« 上一頁繼續 »
THE LIFE OF MILTON.
BY THE REVEREND JOHN MITFORD.
JOHN MILTON, magnum et venerabile nomen, the son of John Milton and Sarah Castor, a woman of incomparable virtue and goodness, and exemplary for her liberality to the poor, was born in London on the 9th of December, 1608. His father was an eminent scrivener, and lived at the sign of the Spread Eagle (the armorial ensign of the family) in Bread Street. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, embraced the doctrines of the reformed church, and in consequence was disinherited by his father, who was a bigoted papist. The profession, however, which he chose was so successful, as to enable him to give his children a liberal education ;8 and to allow him to pass his latter years in the leisure and tranquillity of a country life.
1 Baptized the xx Dec. 1608, according to the Register of Allhallows, Bread Street.
2 This house wherein he was born, and which strangers used to visit before the fire, was part of his estate as long as he lived. v. Toland's Life, p. 148, on his mother's family. See Birch's Life of Milton, p. 11. The nily of the Castors originally derived from Wales, as Philips tells us; but Wood asserts that she was of the ancient family of the Bradshaws, and a still later account informs us that she was a Haughton, of Haughton Tower, in Lancashire, as appeared by her own arms, &c. Both Toland and Philips date his birth in 1606, but erroneously, for the inscription under his print in the Logic says that in 1671, he was 63 years of age, Milton's armorial bearings were argent, an eagle displayed with two heads gules, legged and beaked sable. A small silver seal, with these 'arms, with which he was accustomed to seal his letters, was in the possession of the late Dr. Disney.
The grandfather of the poet was keeper of the forest of Shotover, in Oxfordshire, and his family had been long settled at Milton,4 in that neighbourhood. They took, however, the unfortunate side in the civil wars, their estate was sequestrated, and their rank and opulence consequently destroyed.
Milton's father was a person of a superior and accomplished mind, and was greatly distinguished for his musical talents ; indeed, in science, he is said to have been equal to the very first musicians of the age. He saw the early promises of genius
8 He died about 1647, and was buried in Cripplegate Church. See T. Warton's note on Carmen ad Patrem, ver. 66, p. 523, ed. second. Aubrey says he read without spectacles at 84.
4 There has been some doubts about the situation of the village of Milton. See Todd's Life, p. 2, and the note. Wood's Fasti Oxon. vol. i. art. 262.
5. On a work called “A Sixefold Politician, together with a Sixefold Precept of Policy, 1609," attributed to him, see Mr. I. P. Collier's Poetical Decameron, vol. ii. p. 305, Philips says, “That as I have been told and I take it by our author himself, that his father composed an Il Domiñe of forty parts, for which he was rewarded with a gold medal and chain, by a Polish prince, to whom he presented it, and that some of his songs are to be seen in Old Whitby's set of airs, besides some compositions of his in Ravenscroft's Psalms, v. p. xli. ed. Pickering. Some beautiful lines in Milton's Poem ad Patrem' allude to his father's skill in music.
• Ipse volens Phoebus se dispertire duobus,
Dividuumque deum genitorque, puerque tenemus.' See Burney's Hist. of Music, vol. iii. p. 134. In a little book which I possess, the Psalms, by W. Slatyer, 12mo. 1643, one of the tunes is by J. Milton. See also' Todd's Milton, vol. i. p. 4, and vi. p. 337, and Aubrey Letters, vol. iii. p. 439.
in his son, and encouraged them by a careful and liberal education. Milton was at first placed under the domestic tuition of Thomas Young, a puritan minister, and native of Essex; to whom he was in after life much attached, and to whom his fourth elegy, and the first of his Latin Epistles, are inscribed. A portrait of him, by Cornelius Jansen, when only ten years old, shows the affection of the parents for their handsome and accomplished child, who even at that early age was expanding the first flower of his youthful genius; and whose vernal promise was ripening fast into works of finished and exquisite beauty.
Young' quitted England in 1623, and it is probable that in the same year Milton was admitted into St. Paul's School, under the care of Alexander Gill.8 His unwearied love of study had
6 This picture was in the possession of T. Hollis, Esq. and is engraven by Cipriani; in his Memoirs, p. 96, it represents the youthful poet in a richly worked collar, and striped jacket. It was purchased by Mr. Hollis at C. Stanhope's sale, who bought it for twenty guineas of the executors of Milton's widow. The picture of Milton when about twenty, was in the possession of the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow.
7 In Mr. Fellowes's translation of Milton's Letters, printed in Dr. Symmons's edition, 1806. Why is the direction of Milton's Letters to Young translated to Thomas Jure? For an account of T. Young see Todd's Milton, vol. vi. p. 199, 207. Young returned to England in or before the year 1628; he was afterwards master of Jesus Col. Camb. and Vicar of Stow Market, in Suffolk. Milton, in his Elegy, ver. 83, says to him:
• Te tamen interea belli circumsonat horror,
Vivis et ignoto solus inopsque solo.' 8 See an account of Al. Gill, in Wood's Ath. Oxon. vol. ii. p. 22, and T. Warton's Milton, p. 419. I possess a copy of Gill's Parerga, sive Poetici Conatus, 12mo. 1632, that belonged to Is. Casaubon. A. Gill must have been a decided royalist, for he has several poems addressed to the royal
already commenced; “Ab anno,' he says, “ætatis duodecimo vix unquam ante mediam noctem à lucubrationibus cubitum discederem ;' and Aubrey adds, that when Milton went to school, he studied very hard, and sate up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock, and his father ordered the maid to sitt up for him. In a letter to his preceptor, dated not long after this time, he says— Hæc scripsi Londini, inter urbana diverticula, non libris, ut soleo circumseptus.'
Thus early and deep were laid the foundation of his future fame. His studies were in a great measure poetical. Humphrey Lownes, the printer, who lived in the same street, supplied him with Spenser and Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas: his admiration of the former is known to all; the attention which he paid to the more obscure, and now almost forgotten poet, was pointed out more fully than before, by my late ingenious friend Mr. Charles Dunster, in a little work which family, and to the bishops. He has an epistle, as Milton has, to his Father, p. 14. There is a line resembling one in Milton's verses to Christina. ("Christina arctoi Lucida stella poli!)
*Pene sub arctoi sidere regna poli!' In Milton's third Elegy, ver. 9, are these lines, which puzzled the commentators till Sir D. Dalrymple explained them to T. Warton.
Tunc memini clarique ducis, fratrisque verendi
Intempestivis ossa cremata rogis.' In his Tillii Epitaphium, p. 91, Gill mentions who these brothers in arms were.
Quem nec Mansfeltus, quem nec Brunonius heros
Arma nec annorum quem domuere decem;' i. e. Mansfelt and the Duke of Brunswick. Gill speaks of himself in the Preface; "Hactenus vitam egi nescio qua siderum inclementiâ, hominum et fortunæ injuriis perpetuo colluctantem.'
he called Milton's Early Reading, or the Prima Stamina of Paradise Lost.
Aubrey says, Milton was a poet when only ten years old. Those who are interested in watching the early dawning of genius as it opens on the youthful mind, and in comparing the different periods in which great talents have displayed both the promise and the direction of their future power, will not be displeased at my recalling to their memory the passage in that elegant biography of Cowley, which Spratt addressed to their mutual friend Martin Clifford, and in which he mentions the age when Cowley first became inspired by the muse, and the book that excited his youthful imagination. There is a singular coincidence between these two great contemporaries, in the dates assigned by their respective biographers. Vix dum decennis,' says Spratt, ' Poeta factus est.' We shall be less surprised to hear that Spenser was alike the object of their early admiration, legendo Spensero nostro, Scriptore sane illustri, et vel adultis difficili.' Happy had it been for Cowley's fame, had he not early wandered away from the instructor of his youth; and left for Epic, and Pindaric flights, that which even now delights, and must for ever please, his moral song, the voice of nature and of truth, the language of his heart.
In 1623 Milton produced his translations of the 114th and 136th Psalms; and in his seven
9 That Milton read and borrowed from Sylvester in his early poems, no one who reads Mr. Dunster's book can reasonably doubt. Sylvester had the jewels, and Milton set them beautifully. Ďu Bartas's fame is now in full blossom in Germany, and has received the praise of GOETHE himself. He is considered at Dresden and at Weimar as one of the greatest poet's that ever appeared.