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“ derable while, and desiring the reason thereof, 6 answered, that his vein never happily flowed but « from the Autumnal Equinox to the Vernal; and “ that whatever he attempted at other times was “ never to his satisfaction, though he courted his “ fancy never so much; so that, in all the years he “ was about this poem, he may be said to have 66 spent half his time therein."

Upon this relation Toland remarks, that in his opinion Philips has mistaken the time of the year; for Milton, in his Elegies, declares, that with the advance of the Spring he feels the increase of his poetical force, redeunt in carmina vires. To this it is answered, that Philips could hardly mistake time 80 well marked; and it may be added that Milton might find different times of the year favourable to different parts of life. Mr Richardson conceives it impossible that such a work should be suspended for six months, or for one. It may go on faster or slower, but it must go on. By what necessity it must continually go on, or why it might not be laid aside and resumed, it is not easy to discover.

This dependence of the soul upon the seasons, those temporary and periodical ebbs and flows of intellect, may, I suppose, justly be derided as the fumes of vain imagination. Sapiens dominabitur asiris. The author that thinks himself weatherbound will find, with a little help from hellebore, that he is only idle or exhausted. But while this notion has possession of the head, it produces the inability which it supposes. Our powers owe much of their energy to our hopes; possunt quia posse videntur.' When success seems attainable, diligence is enforced; but when it is admitted that

the faculties are suppressed by a cross wind, or a cloudy sky, the day is given up without resistance ; for who can contend with the course of Nature?

From such prepossessions Milton seems not to have been free. There prevailed in his time an opinion, that the world was in its decay, and that we have had the misfortune to be produced in the de. crepitude of Nature. It was suspected that the whole creation languished, that neither trees noranimals had the height or bulk of their predecessors, and that every thing was daily sinking by gradual diminution. Milton appears to suspect that souls partake of the general degeneracy, and is not without some fear that his book is to be written in an age too late for heroick poesy.

Another opinion wanders about the world, and sometimes finds reception among wise men; an opinion that restrains the operations of the mind to particular regions, and supposes that a luckless mortal may be born in a degree of latitude too high or too low for wisdom or for wit. From this fancy, wild as it is, he had not wholly cleared his head, when he feared lest the climate of his country might be too cold for flights of imagination.

Into a mind already occupied by such fancies, another not more reasonable might easily find its way. He that could fear lest his genius had fallen upon too old a world, or too chill a climate, might consistently magnify to himself the influence of the seasons, and believe his faculties to be vigorous only half the year.

His submission to the seasons was at least more reasonable than his dread of decaying nature, or a frigid zone; for general causes must operate uniformly in a general abatement of mental power; if less could be performed by the writer, less likewise would content the judges of his work. Among this lagging race of frosty grovellers he might still have risen into eminence by producing something which they should not willingly let die. However inferior to the heroes who were born in better ages, he might still be great among his contemporaries, with the hope of growing every day greater in the dwindle of posterity. He might still be a giant among the pygmies; the one-eyed monarch of the blind.

Of his artifices of study, or particular hours of composition, we have little account, and there was perhaps little to be told. Richardson, who seems to have been very diligent in his inquiries, bat discovers always a wish to find Milton discriminated from other men, relates, that “ he would some“ times lie awake whole nights, but not a verse “ could he make; and on a sudden his poetical fa“ culty would rush upon him with an impetus or “ æstrum, and his daughter was immediately called " to secure what çame, At other times he would 66 dictate perhaps forty lines in a breath, and then “ reduce them to half the number."

These bursts of light, and involutions of dark. ness, these transient and involuntary excursions and retrocessions of invention, having some appearance of deviation from the common train of Nature, are eagerly caught by the lovers of a wonder. Yet something of this inequality happens to every man in every mode of exertion, manual or mental. The mechanick cannot handle his hammer and his file at all times with equal dexterity; there are hours, he knows not why, when his hand is out. By Mr Richardson's relation, casually conveyed, much regard cannot be claimed. That, in his intellectual hour, Milton called for his daughter to secure what came, may be questioned ; for unluckily it happens to be known that his daughters were never taught to write ; nor would he have been obliged, as is universally confessed, to have employed any casual visitor in disburthening his memory, if his daughter could have performed the office.

The story of reducing his exuberance has been told of other authors, and, though doubtless true of every fertile and copious mind, seems to have been gratuitously transferred to Milton. .

What he has told, us, and we cannot now know more, is, that he composed much of this poem in the night and morning, I suppose before his mind was disturbed with common business; and that he poured out with great fluency his unpremeditated verse. Versification, free, like his, from the distresses of rhyme, must, by a work so long, be made prompt and habitual ; and, when his thoughts were once adjusted, the words would come at his command.

At what particular times of his life the parts of his work were written, cannot often be known. The beginning of the third book shews that he had lost his sight; and the Introduction to the seventh, that the return of the King had clouded him with discountenance; and that he was offended by the licentious festivity of the Restoration. There are no other internal notes of time. Milton, being now cleared from all effects of his disloyalty, had nothing required from him but the common

duty of living in quiet, to be rewarded with the common right of protection; but this, which, when he skulked from the approach of his King, was perhaps more than he hoped, seems not to have satisfied him ; for no sooner is he safe, than he finds himself in danger, fallen on evil days and evil tongues, and with darkness and with danger compass'd round. This darkness, had his eyes been better employed, had undoubtedly deserved compassion ; but to add the mention of danger was ungrateful and unjust. He was fallen indeed on evil days; the time was come in which regicides could no longer boast their wickedness. But of evil tongues for Milton to complain required impudence at least equal to his other powers ; Milton, whose warmest advocates must allow, that he never, spared any asperity of reproach or brutality of insolence.

But the charge itself seems to be false ; for it would be hard to recollect any reproach cast upon him, either serious or ludicrous, through the whole remaining part of his life. He pursued his studies, or his amusements, without persecution, molesta. tion, or insult. Such is the reverence paid to great abilities, however misused: they, who contemplated in Milton the scholar and the wit, were con. tented to forget the reviler of his King.

When the plague (1665) raged in London, Milton took refuge at Chalfont in Bucks; where Elwood, who had taken the house for him, first saw a complete copy of Paradise Lost, and, having perused it, said to him, “ Thou hast said a great « deal upon Paradise Lost; what hast thou to say upon Paradise Found?

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