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with his first wife and his children, are to be counterbalanced in our minds by the impression of companionableness that we derive from the picture of the old blind poet, sought out by many who not merely admired his greatness, but found pleasure in his society, and counted it a privilege to talk with him and read to him. Stern and sad he could hardly fail to be, but his old age was peaceful and not bitter.
He died on November 8, 1674, and was buried in the Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, London.
III. L'ALLEGRO AND IL PENSEROSO L'Allegro and Il Penserose_are believed to have been written while Milton was at Horton, shortly after he left. Cambridge in 1632. They are companion studies of the characteristic occupations of two men of different temperaments, or of the same man in two different moods. The plan of the two pieces is in general the same. Both begin with an invocation and a fanciful mythological genealogy, and proceed to describe a series of imagined typical experiences. These follow roughly the times of the day in natural succession, but it is not to be supposed that in either case Milton meant the hero to include within one span of
twenty-four hours all the occupations mentioned. +Thus L'Allegro, the cheerful man, may rise with the
lark, walk out among the blithe sounds of the early morning, observe the various occupations of the country people, and in the evening sit by the fire and hear their rustic tales. Or he may spend his time among the brilliant gaieties of the court, or go to the theatre, or listen to light music. On the other hand, Il Penseroso, the meditative man, hears the nightingale instead of the lark, and walking out by moonlight, he catches the sound of a far-off curfew over the waters. Or, if the evening is chill, he will sit by his fireside listening to the sounds in the street below, or studying philosophy and literature until the dawn. The congenial morning for him will be cloudy, with showers and wind, and when the sun begins to glare he will seek shades in the gloom of the forest, where he will drowse beside a murmuring stream. He will find delight, too, in the dim light of a great church, and in the solemn tones of the organ. His old age he would spend in the peaceful retirement of a hermitage. 1 Milton is supposed by some to have received suggestions for these poems from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, especially the prefatory verses called The Author's Abstract of Melancholy, and from the song, Hence, all you vain delights, in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Nice Valour. In neither case is the obligation very clearly marked. Another probable source of suggestion, to which attention does not seem to have yet been called, is in John Marston's Scourge of Villainy, Satire xi;
Sleep, grim Reproof; my jocund Muse doth sing
The gouty humours of these pride-swoll'n days." The resemblance of these lines, both in thought and phrasing, to the opening of L'Allegro scarcely needs to be pointed out.
Both poems contain the same variety of metres. They open with ten lines of six and ten syllables alternately, while the main parts of the poems consist of lines of eight syllables. The accents fall as a rule on the even, but not infrequently on the odd, syllables, and in the latter case, the line is one syllable shorter. The arrangement of rhymes in the opening lines is as follows:-a b b a c d d ee c; throughout the rest of the poems the lines rhyme in pairs.
IV. COMUS 7 During the reign of Charles I., as for a considerable time previously, the government of certain outlying parts of the realm was presided over by noblemen with almost vice-regal state. Such was the position of Wontworth, afterwards Earl
1 The Works of John Marston, ed. by A. H. Bullen, London, 1887, vol. III, p. 371.
of Strafford, as Lord President of the North and later as Lord Deputy in Ireland, and such also was that of the Earl of Bridgewater, who had been created Lord President of Wales. The appointment was made in 1631, but the Earl does not seem to have actually entered upon his office until a year or two later. At any rate, it was not till the summer of 1634 that the celebrations in honor of his inauguration were held; and it was these celebrations that gave occasion for the writing of Comus.
Mr. Henry Lawes, one of the most distinguished musicians of the time, and a person of experience in the presentation of court entertainments, was intimate both with the Bridgewaters—to some of whom he had given instruction in music—and with Milton. Indeed, he had already induced the young poet to write his Arcades for an entertainment to be given in honor of a member of the same noble family. It is more than probable, then, that it was through Lawes that Milton came to compose this work, so far his most considerable production. Lawes himself wrote the music for the songs, attended to the stage management, acted the very important part of the Attendant Spirit, and, some years later, obtained Milton's consent to the publication of the poem itself.
The form of the entertainment was far from unusual at the time. The practice of dancing by
masked figures had existed as part of the revels Ion festive occasions in England for two or three centuries; but in the beginning of the sixteenth century, if not sooner, the additional feature of the dancing of the masquers with the spectators was introduced (from Italy, one chronicler seems to say), and the name masque was used of the performance. Throughout the reign of Elizabeth, it underwent a considerable development, and came to be a common episode in the regular drama, as well as a frequent part of the gorgeous entertainments in which that queen delighted. But it was not till the accession of James I. that,
in the hands of Ben Jonson, it took rank in Enge 7 land as a form of literature. To the introductory
speech and the occasional songs in which had hitherto mainly consisted the literary elements of the representation, Jonson added dialogue of varying length and the grotesque anti-masque, while the mechanical ingenuity of Inigo Jones and the musical ability of men like Lawes combined to build up those splendid and costly performances which were one of the chief sources of brilliancy in the court society of the reigns of James I. and Charles I. The form was at its point of highest development when Milton produced Comus; and an analysis of that performance into its most important elements will sufficiently indicate the characteristics of the type.