« ForrigeFortsæt »
what different ways Orpheus is mentioned; how one man looks on to the end, the other's sight is shorter ; what diverse daybreakings are preferred; what diverse kinds of literature. and how the one of these is to be communicated orally, the other through no living medium, but through books; how various are the tastes described with regard to natural scenery. To these many other observations might be added.
It is evident, if these two poems are carefully examined, that the respective characteristics of the speakers are by no means what we should call mirthful and melancholic. There is nothing mirthful in our sense of the word in a wide landscape; there is nothing melancholy in reading Chaucer. The two characters are, perhaps, most sharply distinguished in respect of sociality. The one is eminently social; he delights to associate with the “kindly race of men." The other likes better to be left with his own thoughts, with no human intrusion. The one is light-hearted ; the other not of a sad but rather of a grave spirit. The eyes of the one look outward, and brighten at the sight of the fair images of nature; the eyes of the other rather look inward, at the fine forms which the mind can present. There are several points in common between Il Penseroso and Jacques in As You Like It; but Jacques' melancholy is dashed with a certain cynicism not to be found in the character sketched by Milton. Perhaps Milton felt that no two English words he could think of would serve him as titles, and therefore adopted the Italian words by which the poems are known. There can be little doubt as to which of the two characters he portrays was after his own heart. He portrays L'Allegro with much skill and excellence; but he cannot feign with him the sympathy he genuinely feels with the other ; into his portrait of Il Penseroso he throws himself, so to speak, with all his soul. He is indeed not altogether at home in the poem describing the former: he distinguishes the sweet-briar from the eglantine, whereas they were one and the same; larks do not visit even poets' windows to say good-morrow, but rather “singing ever soar and soaring ever sing;" he had never seen, it is believed, barren-breasted mountains; and generally we think that the wings of his Mirth are somewhat constrained in their flight. But in the other poem his whole nature appears. The limits in point of length, previously sufficing, are now exceeded. He cannot content himself with so brief a description of his “Melancholy” as of "Mirth.” He refers no less than thrice to music, his darling delight. He refers, at length, to the studies that were always for him of supreme interest-amongst them to the works of Spenser, whom, as he told Dryden, he regarded as his poetical father-thus illustrating well the line in one of his letters to Deodati,
"Totum rapiunt libri me, mea vita, libri.”
He is charmed by the nightingale, to which bird on another occasion he addressed a sonnet. He gives several hints which he afterwards expanded in his greater works.
And he proposes as the close of Il Penseroso's life that which he ever aspired after as the glorious maturity of his own-that he should
for it was a poet of the Hebrew sort-a vates--that Milton was ambitious to be.
It seems pretty certain that these two poems were written after Milton had left Cambridge, during his six years' residence at his father's house at Horton, in Buckinghamshire-that is, between 1632 and 1638. They were probably written in some earlier year of this period, for in Lycidas, which was composed in 1637, he speaks as one that only writes poetry under the compulsion of “bitter constraint and sad occasion dear.” It appears likely they were written before Comus, which was acted at Ludlow Castle in 1634. So, to connect these pieces of national literature with our national history, they were in all probability written in the earlier part of the period when Charles I. attempted the fatal experiment of governing without a parliament.
There can be little doubt that Milton drew some suggestions for the leading idea of his two poems from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, and from a song in the play of The Nice Valour. In the “ Author's Abstract of Melancholy," certain verses prefixed to Burton's work, pros and cons with regard to melancholy are alternately stated. The song in The Nice Valour, a play composed by Fletcher and some unknown person, is as follows :
“Hence, all you vain delights,
Wherein you spend your folly!
But only melancholy ;
Oh, sweetest melancholy !
A sigh that piercing mortifies,
A tongue chain'd up, without a sound !
Places which pale passion loves !
A midnight bell, a parting groan!
These are the sounds we feed upon;
The Nice Valour was not printed till 1647, two years after L'Allegro and Il Penserosa were printed, many years after they had been written ; but this song had probably been composed and known very many years before the appearance of the play in which it was inserted. It is said to have been written by Beaumont, Fletcher's great co-worker, who died in the same year as Shakspere, 1616.
Perhaps Il Penseroso was written first. Fletcher's poem suggested it, and then the counterpart was written, “Not unseen,” in L'Allegro, must have been written after the “
unseen of Il Penseroso.
14. 1. Hence. In a similar verbal manner are used "away," "down,” “ out,” forward,” &c. The verb is in fact absorbed into the adverb.
2. This amour is Milton's own invention. In Grecian mythology, Erebus is the spouse of Night, and, by her, father of Æther and Hemera : the dog Cerberus has no offspring. Not that Milton makes a blunder. He is altering the old story consciously. Here, as elsewhere, he modifies the ancient mythology after his pleasure, with the same independence and right of variation as mark the treatment of it by the old Greek poets. He was one of those poets in spirit, and claimed for himself the same licence. He not only modifies the classical tales ; he sometimes mythologizes on his own account. Comp. below, ll. 18–24.
Cerberus. See Class. Dict.
3. In some such cave as Cerberus' own, which, accordi to Virgil, faced the landing. place of spirits on the further bank of the Styx. When Æneas stepped ashore, the monster made the nether realms ring again with his “three-mouthed barking :"
“ Adverso recubans immanis in antro."-Æn. vi. 418.
14. 4. shapes. Com. 207. Comp. Virg. En. vi. 285.
5. uncouth cell. Elsewhere Milton speaks of "the uncouth swain” (Lyc. 186); "a voyage uncouth” (Paradise Lost, v. 98); "this uncouth dream.” Radically, uncouth = unknown. Couth or couthe or cowthe occurs as a pres., as a pret., and as a part. As a pres. it has in Piers Ploughman, Ed. Skeat, v. 181, a causative force :
“ I couth it in owre cloistre, that al owre couent wote it." As a pret. we still retain it in our could. (Comp. Lycidas: “he knew himself to sing”= he could sing.) As a part. in Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight, Ed. Morris, 1490, &c. Strictly it is the pret. of Ang.-Sax. cunnan; see note on wont, Protkal. 139. Uncoutk survives in Lowland Scotch as “unco'.”
6. brooding: not literally so, as in Paradise Lost, i. 21, or it would be her, not his, jealous wings ; but as it were in a brooding, i.e. overcovering, attitude. So incubo in Latin, as Æn. i. 89: “Ponto nox incubat atra ;” vi. 610: “Qui divitiis soli incubuere repertis." There is another secondary meaning the word sometimes has, viz. to meditate or ponder mischievously or sullenly. Except when used literally it has seldom or never a good sense.
his. See note on Hymn Nat. 106. Probably in using “his" with reference to Darkness he has in mind the classical Erebus. 7. See 2 Henry VI. III. ii. 40:
Came he right now to sing a raven’s note,
Whose dismal tune bereft my vital powers," &c. Macb. I. v. 40; Tit. Andr. II. ii. 97; Spenser's Shep. Cal. June, 1. 23:
“Here no night-ravenes lodge, more black than pitche." 8. ebon = “black as ebony” (Love's Labour Lost, IV. iii. 247). So “amber hair," Love's Labour Lost, IV. iii. 86 ; "raven locks," “ eagle eye,” &c.
9. low-brow'd locks = beetle-browed, overhanging.
ragged. See Isaiah ïi. 21. 10. dark Cimmerian. Milton's earlier style is occasionally not altogether free from tautology. See Ovid's Met. xi. 592 : “Est prope Cimmerios longo spelunca secessu mons cavus.” Warton quotes from one of Milton's Prolusiones: "Dignus qui Cimmeriis occlusus tenebris longam et perosam vitam transigat.” See Hom. Od. xi. 14 ; Tibull. IV. i. 65.
12. ycieapd. Sce note on ychain'd, Hymn Nat. 155. See Love's Labour Lost, I. i. 242: "It is ycleped thy park;” and V. ii. 602 :
“Judas I am, ycliped Maccabæus." where Dumain puns :
“ Judas Maccabæus clipt is plain Judas." Clepe occurs in various forms in Chaucer, and in Spenser. Palsgrave has, “I clepe, I call, je huysche; this terme is farre Northerne.” This verb is still used by boys at play in the Eastern counties, who" clape the sides at a game.” (Halliwell.) The word survives also in the Scotch clep, and, as some think, in the English clap-trap.
14. at a birth. A, which is but a corruption of one, here has its full etymological force, as in many current phrases: “ one at a time," a shilling a [on] piece," &c.
The most common account makes the Graces daughters of Zeus, by whom is not agreed. Another derives them from Apollo, by either Ægle or Euanthe. Lastly, there is the account here adopted by Milton, which is said to be given only by Servius in a comment
on Æn. i. 720
Some late editions read “sages,"
17. som sager, so far as is known, = Milton's self. corruptly.
Comp. Soph. Ed. Tyr, 1098.
14. 18. frolick. Here an adjective, as in Midsummer Night's Dream, V. i. 394: “We fairies
now are frolick.” Com. 59: "Ripe and froiick of his full-grown age.” So Tennyson's Ulysses, “ with a frolic welcome.” At the close of the seventeenth century it was commonly used, as it now is, as a substantive. A second adjective was presently formed from it-frolicsome. (Comp. gamesome.) Shakspere, Spenser, and others use it also as a verb, as it is still used. The word is of course radically the same with the German fröhlich. Indeed the fact of its not occurring in Ang.-Sax. and its form suggest, that it is simply fröhlich imported into English, the c representing the guttural. The term lic is not uncommon in Ang.-Sax., as gastlic (comp. German geistlich), but in later English it is generally softened away into ly: thus gastlic becomes ghastly, nihtlic nightly, &c.
20. a Maying. This a is a corruption of on. See note on Hymn Nat. 1. 207. So in “a dying,” Luke viii. 42; Shakspere's Richard II. II. i. 90; "a fishing,” John xxi. 3. In the words alive, aloft, apart, aslant, abroad, away, aground, the prep. and its noun are fused together, as also in the wholly or partly obsolete words abed, afire, afoot, athirst, acold, acool, aflame, agape.
Maying. See Chaucer's Knight's Tale; Herrick's Hesperides, passim, &c. For some account of the old May-day customs see Ellis's Brand's Popular Ant. Warton well refers to Ben Jonson's Masque at Sir W. Cornwallis' house at Highgate, 1604.
[What is the force of once here? What other forces has it?)
“ I'll say she looks as clear
As morning roses newly wash'd in dew." 2-4. [Explain the so here.)
bucksom. This word is here, as many a time since, used somewhat vaguely. It is the Ang.-Sax. bocsum, and means radically bow-some, flexible, pliant ; German, beugsam, diagsam. Then it means yielding, and so obedient, in which senses it is frequently used by Chaucer and our older writers. Thus, Spenser, View of the State of Ireland: “Thinking thereby to make them the more tractable and buxom to his government.” “In an old form of marriage used before the Reformation the bride promised to be obedient and buxom in bed and board.” (Johnson.) See other instances in Trench's Sel. Gloss. See also Will. Pal. Ed. Skeat, 2943:
“The proddest of them alle
Schul be buxum at your wille." In the Vision of Piers Ploughman is found unbuxome for disobedient. See also Frerie Queene, I. xi. 37:
he tosse aloft his stretched traine, And therewith scourge the buxomé aire so sore,
That to his force to yielden it was faine.” (Which phrase occurs also in Paradise Lost, ii. 842 and v. 270; comp. Horace's sedentem aëra," Sat. II. ii. 13.) Faerie Queene, III. ii. 23:
tyrannizeth in the bitter smarts
Of them that to him buxome are and prone."
“ A female heir
from which passage probably Milton borrows here. Other old forms of the word are bughsom, bousom. Buxumness is used for obedience in Piers Ploughman, and elsewhere. 14. 24, debonair. See Faerie Queene, I. ii. 23:
“ Was never Prince so meeke and debonaire ;" and elsewhere. In the Boke of Curtasye, 191 (Ed. Furnivall), there is the form boner:
"Gyf hym boner wordys on fayre manere." 25. Haste thee. So “Hie thee," " lie thee down," " fare thee well," &c. In these and all such phrases the ronoun is the ethic dat., as in "he plucked me ope his doublet,” &c. Compare “ I followed me close," · Henry IV. II. iv. 240. “ I have writ me here a letter," Merry Wives of Windsor, I. iii. 65, &c. See Fiedler and Sach's Gramm. Eng. ii. 265. So Chaucer's Cant. T. 14,078 :
“These riottoures thre
Piers Ploughman, Ed. Skeat, Prol. 7:
I was wery forwardred, and went me to reste.'
Bowle quotes from Buchanan :
“ Vos adeste rursus Risus, Blanditiæ, Procacitates, Lusus, Nequitiæ, Facetiæque
Joci Deliciæque et Illecebræ.”
26. Follity. See Com. 102-4,
“Ps. Why what's a quip?
sense in a sweet word." Two Gentlemen of Verona, IV. ii. 12; As You Like It, V. iv. 79. Greene called a satirical tract he wrote on the affectations of the fine gentlemen of his time “A Quip for an Upstart Courtier.” The word occurs also as a verb. See Janua Linguarum, Ed. 1667, $ 916: “Be not a fleering jiber at other men; and if by way of discourse thou comest out with any pleasant matter, let them be witty jests (squibs), not scoffing taunts; glance at (allude) but do not gird,” where the margin gives for “gird” quip, twitch, carp.” Spenser, Faerie Queene, VI. vii. 44, where Scorn,
"Having in his hand a whip,
To see her sore lament and bite her tender lip."
cranks. In Shakspere's Coriolanus, I. i. 141, this word is used for winding passages. In the Faerie Queene, VII. vii. 52, Mutability, speaking of certain planets, says:
“So many turning cranks these have, so many crookes." speaks of " the ways of the Lord” as “ straight and faithful,” “ not full of cranks and contradictions.” Here it seems to mean turnings, inversions, distortions of what is said: e.g. puns, designed misconstructions, deliberate crooked answers. Comp. the Clown's remark in Twelfth Night, III. i. 13: "A sentence is but a cheveril glove to a good wit ; how quickly the wrong side may be turned outward."