Page images

12. 211. On the gods of Egypt, see Juvenal's fifteenth Satire, beg., on which passage Mayor quotes Cic. Tusc. v. 78; Herod. ii. 69; Lucian de Sacr. 14. “The basis of the religion was Nigritian Fetishism, the lowest kind of nature worship.” (Dict. Bib.)

as fast. The correlative phrase is omitted, as in 1 Penseroso, 44.

212. Isis. See Class. Dict. She was originally the Egyptian Earth goddess, the wife of Osiris, and mother of Horus ; subsequently she was worshipped as the goddess of the moon, and identified with Io (Juv. vi. 526); also, she was identified with Demeter, as Osiris with Dionysus. Those initiated in her mysteries wore in the public processions masks representing the heads of dogs.

Orus, or Horus, the Egyptian god of the sun.
the dog Anubis. Comp. Virg. Æneid, viii. 698 :

“Omnigenûmque deûm monstra, et latrator Anubis,

Contra Neptunum et Venerem contraque Minervam

Tela tenent.” Minucius Felix (21) calls him “Cynocephalus.” Juv. xv. 8: “Whole towns worship the dog." “Hence the oath of Socrates : tóv kúva Tov Aigua tiw Heóv, Plat. Gorg. p. 432, B.” (Mayor.)

13. 213. Osiris here, as in Juv. viii. 29, stands for Apis, inasmuch as their godheads were in course of time identified. Apis was represented by a bull, which was kept with the utmost care at Memphis. When one bull died, or having been worshipped for a certain period was put to death, another was searched for which should fulfil the necessary conditions of colour and marks. When he was found, there was great joy. See Juv. 1.c., and Mayor's quotations from Athenagoras and Minucius Felix. In iii. 27-29, Herodotus relates how Cambyses mocked and slew this deity, and in the following chapters what came of that ferocious act of impiety.

217. his sacred chest = worshipt ark. There is a sketch of an Egyptian ark in Wilkinson's Ancient E subtians. Chaucer uses chest for coffin.

218. shroud. Etymologically = “what is cut up" (Bosworth), and so a garment. So generally a covering, and then a shelter, a hiding-place. See Paradise Lost, X. 1068 :

“The winds Blow moist and keen · · · · ·

,which bids us seek

Some better shroud.So Tempest, II. ii. 243 ; 3 Henry VI. III. i. 1; Love's Labour Lost, IV. iii. 479. “My sable shroud," in Lyc. 22 = my coffin.

230. sable-stoled. Kvavóstolos. See note on stole in Il Penseroso, 35.

223. eyn. So Shakspere, Antony and Cleopatra, II. vii. 121 : “ Plumpy Bacchus, with pink eyne." The n represents an old plural inflexion. In Chaucer we have eyen and eyghen; elsewhere been, fon, shoon, lambren, sustren (Piers Ploughman), &c. This infiexion still survives, or is traceable, in oxen, children, brethren, kine, swine ; also in welkin, chicken (see Trench's English Past and Present), which, though now used as singulars, are really plural.

224. beside. In modern English we prefer the form besider. So we say “sometimes" for “occasionally," in which sense "sometime” was once frequently used.

all the gods beside = all the other gods. Beside here holds an adjectival relation to the gods.

226. Typhon. See Class. Dict.

227. Comp. Hercules' feat while yet in his cradle, described by Theocritus in his Herakliskus. 231. Comp. Midsummer Night's Dream, III. ii. 379-87; Paradise Regained, iv. 426–38.

orient. Mr. Keightley refers to Paradise Lost, i. 546.

13. 234. his severall grave. So Much Ado about Nothing, V. iii. 29. His several = his particular, his own, his respective. In inodern English several generally = various, divers, and hence is joined only with a plural noun. Etymologically several = separate.

his = its. See above. I. 106. 235. Comp. Paradise Lost, i. 781-8.

Fayes = Fées. The Italian form fate points to a derivation from fatum. On the various meanings of the word fairy or faery, see Keightley's Fairy Mythology.

236. the night-steeds. Statius speaks of “Night's horses" (Theb. ii. 60); Shakspere of “Night's swift dragons" (Midsummer Night's Dream, III. ii. 379). In Il Penseroso, Milton speaks of Cynthia's “ dragon yoke.”

moon-lovd. See Paradise Lost, i. 784.

maze = intricate dance ; elsewhere, of the tangles of a forest, as in Paradise Regained, ii. 246; Com. 181. 240. See l. 19.

youngest teemed = last born.
241. That is, had taken up her station ; no longer moves.
242. Comp. Matt. xxv. ; Sonnet to a Virtuous Young Lady.

244. bright-harnessed. Harness, now used of the gear of horses, in older English signifies men's armour. See Paradise Lost, vii. 202 ; Macbeth, V. v. 52:

“At least we'll die with harness on our back." Harnessed masque,” King John, V. ii. 132. Exod. xiii. 18. 244. Comp. Sonnet on his Blindness:

“They also serve who only stand and wait.”



L'ALLEGRO and IL PENSEROSO, to be properly understood, must be read together. The likings and tastes expressed are meant to be contrasted. The one poem is the counterpart of the other. The one celebrates the charms of “Mirth ; " the other those of “ Melancholy." The advocate of Mirth bids Melancholy begone to the realm of Darkness, bids “heart-easing Mirth” come to him with a retinue of kindred spirits; he would fain hear the lark singing and enjoy all other cheery sights and sounds of the bright morning-time ; he would be present at the merrymakings of the village and listen to its marvellous tales ; he rejoices in the life of the town-in all its gay gatherings; he goes to see great comedies acted; above all things he would be surrounded by the sweet singing of exquisite verses. On the other hand, the melancholic man will not allow“ vain deluding joys” to be near him ; he bids Melancholy hail, and she is to bring with her a fitting company; his pleasure is in the song of the nightingale, in walks beneath the moon, in the sounds and in the quiet proper to the night, in calm studies through its watches--readings of philosophy, of poetry, of high romances ; the night is the season he loves; when it must end, let the daybreak be cloudy and rain-dripping; when the sun at last will shine out, let some undisturbed grove screen him from its blaze ; there let him slumber, to wake with sweet music in his ears ; let him ofttimes pace some old Gothic cathedral, and listen to rich anthems; at the end, let him pass away his years in some peaceful hermitage, still gathering wisdom.

This meagre outline of the two poems should be carefully filled in. Observe who are to be the companions of Mirth, who of Melancholy ; what kind of music suits either speaker ; in

what different ways Orpheus is mentioned; how one man looks on to the end, the other's sight is shorter ; what diverse daybreakings are preferred ; what diverse kinds of literature, and how the one of these is to be communicated orally, the other through no living medium, but through books; how various are the tastes described with regard to natural scenery. To these many other observations might be added.

It is evident, if these two poems are carefully examined, that the respective characteristics of the speakers are by no means what we should call mirthful and melancholic. There is nothing mirthful in our sense of the word in a wide landscape; there is nothing melancholy in reading Chaucer. The two characters are, perhaps, most sharply distinguished in respect of sociality. The one is eminently social; he delights to associate with the “kindly race of men.” The other likes better to be left with his own thoughts, with no human intrusion. The one is light-hearted ; the other not of a sad but rather of a grave spirit. The eyes of the one look outward, and brighten at the sight of the fair images of nature ; the eyes of the other rather look inward, at the fine forms which the mind can present. There are several points in common between Il Penseroso and Jacques in As You Like It; but Jacques' melancholy is dashed with a certain cynicism not to be found in the character sketched by Milton. Perhaps Milton felt that no two English words he could think of would serve him as titles, and therefore adopted the Italian words by which the poems are known. There can be little doubt as to which of the two characters he portrays was after his own heart. He portrays L'Allegro with much skill and excellence; but he cannot feign with him the sympathy he genuinely feels with the other ; into his portrait of Il Penseroso he throws himself, so to speak, with all his soul. He is indeed not altogether at home in the poem describing the former: he distinguishes the sweet-briar from the eglantine, whereas they were one and the same ; larks do not visit even poets' windows to say good-morrow, but rather “singing ever soar and soaring ever sing ;" he had never seen, it is believed, barren-breasted mountains; and generally we think that the wings of his Mirth are somewhat constrained in their flight. But in the other poem his whole nature appears. The limits in point of length, previously sufficing, are now exceeded. He cannot content himself with so brief a description of his “ Melancholy” as of “Mirth.” He refers no less than thrice to music, his darling delight. He refers, at length, to the studies that were always for him of supreme interest-amongst them to the works of Spenser, whom, as he told Dryden, he regarded as his poetical father--thus illustrating well the line in one of his letters to Deodati,

“Totum rapiunt libri me, mea vita, libri.”

He is charmed by the nightingale, to which bird on another occasion he addressed a sonnet. He gives several hints which he afterwards expanded in his greater works. And he proposes as the close of Il Penseroso's life that which he ever aspired after as the glorious maturity of his own that he should

To something like prophetic strain :"

for it was a poet of the Hebrew sort-a vates—that Milton was ambitious to be.

It seems pretty certain that these two poems were written after Milton had left Cambridge, during his six years' residence at his father's house at Horton, in Buckinghamshire-that is, between 1632 and 1638. They were probably written in some earlier year of this period, for in Lycidas, which was composed in 1637, he speaks as one that only writes poetry under the compulsion of “bitter constraint and sad occasion dear.” It appears likely they were written before Comus, which was acted at Ludlow Castle in 1634. So, to connect these pieces of national literature with our national history, they were in all probability written in the carlier part of the period when Charles I. attempted the fatal experiment of governing without a parliament,

There can be little doubt that Milton drew some suggestions for the leading idea of his two poems from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, and from a song in the play of The Nice Valour. In the “ Author's Abstract of Melancholy,” certain verses prefixed to Burton's work, pros and cons with regard to melancholy are alternately stated. The song in The Nice Valour, a play composed by Fletcher and some unknown person, is as follows :

“ Hence, all you vain delights,
As short as are the nights,

Wherein you spend your folly!
There's nought in this life sweet,
If man were wise to see't,

But only melancholy ;

Oh, sweetest melancholy !
“Welcome, folded arms and fixed eyes,

A sigh that piercing mortifies,
A look that's fasten'd to the ground,

A tongue chain'd up, without a sound !
Fountain-heads, and pathless groves,

Places which pale passion loves !
Moonlight walks, when all the fowls
Are warmly housed, save bats and owls !

A niidnight bell, a parting groan !

These are the sounds we feed upon;
Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy valley;
Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy."

The Nice Valour was not printed till 1647, two years after L'Allegro and Il Perseroso were printed, many years after they had been written; but this song had probably been composed and known very inany years before the appearance of the play in which it was inserted. It is said to have been written by Beaumont, Fletcher's great co-worker, who died in the same year as Shakspere, 1616.

Perhaps Il Penscroso was written first. Fletcher's poem suggested it, and then the counterpart was written. “Not unseen,” in L'Allegro, must have been written after the “unseen" of Il Perseroso.


14. 1. Hence. In a similar verbal manner are used “away," "down,” “out,” “ up,” ' forward,” &c. The verb is in fact absorbed into the adverb.

2. This amour is Milton's own invention. In Grecian mythology, Erebus is the spouse of Night, and, by her, father of Æther and Hemera : the dog Cerberus has no offspring. Not that Milton makes a blunder. He is altering the old story consciously. Here, as elsewhere, he modifies the ancient mythology after his pleasure, with the same independence and right of variation as mark the treatment of it by the old Greek poets. He was one of those poets in spirit, and claimed for himself the same licence. He not only modifies the classical tales ; he sometimes mythologizes on his own account. Comp. below, II. 18-24.

Cerberus. See Class. Dict.

3. In some such cave as Cerberus' own, which, according to Virgil, faced the landing place of spirits on the further bank of the Styx. When Æneas stepped ashore, the monster made the nether realms ring again with his “three-mouthed barking:”.

“ Adverso recubans immanis in antro."-Æn. vi. 418.

14. 4. shapes. Com. 207. Comp. Virg. Æn. vi. 285.

5. uncouth cell. Elsewhere Milton speaks of “the uncouth swain” (Lyc. 186); “a voyage uncouth" (Paradise Lost, v. 98); “this uncouth dream.” Radically, uncouth = unknown. Couth or couthe or cowt'le occurs as a pres., as a pret., and as a part. As a pres. it has in Piers Ploughman, Ed. Skeat, v. 181, a causative force :

I couth it in owre cloistre, that al owre couent wote it." As a pret. we still retain it in our could. (Comp. Lycidas: “he knew himself to sing" = he could sing.) As a part. in Sir Gawayne and the Green K'right, Ed. Morris, 1490, &c. Strictly it is the pret. of Ang.-Sax. cunnan; see note on wont, Protkal. 139. Uncouth survives in Lowland Scotch as "unco'.”

6. brooding: not literally so, as in Paradise Lost, i. 21, or it would be her, not his, jealous wings ; but as it were in a brooding, i.e overcovering, attitude. So incubo in Latin, as Æn, i. 89: “Ponto nox incubat atra ;" vi. 610: “Qui divitiis soli incubuere repertis." There is another secondary meaning the word sometimes lias, viz. to meditate or ponder mischievously or sullenly. Except when used literally it has seldom or never a good sense.

his. See note on Hymn Nat. 106. Probably in using “his” with reference to Darkness he has in mind the classical Erebus. 7. Sec 2 Henry VI. III. ü. 40:

Came he right now to sing a raven's ncte,

Whose dismal tune bereft my vital powers,” &c. Macb. I. v. 40; Tit. Andr. II. iii. 97 ; Spenser's Shep. Cal. June, 1. 23:

“Here no night-ravenes lodge, more black than pitche.” 8. ebon = “black as ebony(Love's Labour Lost, IV. ii. 247). So "amber hair,” Love's Labour Lost, IV. iii. 86; "raven locks," "eagle eye,” &c.

9. low-brow'd locks = beetle-browed, overhanging.

ragged. See Isaiah ii. 21. 10. dark Cimmerian. Milton's earlier style is occasionally not altogether free from tautology. See Ovid's Met. xi. 592: “Est prope Cimmerios longo spelunca secessu mons cavus." Warton quotes from one of Milton's Prolusiones: “Dignus qui Cimmeriis occlusus tenebris longam et perosam vitam transigat.” See Hom. Od. xi. 14; Tibull. IV. i. 65.

12. ycieap'd. See note on ychain'd, Hymn Nat. 155. See Love's Labour Lost, I. i. 242: “It is ycleped thy park;” and V. ii. 602 :

“ Judas I am, ycliped Maccabæus." where Dumain puns :

“ Judas Maccabæus clipt is plain Juvias.” Clepe occurs in various forms in Chaucer, and in Spenser. Palsgrave has, “I clepe, I call, je huysche ; this terme is farre Northerne." This verb is still used by boys at play in the Eastern counties, who “ clape the sides at a game.” (IIalliwell.) The word survives also in the Scotch clep, and, as some think, in the English clap-trap.

14. at a birth. A, which is but a corruption of one, here has its full etymological force, as in many current phrases: “one at a time," "a shilling a (on) piece,” &c.

The most common account makes the Graces daughters of Zeus, by whom is not agreed. Another derives them from Apollo, by either Ægle or Euanthe. Lastly, there is the account here adopted by Milton, which is said to be given only by Servius in a comment on Æn. i. 720.

17. som sager, so far as is known; = Milton's self. Some late editions read “sages," corruptly.

Comp. Soph. Ed. Tyr. 1098.

« PreviousContinue »