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She'll make you start at every noise you hear,
A palace 'tis, and of a great resors,
OF THE THEME OF LOVE
THE FUNERAL OF CALAMITY.
JOHN MILTON. 1608—1674.
Is not ench great, each amiable Muse
Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart:
Far above all the poets of his own age, and, in learning, invention, ana sublimity, without an equal in the whole range of English literature, stands John Miltox. He was born in London, December 9, 1608. His father. who was a scrivener, and who had suffered much for conscience sake, doubtless infused into his son those principles of religious freedom which made Inim, in subsequent years, the bulwark of that holy cause in England. He was also early instructed in music, to which may doubtless be attributed that richness and harmony of his versification which distinguished hiin as much as his learning and imagination. His early education was conducted with great care. At sixteen he entered the University of Cambridge. After leaving the university, where he was distinguished for his scholarship, he retired to the house of his father, who had relinquished business, ard had purchased a small property at Horton in Buckinghamshire. Here he lived five years, devoting his time most assiduously to classical literature, raking the wellknown remark that he “CARED NOT How LATE HE CAME INTO LIFE, ONLY THAT HE CAME FIT." While in the university he had written his grand "Hymn on the Nativity, any one verse of which was sufficient to show that a new and great light was about to rise on English poetry :" and there, at his father's, he wrote his « Comus," and « Lycidas," his « L'Allegro," and « Il Penseroso," and his “ Arcades."
In 1638 he went to Italy, the most accomplished Englishman that ever visited her classical shores. Here his society was courted by “ the choicest Italian wits," and he visited Galileo, then a prisoner in the Inquisition. On his return home, he opened a school in London, and devoted himself with great assiduity to the business of instruction. In the mean time, he entered into the religious disputes of the day, engaging in the controversy singie bandail against all the royalists and prelates; and though numbering amony. his antagonists such men as Bishop Hall and Archbishop Uslier, proving bimself equal to them all. In 1643 he married the daughter of Richard Powell, a nigh royalist; but the connection did not prove a happy one, his wife being utterly incapable of appreciating the loftiness and purity of the poet's character. In 1649 he was appointed foreign secretary under Cromwell, which office he held till the death of Cromwell, 1658.
1 "The Tuscan artist."
Paradise Lost, book i. line 288.
For ten years Milton's eyesight had been failing, owing to the “ wearisome studies and midnight watchings" of his youth. The last remains of it were sacrificed in the composition of his “ Defensio Populi,” (Defence of the People of England;) and by the close of the year 1652 he was totally blind : « Dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon.” At the Restoration he was obliged to conceal himself till the publication of the act of oblivion released him from danger. He then devoted himself exclusively to study, and especially to the composition of Paradise Lost.” The idea of this unequalled poem was probably conceived as early as 1642. It was published in 1667. For the first and second editions the blind poet received but the sum of five pounds each! In 1671 he produced his “ Paradise Regained,” and “ Samson Agonistes.” A long sufferer from an hereditary disease, his life was now drawing to a close. His mind was calm and bright to the last, and he died without a struggle, on Sunday, the 8th of November, 1674.
It is hardly necessary here to make any criticisms upon the works of this “ greatest of great men,” as essays almost numberless may be found upon bis life and writings. His chief poetical works are-1. His “ Paradise Lost," in twelve books, which is an account of the temptation and fall of our first Larents. 2. “ Paradise Regained,” in four books, depicting the temptation and iriumph of the second Adam, the Lord from Heaven.” 3. “Samson Agomistes," 2 a dramatic poem, relating the incidents of the life of the great champion of the Israelites, from the period of his blindness to the catastrophe that ended in his death. 4. “Lycidas," a monody on the death of a beloved
1 The best edition of Milton's poetry is that of Todd: London, 1809, 7 vols. This contains the invaluable verbal index. Another excellent edition has been edited by Sir Egerton Brydges, in 6 vols. the first volume of which is taken up with his life, written with that taste and discrimination so characteristic of the author, to whom English literature is under lasting obligations. The best edition of his prose works is by Symmons, 7 vois. 8vo. His prose and poetry have been published in London in one large royal 8vo. An edition of his prose works has been edited in this country by the Rev. Rufus W. Griswold. An eloquent Essay on Milton may be found in Macaulay's Miscellenies; another in the Retrospective Review, xiv. 282; and another in the London Quarterly, xxxvi. 29. In the following numbers of the Spectator, Addison has written a series of admirable criticisms on the “ Paradise Lost:" 262, 267, 273, 279, and so on for fifteen more numbers, at intervals of six, being published every Saturday. In No. 76 of the Observer, by Cumberland, there are some remarks
histes." Consult, also, Hallam's Literature of Europe;" and read an admirable article on Multon in Dr. Channing's works.
Or Johnson's "Life," Sir Egerton Brydges justly remarks: “It is written in a bad, malignant, and even vulgar spirit. The language is sometimes coarse, and the humor pedantic and gross. The criticism on the Paradise Lost is powerful and grand: the criticis false, and execrable - Imaginative Biography, i. 149. Or Addison's "Essay," the same writer says: “It ought to be suudied and almost got by heart by every cultivated mind which understands the English language. It is in all respects a masterly performance; just in thought, full of taste and the finest sensibility, cloquent and beautiful in composition, widely learned, and so clearly explanatory of the true principles of poetry, that whoever is master of them cannot mistake in his decision of poetical merit. It puts Milton above all other poets on such tests as cannot be resisted." Live, 1. 221.
2 That is, the champion," " the coinbatant," from the Greek ayw VOTNS, (agonistes,) "a combatant at the public games."
friend, (Mr. Edward King,) who was shipwrecked in the Irish Sea. 5. “L'Allegro," an ode to mirth. 6. «Il Penseroso," an ode to melancholy. 7. « Comus, a mask,” the purest and most exquisite creation of the imagination and fancy in English literature. 8. « Arcades,"? a part of a mask 9 «Hymn on the Nativity.” 10. « Sonnets.”
ODE ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.
This is the month, and this the happy morn,
Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King,
Our great redemption from above did bring;
For so the holy sages once did sing,
That glorious form, that light unsufferably,
And that far-beaming blaze of majesty,
To sit the midst of Trinal-Unity,
Say, heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein
Afford a present to the Infant God?
To welcome him to this his new abode,
Now while the Heaven, by the sun's team untrod,
See how from far upon the eastern road
The star-led wizards haste with odors sweet;
And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;
Have thou the honor first thy Lord to greet,
1 " Arcades," that is, the Arcadian shepherds
sy" that 18, the Arcadian shepherds: of course, it is of a pastoral character. 9 “When it is recollected that this piece was pro
collected that this piece was produced by the author at the age of twenty-one, all deep thinkers, of fancy and sensibility, must pore
tancy and sensibility, must pore over it with delighted wonder. The vigor, the grandeur, the imaginativeness of the conception; the
aiveness of the conception; the force and maturity of language; the bound, the batering strength, the thundering roll of the metre; the largeness
ndering roll of the metre; the largeness of the views; the extent of the learning; the solcmn and awful tones: the enthusiasm, and a cerca
il tones; the enthusiasm, and a certain spell in the epithets, which puts the reader into a state of mysterious excitement,--all
of mysterious excitement, -all these may be better felt than descrihed."--Sir Egerton Bridges.