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marked periods: the first and third, of approximately fifteen years each, are distinguished by poetry; the second by prose.
In the first of these periods, which coincides with Milton's absence from London (1625-1639), he devoted himself to lyric poetry. Previously to his departure for Cambridge he had produced only the paraphrases of two Psalms. At college he wrote some English poems, including the Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity, and a number in Latin. At Christ's, too, were written the first of the series of Sonnets, which form a sort of glorified running-commentary on his life. But his lyric powers found their highest expression during his six years of retirement at Horton. Here he produced L'Allegro, II Penseroso, Lycidas, and the Arcades, besides Comus, the noblest of English masques, which was performed at Ludlow Castle in 1634. On his return from Italy in 1639 he wrote the Epitaphium Damonis, his best Latin poem, to the memory of Charles Diodati, a college friend. During this period, especially its later years, he had his epic much in mind; but for this he saw that he was not yet ripe.
With Milton's return to London, in 1640, begins his second period, — that of controversial prose. During the twenty years that followed he was the foremost writer on the Parliament side — the man on whom the leaders depended for a telling stroke when it was most needed. He was a good fighter, and stoutly defended in turn the Nonconformists against the Church-party, the Independents against the Presbyterians, the English people against attacks from abroad, and finally a republican form of government against monarchy. Whatever the question, he was on the side of freedom, and his lance was as sharp as his aim was true. To his excessive application, when he was writing the First Defence against Salmasius, was due, at least proximately, the loss of his sight.
On the restoration of the Stuarts, Milton was once more free to devote himself to poetry. His third period, in which his great epics were produced, extends from 1658 (thus lapping slightly on the period of prose) until his death in 1674. During the twenty years of controversy, his poetic gift had not quite slumbered: the series of twenty-three sonnets, a slender rill of pure poetry trickling down through the years, unites the lyrics of his youth with the great works of his maturity. In 1658, the year in which the last of these was written, he first put his hand to Paradise Lost, the mighty poem for which his whole life up to that time had been a more or less conscious preparation. In his earlier days the thought of it had helped to keep his ideals high, and in Italy, twenty years before, he had reflected much upon it; now, seeing'that the great world had no use for him longer, he retired within himself to fulfil his life-di-eam. In 1667 Paradise Lost was published, in ten books; in 1674 it appeared in a second edition, this time in twelve books, as we now have it. Paradise Regained, undertaken at the suggestion of Thomas Ellwood, a young Quaker friend of the poet, and Samson Agonistes, a lyric drama, were published in one volume in 1671, A few months after the appearance of Paradise Lost in its final form, his work done, John Milton, by general consent the second name in English literature, passed away.
II. MILTON'S EARLY LIFE AND IDEALS AS SET
[Translated from the Latin of the Defensio Secunda, 1654.]
I Was born at London, of an honest family; my father was distinguished by the undeviating integrity of his life; my
mother by the esteem in which she was held, and the alms which she bestowed. My father destined me from a child to the pursuits of literature; and my appetite for knowledge was so voracious, that, from twelve years of age, I hardly ever left my studies, or went to bed before midnight. This primarily led to my loss of sight. My eyes were naturally weak, and I was subject to frequent headaches; which, however, could not chill the ardor of my curiosity, or retard the progress of my improvement. My father had me daily instructed in the grammar-school, and by other masters at home. He then, after I had acquired a proficiency in various languages, and had made a considerable progress in philosophy, sent me to the University of Cambridge. Here I passed seven years in the usual course of instruction and study, with the approbar tion of the good, and without any stain upon my character, till I took the degree of Master of Arts.
After this I did not, as the miscreant feigns, run away into Italy, but of my own accord retired to my father's house, whither I was accompanied by the regrets of most of the fellows of the college, who showed me no common marks of friendship and esteem. On my father's estate, where he had determined to pass the remainder of his days, I enjoyed an interval of uninterrupted leisure, which I entirely devoted to the perusal of the Greek and Latin classics; though I occasionally visited the metropolis, either for the sake of purchasing books, or of learning something new in mathematics or in music, in which I, at that time, found a source of pleasure and amusement. In this manner I spent five years till my mother's death.
I then became anxious to visit foreign parts, and particularly Italy. My father gave me his permission, and I left home with one servant. On my departure, the celebrated Henry Wotton, who had long been King James's Ambassador at Venice, gave me a signal proof of his regard, in an elegant letter which he wrote, breathing not only the warmest friendship, but containing some maxims of conduct which I found very useful in my travels. The noble Thomas Scudamore, King Charles's ambassador, to whom I carried letters of recommendation, received me most courteously at Paris. His lordship gave me a card of introduction to the learned Hugo Grotius, at that time Ambassador from the Queen of Sweden to the French court; whose acquaintance I anxiously desired, and to whose house I was accompanied by some of his lordship's friends. A few days after, when I set out for Italy, he gave me letters to the English merchants on my route, that they might show me any civilities in their power. Taking ship at Nice, I arrived at Genoa, and afterwards visited Leghorn, Pisa, and Florence. In the latter city, which I have always more particularly esteemed for the elegance of its dialect, its genius, and its taste, I stayed about two months; when I contracted an intimacy with many persons of rank and learning, and was a constant attendant at their literary parties; a practice which prevails there, and tends so much to the diffusion of knowledge and the preservation of friendship. No time will ever abolish the agreeable recollections which I cherish of Jacopo Gaddi, Carlo Dati, Frescobaldi, Coltellini, Buonmattei, Chimentelli, Francini, and many others. From Florence I went to Siena, thence to Rome, where, after I had spent about two months in viewing the antiquities of that renowned city, where I experienced the most friendly attentions from Lucas Holsten, and other learned and ingenious men, I continued my route to Naples. There I was introduced by a certain recluse, with whom I had traveled from Rome, to Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, a nobleman of distinguished rank and authority, to whom Torquato Tasso, the illustrious poet, inscribed his book on friendship. During my stay he gave me singular proofs of his regard. He himself conducted me round the city, and to the palace of the viceroy, and more than once paid me a visit at my lodgings. On my departure he gravely apologized for not having shown me more civility, which he said he had been restrained from doing, because I had spoken with so little reserve on matters of religion.
When I was preparing to pass over into Sicily and Greece, the melancholy intelligence which I received of the civil commotions in England made me alter my purpose; for I thought it base to be traveling for amusement abroad, while my fellow-citizens were fighting for liberty at home. While I was on my way back to Rome, some merchants informed me that the English Jesuits had formed a plot against me if I returned to Rome, because I had spoken too freely on religion; for it was a rule which I laid down to myself in these places, never to be the first to begin any conversation on religion, but if any questions were put to me concerning my faith, to declare it without any reserve or fear, I nevertheless returned to Rome. I took no steps to conceal either my person or my character; and for about the space of two months I again openly defended, as I had done before, the reformed religion in the very metropolis of Popery. By the favor of God, I got safe back to Florence, where I was received with as much affection as if I had returned to my native country. There I stopped as many months as I had done before, except that I made an excursion for a few days to Lucca; and, crossing the Apennines, passed through Bologna and Ferrara to Venice. After I had spent a month in surveying the curiosities of this city, and put on board a ship the books which I had collected