Abbildungen der Seite

or Milton had not then sent the Poem, but only the Prose Letter, and this Elegia Quarta is that identical promised Poem, meditated and perhaps begun in 1625, but not finished till 1627, when, with the necessary modifications for lapse of time, it is made to do duty as a second missive to Young at Hamburg, with a repetition of apologies. The very apologies made in the Elegy (see lines 49—68) are capable of this latter construction. “When I wrote to you on March 26, 1625, shortly after my last sight of you in England,” these apologies may be prosaically interpreted, “I mentioned to you a composition in verse which I intended should accompany the letter : to my shame be it said, I never sent it, and two years and a month have again elapsed since you have heard from me either in prose or in verse; but here at last is my Elegy, sincere though delayed, begging forgiveness.”—-Having presented the two alternatives as fairly as I can, I will only add that, though by no means assured, I incline to the second, in the second of its two forms : viz. that there were not two Elegies to Young, but that the present Elegia Quarta is the redemption in 1627 of the promise of an Elegy made in the Prose Epistle of 1625. This gets rid of two difficulties at once. It gets rid of the supposition that Milton had lost one of his Latin Elegies; which is inconsistent with the known care with which he preserved his MSS. It gets rid also of the supposition that Milton misdated the Elegia Quarta, and misdated it by more than two years—a supposition inconsistent with his accuracy in such matters, and not justified by the slighter case of proved error in the dating of the first piece of his Sylvæ (see Introd. to that piece). Also, I think the style of the Elegia Quarta stronger and more mature than we could suppose in a poem written by Milton in March 1625, when he was but sixteen years old complete, and had just gone to Cambridge, and which would therefore have to rank as actually the first of his preserved compositions, in Latin or in English, after his juvenile paraphrases of two of the Psalms, and as preceding any other piece by a whole year. On the other hand, adhesion to the date 1627 necessitates the supposition, for which there is no other authority at present, that Young had paid a visit to England in 1624-5, some three years after his first going abroad in 1622; for the statement in an Elegy of 1627, that two years and a month had elapsed since Milton had seen Young and heard the sound of his voice, is otherwise inexplicable.

41-46. “Invenies dulci cum conjuge," &c. An adaptation, as Warton observed, of Ovid's lines (Trist. III. vii. 3, 4)

" Aut illam invenies dulci cum matre sedentem,

Aut inter libros Pieridasque suas.

The preceding lines of the same Elegy had already been in Milton's mind (see note to line 1).

[ocr errors]


49. Hæc quoque, paulum oculos in humum defixa modestos.Also, as Warton observed, from Ovid (Amor. III. vi. 67) :

“ Dixerat. Illa oculos in humum dejecta modestos," &c. 53–68. “ Accipe sinceram, quamvis sit sera," &c. On the significance of this apology see preceding note, lines 33–38.

55, 56. quam casta recepit Icaris,&c. The allusion is to Penelope (called Icaris Penelopeia, because she was the daughter of Icarius), as she is represented by Ovid (Heroid. i. 1), writing to her long absent husband Ulysses S

“ Hanc tua Penelope lento tibi mittit, Ulixe.

Nil mihi rescribas ut tamen : ipse veni." 61. Tu modò da veniam fasso: a frequent expression with Ovid. Thus“ Da veniam fassoin Epist. ex Pont., iv. ii. 23 and in several other places cited by Warton.

65. "sarissiferi . . . Thracis: the pike-bearing Thracian. The sarissa, as Warton notes, was a Macedonian weapon, and is mentioned by Ovid (Met. XII. 466), Macedoniâque sarissa."

71–82. “Nam vaga Fama refert," &c. I cannot better annotate this passage, respecting the perilous condition of Hamburg, and of Young in it, at the date of the Elegy, than by quoting Mr. Carlyles condensed account, in his History of Frederick the Great (ed. 1869, vol. 1. p. 211), of what he calls the “Second Act” of the Thirty Years' War :-" Except in the * Nether-Saxon circle' (distant North-west “ region, with its Hanover, Mecklenburg, with its rich Hamburgs, “Lübecks, Magdeburgs, all Protestant, and abutting on the Protestant

North), trembling Germany lay ridden over as the Kaiser willed. “Foreign League got up by France, King James, Christian IV. of “Denmark (James's brother-in-law, with whom he had such a “ drinking' in Somerset House, long ago, on Christian's visit hither), “ went to water, or worse. Only the Nether-Saxon Circle' showed "some life; was levying an army; and had appointed Christian of “ Brunswick its Captain, till he was poisoned (see note, Eleg. III. “9-12];--upon which the drinking King of Denmark took the com“ mand.

Act Second goes from 1624 to 1627 or even '29; and "contains Drunken Christian's Exploits. Which were unfortunate, “almost to the ruin of Denmark itself, as well as of the Nether-Saxon “Circle ;-till in the latter of these years he slightly rallied, and got a

supportable Peace granted him (Peace of Lübeck, 1629); after which “he sits quiet, contemplative, with an evil eye upon Sweden now and “then. The beatings he got, in quite regular succession, from Tilly "and Consorts, are not worth mentioning.”—Such, seen through the telescope of History, was the warlike turmoil in North Saxony the contemporary rumour of which alarmed Milton for Young's safety in VOL. III.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Hamburg, and drew these ten lines from his pen. The lines themselves do not seem to fix, in any absolute manner, the question of date discussed in the previous note (33–38). Any time between 1624 and 1627 the countries of the Lower Elbe were the scene of war between the Imperialists under Tilly and the Protestants of the Saxon union with Christian of Denmark as their ally; and all that time Hamburg was more or less in danger. The closer gathering round Hamburg, and the immediate chance of a siege of that city, pointed at in lines 73–76, may belong either to 1626 or to 1627; in both which years the tremendous Wallenstein, with his horde from all nations, co-operated with Tilly in those parts.

75. Enyo": the goddess of War in the Greek mythology, delighting in bloodshed and the sieges of towns.

77, 78. suum concessit Thracia Martem . . . Odrysios . . equos.The warlike character of the Thracian tribes led to the belief that Thrace was the especial habitation of Ares or Mars; and the Odrysæ were a specially ferocious Thracian tribe, that might well supply the god with horses.

80. ærisonam Diva perosa tubam: the goddess Eirene, or Peace.

84. “solus inopsque.” From Ovid, Met. xiv. 217, as Warton remarked : “ Solus, inops, exspes,

relictus." 87-104. Patria, dura parens," &c. This passage has been construed by Warton and all the commentators as an outbreak, in academic language, of Milton's early Puritanism, or disgust with that system of ecclesiastical tyranny in England which, before 1640, had driven so many scores of non-conforming ministers of the Gospel, with thousands of their adherents, into exile in Holland, or elsewhere on the Continent, and even to the New-England colonies in America. Now, as there had been a continued persecution of extreme Puritanism in England, with expatriation of its representatives, since the reign of Elizabeth, something of this feeling may have been in Milton's mind when he wrote the passage. It is to be remembered, however, that it was written in 1627, or a year before Laud became Bishop of London, and six years before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, and that the main mass of the persecutions and expatriations of Puritans now remembered so keenly in the History of England lies within the period of Laud's rule in his Bishopric and Archbishopric-ic. from 1628 onwards. Hence the prevalent feeling in the passage is to be taken rather as “O hard Britain, that drivest some of thine own children, and even faithful and eminent ministers of the Gospel among them, abroad for a livelihood !” than as "O cruel Episcopal England, that banishest, under the name of Puritans, so many of thy worthiest and most conscientious sons !” For such an exclamation as this last Milton was prepared when the time came; but

leto prenæque

it had hardly yet come. Moreover, there is not the least reason to think that Young went abroad on account of persecution for his opinions or on other grounds of conscience. He was not a Separatist, like most of those whom persecution had driven abroad from 1590 to 1628. He went simply from stress of livelihood; and he returned to England, to be a Vicar in the Church of England, of Puritan opinions certainly, but not conspicuously troubled for them, during the whole time of that supremacy of Laud which filled Holland with Puritan exiles and colonized New England. Attention to dates will often save misconceptions.

97-10o. vates terræ Thesbitidis," &c. : i.e. Elijah the Tishbite. See i Kings xix.“ Sidoni dira” (voc.) is Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, King of Sidon (1 Kings xvi. 31). 101, 102.

Talis et ... Paulus,&c. See Acts xvi. 9--40. On "Æmathiâfor Macedonian see note, Sonnet “ Captain or Colonel.” In the reference to the scourging of St. Paul by the Macedonian magistrates of Philippi there can hardly be, as commentators have taken for granted, an allusion to the horrible punishments of Puritans by the English Star-Chamber under Charles I. The most famous cases of this kind were those of Leighton, Prynne, Burton, and Bastwick. Now the public torture and mutilation of Dr. Alexander Leighton for his Zion's Plea against Prelacy did not occur till 1630 ; the punishment of Prynne for his Histriomastix was not till 1634; and the second punishment of Prynne with his fellow-offenders, Burton and Bastwick, was not till 1637.

103, 104. “ Piscosæque . . . Gergessæ,&c. See Matt. viii. 28–34. Gergessa piscosa,” fishy Gergessa, is a picturesque name for “the country of the Gergesenes.” Ovid (Met. x. 531) has

531) has Piscosamque Cnidon."

113, 114 Ille Sionææ,&c. The reference is to the destruction in one night of Sennacherib's Assyrian host before Jerusalem : 2 Kings xix. 35, 36. Strangely enough, as Mr. Keightley remarks, Warton and Todd missed this obvious fact, translated Sionæa arx into Samaria, and confused the Biblical reference in these two lines with that in the next eight.

115--1 22.Inque fugam vertit quos in Samaritidas oras," &c. A A poetic rendering, in brief, of 2 Kings vii. 3—10, where it is told how, on the panic of a miraculous noise of chariots and horses, as if of a great host, heard at night, the Syrians, with their King Ben-hadad, who were besieging Samaria and had almost reduced it by famine, fled to a man, leaving their camp desert. Damascus was the Syrian capital.

119. “Cornea pulvereum dum verberat ungula campum." Obviously an adaptation of Virgil's famous “ Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum,but with a very successful variation in the studied sound um-dum.

123 * Et tu.Warton thought that for very obvious reasons the reading here ought to be “ At tu"; and Mr. Keightley agrees with him. I see no reason for doing so. The connexion of meaning is “Just as those starving Samarians were relieved in their despair by that miraculous panic among their Syrian besiegers, so do thou also keep up hope," &c.; and this connexion would be spoilt by the substitution of At for Et.

I 25, 126. “Nec dubites,” &c. The prophecy in these concluding lines was very soon fulfilled. See note antè, lines 87-104, and sketch of Young's subsequent life, Introd., II. 333-335:

Elegia QUINTA. 1. “ In se perpetuo Tempus revolubile gyro": possibly a recollection, thinks Warton, of a line in Buchanan’s De Sphera :

" In se præcipiti semper revolubilis orbe." But another poem of Buchanan's, which Miltan may more readily have had in recollection in this composition, is his ElegyMaiæ Calenda"; which is, in fact, just such another poem on the Approach of Spring as this of Milton's. There we have the line :

“ Dum renovat Maius senium revolubilis ævi.” Touches of resemblance may be discerned or supposed between Milton's Elegy and Buchanan's, as is natural from the identity of subject; but Milton's is the more luxuriously poetical, 5-8. "Fallor? an," &c. See, on the peculiar use of the figure of

. repetition in these lines, note to Comus, lines 221–224; and compare Eleg. VII. 56, and the Epigram In Prod. Bomb. 3.

6-8. Ingeniumque mihi munere veris adest,” &c. Warton here pbserves “ There is a notion that Milton could write verses only in the Spring or Summer, which perhaps is countenanced by these passages. But what poetical mind does not feel an expansion or invigoration at the return of the Spring ?" Unfortunately, Milton's own information, in his later years, to his nephew Phillips, was the very reverse of this. It was

“that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal equinox to the vernal" : i.e. from Sept. 21st to March 21st (Phillips's Memoir in 1694). If this is true, the approach of Spring actually checked Milton's ingenium. But that refers to about 1663, when Milton was between fifty and sixty years of age ; and we are now at 1629, when he was but twenty.

Castalıs," &c. Castalia is the ordinary form of the word ; but Buchanan has Castalis unda (the Castalian fount) in his First Elegy. The bifidumque cacumen is, of course, Mount Parnassus; Pirene is

9, 10.


« ZurückWeiter »