sept. 1658), with Milton's closer connexion with him during that Protectorate, came later. Yet the Sonnet may well stand as Milton's tribute of respect to Cromwell on the whole; and little wonder that he did not dare to print it in the edition of his Poems in 1673.
SONNET XVII. : "TO SIR HENRY VANE THE YOUNGER."
This Sonnet breathes the same spirit as the last, and may have been written at the same time, or perhaps somewhat earlier. If it was written in 1652, Vane was in his fortieth year when it was addressed to him, and was one of the Council of State; but, as his father was still alive, he was always known as the Younger Vane, It was recollected, moreover, how he had entered the Long Parliament at the age of twenty-seven, having already distinguished himself in America, and how all through the Parliament he had acted and been regarded as one of the subtlest and boldest theorists of the extreme Revolutionary party. In his style of mind he was what would now be called a doctrinaire, or abstract thinker, with perhaps a dash of the fanatic; and, as Milton hints, he had exercised himself very particularly on the question of the relations and mutual limits
of the Church and State, having had practical occasion to consider that question as early as 1636, when he was Governor of Massachusetts. After the Restoration he was brought to the scaffold, June 14, 1662. Milton's Sonnet to him was necessarily omitted in the volume of 1673.
SONNET XVIII.: "ON THE LATE MASSACRE IN PIEDMONT."
This, the most powerful of Milton's Sonnets, was written in 1655, and refers to the persecution instituted, in the early part of that year, by Charles Emmanuel II., Duke of Savoy and Prince of Piedmont, against his Protestant subjects of the valleys of the Cottian Alps. This Protestant community, half French and half Italian, and known as the Waldenses or Vaudois, were believed to have kept up the tradition of a primitive Christianity from the time of the Apostles. There had been various persecutions of them since the Reformation; but that of 1655 surpassed all. By an edict of the Duke they were required to part with their property and leave their habitations within twenty days, or else to become Roman Catholics. On their resistance, forces were sent into their valleys, and the most dreadful atrocities followed. Many were butchered, others were taken away in chains, and hundreds of families were driven for refuge to the mountains covered with snow, to live there miserably, or perish with cold and hunger. Among the Protestant nations of Europe, and especially in England, the indignation was immediate and violent. Cromwell, who was then Protector, took up the matter with his whole strength. He caused Latin letters, couched in the strongest terms, to be immediately sent, not only to the offending Duke of Savoy, but also to the chief Princes and Powers of Europe. These Letters were drawn up by Milton, and may be read among his Letters of State. An Ambassador was also sent to collect information; a Fast Day was appointed; a subscription of 40,000. was raised for the sufferers; and altogether Cromwell's remonstrances were such that, backed as they would have been, if necessary, by armed force, the cruel edict was withdrawn, and a convention made with the Vaudois, allowing them the exercise of their worship. Milton's Sonnet is his private and more tremendous expression in verse of the feeling he expressed publicly, in Cromwell's name, in his Latin State Letters.
SONNET XIX.: ON HIS BLINDNESS.
The last Sonnet, if not also the two preceding it, had been written by Milton after he had lost his sight. His blindness, which had been coming on slowly for ten years, and had been hastened by his labour in writing his Defensio Prima pro Populo Anglicano in answer to Salmasius (1651), was complete in 1653, when he was only forty-five years of age. We are to imagine therefore, that, after having been Secretary to the Council of State for a year or two with his sight failing, he continued to act as Secretary through Cromwell's Protectorate (1653-58) with his sight totally gone. The fact was pointed to with coarse exultation by his enemies, at home and abroad, as a divine judgment on him for his defences of the execution of Charles I., and for the part he had otherwise taken in the English Revolution. Again and again in Milton's later writings, in prose and in verse, there are passages of the most touching sorrow over h`s darkened and desolate condition, with yet a tone of the most pious resignation, and now and then an outbreak of a proud conviction that God, in blinding his bodily
eyes, had meant to enlarge and clear his inner vision, and make him one of the world's truest seers and prophets. The present Sonnet is one of the first of these confidences of Milton on the subject of his blindness. It may have been written any time between 1652 and 1655; but it follows the Sonnet on the Piedmontese Massacre in Milton's own volume of 1673.
SONNET XX.: To MR. LAWRENCE.
One naturally refers such a mood of cheerfulness as this Sonnet exhibits to the time of Milton's life which preceded his blindness. Accordingly it has been argued by some that the Sonnet must have been written about 1646, and ought to be placed beside the Sonnet to Henry Lawes. In that case, however, the person addressed "Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son," cannot have been, as these words have always suggested, a son of the well-known Henry Lawrence of St. Ives, who, after having been member for Westmoreland in the Long Parliament, became a staunch Oliverian, and was made President of Cromwell's Council (1654) and one of his House of Lords (1657). For there is a letter of this Henry Lawrence extant which proves that in the year 1646 his eldest son was then exactly thirteen years of age (Wood's Athenæ, IV. 64: Note by Bliss). Milton's invitation to a neat repast and wine cannot have been to a youngster like that. Hence, still on the supposition that the Sonnet must have been written about 1646, some commentators have concluded that the person addressed was no other than Henry Lawrence himself, the future President, but then no more than M. P. for Westmoreland. But that he was only "the virtuous father" of the Sonnet, and not its recipient, is settled by Phillips in his Life of Milton, where, among the "particular friends" of Milton, who visited him most frequently during the eight years when he lived in his house in Petty France, Westminster (1652-1660), he mentions "Young Lawrence (the son of him that was President of Oliver's Council), to whom there is a Sonnet among the rest in his printed Poems." He does not mention which of the sons of the President was the "Young Lawrence" so often at Milton's house; but it was probably the second son, Henry Lawrence, who became heir in 1657, succeeded to the property on his father's death in 1664, and lived till 1679, or five years beyond Milton. In 1656 this "young Lawrence" was about two-and-twenty years of age. The Sonnet, then, we should say, was written about that time, and when Milton was in his condition of total blindness. And, though this may not at first seem consistent with the cheerful vein of the Sonnet, the explanation is easy. Phillips's account of his uncle's life gives us a glimpse of the household in Petty France which is not altogether one of gloom. Especially after Milton's marriage with his second wife in Nov. 1656, the house was enlivened by the little hospitalities that had to be shown to the numerous visitors that came to see him. Some of these were foreigners of distinction; others were Londoners of rank; but most assiduous of all were former pupils, and other enthusiastic young men, who accounted it a privilege to read to him, or act as his amanuenses, and to hear him talk. There was a group of such young admirers, and "young Lawrence" was one of them. Sometimes, as we are to fancy, he accompanied Milton in his walks, yielding him the attendance which a blind man required; and Milton's Sonnet is to be taken as a kindly message to the youth, in some season of bad weather, not to stop his visits on that account, but to let him have his company now and then within doors.