« PreviousContinue »
what others had extracted before."-The first printed encomium which this volume feems to have received was from the pen of Addifon.' (Spect. N° 249.)
While thus contemplating the fhameful neglect which the Poet experienced, it is impoffible to exprefs any furprife at our having fo few of his early bloffoms. This, combined with the anarchy of the times, involving him in political and religious controversy, caufed him, in a great measure, at a period of life when the imagination is moft warm and vigorous, to relinquish the elegant exercifes of his Mufe. Not that his delight in, or relish for, thefe, was impaired (as Mr. W. would infinuate) by his zeal for innovation, and, what he calls, the deplorable polemics of Puritanism; but the real fact feems to be, that, ftimulated by his patriotic attachment, by a claffic love of liberty, and by that enthusiasm natural to a great poet, he was led to take an active part in the public commotions, and the more effectually to ferve the cause he efpoufed, embarked on a sea of noise and boarse difpute, where he had no leifure for cherishing those thoughts that move harmonious numbers, and for building the lofty rhime. It was merely the critical fituation of his country, that kept him from the Heliconian Spring. In proof of this, it is fufficient to obferve, that when civil commotions ceafed, he returned to his much-loved occupation, and produced, in fpite of Puritanism, republicanism, and blindness, that glorious work the Paradife Loft. When feafting on his poetry, we are ready to with that, inftead of his Apology for Smedtymnuust, his Tetrachordon, and fome other of his profe pieces, he had given us immortal verfe; for though we would not be fuppofed to defpife or undervalue his profe-writings, we cannot but think with Mr. W. that on the topics agitated in fome of thefe, minds lefs refined and faculties lefs elegantly cultivated might have been as well employed:
coarfe complections And cheeks of forry grain, will ferve to ply
See a good Preface by Oldys (Pref. p. 20.) to a copious and judicious compilation, called the BRITISH MUSE, in three volumes, by Thomas Hayward. We are furprised to find Dennis, in his Letters, published in 1721, quoting a few verfes from Milton's Latin Poems, relating to his Travels. See p. 78, 79. But Dennis had them from Toland's Life of Milton.
Mr. Warton is mistaken in saying Milton wrote Smectymnuus. The writers of this book were five; viz. Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young (the Junius to whom Milton's 4th Latin elegy is addressed), Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurftow; the firft letters of whofe Chriftian and Surnames compofe the word Smectymnuus. See Birch's Life of Milton prefixed to his profe works, 2 vols. quarto, p. 24. Of this book, Milton wrote a defence, called, An Apology for Smedtymnuus.
The fampler, and to teafe the hufwife's wool:
But after all, love-darting eyes must often be fixed on homely objects, and the moft fublime geniufes be fometimes employed in difcuffing fubjects which lie level to ordinary abilities. Inftead, therefore, of wafting our time in abfurdly wondering and fruitlefsly regretting that Milton has not written more poetry, we muft exprefs our obligations to him for thofe few juvenile poems which he found lesture or inclination to prefent to pofterity, and proceed to confider what his prefent Editor has done to illuftrate them.
As to Mr. Warton's defign and conduct in this edition, it will be beft fet forth in his own words:
My volume exhibits thofe poems of Milton, of which a fecond edit on, with fome flender additions, appeared in 1673, while the Author was yet living, under the title Poems upon feveral Occafions, by Mr. John Milton. Both English and Latin, &c. Compofed at feveral Times." In this collection our Author did not include his PARADISE REGAINED, and SAMSON AGONISTES, as fome later editors have, perhaps improperly, done. Thofe two pieces, forming a fingle volume by themfelves, had juft before been printed together in 1671. Milton here intended only an edition of his juvenile poems; and to this plan the prefent edition is confined, except only that two or three Latin Epigrams, and a few petty fragments of tranflation, felected from the profe works, are adinitted.
The chief purpose of the Notes is to explain our Author's allufions, to illuftrate or to vindicate his beauties; to point out his imitations both of others and of himfelf, to elucidate his obfolete diction, and by the adduction and juxta-pofition of parallels univerfally gleaned both from his poetry and profe, to afcertain his favourite words, and to fhew the peculiarities of his phrafeology.'
He concludes his Preface by further informing us, that he found it expedient to alter or enlarge Milton's own titles, which feemed to want fulness and precifion, yet preferving their form and fubftance; that he has difpofed the pieces in a new order, and moreover that he has endeavoured to render the text as uncorrupt and perfpicuous as poffible, not only by examining and comparing the authentic copies published under the Author's immediate infpection, but by regulating the punctuation, of which Milton appears to have been habitually careless.'
That attention which Mr. Warton has beftowed on the lalt= mentioned object entitles him to peculiar commendation; for nothing is more meritorious in an editor than an unremitting
*In this we do not perceive any great impropriety. Though Milton did not originally print them with his fmaller poems, an Editor, furely, might afterward be allowed to include them, for convenience, in the fame volume.
care to exhibit the text of his author with all poffible purity and correctnefs. This of itfelf will often preclude the labour of annotation, being all that is requifite to render many paffages perfectly intelligible. How many of the obfcurities of our divine Shakespeare have been removed by the judicious ufe of commas, femicolons, &c.! And by availing himfelf of the affiftance of thefe humble auxiliaries of criticism, we find Mr. Warton improving, and in, fome places elucidating, the text of Milton. However, therefore, the Poet may be difpofed (fhould they hereafter meet in the fhades) to frown, and look with eyes afkance on his prefent Editor, for the very degrading mention he makes of his puritanical and republican principles, he would fill be ready to acknowlege himfelf (for John Milton's ghoft cannot be a defpicable ghoft) under fome obligations to him for this part of his labour; as there is reafon to believe that these his Juvenile Poems are here offered to the Public more minutely accurate than they came even from his own pen.
But Mr. Warton would have juft ground for complaint, were we to give him no other commendation than that which he merits for the care and accuracy he has difplayed in the department of an Editor. To a corrected text, he bas fubjoined a body of explanatory notes, and critical illuftrations:-Notes and Illuftrations which are manifeftly the fruit of diligent reading and patient research, ferving to unfold the treafures whence Milton drew moft of his beautiful imagery ;-to explain his Gothic and claffical allufions ;-to point out the fource of many of his conceptions, and at the fame time to demonftrate and display the ftrength and fublimity of his genius. Thofe notes which may be called historical, and those at the end of the larger poems in this volume, containing a kind of general critique on them, abound with valuable information, are drawn up with much judgment and tafte, and will be perufed with peculiar pleasure. The notes in LYCIDAS on the vifion of the guarded mount, and the fable of Bellerus, are happy explanations of a difficult paffage, and do great credit to Mr. Warton as a commentator on Milton. We fhall transcribe the whole paffage from the poem, and then give, entire, the notes referred to, for the gratification of our poetical Readers.
L. 154. Ay me! whilft thee the fhores and founding feas
The whole of this paffage (i. e. that in Italics) has never yet been explained or understood. That part of the coaft of Cornwall called the LAND'S END, with its neighbourhood, is here intended, in which is the promontory of BELLERIUM fo named from Bellerus a Cornish giant. And we are told by Camden, that this is the only part of our island that looks directly towards Spain. So alfo Dray ton, POLYOLB. S. xxiii. vol. iii. p. 1107.
Then Cornwall creepeth out into the westerne maine,
And Orofius, "The fecond angle or point of Spain forms a cape, "where Brigantia, a city of Galicia, rears a moft lofty watch-tower, "of admirable conftruction, in full view of Britain." HIST. L. i. c. ii. fol. 5. a. edit. Parif. 1524. fol. But what is the meaning of "The Great Vision of the Guarded Mount ?" And of the line immediately following, "Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth?" I flatter myself I have discovered Milton's original and leading idea.
Juft by the Land's End in Cornwall, is a moft romantic projection of rock, called SAINT MICHAEL'S MOUNT, into a harbour called MOUNT's-BAY. It gradually rifes from a broad bafis into a very fteep and narrow, but craggy elevation. Towards the fea the declivity is almoft perpendicular. At low water it is acceffible by land and not many years ago, it was entirely joined with the prefent fhore, between which and the MOUNT, there is a rock called CHAPEL-ROCK. Tradition, or rather fuperftition, reports, that it was anciently connected by a large tract of land, full of churches, with the ifles of Scilly. On the fummit of SAINT MICHAEL'S MOUNT a monaftery was founded before the time of Edward the Confeffor, now a feat of Sir John Saint Aubyn. The church, refectory, and many of the apartments, fill remain. With this monaftery was incorporated a ftrong fortrefs, regularly garrifoned and in a patent of Henry the Fourth, dated 1403, the monaftery itself, which was ordered to be repaired, is ftyled FORTALITIUM. Rym. FOED. viii. 102. 340, 341. A ftone-lantern, in one of the angies of
the Tower of the Church, is called SAINT MICHAEL'S CHAIR. But this is not the original SAINT MICHAEL'S CHAIR. We are told by Carew, in his SURVAY OF CORNWALL," A little without the Castle [this fortrefs], there is a bad [dangerous] Seat in a craggy place, called Saint Michael's Chaire, fomewhat daungerous for acceffe, and therefore holy for the adventure." Edit. 1602. p. 154. We learn from Caxton's GOLDEN LEGENDE, under the hiftory of the Angel MiCHAEL, that "Th' apparacyon of this angell is many fold. The fyrft is when he appered in mount of Gargan, &c." Edit. 1493. f. cclxxxii. a. William of Worcestre, who wrote his travels over England about 1490, fays, in defcribing SAINT MICHAEL'S MOUNT, there was an "6 Apparicio Sancti Michaelis in monte Tumba antea vocato "Le Hore Rok in the wodd." ITINERAR. edit. Cantab. 1778. p. 102. The Hoar Rock in the Wood is this Mount or Rock of Saint Michael, anciently covered with thick wood, as we learn from Drayton and Carew. There is ftill a tradition, that a vision of Saint Michael feated on this Crag, or Saint Michael's CHAIR, appeared to fome hermits: and that this circumftance occafioned the founda
tion of the monaftery dedicated to Saint Michael. And hence this place was long renowned for its fanctity, and the object of frequent pilgrimages. Carew quotes fome old rhymes much to our purpose, P. 154. ut fupr.
Who knows not Mighel's Mount and Chaire,
Nor fhould it be forgot, that this monaftery was a cell to another on a Saint Michael's Mount in Normandy, where was also a Vision of Saint Michael.
But to apply what has been faid to Milton. This GREAT VISION is the famous Apparition of Saint Michael, whom he with much fublimity of imagination fuppofes to be ftill throned on this lofty crag of SAINT MICHAEL'S MOUNT in Cornwall looking towards the Spanish coaft. The GUARDED MOUNT on which this Great Vifion appeared, is fimply the fortified Mount, implying the fortress above mentioned. And let us obferve, that Mount is now the peculiar appropriated appellation of this promontory. With the fenfe and meaning of the line in queftion, is immediately connected that of the third line next following, which here I now for the first time exhibit properly pointed,
Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth.
Here is an apostrophe to the Angel Michael, whom we have juft feen feated on the Guarded Mount. "O Angel, look no longer feaward to Namanco's and Bayona's hold: rather turn your eyes backward from the view of this calamitous fhipwreck, which the fea, over which you look, prefents. Look landward, Look homeward now, and melt with pity at the melancholy fpectacle to which you have been a witDefs." But I will exhibit the three lines together which form the context. Lycidas was loft on the feas near the coaft, Where the great vifion of the guarded mount Looks towards Namanco's and Bayona's hold;
Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth.
The Great Vifion and the Angel are the fame thing: and the verb look in both the two laft verfes has the fame reference. I had almoft omitted what Carew fays of this fituation, "Saint Michael's Mount looketh fo aloft, as it brooketh no concurrent." p. 154. ubi fupr.
Thyer feems to fuppofe, that the meaning of the last line is, "You, Q Lycidas, now an angel, look down from heaven, &c." But how can this be faid to look homeward? And why is the shipwrecked perfon to melt with ruth? That meaning is certainly much helped by placing a full point after furmife, v. 153. But a femicolon there, as we have feen, is the point of the first edition and to fhew how greatly fuch a punctuation afcertains or illuftrates our prefent interpretation, I will take the paragraph a few lines higher, with a fhort analyfis. "Let every flower be ftrewed on the hearfe where Lycidas lies, fo to flatter ourselves for a moment with the notion that his corpfe is prefent; and this, (Ah me!) while the feas have washed it far away, whether beyond the Hebrides, or near the shores of Cornwall, &c."
Sleep'ft by the fable of Bellerus old.] No fuch name occurs among the Cornish giants. But the poet coined it from Bellerium aboveB 4