תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

PREFATORY NOTE

The usual high school course can provide a pupil with a very small amount of literary knowledge compared with that which, to be a well-read man or woman, he or she must know; therefore, it seems that the aim in teaching should be to give the pupil, while studying a classic, such training as will assist in gaining from the other great works of literature what the teacher and the editor have helped the pupil to gain from the one in hand.

“ The search ” only can give this power. And whenever the matter or the explanation that the pupil can find for himself is placed “ready-made” before him, he is prevented thereby from acquiring a training which will enable him to use libraries and to wade his depth in the great stream of good literature that the ages have provided. This training should be the aim of high school English work. Unless the pupil can acquire it, the great books that make life worth living to the trained reader will remain only far-off names to the pupil. Therefore the editor of the present volume

has prepared it along the lines of guidance rather than those of annotation. He has aimed to give only such explanation of the text as .cannot be readily found by the high school pupil with the means usually furnished him.

The illustrations on pp. xxv, xxvii, and xxxi were designed by the editor, and executed by Mr. Alton Packard, of Dayton, Ohio. The maps on pp. xxxv, xxxvii, and xxxix were prepared by the editor.

The editor hereby gratefully acknowledges his indebtedness to all preceding editors, to his pupils, and especially to Mr. H. Orrin Jones, of Dayton, Ohio, whose intelligent help has been of great service.

W. J. C

INTRODUCTION

SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF MILTON

John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, was born December 9, 1608, in Bread Street, Cheapside, London. His father was a scrivener, or writer of legal documents. “The Spread Eagle,” where Milton's father lived, was a fit place in which to nurse the poetic instincts of the boy; for his father was a musician, a song-writer, and a composer of some reputation.

The boy had the advantage of the best schools of the time. That he did not waste his opportunities is shown when he writes of his love of learning, “which I seized upon with such eagerness that from the twelfth year of my age I scarce ever went to bed before midnight.” His biographer, Aubrey, writes, “When he was very young, he studied very hard, and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock at night; and his father ordered the maid to sit up for him.” At the age of sixteen he entered Cambridge

University, where his fiery nature soon involved him in trouble with a tutor; so here, at least, our poet was not so unlike ordinary mortals. In his early days at the University he was called, in good-natured allusion to his good conduct and to his effeminate looks, " The Lady.” He was, however, held in high respect, for he says, “I was assured of their singular good affection towards me”; and his biographers agree in the statement that his college career was one of well-earned success. In 1632, at the age of twentyfour, he took his degree of Master of Arts, having spent seven years in study and residence at the University.

The literary life of Milton, like that of Chaucer, is divided into three periods, the separations of which are plainly marked.

From the close of his college life to 1640 we find him in quiet retirement engaged in study, or else in travel, making pleasant acquaintances in far-off Italy.

From 1640 to 1660 we find him hotly engaged upon the Puritan side of the struggle for English liberty.

From 1660 to 1674, the year of his death, we find him again engaged in the composition of poetry, but of a kind that needed the fiery furnace of the Puritan Revolution to inspire in him. In this period he produced Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson

Agonistes. It does not take a great imagination in one who follows his life and his poetry to feel, in these great poems, the echo that his poet-soul resounded upon the mighty martial and political struggles through which he had passed.

We might expect a serious, pious, and ambitious nature like Milton's to enter the church at the close of his college career. However, despite his industry and ambition, we find him quietly retiring to his father's house at Horton, a little village about seventeen miles northwest of London. Here, in the quiet of an English village, he spent five years of patient study, varied by rambles in the pastures and woods of Buckinghamshire. We are to suppose that he made occasional visits to London, then (1637) a city of three hundred thousand inhabitants. During these five years he produced L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, Comus, and Lycidas.

It will interest the high school student of Latin and Greek to read that Milton says, “I enjoyed (at Horton) a complete holiday in turning over Latin and Greek authors." He was also familiar with French and Italian. It must not be thought that the years at Horton were spent in mere pastime or recreation. They were a part of his carefully laid life-plan. He was not given to pastime: he had a plan; and he says, “when I take up a thing, I never pause or break

« הקודםהמשך »