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'HIS volume is partly a recast of the earlier
editions of this poem in the “Pitt Press Series," and I desire to repeat my acknowledgment of indebtedness to other Editors.
I have also the pleasure to thank the General Editor of the series for many valuable suggestions.
A. W. V.
LIFE OF MILTON.
MILTON's life falls into three clearly defined divisions. The first period ends with the poet's return
The three from Italy in 1639; the second at the periods in
Milton's life. Restoration in 1660, when release from the fetters of politics enabled him to remind the world that he was a great poet, if not a great controversialist; the third is brought to a close with his death in 1674. The poems given in the present volume date from the first of these periods ; but we propose to summarise briefly the main events of all three.
John Milton was born on December 9, 1608, in London. He came, in his own words, ex
Born 1608; genere honesto. A family of Miltons had
father. been settled in Oxfordshire since the reign of Elizabeth. The poet's father had been educated at an Oxford school, possibly as a chorister in one of the College choir-schools, and imbibing Anglican sympathies had conformed to the Established Church. For this he was disinherited by his father, a Roman Catholic. He settled in London, as a scrivener. A scrivener combined the occupations of lawyer and law-stationer. It appears to have been a lucrative calling ; certainly John Milton (the poet was named after the father) attained to easy circumstances. He married about 1600, and had six children, of whom several died young. The third child was the poet.
The elder Milton was evidently a man of considerable culture, in particular an accomplished musician, and a composer whose madrigals were deemed worthy of being
printed side by side with those of Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and other leading musicians of the time. To him, no doubt, the poet owed the love of music of which we see frequent indications in the poems. Realising, too, that in his son lay the promise and possibility of future greatness, John Milton took the utmost pains to have the boy adequately educated; and the lines Ad Patrem show that the ties of affection between father and child were of more than ordinary closeness.
Milton was sent to St Paul's School about the year Early
1620. Here two influences, apart from those Training of ordinary school-life, may have affected him particularly. The headmaster was a good English scholar; he published a grammar containing many extracts from English poets, notably Spenser; it is reasonable to assume that he had not a little to do with the encouragement and guidance of Milton's early taste for English poetry. Also, the founder of St Paul's School, Colet, had prescribed as part of the school-course the study of certain early Christian writers, whose influence is said to be directly traceable in Milton's poems and may in some cases have suggested his choice of sacred themes. While at St Paul's, Milton also had a tutor at home, Thomas Young, a Scotchman, afterwards an eminent Puritan divine—the inspirer, doubtless, of much of his pupils Puritan sympathies. And Milton enjoyed the signal advantage of growing up in the stimulating atmosphere of cultured home-life. Most men do not realise that the word 'culture' signifies anything very definite or desirable before they pass to the University ; for Milton, however, home-life meant, from the first, not only broad interests and refinement, but active encouragement towards literature and study. In 1625 he left St Paul's. Of his extant English poems only one, On the Death of a Fair Infant, dates from his school-days; but we are told that he had written much verse, English and Latin. And his early training had done that which was all-important: it had laid the