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many of his opinions, which must have had considerable influence on his moral character.
His fixth Elegy, addressed to his bofom friend, Charles Diodati, seems to be founded on the idea, which he may be said to have verified in his own conduct, that stri& habits of temperance and virtue are highly conducive to the perfection of great poetical powers. To poets of a lighter class he recommends, with graceful pleasantry, much convivial enjoyment; but for those who aspire to Epic renown, he prescribes even the simple regimen of Pythagoras.
Ille quidem parce, Samii pro more magistri,
Vivat, et innocuos præbeat herba cibos;
Sobriaque e puro pocula fonte bibat.
Et rigidi mores, et sine labe manus.
Surgis ad infensos, augur, iture Deos.
In his Elegy on the spring, our poet expresses the fervent emotions of his fancy in terms, that may be almost regarded as a prophetic defcription of his fublimest work:
Jam mihi mens liquidi raptatur in ardua cæli,
Perque vagas nubes corpore liber eo; Intuiturque animus toto quid agatur Olympo,
Nec fugiunt oculos Tartara cæca meos.
I mount, and, undepressed by cumbrous clay,
With these verses it may be pleasing to compare a fimilar passage in his English vacation exercise, where, addressing his native language, as applied to an inconsiderable purpose, he adds,
Yet I had rather, if I were to chuse,
" It is worth the curious reader's attention to obferve how much the Paradise Lost corresponds with this prophetic wish,” says Mr. Thyer, one of the most intelligent and liberal of English commentators. The
young poet, who thus expressed his ambition, was then in his nineteenth year. At the
At the age of twenty-one (the period of his life when that pleafing portrait of him was executed, which the Speaker Onslow obtained from the executors of his widow)
he composed his Ode on the Nativity; a poem that surpaffes in fancy and devotional fire a composition on the same subject by that celebrated and devout poet of Spain, Lopez de Vega.
The most trifling performances of Milton are so singular, that we may regret even the loss of the verses alluded to by Aubrey, as the offspring of his childhood. Perhaps no juvenile author ever displayed, with such early force,
• The spirit of a youth Who means to be of note.”
His mind, even in his boyish days, seems to have glowed, like the fancy and furnace of an alchymist, with incessant hope and preparation for astonishing productions.
Such austerity and moroseness have been falsely attributed to Milton, that a reader, acquainted with him only as he appears in the page of Johnson, must fuppose him little formed for love; but his poetry in general, and especially the compositions we are now speaking of, may convince us, that he felt, with the most exquisite fenfibility, the magic of beauty, and all the force of female attraction. His seventh Elegy exhibits a lively picture of his first passion; he represents himself as captivated by an unknown fair, who, though he saw her but for a moment, made a deep impression on his heart.
Protinus insoliti subierunt corda furores,
Uror amans intus, flammaque totus eram. Interea misero quæ jam mihi fola placebat.
Ablata est oculis non reditura meis.
Aft ego progredior tacite querebundus, et excors,
Et dubius volui fæpe referre pedem.
Raptaque tam subito gaudia flere juvat.
The juvenile poet then addresses himself to love, with a request that beautifully expresses all the inquietude, and all the irresolution, of hopeless attachment.
Deme meos tandem, verum nec deme, furores ;
Nescio cur, miser eft fuaviter omnis amans.
Remove, no, grant me still this raging woe;
After having contemplated the youthful fancy of Milton under the influence of a sudden and vehement affection, let us survey him in a different point of view, and admire the purity and vigour of mind, which he exerted at the age of twenty-three, in me. ditation on his past and his future days.
To a friend, who had remonstrated with him on his delay to enter upon active life, he afcribes that delay to an intense defire of rendering himself more fit for it. “ Yet (he says) that you may see that I am fomething suspicious of myselfe, and doe take
66 notice of a certain belatednefle in
me, " the bolder to send
you some of my night-ward “ thoughts, fome while since, becaufe they come in 65"
not altogether unfitly, made up in a Petrarchian “ stanza, which I told :
How soon hath time, the fubtle thief of youth,
Stol’n on his wing my three and twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
Yet be it less or more, or soon or flow,
To that same lot, however mean or high,
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
This fonnet may be regarded, perhaps, as a refutation of that injurious criticism, which has afferted, “ the best fonnets of Milton are entitled only to this negative commendation, that they are not bad ;” but it has a superior value, which induced me to introduce it here, as it seems to reveal the ruling principle, which gave bias and energy to the mind and conduct of Milton; I mean the habit, which he so early adopted, of considering himself
“ As ever in his great task master's eye.”
It was, perhaps, the force and permanency with which this persuasion was impressed on his heart,