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most likely to seize a hint of this kind with avidity, and expressions in Paradise Lost have led an Italian biographer of the poet to suppose, that while he refided at Florence he caught from Galileo, or his disciples, some ideas approaching towards the Newtonian philosophy. He has informed us himself, that he really saw the illustrious scientific prisoner of the inquisition, and it seems not unreasonable to conclude, that he was in some degree indebted to his conference with Grotius for that mournful gratification.
From Paris'our author proceeded to Italy, embarking at Nice for Genoa. After a cursory view of Leghorn and Pisa, he settled for two months at Florence; a city, which he particularly regarded for the elegance of its language, and the men of genius it had produced; here, as he informs us, he became familiar with many persons distinguished by their rank and learning; and here, probably, he began to form those great, but unsettled, projects of future composition, which were to prove the sources of his glory, and of which he thus speaks him
“ In the private academies of Italy, whither I
was favoured to resort, perceiving that some “ trifles I had in memory, composed' at under
twenty, or thereabout (for the manner is, that
every one must give some proof of his wit and “ reading there) met with acceptance above what
was looked for, and other things, which I had “ fhifted, in scarcity of books and conveniency, to “ patch up amongst them, were received with written
“ encomiums, which the Italian is not forward to " bestow on men of this side the Alps, I began thus “ far to affent both to them, and divers of my " friends here at home, and not less to an inward
prompting, which now grew daily upon me, that "s by labour and intent study, (which I take to be
my portion in this life) joined with the strong
something so written to after.times as they should
possessed me, and these other, that if I were cer“ tain to write as men buy leases, for three lives " and downward, there ought no regard to be “ fooner had than to God's glory, by the honour " and instruction of my country; for which cause, " and not only for that I knew it would be hard to « arrive at the second rank among the Latins, I ap“ plied myself to that resolution, which Ariosto fol“ lowed against the persuasions of Bembo, to fix all “ the industry and art I could unite to the adorning “ of my native tongue; not to make verbal curio“ fities the end, (that were a toilfome vanity) but “ to be an interpreter and relater of the best and “ fagest things among mine own citizens throughve out this island in the mother dialect; that what " the greatest and choicest wits of Athens, Rome,
or' modern Italy, and those Hebrews of old, did " for their country, I in my proportion, with this “ over and above of being a Christian, might do “ fur mine, not caring to be once named abroad, “ though, perhaps, I could attain to that, but con
“ tent with these British islands as my world.” Prose works, vol. 1. p. 62.
It is delightful to contemplate such a character as Milton, thus cherishing, in his own mind, the seeds of future greatness, and animating his youthful spirit with visions of renown, that time has realized and extended beyond his most sanguine wishes.
He appears, on every occasion, a sincere and fervent lover of his country, and expresses, in one of his Latin Poems, the same patriotic idea, that he should be satisfied with glory confined to these Illands.
Mi fatis ampla Merces, et mihi grande decus (fim ignotus in ævum Tum licet, externo penitusque inglorius orbi) Si me flava comas legat Usa, et potor Alauni, Vorticibusque frequens Abra, et nenius omne Treantæ, Et Thamesis meus ante omnes, et fusca metallis Tamara, et extremis me discant Orcades undis.
And it shall well fuffice me, and shall be
In tracing the literary ambition of Milton from the first conception of his great purposes to their accomplishment, we feem to participate in the triumph of his genius, which, though it aspired only to the praise of these British islands, is already grown
an object of universal admiration, and may find hereafter, in the western world, the amplest theatre of his glory.
Dr. Johnson takes occasion, from the passage in which Milton speaks of the literary projects he conceived in Italy, to remark, that “ he had a lofty and
steady confidence in himself, perhaps not without “ fome contempt of others. The latter part of
" this observation is evidently invidious ; . it is completely refuted by the various commendations, which the graceful and engaging manners of the poetical traveller received from the Italians : a contemptuous spirit, indeed, appears utterly incompatible with the native disposition of Milton, whose generous enthufiasm led him to conceive the fondest veneration for all, who were distinguished by genius or virtue ; a disposition, which he has expressed in the strongest terms, as the reader may recollect, in a letter, already cited, to his friend Diodati! His prejudiced biographer endeavours to prove, that his spirit was contemptuous, by observing, that he was frugal of his praise. The argument is particularly defective, as applied to Milton on his travels; since the praises he bestowed on those accomplished foreigners, who were kind to him, are liberal in the highest degree, and apparently dictated by the heart.
After a short visit to Sienna, he resided two months in Rome, enjoying the most refined society, which that city could afford. By the favour of Holstenius, the well known librarian of the Vatican (whose kindness to him he has recorded in a Latin Epistle equally grateful and elegant) he was recom
mended to the notice of Cardinal Barberini, who honoured him with the most flattering attention ; it was at the concerts of the Cardinal that he was captivated by the charms of Leonora Baroni, whose extraordinary musical powers he has celebrated in Latin verse, and whom he is supposed to address as a lover in his Italian poetry. The most eloquens
: of the passions, which is said to convert almost eves ry man who feels it into a poet, induced the imagie nation of Milton to try its powers in a foreign language, whose difficulties he seems to have perfectly subdued by the united aids of genius and of love.
His Italian sonnets have been liberally commended by natives of Italy, and one of them contains a sketch of his own character, fo fpirited and singular as to claim a place in this narrative.
Giovane piano, e semplicetto amante
Poi che fuggir me stesso in dubbio sono,
Farò divoto; io certo a prove tante
De pensieri leggiadri accorto, e buono ;
S'arma di se, e d'intero diamante ;
Di timori, e speranze, al popol use,
Quanto d'ingegno, e d' alto valor vago,
Sol troverete in tal parte men duro,
Enamour'd, artless, young, on foreign ground,
Uncertain whether from myself to fly,