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precise a local designation adopted without some suggestion from fact.
99, 100. “deserto in littore Proteus agmina phocarum numerat.” A recollection from Virgil, Georg. IV. 418-436, where the sea-god Proteus is described in this very occupation of tending and numbering his troops of sea-calves on the beach.
115-117. “Ecquid erat tanti Romam vidisse sepultam,” etc. A reference to Virgil's First Eclogue, where the shepherd Tityrus tells the shepherd Melibous of his visit to Rome and his first impressions of that great city. As in that Eclogue Tityrus represents Virgil himself, Milton's meaning here is, “Was it of so much consequence for me to go all the way from England to see Rome, even if Rome had been the same vast and unruined city that
was in Virgil's days?” He all but borrows a line of the Eclogue
“ Et quæ tanta fuit Romam tibi causa videndi ?” Milton visited Rome twice in the course of his foreign tour : viz. in Oct. and Nov. 1638, and again in Jan. and Feb. 1639.
126. “ Pastores Thusci”: the wits and literary men of Florence, among whom Milton had spent two months (Aug. and Sept.) in 1638, and again two months (March and April) in 1639. Among these he became acquainted most intimately with the following eight persons, all then of some distinction in Florentine society, and active in its Academies or literary institutions : Benedetto Buommattei, Jacopo Gaddi, Agostino Coltellini, Valerio Chimentelli, Pietro Frescobaldi, Antonio Malatesti, Antonio Francini, and Carlo Dati. But the great Galileo was living in his blindness near Florence, and Milton had been introduced to him also.
127, 128. “Thuscus tu quoque Damon, antiquâ genus unde petis Lucumonis ab urbe.” For Diodati's genealogy see Introd. to Elegia Prima, I. pp. 253–255. By “antiquâ Lucumonis urbe” is meant Lucca, Milton perhaps having heard a tradition that it had been founded by one of the old Etruscan Lucumons or kings,-possibly even by that Lucumon who was afterwards Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth King of Rome in the legends. Lucca is certainly an ancient city; but it is doubted now whether it is of Etruscan origin, as no Etruscan remains have been found on the site (see Smith's Dict. of Greek and Roman Geog., Art. Luca). It has already been noted in the Introd. (I. p. 317) that Milton, when on his second visit to Florence, made an excursion of a few days, expressly to see Lucca, the place of Diodati's ancestry. 132. “ Et potui Lycida certantem audire Menalcam !”
An allusion, in pastoral terms, to the discussions and trials of literary skill he had heard in the Florentine academies. Lycidas and
Menalcas may be any of the fore-named group of Florentine scholars (note 126). Both names are from the Virgilian Eclogues ; and, though Milton had already two years before appropriated Lycidas immortally to Edward King of Cambridge, he does not hesitate to re-apply the name casually here.
133, 134. “Ipse etiam tentare ausus sum,” etc. : i.e. Milton had himself in Florence partaken in the literary discussions of the Academies, and been complimented by his Florentine friends on his poetical and other abilities. See note to Mansus, line 29, for an enumeration of the pieces of verse written by Milton in Italy. While in Florence, he wrote also an interesting Latin letter to Buommattei on his Italian Grammar (Sept.. 10, 1638); and it is possible, though not likely, that he wrote other things which he did not preserve.
Doubtless the “attempts” he speaks of as “not displeasing” his Florentine friends were chiefly such of his Latin poems and academic exercises as he had brought with him from England, or could remember; for it does not seem that any of his Florentine friends could read English, so as to appreciate his Comus, his Lycidas, or his other English pieces.
134, 135. nam sunt et apud me munera vestra,” etc. Richardson refers to Virgil, Ed. III. 62, 63, where Menalcas says
“ Et me Phoebus amat : Phoebo sua semper apud me
Munera sunt, lauri, et suave rubens hyacinthus.” I do not doubt, however, that Milton had actually received little gifts, or tokens of remembrance, from his Florentine friends, and that, to be in pastoral keeping, he names these “ fiscella, calathique, et cerea vincla cicuta."
136-138. “ Quin et nostra . et Datis et Francinus Lydorum sanguinis ambo." Milton here, after having referred to his Florentine friends generally as "pastores Thusci," or "Tuscan shepherds,” mentions two of them, Carlo Dati and Antonio Francini, with particular regard, and expressly by their own names, on account of the encomiums they had bestowed upon him : Francini in an elaborate Italian ode, and Dati in a Latin address (see both performances among the De Auctore Testimonia, I. pp. 474–477). They are called “of the blood of the Lydians,” in allusion to the story in Herodotus, universally accepted in the ancient world, that the Etruscans came from Lydia in Asia Minor. Doubtless, too, there is an allusion to Horace (Sat. I. vi. 1, 2) where he says of Mecænas that no one was generosior than he of all who inhabited “ Lydorum Etruscos fines.”—It may be again mentioned that Milton's affectionate remembrance of his Tuscan friends accompanied him through life. Among his Latin Familiar Epistles is one to Carlo Dati, dated
London, April 21, 1647,” in which messages are sent to Coltellini,
Francini, Frescobaldi, Malatesti, and Chimentelli, and “the rest of the Gaddian Academy”; the correspondence with Dati did not then cease; and in Milton's Defensio Secunda, published in 1654, he made honourable mention of seven of the group by name, acknowledging his obligations to them, and to “not a few others” in Florence.
142. cum te cinis ater habebat.” Traced to Virgil, Æn. IV. 633 :
“Namque suam patria antiqua cinis ater habebat.” 144. “ Vimina nunc texit varios sibi quod sit in usus.'” Traced to Virgil, Ecl. II. 71, 72 :
“Quin tu aliquid saltem potius, quorum indiget usus,
Viminibus mollique paras detexere junco ?” 149. “ Aut ad aquas Colni, aut ubi jugera Cassibelauni ?” The “aquæ Colni” sufficiently designate the neighbourhood of Horton in Bucks, the country-residence of Milton's father, where Milton had mainly lived from 1632 to 1638; the "jugera Cassibelauni,” remembered by Milton as also a frequent scene of his meetings and walks with Diodati, were the neighbourhood of St. Albans in Herts, where, according to Camden, the British king Cassibelaunus, who opposed Cæsar, had his headquarters.
150–154. “Tu mihi percurres medicos," etc. The reference is to Diodati's profession of medicine and his botanical knowledge. See Comus, 619-628, and note there.
155-160. “Ipse etiam,” etc. Observe the subtle connexion here with what has preceded. Milton has been speaking of Diodati's profession, of his botanical pursuits, of the topics of conversation these furnished in their walks, and now of the close of all this by death. Then he goes on to remember that he himself has a profession, if it may be so called,—that of letters and poetry,—and how often and how naturally, in exchange for Diodati's medical chat, he had talked with him about his own literary doings and plans. Well, if Diodati had been still alive, to welcome him back to England, what would have been one of his first communications to that beloved friend? Would it not have been about a great English Poem he had been meditating while in Italy, and of which his mind was still so full that actually but a few days ago,-eleven nights and a day, says Milton, with his usual exactness,—he had been trying to make a beginning? It had not been successful; the theme was too grave for one whose poetical exercises hitherto had been of a lighter kind : well might he hesitate ! Would he have ventured, after all, to tell even Diodati ? And now, with no Diodati to hear, shall he risk putting his bold intention on paper? Observe the studied breaks
in the syntax, the jerks of short clauses, with which he conveys his doubts whether it will be prudent to do so, whether he may not incur the charge of boastfulness if he does; and then the sudden resolution tamen et referam: vos cedite, Sylve." By “sylva” or “woods” Milton here means Pastoral Poesy : and it is as if he had said, “ Pastoral Poesy! listen to that scheme of mine which is to withdraw me from your service and transfer me to one higher and more difficult !” 162–168. “Ipse ego Dardanias,” etc.
In this famous passage Milton divulges in greater detail that scheme of an Epic on the subject of King Arthur and Legendary British History which he had announced a year before in his poem to Manso (see Mansus, 80–84, and note there). All the proper names in the passage are significant. The “ Dardania Rutupina per æquora puppes” of which he is to speak are the Trojan ships along the Kentish coasts, bringing Brutus and his wandering Trojan followers to their new home in Britain (Rutupinus being from Rutupa or Rutupia, now Richborough in Kent, famous among the Romans for its oyster-beds, and reckoned one of the most convenient ports in southern Britain). The “ Pandrasidos regnum vetus Inogeniæ” is the realm which Brutus established in Britain, called, in poetical gallantry, not his, but that of his wife Inogen, or Imogen, the daughter of the Grecian king Pandrasus, with whom Brutus and his Trojans had fought in the course of their Mediterranean wanderings, though at length there was an agreement, with a handsome parting dowry of ships and money from Pandrasus to Inogen and her adventurous husband. In the line " Brennumque Arviragumque duces, priscumque Belinum” we are led farther on in British legendary history, and touch it at two long-separated points. Brennus and Belinus are two famous British brothers, sons of Dunwallo Molmutius, the second founder of the British nation, more than six hundred years after its first foundation by Brutus; and the legends tell nothing less of them than that, after mutual wars in Britain, they joined forces and led that famous expedition of so-called Gauls into Italy by which infant Rome had nearly perished (B.C. 390),—the so-called Gauls of that invasion being in reality Britons, and the Brennus who flung his broadsword into the scale, and said “ Væ victis !” to the trembling Romans who were weighing out their ransom in gold, being the younger of the two brothers. For Arviragus, again, though he is wedged into the line with the two brothers, and indeed separates them, we must come down to the time of the Roman occupation of Britain ; for he was one of the sons .of the British king Cunobelin (Shakespeare's Cymbeline), and fought against the Roman invaders about A.D. 45. In the succeeding line “ Et tandem Armoricos Britonum sub lege colonos” we overleap several centuries more, and
arrive at the period of the supposed colonisation of Armorica in France by refugee Britons escaping from the cruelties of Hengist, Horsa, and their Pagan Saxons (A.D. 450 et seq.) Thus at last we reach the main subject :
“ Tum gravidam Arturo, fatali fraude Tögernen ;
Mendaces vultus, assumptaque Gorlöis arma,
Merlini dolus." Here we rest on the birth of the great Arthur, whose mother was Igraine, wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall, but whose father was not this Gorlois, but Uther Pendragon, King of all Britain, introduced into the lady's castle, in the likeness of her dead husband, by the craft of the magician Merlin.—How Milton was to weld into one epic all these masses of legend, straggling over some sixteen hundred years of imagined time, cannot be known. Probably, while making Arthur his immediate hero, and using Malory's Morte D'Arthur, or the original Arthurian poems, as his material for that story, he might, by some device of magical reflection or doubling-back in the narrative, have included a retrospect of the British Legendary History back to Brutus, as told in Geoffrey of Monmouth, and summarised poetically by Spenser in sixty-four stanzas of his Faery Queene (see F. Q. Book II. Canto x. stanzas 5–68; and note the mention there of Brutus and Inogen, 9—13, Brennus and Belinus 40, Arvirage or Arviragus, 51, and the Armorican settlers, 64). As it happened, he was never to carry his project into effect; and all we have from him as a substitute for it is his prose compilation of the British Legends in his History of Britain, published in 1670. Within a year after the Epitaphium Damonis was written, the notion of an Arthurian Epic was abandoned by Milton and other subjects were occupying his mind. See Introd. to Par. Lost, II. pp. 42– 44, and General Introd. to Minor Poems, I. pp. 82–84.
168—171. “O, mihi tum si vita supersit Brittonicum strides." If Milton had carried out his great Arthurian project, then, as he here says, the simpler pastoral pipe which he had hitherto used most in his poetry would have been hung up and forgotten, and, as he also says, the Latin versification, which he had so much practised, would have been exchanged for native English and the British war-screech.
171—178. “ Quid enim ? omnia non licet uni.” In this passage, in the opening of which there is a trace of Virgil's non omnia possumus omnes ” (Ed. VIII. 63), Milton still pursues the idea of his great intended epic, and emphasises the fact that it would be in English. In that fact there was certainly a drawback; for would it not limit his constituency of readers to his own countrymen ? What then? He would be content with that constituency ! Yes !