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music for its own sake. Cf. L'Allegro, ll. 136-144, Il Penseroso, ll. 161-166, and Paradise Lost, I, 550-559 (in which he describes martial music). No one but a musician could have written so fully and so technically. Lines 139-144 of L'Allegro exactly describe the elaborations of the seventeenth century songs. Milton played both the bass viol and the organ. Observe also the prominence he ascribes to music in his scheme of education, p. 209.
Metrically, each poem begins with a ten-line introduction in alternate short and long lines, and then drops into the regular beat of the eightsyllabled iambic couplet. There is, however, a great difference in effect caused by the omission in more than a third of the lines of L'Allegro of the unaccented first syllable, which gives a tripping trochaic movement (cf., for example, ll. 25-34, and ll. 69-70, which are actually trochaic). In Il Penseroso this unaccented syllable is kept in more than seven-eighths of the lines and gives a slower, more regular movement (cf., for example, ll. 155176).
II. 33-68. One long, loosely constructed sentence, the effect of which is to give a hurried, almost breathless movement. to come (1. 45) is parallel with singing (1. 42) and begin (l. 41), though it can scarcely be said to depend upon hear (1. 41); while To hear and listening (1. 53) and walking (1. 57) are parallel and refer to the poet.
P. 193. 1. 83. Corydon and Thyrsis, neighbors, as in Vergil, Eclogues, VII (where they are called "Arcades ambo"). Phillis (1. 86), regularly associated with the former in pastoral verse and praised by both in the Eclogue just cited, is waiting on them. Thestylis here is apparently a woman's name, as in Theocritus, Idyls, II, and Vergil, Eclogues, II.
1. 102. fairy Mab. See Drayton's Nymphidia, p. 150, and the note on it.
1. 104. Apparently a confusion of will o' the wisp ("ignis fatuus") which appeared outdoors, and Friar Rush, a demonic apparition that haunted houses; the drudging goblin is Puck or Robin Goodfellow. See A Midsummer Night's Dream, II, i, 16-57.
1. 136. soft Lydian airs, voluptuous music. 11. 145-150. Orpheus by his music persuaded Pluto, the god of Hades, to give him back his wife Eurydice, from the dead. But he broke Pluto's condition that he should not look back at her until they had left Hades, and so lost her again. Cf. Gayley's Classic Myths, pp. 185-188, Ovid, Meta
morphoses, X, 1-77, and Vergil, Georgics, IV, 453506.
The germ of this poem is in Fletcher's Sweetest Melancholy, p. 173 (cf. note on that poem).
P. 194. ll. 83-84. The bellman was a night watchman who passed through the streets ringing a bell and calling out the hours and the weather. He also pronounced a blessing on the sleeping city.
1. 88. thrice-great Hermes. Hermes Trismegistus, the Greek god Hermes (Roman Mercury) who came to be identified with the Egyptian Thoth, and was the reputed author of magical, alchemical, and astrological works.
ll. 99-100. The three great subjects of the classical drama, of which Milton was a devoted admirer. That he cared less for the Elizabethan drama appears from ll. 101-102.
1. 104. See note on Hero and Leander, p. 706, above.
11. 109-115. Chaucer. The persons named are in the unfinished Squire's Tale, to which Milton refers perhaps as a type of pure romance.
P. 195. ll. 116-120. Probably The Faerie Queene which Milton admired and imitated.
ll. 156-160. The characteristic features of Gothic architecture: the cloister, which is always attached to a cathedral, the vaulted roof, pillars massive and strong, and stained-glass windows. But on this point Milton was not in accord with the taste of the times. About thirty years after he wrote these lines, Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt many of the churches destroyed by the Great Fire of London, in a very different style of architecture; and it was not until a century later that a liking for the Gothic was revived.
Contributed for the memorial volume of Latin poems published by the friends of Edward King, whose death is referred to in the note at the beginning of the poem. Milton had been five years away from Cambridge, with which King was still connected at the time of his death. There is no evidence, external or internal, of any special friendship between the men; and almost half the poem is given to Milton's own ideas and affairs (ll. 19-22 and 64-84), a lament over the corruption of the church (ll. 114-131), and elaborate embellishments in imitation both of classical elegiasts and of Spenser.
The framework of Lycidas, following the general conventions of the Greek pastoral, is as follows:
6. Address to the Arethusa (a river in Sicily, where Theocritus lived) and the Mincio (in Italy, near Vergil's birthplace), as introductory to the story of Triton (1. 89), who has asked about the mishap and brought answer from Eolus (Hippotades, 1. 96) that there was no wind, that the sea-nymphs (1. 99) were playing about, and that the fault lay in the ship (ll. 100-102).
7. The lament of Camus (god of the river Cam), representing Cambridge and St. Peter (11. 109-110), representing the church (ll. 103-113). Digression on the corruption of the church (ll. 114131).
8. Address to the pastoral streams of Arcadia and Sicily to bid the valleys bring all their flowers for Lycidas (ll. 132-151).
9. Lament for the body tossed about the seas (ll. 152-164).
10. Comfort that Lycidas is in heaven (ll. 165– 185).
II. The shepherd's conclusion (ll. 186-193). Milton's choice of the name Lycidas may have been determined by several considerations. Shepherds of that name are celebrated by the chief pastoral poets, Theocritus (Idyls, VII), Bion (Idyls, II and VI), and Vergil (Eclogues, IX). Moreover, Lycidas is spoken of in Theocritus' Idyl as "the best of men" and is addressed thus: "Dear Lycidas, they all say that thou among herdsmen, yea and among reapers, art far the chiefest flute-player;" and in Bion's sixth Idyl the poet says: "If I sing of any other, mortal or immortal, then falters my tongue, and sings no longer as of old, but if again to Love and Lycidas I sing, then gladly from my lips flows forth the voice of song."
P. 196. 1. 36. Damætas is a shepherd in Theocritus, Idyls, VI and in Vergil, Eclogues, II, III; in Eclogues, II, 36-38, Corydon says: "A flute is mine, with seven unequal hemlock stalks, which Damætas
once gave me as a present, and dying said: "That flute has now for its master you, second to me alone.""
11. 50-55. Imitated from Theocritus, Bion, Moschus, and Vergil.
11. 58-63. The Mænads (Bacchantes) tore him to pieces for indifference to women after the death of Eurydice (Ovid, Metamorphoses, XI, 1-84) and Vergil, Georgics, IV, 507-527).
11. 68-69. Conventional expressions for a life of ease and pleasure. Amaryllis is one of the nymphs most praised in Theocritus and Vergil (esp. Idyls, III, 1, and Eclogues, I, 4 f.); Neæra is mentioned by Vergil, Eclogues, III.
1. 75. blind Fury. The Fate, Atropos, is called a Fury, because she has slain Lycidas.
1. 77. In similar manner Phoebus touches the ear of the poet and reproves him in Vergil, Eclogues, VI, 3 f.
11. 85, 132. The story of the river god Alpheus and the nymph Arethusa is charmingly told in the seventh Idyl of Moschus, and at greater length in Ovid, Metamorphoses, V, 572-661. Less simple is Shelley's Arethusa. The river Arethusa is invoked by Theocritus, Moschus, and Vergil as being to pastoral poetry and poets what the fountain Hippocrene was to epic poetry and poets, see especially Moschus, Idyls, III, where Homer and Bion are compared.
1. 106. The hyacinth, on the leaves of which are marks said to be AI, AI (alas); cf. Moschus, Idyls, III, "Now thou hyacinth, whisper the letters on thee graven, and add a deeper ai ai to thy petals; he is dead, the beautiful singer."
P. 197. ll. 130-131. Three interpretations have been given:
1. The axe of the Bible (Matthew, iii: 10, Luke, iii:9) which cuts down the unrighteousidentified with the executioner's axe.
2. St. Michael's two-handed sword, which finally overcame Satan when "with huge twohanded sway Brandisht aloft the horrid edge came down Wide wasting" (Par. Lost, VI, 251-253).
3. Parliament, with its two Houses, which Milton hoped would check the evils of episcopacy.
1. 132. Alpheus is invoked as the lover of Arethusa, see Moschus, Idyls, VII. Alpheus and the Sicilian Muse (Arethusa) are called on to return after the digression and resume the pastoral lament. The "dread voice" is the voice of denunciation that has just shrunk the pastoral stream of verse.
ll. 159-162. In his History of England, Milton had told a "fable" of the wrestling match between a British hero Corineus and a giant whom he over
came and hurled into the sea off the Cornish coast. The name Bellerus, used here instead of Corineus, seems to be coined from Bellerium, the Roman name of Land's End. St. Michael is supposed to have appeared in a vision, seated on a crag of the rocky island now called St. Michael's Mount. Milton conceives him as still sitting there and looking toward Spain (Namancos and Bayona, near Cape Finisterre). In 1. 163, Milton bids him look back towards England and sympathize.
1. 189. Doric, i.e., pastoral. Applied to the Sicilian poets, who were of Dorian extraction, and characterizing their affectation of simplicity.
1. 190. Perhaps an elaboration of what Vergil says of the shadows of the hills in Eclogues, I, 84, and II, 67, with a reminiscence of Hamlet's expression in Hamlet II, ii, 270.
1. 191. western bay, perhaps Chester Bay, from which King had sailed.
P. 198. Milton's sonnets return to the Italian form, but in matter they are, for the most part, . absolutely original, and a direct expression of strong personal feeling. On Milton's relation to the earlier sonneteers, cf. Wordsworth's Scorn Not the Sonnet, p. 396.
WHEN THE ASSAULT WAS INTENDED TO THE CITY
Written in November, 1642, when an attack on London by the Royalist forces was expected. As Milton was an ardent Parliamentarian pamphleteer, his house, just outside one of the city gates, was in danger. The original title read: "On his dore when ye city expected an assault," as if the sonnet had been really intended as a defence.
1. 13. A chorus from the Electra of Euripides, recited by a ministrel before the conquerors of Athens, caused them to spare the city.
TO THE LORD GENERAL CROMWELL, MAY, 1652
Cromwell had completed a series of victories over the Royalists on the river Darwen, and at Dunbar and Worcester, as a result of which Charles II was driven into exile. Meanwhile, the committee named in the subtitle was proposing religious reconstruction. Milton feared that the Presbyterians would establish a state system simi
lar to the one just disestablished, and the sonnet is a plea to Cromwell to prevent this. ll. 13-14. Compare Lycidas, ll. 119–131.
ON THE LATE MASSACRE IN PIEDMONT
Written in 1655 after the Duke of Savoy and Prince of Piedmont had cruelly massacred his Protestant subjects, the Waldenses or Vaudois, for refusing to turn Roman Catholic. Cromwell as Lord-Protector protested so strongly that the Vaudois were afterward allowed their own worship. Milton, as Cromwell's secretary, wrote the protests of the State; this sonnet expresses his personal views.
ON HIS BLINDNESS
P. 199. 1. 2. He was forty-five years old when he lost his sight completely.
TO CYRIACK SKINNER
1. II. His blindness had been hastened by his work, Defensio Prima pro Populo Anglicano, 1651, in reply to Salmasius, a Dutch professor who attacked the Commonwealth.
The thorough fusion in Milton of the spirit of the Renaissance, the love of classical themes and treatment, and the spirit of Puritanism, the struggle towards a higher ethical plane by means of a revival of Hebraism, is unique in English literature. His avowed purpose to write "Things unattempted yet in prose or rime" (1. 16), in order to “justify the ways of God to men” (l. 26), is equalled in its daring only by the plan of Dante's Divina Commedia. His poetical achievement, however, is quite apart from his theological purpose, and lies in his marvellous power of reproducing in sound and rhythm the visions that came to his imagination, and in the tremendous swing and wonderful flexibility of his blank verse. Note how he gets variety by inverting his sentence order, as, for instance, in ll. 44-47, and by varying the number of stressed syllables in a line, as, for example, in ll. 209-215. Cf. Gray's appreciation of Milton in The Progress of Poesy, ll. 95-102, p. 318.
Milton's classical training and his many years of handling official correspondence in Latin made him so familiar with that language that he continually uses words derived from the Latin in a sense fully warranted by their origin but uncommon in English. For example, in l. 2, mortal
has the meaning deadly, not the more usual sense human; in 1. 187, offend means injure, not anger. For this reason Milton's vocabulary must be studied with the greatest care if his meaning is to be fully understood.
11. 1-6. The subject of the poem is stated at once, as in the opening lines of the Iliad and the Eneid.
P. 201. ll. 197-209. The first example of the elaborately developed classical simile. For others, see ll. 230-238, 302-313, 338-346, 551-559, 768775, 780-792.
P. 202. 11. 288-290. Galileo with the telescope discovered the uneven surface of the moon. Fesole, or Fiesole, is a village three miles from Florence, and Valdarno is the valley of the river Arno, which flows through Florence. This is a personal reminiscence. Milton visited Galileo who lived at Arcetri, just outside Florence, and later described him as "a prisoner of the Inquisition for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought." Here speaks the author of the Areopagitica.
Pp. 204 f. ll. 392-521. Of these one hundred and thirty lines given up to descriptions of Satan's host, only seven name Egyptian gods (ll. 476-482), and fourteen Greek (ll. 508-521). More than a hundred lines are devoted to the various Semitic gods that appear in the Old Testament. Perhaps Milton's early love of the Greek deities kept him from over-emphasizing their transformation into devils; but, in any case, the Semitic gods are more in harmony with his theme, and after nearly twenty years of association with men who thought and talked in terms of the Old Testament, he would naturally have drawn most of his material from that source. Some passages contain scarcely a word not found in the Bible. For instance, ll. 396422 are put together and fused out of I Kings, xi: 5,7; II Kings, xxiii: 4-14; II Samuel, xii: 26–27; Judges, xi: 13, and 19-33; Isaiah, xv-xvi; Jeremich, xlviii; Numbers, xxv: 1-5; Deut., xxxii : 49. Lines 437-446 describe the idolatry of Solomon as told in I Kings, xi: 4-8; and in Jeremiah, vii : 18. Lines 446-457 tell about the worship of Thammuz (who is identified with the Greek Adonis, 1. 450) as it was revealed to Ezekiel (Ezekiel, viii: 6-14). Lines 457-466 refer to the overthrow of Dagon by the ark of God as told in I Samuel, v. Lines 467471 tell of the leper, Naaman the Syrian, II Kings, v: 1-18; and lines 471-476 of the idolatry of King Ahaz, II Kings, xvi:7-18. Lines 482-489 refer to the worship of the golden calf (Exod., xxxii : 16; cf. xi: 2), Jeroboam's Calves (I Kings, xii), and to the slaying of the first-born in Egypt (Exod.,
xii: 29, 51). Lines 490-505 refer to the sins of the sons of Eli (I Samuel, ii: 12, 22), to the purposed outrage in Sodom (Gen., xix: 4-11), and that perpetrated at Gibeah (Judges, xix: 22-28). In l. 508 Milton connects the Ionian gods with the Old Testament (cf. Gen., x: 2).
P. 206. ll. 575-576. Cf. 11. 780-781. The pygmies were supposed to have been 3 inches tall. Their war with the cranes is mentioned by Homer, Aristotle, Ovid, and other writers.
II. 576-577. Phlegra, in Thrace; according to Pindar the scene of the battle between the gods and the giants.
King Arthur and his Round
11. 582-587. Places celebrated in French and Italian epics and romances of Charlemagne and his knights: Aspramont, in Limburg; Montauban, in Languedoc; Trebisond, in Cappadocia; Biserta, in Tunis. The defeat alluded to was at Roncesvaux, a pass in the Pyrenees, in 778. Milton is wrong in saying that "Charlemain with all his peerage fell"; the fact seems to have been that his rearguard was attacked and routed by Basque mountaineers. The story was introduced into literature in the Chanson de Roland, an AngloNorman epic of the eleventh century, although ballads on the subject were sung earlier. William the Conqueror's minstrel, Taillefer, chanted a song of Roland as he went into the battle of Hastings (Senlac). This Roland, who in the Chanson is represented as Charlemagne's nephew and the hero of Roncesvaux, became one of the chief figures in the medieval French epics. As Orlando he became in Italy the hero of the famous poems of Ariosto and Boiardo. His name was also introduced into English literature and tradition (cf. Browning's poem, p. 556, the title of which comes from an old song alluded to in King Lear, III, iv, 187). Fontarabbia, modern Fuenterrabia, is probably introduced for the beauty of the name itself. It is many miles from Roncesvaux, but far more musical than Burguele, which is geographically correct.
11. 580-581. Table.
Pp. 208 ff. Milton's prose has more movement and color than Bacon's, more vigor and less studied elaboration than Browne's. He writes as a practical man whose mind is burdened with what he has to say. His long years of secretarial work for Cromwell, although they may scarcely be said to have moulded his English prose style, had the effect of keeping him in good fighting trim.
Milton's essay on Education is a small tract of eight pages. It was published in 1644 in response to a request for his views from his friend Samuel Hartlib, a man of a good Polish family who had come to England about 1628 and amid all the civil strife of the time had devoted himself to scientific studies for the improvement of education, agriculture, and manufactures. Milton's plan of study, as set forth in his tractate, is too ambitious for all but students of extraordinary abilities, but it is noteworthy that, like Hartlib's, his conception of education was distinctly modern. Although himself a great classical scholar and linguist, he treats of the languages as tools, instruments for helping the student to a knowledge of things, and suggests that most of them can be learned incidentally in odd moments of leisure. He emphasizes the study of the sciences and of the arts (particularly music); and he lays great stress upon training students as men who are to bear a responsible part in the life and government of the nation. The section on Exercise shows that, although he makes little provision for play, - aside from the recreation of music, he believed in the cultivation of the body as well as of the mind. But in this he was in harmony with the generál ideals of the Renais
Pp. 210 ff. June 14, 1643, Parliament appointed various committees to control the licensing of books. This restriction of the freedom of the press was due partly to the desire of the Presbyterians in power to prevent such publications as Milton's own pamphlet on divorce, for example, and partly to the effort of the Stationers' Company (the organization of printers and publishers) to protect their copyrights. Milton was called to account in 1644 for disregarding the new regulations, and November 24 of that year he published the Areopagitica, itself unlicensed. The title means: matters befitting the high court of the Areopagus, the famous Athenian tribunal, here, of course, referring to Parliament. It is easy to see that the theme was one after Milton's own heart.
P. 210 a. Cadmus sowed, at Athene's command, the teeth of a dragon that he had slain and so obtained a crop of armed men to help him with the building of Thebes. Cf. Ovid's Metamorphoses, III, 1-137. A similar story is told of Jason.
P. 210 b. those confused seeds which were im
posed on Psyche. Psyche had fallen into the hands of Venus, who punished her, for having won the love of Cupid, by making her separate seeds of wheat, millet, poppy, vetches, lentils, and beans, mixed all together. She was to place each kind of seed in a separate heap and to finish the task by evening. As Psyche sat in despair, an ant took pity on her and summoning the whole tribe of ants, accomplished the work within the time set. The story of Cupid and Psyche is told in The Golden Ass of Apuleius, Bks. IV-VI.
P. 212 a. the old philosophy of this island. There was a theory that the Pythagorean and Zoroastrian doctrines were derived from the wisdom of the Druids, the priesthood of the early Britons.
as far as the mountainous borders of Russia and beyond the Hercynian wilderness. The mountains bordering Transylvania are a part of the Carpathians. The Hercynian wilderness was a mountainous tract of forest land in southern and central Germany (the name survives in Hars and Erzgebirge), many miles to the northeast of Transylvania. But Milton's geography is vague and rhetorical; he cared more for the sonority and associations of a geographical name than for its exact significance.
P. 212 b. muing her mighty youth, etc. Renewing her youth as an eagle renews its feathers by moulting. In mediæval bird-fable the eagle's keen sight was supposed to be actually kindled and her youth renewed by flying up near to the sun, as Milton says. See the Middle English "Bestiary" in Emerson's Middle English Reader, or in Morris and Skeat's Specimens of Early English. In Milton's figure the sun is truth; in the Middle English poem the sun is God and the eagle is the soul.
P. 213 a. Ye cannot make us, etc. You cannot make us again as we were before you gave us liberty. We, with our finer ideals, are the result of your own high ideals in the past, and to undo your good work now would be like a reversion to that barbarous ancient law which permitted parents to kill their own children. If you did, who would stand up for you and urge others to do so? Not such patriots as rose against illegal taxation.
Coat and conduct, the clothing and conveyance of troops. On this ground taxes were unjustly levied.
his four nobles of Danegelt, ship-money. Danegelt means literally Dane-money, and in Saxon times was a tax levied to protect England against the invasions of the Danes. It is not clear why Milton should have specified four nobles (265. Sd.).