« הקודםהמשך »
in quire (choir), sovran, ammiral, lour, and particularly in the initial syllables of certain compounds, the orthography of the old editions has been retained. In various instances the punctuation has been modified, a liberty as to the text of the Paradise Lost which is quite justifiable.
This edition has been prepared under the advice and with the assistance of Professor Torrey of Har
CAMBRIDGE, July, 1866.
LIFE OF MILTON.
JOHN Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, was born in London on the ninth day of Deceinber, 1608. His father, John Milton, was a man of some learning and ability, and had been educated at Oxford. Ile there became a Protestant, and was in consequence disinherited by his father. He then established himself in London, where he pursued the profession of a scrivener.1
The poet himself says, “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 while yet a child to the study of polite literature, which I embraced with such avidity that from the twelfth year of my age I hardly ever retired to rest from my studies till midnight, which was the first source of injury to my eyes, to the natural weakness of which were added frequent headaches; all of which not retarding my eagerness after knowledge, he took care to have me instructed daily both at school and by other masters at home.” His first tutor was a learned and pious clergyman, named Young, whom his pupil regarded with respect and affection. Milton was sent to St. Paul's School in London, and at the age of sixteen to Christ's College, Cambridge. Before entering the University, he had acquired some knowledge of Hebrew, and translated the 114th and 116th Psalms into English verse.
1 At that time a scrivener was not merely a copyist, but was employed to draw up wills, bonds, and other legal contracts.
Milton remained at Cambridge seven years. The Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity was written in the winter of 1629, soon after he had completed his twenty-first year. He had originally intended to enter the Church, but it was now torn by dissensions between the High Church party and the Puritans. The interest and sympathy of Milton were with the latter, while the former, now in power, required a submission which he could not yield. He therefore relinquished this design, and after leaving Cambridge passed five years at Horton, in Buckinghamshire, to which place his father had removed from London. Here he spent his time in close and severe study, making occasional visits to London for the purpose of buying books or gaining instruction in mathematics or music, in the latter of which he was well skilled and took great delight. We are told that "he had a delicate, tunable voice,” and he performed on both the organ and the bass-viol. In one of his letters from Horion he says, “It is my way to suffer no impediment, no love of ease, no avocation whatever, to chill the ardor, to break the continuity, or divert the completion of my literary pursuits.” At Horton were probably written several of Milton's shorter poems, – Arcades, Comus, Lycidas, L’Allegro, and Il Penseroso. The charming descriptions of rural sights and sounds in these poems show the influence of his country life upon the mind of the poet. The Masque of Comus was presented at Ludlow Castle, the official residence of the Earl of Bridgewater, then Lord President of Wales and the
Marches, in 1634. The actors were the sons of the Earl, and his daughter, Lady Alice Egerton. The story of the poem is said to have been founded on the circumstance of the Lady Alice having been not long before lost in passing through Haywood forest. The monody of Lycidas was composed on occasion of the death of Mr. Edward King, who had been Milton's friend and fellow-student at Cambridge, and was drowned in 1637 on his passage to Ireland. Of the other two poems, L'Allegro (the Cheerful, or the Cheerful Man) and Il Penseroso (the Pensive or Thoughtful), the exact date cannot be ascertained. Of these even Dr. Johnson, Milton's most unfriendly critic, is compelled to acknowledge that “they are two noble efforts of imagination.”
The mother of the poet died in 1637, and the next year Milton left England to travel upon the Continent. He stayed only a few days in Paris, where be was introduced to the celebrated Grotius. From France he proceeded to Italy, and passed some time in Florence, Rome, and Naples. He was on terms of intimacy with several Florentines well known as men of letters, and says himself, “ Here it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.” At Naples, Milton was treated with great kindness by Manso, Marquis of Villa, now an old man, who had been the friend and patron of the poet Tasso. The influence of this visit to Italy and acquaintance with its distinguished literary men and works may be traced in Milton's subsequent writings,
thirty years later that this, his greatest work, was published.
Milton had intended to proceed from Naples to
Sicily and Greece, but hearing of the alarming state of public affairs in England he relinquished his plan. “I deemed it,” he says, “ to be disgraceful for me to be idling away my time abroad for my own gratification, while my countrymen were contending for their liberty.” He did not, however, immediately return to England, but again visited Rome and Florence, and afterwards went to Venice, whence he proceeded to Geneva. He returned by way of Paris to England, after an absence of fifteen months. In giving an account of his travels, Milton writes, “ I take God to witness that I lived, in all those places where so much license is given, free from and untouched by any kind of vice and infamy, continually bearing in mind that even if I could escape the eyes of men, I could not escape those of God.”
Milton was a republican in politics and an independent in religion. In the contest at that time raging in England between the King (Charles I.) and the Parliament, he sided with the latter. He believed neither in the divine right of kings nor in the authority of the Established Church, and considered it as lawful and right to oppose to the last extreme the despotic use of the king's prerogative and the efforts made by the primate, Archbishop Laud, to maintain High Church doctrines and observances. He did not, however, take any active part in the contest. He says, “ Things being in such a disturbed and fluctuating state, I looked about to see if I could get any place that would hold myself and my books, and so I took a house of sufficient size in the city (London); and there with no small delight I resumed my intermitted studies, cheerfully leaving the event of public affairs, first to God, and then to those to whom the people had committed that task.” Here he received as pupils his two nephews, the sons of his sister Mrs. Phil