Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

scattered up and down his poem, especially in philosophy and theology." This book was printed in folio, in 1621; and is recommended, in the title page, “ as fitt for the learned to refresh their memories, and for younger students to abbreviate and further theire studies.” From this pretended garden fof sweets I can collect no nosegay. It cannot indeed be supposed that Milton, when he wrote the Paradise Lost, was so imperfectly acquainted with the purer sources of knowledge, as to be indebted to such a volume.

That Milton, however, had read the translation of Du Bartas, has been admit. ted by his warmest admirers, Dr. Farmer, Mr. Bowle, Mr. Warton and Mr. Headley. A slight remark, which the editor of these volumes long since ventured to make, in the Gentleman's Magazine 3, respecting Milton's acquaintance with the poetry of Sylvester attracted the notice of the author of the Considerations, &c. just mentioned; and appears to have stimulated his desire to know more of the forgotten bard. Mr. Dunster, therefore, having procured an edition of Sylvester's Du Bartas, drew up his ingenious volume; and, with no less elegance of language than liberality of opinion, pointed out the taste and judgement of Milton in availing himself of particular passages in that book. With honourable affection for the fame of Milton, he observes that “nothing can be further from my intention than to insinuate that Milton was a plagiarist, or servile imitator; but I conceive that, having read these sacred poems of very high merit, at the immediate age when his own mind was just beginning to teem with poetry, he retained numberless thoughts, passages, and expressions therein, so deeply in his mind, that they hung inherently on his imagination, and became, as it were, naturalized there. Hence many of them were afterwards in. sensibly transfused into his own compositions.” Sylvester's Du Bartas was also a popular book when Milton began to write poetry; it was published in the very street in which Milton's father then lived ; Sylvester was certainly, as was probably Humphry Lownes “, the printer of the book, puritanically inclined ; Milton's fa. mily professing the same religious opinions, would powerfully recommend to the young student the perusal of this work : by such inferences, added to the preceding remark, the reader is led to acknowledge the successful manner in which Mr. Dụnster has accomplished his design; namely, to shew Milton's early acquaintance with, and predilection for, Sylvester's Du Bartas.” I am persuaded, however, that Milton must have sometimes closed the volume with extreme disgust; and that he then sought gratification in the strains of his kindred poets, of Spenser and of Shakspeare; or of those whose style was not barbarous like Syl. vester's, the enticing Drummond, the learned and affecting Drayton, and several other bards of that period; as may be gathered from expressions even in his earliest performances 5. But, to resume Mr. Dunster's observation respecting the

3 See November 1796, p. 900. See also Mr. Dunster's Considerations, &c. p. 3. I take this opportunity of adding that Dr. Farmer's remark occurs in a note on the “ married calm of states," in Troilus and Cressida. See Steevens's Shakspeare, edit. 1793. Vol. XI. p. 254.

4 I may observe that the folio edition of Spenser's Faery Queen, and of bis other poems, in 1611, came from the press of Humphrey Lownes; the date at the end of the Faery Queen is, however, 1612.

In 1611 also Humphry Lownes printed the second edition of the little volunie, from which shall presently have occasion to make an extract or two, entitled Stafford's Niobe : or his Aga of Teares. A Treatise no lesse profitable and comfortable than the Times damnable, &c. 12mg,

See the notes on his translations of the 114th and 136th Psalms,

[ocr errors]

Origin of Paradise Lost: Sylvester's Du Bartas 6 contains indeed, more material prima stamina of the Paradise Lost, than, as I believe, any other book whatever: and my hypothesis is, that it positively laid the first stone of that 'monumentum ære perennius. That Arthur, for a time, predominated in Milton's mind over his, at length preferred, sacred subject, was probably owing to the advice of Manso, and the track of reading into which he had then got. . How far the Adamo of Andreini, or the Scena Tragica d'Adamo et Eva of Lancetta, as pointed out by Mr. Hayley; or any of the Italian poems on such subjects, noticed by Mr. Walker; contributed to revive his predilection for sacred poesy, it is beside my purpose to inquire. If he was materially caught by any of these, it served, I conceive, only to renew a primary impression made on his mind by Sylvester's Du Bartas; al. though the Italian dramas might induce him then to meditate his divine poem in a dramatic form. It is, indeed, justly observed by Mr. Warton, on the very fine passage, ver. 33, of the Vacation Exercise, written when Milton was only nineteen, that it contains strong indications of a young mind anticipating the subject of Paradise Lost.'—Cowley found himself to be a poet, or, as he himself tells us, was made one,' by the delight he took in Spenser's Fairy Queen, * which was wont to lay in his mother's apartment;' and which he had read all orer, before he was twelve years old. That Dryden was, in some degree, simi. larly indebted to Cowley, we may collect from his denominating him the darling of my youth, the famous Cowley.' Pope, at a little more than eight years of age, was initiated in poetry by the perusal of Ogilby's Homer and Sandys's Ovid; and to the latter he has himself intimated obligations, where he declares, in his Notes to the Iliad, that English poetry owes much of its present beauty to the transla. tions of Sandys. The rudimenta poetica of our great poet I suppose similarly to have been Sylvester's Du Bartas; which, I conceive, not only elicited the first sparks of poetic fire from the pubescent genius of Milton, but induced him, from that time, to devote himself principally to sacred poesy, and to select Urania for his immediate Muse,

magno perculsus amore." While I agree with Mr. Munster, that Milton has adopted several thoughts and expressions from Sylvester, I hope I may be permitted to observe that, although the poem of Du Bartas treats largely of the creation of the world and the fall of man, the origin of Paradise Lost may not perhaps be absolutely attributed to that work. "Smit with the love of sacred song,” Milton, I apprehend, might be influenced, in his “long choosing and beginning late,” by other effusions of sacred poesy, in the language which he loved, and in the epic form, on several subjects; besides those of Dante, of Tasso, and of the Italian poets already mentioned. In the following list the Muses of Spain and Portugal also will be found to have chosen congenial themes :

I. Discorso in yersi della Creazione del Mondo sino alla Venuta di Gesù Cristo, per Antonio Cornazono. 4to. 1472.

II. Della Creatione del Mondo, Poema Sacro. del Sig. Gasparo Myrtola. Giorne sette, Canti sedici, 12mo. Venet. 1608.

II. Epamerone, overo l'opera de sei Giorni, Poema di Don Felice Passero. 12mo. Venet. 1609.

IV. Creacion del Mundo, Poema Espagnol, por el Doctor Alonzo de Azevedo. Svo: en Rowa, 1615. FOL. I.

V. Da Creação et Compolicão do Homem, Cantos tres por Luis de Camoeps, em Verso Portagues. 4to. em Lisboa 1615. Rimas 2da. Parte. -Paris, 12mo. 1759. · The first of these poems is noticed by Baretti in his Italian Library, p. 59; who also mentions an epic poem, first printed in Sicily, and since at Milan, of which he had forgot the dates, entitled, “ L'Adamo del Campailla. It is a philosophical poem, much admired by the followers of the Cartesian system, who were very numerous when the author wrote it.” Ib. p. 66. Baretti also mentions another epic poem 6 Le sei Giornate, di Sebastiano Erizzo. The six Days, that is, the Creation performed in six days, &c." Ib. p. 64. But this is a mistake. Le sei Giornate of Erizzo is neither a poem, nor at all connected with the history of the Creation. It is a series of novels : Le sei giornate, nelle quali sotto diversi fortunati & infelici auenimenti, da sei giouani raccontati, si contengono ammacs. tramenti nobili & utili di morale Filosofia ..

The second of the before-mentioned poems is in my possession ; and I have given some account of it in the notes on B. iv, 753, and B. v. 689, of Paradise Lost.

The three next are mentioned by Mr. Bowle, together with the preceding poem; as also with the Adamos of Andreni, Soranzo, and Serafino della Salandra, and with the Angeleida of Valvasone ; in his manuscript notes' on Lauder's Essay. He has added a reference to the following work, which might not be unknown to Milton, VI. 11 Caso di Lucifero, di Amico Aguifilo. Crescimbeni, 4. 126.

To which may be subjoined another poem that might have attracted the great poet's notice, as it is pronounced by Baretti to be little inferior to Dante himself.

VII. Il Quadriregio,sopra i regni d' Amore, di Satanasso, dei vizi, e delle virtu, di Mons. F. Frezzi Vescovo di Foligno, fol. Perug. 1481. I may venture also to point out

VIII. La Vita & Passione di Christo, &c. composta per Antonio Cornozano, in terza rima. Venet. 1518. 12mo. In which the second chapter of the first book is entitled De la creatione del mondo.

IX. La Humanita del Figlivolo di Dio, in ottaua rima, per Theofilo Folengo, Mantoano. Venegia. 1533. 4to. In ten books : in the second of which Adam and Eve are particularly noticed. Dr. Burney has considered the sacred drama of Il Gran Natale di Christo by the older Cicognini, as subservient to Milton's plan. See the note on Par. Lost, B. X. 249. There is also a poem of P. Antonio Glielmo, Milton's contemporary, entitled 11 Diluvio del Mondo ; and there are the Mondo Desolato of the “ shepherd-boy,” G. D. Peri, (the author also of the epic poem, Fiesole Distrutta,)

: 6 Proemio. p, 1.- This work of Sebastian Erizzo was printed at Venice in quarto, by Giótan Varisco &c. in 1567

7 Now the property of Richard Gough, Esq. to whom I am much indebted for the use of the book.

8 He died in 1644. See Elogii d'Huomini Letterati, scritti da Lorenzo Crasso, parte secu Venet. 1666. p. 287.

and the Giudicio Estremo of Toldo Costantini; both published before Milton perhaps had determined the subject of his song. The writer of the article Pona (François) in the Nouveau Dict. Hist. à Caen, edit. 1786, says that Pona pub. lished L'Adamo, poema, 1661. The Adamo by this writer, (of which I am possessed) is not however a poem, although abounding with poetical expressions, but a history, in three books, of the creation and of our first parents. I have made extracts from it in the notes on Par, Lost, B. ix. 704, 897, &c. Pona was an author not a little admired in Italy : he died in 1652. Loredano, in a letter to him, says L'ingegno di V. S. è un giardino di Paradiso, ove non nascono che fori immortali. Tale hò riconosciuto laugelico '. Loredano himself has also written an Italian Life of Adam ; which is mentioned in the notes on Par. Lost, B. ix. 529, 1009. It is probable that Pona and Loredano were acquainted with Milton: that they were amoag those disceraing persons, who, “ in the private academies of Italy, whither," the post tells us, “ he was favoured to resort *;" fostered his bloomiag genius by their approbation and encouragement. Loredano was the founder of the Accademia degli Incogniti. His house at Venice was the constant resort of learned meó. Gaddi, an Italian friend whom Milton names, and who has celebrated the foundation of the academy3 , would hardly fail to in. troduce the young Englishman to the founder of it, if by no other means he had become known to him.

Italy, then, may perhaps be thought to have confirmed, if not to have excited, the design of Milton to sing " Man's disobedience, and the mortal taste of the forbidden fruit.”

Mr. Bowle, in his catalogue of poets who have treated Milton's subject before him, mentions Alcimus Avitus, archbishop of Vienna, who wrote a poem, in Latin hexameters, De Origine Mundi. Phillips, in his account of this author * adds the name of Claudius Marius Victor, a rhetorician of Marseilles, who wrote upon Genesis in hexameters also ; which are said to be extant. Pantaleon Candi. dus, a German poet, has a copy of verses, I find, in his Loci communes theologici, &c. Basil. 1570, p. 24-27, entitled Lapsus Adæ; and in a nuptial hymn, in the same volume,p. 110, he has painted the creation of Eve in lines not unworthy the attention of Milton.

Ergo, novum molitus opus, pater ipse profundum
Instillat somnum, cui jam in tellure jacenti
Eximit insertam lato sub pectore costam,
Explens carne locum, sed enim pulcherrima visu
Fæmina, quæ donis superaret quicquid in orbe est,
Exoritur ; qualis primo cùm Lucifer ortu
Evehit auricomum gemmatâ luce nitorem.
Nec mora sargenti è somnis, lucémque tuenti,
Matronam insignem Genitor vultúque decoram
Obtulit ante oculos Adæ: miratur honorem
Egregium, et toto fulgentem pectore formam';

9 The former in 1637; and I believe there is an earlier edition: the latter in 1648. "Lettres de Loredano, edit. Bruxelles, 1708. p. 88. * See the preface to his Church Government, B. II. and his Epitaph. Damon. v. 133, &c. * See Jacobi Gaddii Adlocutiones, et Elogia, &c. Florentiæ, 1636. 4to. p. 38. 4 Theat. Poet. edit. 1675. Ancient Poets, p. 12.

Agnoscitque suo sumptum de corpore corpus,
Et sic incipiens læto tandem ore profatur:

Aspicio, accipióque libens tua maxima rerum
Munera largitor, nostris ex ossibus ossa.
Formata in teneros humani corporis artus

Offers, egregiâque thori me compare donas, &c.
I must not omit to mention an English poem, relating to the state of innocence,
entitled The Glasse of Time in the two first Ages, divinely handled by Thomas
Peyton, of Lincolne's Inne, Gent. 4to. Lond. 1623; and to observe also that
part of Du Bartas had been translated into verse, and published, before the first
edition of Sylvester's, “ by William Lisle of Wilburgham, Esquier for the King's
body," namely, in 1596 and 1598, and again in 1625. See the note on Milton's
cxivth Psalm, ver. 11. Lisle's compound epithets, in his translation, are very
numerous, and sometimes extremely beautiful. Sylvester has often merit also of
this kind: but it is my duty to observe, that Sylvester is not always original; kis
shining phrases may be frequently traced in contemporary or preceding poets. In
the notes on Milton's poetical works, I have sometimes had occasion to exhibit the
expressions of Sylvester in this point of view. In justice, however, to this labo-
rious writer, I shall here close my remarks with a detached specimen of his
poetry; to which, if Milton has been indebted, the temptation of the Serpent in
Paradise Lost affords such a contrast, that the reader will be at no loss how to
appreciate the improvement.

Eve, second honour of this vniverse !
Is 't true (I pray) that jealous God, perverse,
Forbids (quoth he) both you, and all your race,
All the fair fruits these siluer brooks embrace ;
So oft bequeath'd you, and by you possest,
And day and night by your own labour drest ?

With th' air of these sweet words, the wily snake
A poysoned air inspired (as it spake)
In Eve's frail brest; who thus replies: “O! knowe
Whate'er thou be, (but thy kind care doth showe
A gentle friend) that all the fruits and flowrs
In this earth's-heav'n are in our hands and powrs,
Except alone that goodly fruit diuine,
Which in the midst of this green ground doth shine;
But all-good God (alas ! I wot not why)
Fortad us touch that tree, on pain to dy."-
She ceast; already brooding in her heart
A curious wish that will her weal subvert.

“ As a false louer, that thick snares hath laid
T'intrap the honour of a fair young maid,
When she (though little) listning ear affords
To his sweet, courting, deep-affected words,
Feels some asswaging of his freezing flame,
And sooths himself with hope to gain his game;
And, rapt with joy, vpon this point persists,
That parleing city never long resists:
Even so the Serpent that doth counterfet
á guilefull call t'allure vs to his net,

« PoprzedniaDalej »