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from a kernel dropt by a rambling bird on a spot of peculiar fertility. We are perfectly assured that Milton owed one of his great poems to the ingenuous question of a young quaker; and Voltaire, as we have feen, has asserted, that he was indebted for the other to the fantastic drama of an Italian stroller. It does not appear that Voltaire had any higher authority for his assertion than his own conjecture from a flight inspection of the drama, which he hastily describes; yet it is mere justice to this rapid entertaining writer to declare, that in his conjecture there is great probability, which the. English reader, I believe, will be inclined to admit, in proportion as he becomes acquainted with Andreini and his Adamo; but before we examine their merit, and the degree of influence that we may suppose them to have had on the fancy of Milton, let us contemplate, in one view, all the scattered hints which the great poet has given us concerning the grand project of his life, his design of writing an epic poem.
His first mention of this design occurs in the following verses of his poetical compliment to Manso :
O mihi fic mea fors talem concedat amicum,
O might so true a friend to me belong,
Should I recall hereafter into rhyme
Mr. Warton says, in his comment on this passage, t. It is possible that the advice of Manso, the friend c of Tasso, might determine our poet to a design “ of this kind.” The conjecture of this respectable critic mày appear confirmed by the following cir. cumstance :-In the discourses on Epic Poetry, which are included in the profe works of Tasso, Arthur is repeatedly recommended as a proper hero for a poem. Thus we find that Italy most probably suggested to Milton his first epic idea, which he relinquished; nor is it lefs probable that his second and more arduous enterprize, which he accomplished, was suggested to him by his perusal of Italian authors. If he saw the Adamo of Andreini repre. sented at Milan, we have reason to believe that performance did not immediately inspire him with the project of writing an epic poem on our First Parents ; because we find that Arthur kept poffeffion of his fancy after his return to England.
In the following verses of his Epitaphium Damonis, composed at that period, he still shews himself attached to romantic heroes, and to British story:
Dicam et Pandrasidos regnum vetus Inogeniæ,
Of Brutus, Dardan chief, my song shall be,
In one of his controversial works, published in 1641, Milton informs as what poetical ideas were then fluctuating in his mind; particularly “ what
king or knight before the Conquest might be “ chofen, in whom to lay the pattern of a christian “ hero." This project, of delineating in a hero a model of christian perfection, was suggested to the English poet, not only by the example, but by the precepts, of Taffo, as they are delivered in his critical discourses. The epic designs of Milton were fuspended, we know, for many years, by very different pursuits; and when he escaped from “ the
6 troubled sea of noise and hoarse dispute to the
quiet and kill air of delightful studies," Arthur had so far ceased to be his favourite, that he probably exclaimed, in the words of Taffo :
Taccia Artà quei suoi
Arthur no more thy errant knights rehearse,
For Adam now reigned in his fancy, not immedi. ately as the subject of an epic poem, but as a capital personage in the plan of a dramatic composition, that instead of being formed on the narrow ground of Grotius, in his Adamus Exul, allowed a wider range to the fancy, and included allegorical characters, like the Adamo of Andreini.
This composition, first printed at Milan, in 1613, and again in 1617, resembles the mysteries of our early stage; and is denominated in Italian Rappresentatione, a name which the writers of Italy apply to dramas founded on the scripture.--Dr. Pearce has said, in the preface to his review of Milton's text, that he was informed an Italian tragedy existed, entitled Il Paradiso Perso, Paradise Loft; but, in a very extensive research, I can dilcover no such performance. There is indeed anon ther Italian drama on the subject, which I have not seen, entitled Adamo Caduto, tragedia sacra; but this was not printed until 1647, some years after the
return of our poet from the continent *. It seems very probable that Milton, in his collection of Italian books, had brought the Adamo of Andreini to England ; and that the perusal of an author, wild indeed, and abounding in grotesque extravagance, yet now and then shining with pure and united rays of fancy and devotion, first gave a new bias to the imagination of the English poet, or, to use the expressive phrafe of Voltaire, first revealed to him the hidden majesty of the subject.. The apos
* For the benefit of commentators on our divine bard, let me here insert a brief lift of such Italian compositions, as may possibly have afforded him some useful hints :
1. Adamo Caduto, tragedia facta, di Serafino della Salandra. Cozenza, 1647. Oetavo. :: 2. La Battaglia Celeste tra Michele e Lucifero; di Antonio Alfani, Palermitano. Palermo, 1568. Quarto.
3. Dell Adamo di Giovanni Soranzo, i due primi libri. Genova 1604. Duodecimo.
These little known productions on the subject of Milton are not to be found in the royal library, nor in the princely collection of Lord Spencer, who possesses that remarkable rarity of Italian literature, the Thefeida of Boccacio; and whose lie beral paflion for books is ennobled by his politeness and beneficence to men of letters.
The poets of Italy were certainly favourites with Milton and perhaps his Sampson Agonistes was founded on a sacred drama of that country, La Rappresentatione di Sansone, per Alessandro Rofelli. Siena, 1616. Quarto.There is probably considerable poetical merit in this piece, as I find two fubfequent editions of it recorded in the historians of Italian literature ; yet I am unable to say whether Milton is indebted to it or not, as I have never been so fortunate as to find a copy of Rofelli's compofition. Yet the mention of it here may be useful to future editors of the English poet.