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"In the private academies of Italy, whither I was favored 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 shifted, 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 assent 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 by labor and intent study, (which I take to be my portion in this life) joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might, perhaps, leave something so written to after-times as they should not willingly let it die. These thoughts at once possessed me, and these other, that if I were certain to write as men buy leases, for three lives and downward, there ought no regard to be sooner had than to God's
glory, by the honor 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 applied myself to that resolution, which Ariosto followed against the persuasions of Bembo to fix all the industry and art 1 could unite to the adorning of my native tongue; not to make verbal curiosities the end, (that were a toilsome vanity) but to be an interpreter and relater of the best and sagest things among mine own citizens throughout 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 ant! above o being a Christian, might do for mine, not caring to be once named abroad, though, perhaps, I could attain to that, but content 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 islands,
Mi satis ampla Merces, et mihi grande decus (sim ignotus in aevum Turn licet, externo penitusque inglorius orbi) Si me flava comas legat Usa, et potor Alauni, Vorticibusque frequens Abra,etnemusomneTreantie, Et Thamesis meus ante omnes, et fusca metallis Tamara, et extremis me discant Orcades undis.
And it shall well suffice me, and shall be
Fame and proud recompcnce enough for me,
If Usa golden-hair'd my verse may learn;
If Alain, bending o'er his crystal urn,
Swift whirling Abra, Trent's o'ershadow'd stream,
If, lovelier far than all in my esteem,
Thames, and the Tamar ting'd with mineral hues,
And northern Orcades, regard my muse.
In tracing the literary ambition of Milton from the first conception of his great purposes to their accomplishment, we seem 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 oceasion, 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 some 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, whosegenerous enthusiasm 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 favor 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 recommended to the notice of Cardinal Barberini, who honored 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