網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版
[ocr errors]

general Protestant union' against the church of Rome, which he calls the common adversary,' not by any compromise of the peculiar tenets of the Protestant sects, but by a liberal, and comprehensive toleration grounded on the principle of making the Bible the rule of faith. • Error, he says, is not heresy,' and he determines nothing to be heresy, but a wilful alienation from, or addition to the scriptures. God, he says, will assuredly pardon all sincere inquiries after truth, though mistaken in some points of doctrine; and speaking of the founders, or reviewers of such opinions in past times, he adds, that God having made no man infallible, hath pardoned their involuntary errors. Such, in the closing evening of his life, were the last thoughts of a pious, a learned, and a powerful mind, on a question

, a connected with the preservation of true religion; a century and a half has closed, since this work was written against the worst of superstitions, and the heaviest of God's judgments, Popery, and it has lately been republished by a most eminent and learned Prelate, to exhibit the solidity of its arguments, and to prove the unimpeachable piety of the author.

In 1673, the same year in which the abovenamed treatise appeared, Milton reprinted his juvenile poems, with additions, and some few corrections, accompanied with the Tractate on Education. That his Latin poems were not received with greater applause by the foreign scholars, has always been matter of astonishment to me. If some mistakes in quantity shocked the learning of Salmasius, or offended the taste of Heinsius,

34

84 T. Warton says that N. Heinsius had no taste in poetry. I differ decidedly from this opinion, from an intimate acquaintance with his works. I affirm that there never was

we must recollect that they are but few and un-
important, while they are well compensated by a
vigour of expression, a beauty of allusion, a fer-
tility of imagery, and a truly poetical conception.
Though Milton has formed his taste on the best
models, and drawn his language from the purest
sources, his poems are not faded transcripts, or
slavish imitations of the ancients.85 I know not
where the scholars of the continent could have
gone for more beautiful specimens of modern
poetry than his First Elegy, and the Address to
his Father; and has Lucretius himself ever clothed
the bare and meagre form of metaphysical specu-
lations in a robe of greater brilliancy, or adorned
it with more dazzling jewels of poetry than in
the following lines? who, that reads the argu-
ment, could have anticipated the change it under-
went as it passed through the poet's mind.
DE IDEA PLATONICA QUEMADMODUM

ARISTOTELES INTELLEXIT.
Dicite, sacrorum præsides nemorum deæ,
Tuque, o noveni perbeata numinis
Memoria mater, quæque in immenso procul
Antro recumbis otiosā Æternitas,
Monumenta servans, et ratas leges Jovis,

a commentator on the Latin poets of finer taste or happier skill. Bentley over and over again calls him elegantissi

Solertissimo ingenio-et critica et poetica laude nobilis.' Burman Pierson (that admirable scholar), Wakefield, and others, bear the strongest testimony to his taste and skill. De Puy, says, 'Heinsius delicatulas veneres, et lepores cum singulari virtute et doctrina conjunxit.' v. Puteani Vitam, p. 140, 4to. His Latin poems are elegant and correct, but very inferior to Milton's in fertility of invention, and poetical feeling.

mus.

85 The poets of Great Britain who have excelled in the composition of Latin verse might be thus arranged: Buchanan, Milton, T. May, Gray; and in the second order, Addison, V. Bourne, and Anstey. Cowley possessed a facility of versification, but his poetry is neither classical in its conception, nor correct in its execution.

Cælique fastos, atque ephemeridas deûm,
Quis ille primus, cujus ex imagine

Natura solers finxit humanum genus,
Æternus, incorruptus, æquævus polo,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Seu sempiternus ille siderum comes
Cæli pererrat ordines decemplicis,
Citimumve terris incolit lunæ globum;
Sive inter animas corpus adituras sedens
Obliviosas torpet ad Lethes aquas;
Sive in remota forte terrarum plaga
Incedit, ingens hominis archetypus gigas,
Et iis tremendus erigit celsum caput,

Atlante major portitore siderum. In 1674, the last year of his laborious and honourable life, he published his familiar letters in Latin; to which he added some clever and pleasing academical exercises; and his long and splendid list of contributions to literature ended with a translation of the Latin declaration of the Poles in favour of John the Third. Some doubts, however, have been entertained as to this translation having proceeded from the pen of Milton ; but as they turn entirely on the internal evidence of the style, they can admit of no perfect solution.36

Milton had long been a sufferer by the gout, which had now, with the advance of age, greatly enfeebled his constitution. Considering that his life was about to close,37 he informed his brother

a

87

86 Milton left in MS. a brief History of Moscovia, and of the other less known countries, lying eastward of Russia as far as Cathay, printed in 1688. On his tract concerning the militia, 1642, 4to. unnoticed by the biographers, see Todd's Life, (first ed.) p. 127. In a collection of poems by C. Gil. don, 1692, 12mo, p. 92, is Julii Mazarini Cardinalis epitaphium, auctore Joanne Milton. v. State Poems, i. 56. Mr. Godwin, in his Life of Philips, p. 190, has mentioned a attributed to Milton, in State Poems, 1697, in which isNoah be d-d.'

87 · He would be very cheerful even in his goute fitts, and sing: He died of the goute struck in, the 9 or 10 November, 1674, as appears by his "Apothecaries' books."'' Aubrey, Lett. iii. 449.

poem

Christopher that he wished to dictate to him the distribution of his property. He died by a quiet and silent expiration, on Sunday the 8th of November,38 at his house in Bunhill Fields, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. He was buried next his father in the chancel of St. Giles, Cripplegate, attended, as Toland informs us, .by all his learned and great friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar.'

The original stone laid upon the grave of Milton was removed not many years after his interment; and no memorial of the Poet's fame existed in the church in which he was buried,39 till by Mr. Whitbread's munificence, a marble bust, and tablet, recording the date of his birth and death were erected in the middle aisle. To the author of Paradise Lost a similar tribute of respect was paid in 1737, by Mr. Auditor Benson; and his monument, adorned with a bust, was placed at the expense of that gentleman in Westminster Abbey. Thus was Milton's wish, though late, fulfilled :

Ille meos artus liventi morte solutos
Curaret parva componi molliter urna.
Forsitan et nostros ducat de marmore vultus.'

Mansus, ver. 90. When the inscription, written by Atterbury, to the memory of John Philips, was exhibited to Dr. Spratt, then Dean of Westminster, he refused to admit it, because the Poet was said to be soli Miltono secundus. This anecdote was related to Johnson by Dr. Gregory. Such has been the

88 Johnson says, about the 10th of November, and Mr. Hayley on the 15th; but Mr. Todd has ascertained the exact date from a reference to the register of St. Giles's, Cripplegate.

89 On the disinterment of the supposed coffin and corpse of Milton in August, 1790, see the Pamphlet of P. Neve, Esq. and Todd's Life, p. 139. See also Appendix. VOL. I.

8

:

change of opinion, he added, that I have seen erected in the church the statue of that man, whose name I once knew considered as a pollution of its walls.

Milton, in his youth, is said to have been eminently handsome. He was called the Lady of his college.40 His complexion was fresh and fair.1 His hair, which was of a light brown, was parted in front, and hung down upon his shoulders. He was of a moderate stature, or rather below the middle size. His eyes were of a grayish colour; and when he was totally deprived of sight, he says that they did not betray the loss. His voice

40 Salmasius says "Tu quem olim Itali pro fæminâ habuerunt.' Salmas. Resp. p. 23, in his Prolusiones Acad. p. 132, he says of himself, “A quibusdam audivi, nuper domina,' &c.

41 On the portraits of Milton consult Todd's Life (second ed.), p. 235—240 ; to which I add, that I once saw a portrait of Milton at Lord Braybrooke's, Audley-End, in the galley (with a beard); that I also saw one of him, when young, at Lord Townshend's at Rainham, but many years (such years !!) have passed, and I cannot recollect any particulars. Charles Lamb, Esq. possesses an original portrait, left by his brother, and accidently bought in London. Could a portrait of Milton be in worthier hands ?—Consult also T. Warton's Milton, p. 331. As regards his portrait by W. Marshall, prefixed to his Poems (and which Salmasius did not dislike), he says, in his Defensio contra Morum, • Tu effigiem mihi dissimilimam præfixam Poematibus vidisti. Ego vero si impulsu et ambitione librarii, me imperito Sculptori, proptereà

quod in urbe alius eo tempore belli non erat, in fabri scalpendum permisi, me neglexisse potius eam rem arguebat, cujus tu mihi nimium cultum objicis.' v. Prose Works, v. p. 303; but Morus had drawn a different conclusion. An® deformitatem tibi vitio verterem, qui bellum etiam credidi maxime, postquam, tuis præfixam Poematibus comptulam iconem illam vidi?' Salmasius reproaches him with the loss of his beauty. “Malo isto magnam partem tuæ pulchritudinis deperiisse, pro eo ac debeo, doleo: nam in oculis maxime viget ac valet formædecus, quid Itali nunc dicerent, si te viderent cum ista tua fæda lippitudine.' Salmas. Resp. p. 15. I have heard that an original portrait of Milton (about thirty years of age) has been discovered by Mr. R. Lemon of the State Paper Office.

« 上一頁繼續 »