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There lives, deep learn’d, and primitively just,
young Achilles' eyes, as he in mine :
And again, in expressing his regret upon the length of their separation :
Nec dum ejus licuit mihi lumina pascere vultu,
Aut linguæ dulces aure bibisse sonos.
Nor yet his friendly features feast my fight,
As the tenderness of the young poet is admirably displayed in the beginning of this Elegy, his more acknowledged characteristic, religious fortitude, is not less admirable in the close of it.
At tu sume animos, nec spes cadat anxia curis,
Nec tua concutiat decolor ofla metus.
Intententque tibi millia tela necem,
Deque tuo cuspis nulla cruore bibet;
Ille tibi custos, et pugil ille tibi:
Et tu magnanimo pectore vince mala;
Atque iterum patrios pofle videre lares.
But thou, take courage, strive against despair,
The reader, inclined to fymphatise in the joys of Milton, will be gratified in being informed, that his preceptor, whose exile and poverty he pathetically lamented, and whose prosperous return he predicted, was in a few
As the year
to his country, and became Master of Jesus College, in Cambridge.
in which he quitted England (1623) corresponds with the fifteenth year of his pupil's age, it is probable that Milton was placed, at that time, under the care of Mr. Gill and his son; the former, chief master of St. Paul's school, the latter, his assistant, and afterwards his fucceffor. It is remarkable, that Milton, who has been so uncandidly represented as an uncontroulable spirit, and a spurner of all just authority, seems to have contracted a tender attachment to more than one disciplinarian concerned in his education. He is said to have been the favourite scholar of the younger Gill; and he has left traces of their friendship in three Latin epistles, that express the highest esteem for the literary character and poetical talents of his instructor.
On the 12th of February, 1624, he was entered, not as as a sizar, which some of his biographers have erroneously asserted, but as a pensioner of Christ's College, in Cambridge. “At this time,” says Doctor Johnson,
eminently skilled in the Latin tongue, and he himself, by " annexing the dates to his first compositions, a boast of " which the learned Politian had given him an example, “ seems to commend the earliness of his own proficiency
to the notice of posterity ; but the products of his vernal
fertility have been surpassed by many, and particularly by “his contemporary, Cowley. Of the powers of the mind “it is difficult to form an estimate; many have excelled “ Milton in their first essays, who never sose to works like “ Paradise Lost.”.
16 he was
This is the first of many remarks, replete with detraction, in which an illustrious author has indulged his spleen against Milton, in a life of the poet, where an ill-fubdued propenfity to censure is ever combating with a necessity to commend. The partisans of the powerful critic, from a natural partiality to their departed master, affect to consider his malignity as existing only in the prejudices of those who endeavour to counteract his injustice. A biographer of Milton ought therefore to regard it as his indispensible duty to show how far this malignity is diffused through a long series of observations, which affect the reputation both of the poet and the man ; a duty that must be painful in proportion to the sincerity of our esteem for literary genius; since, different as they were in their principles, their man
and their writings, both the poet and his critical biographer are assuredly entitled to the praise of exalted genius. Perhaps in the republic of letters there never existed two writers more deservedly distinguished, not only for the energy of their mental faculties, but for a generous and devout desire to benefit mankind by their exertion.
Yet it must be lamented, and by the lovers of Milton in particular, that a moralist, who has given us, in the Rambler, such sublime lessons for the discipline of the heart and mind, should be unable to preserve his own from that acrimonious spirit of detraction, which led him to depreciate, to the utmost of his power, the rare abilities, and perhaps the still rarer integrity, of Milton. It may be said, that the truly eloquent and splendid encomium, which he has bestowed on the great work of the poet, ought to exempt
him from such a charge. The fingular beauties and effect of this eulogy shall be mentioned in the proper place, and with all the applause they merit; but here it is just to recollect, that the praise of the encomiast is nearly confined to the sentence he passes as a critic; his more diffusive detraction may be traced in almost every page of the biographer : not to encounter it on its first appearance, and wherever it is visible and important, would be to fail in that justice and regard towards the character of Milton, which he, perhaps, of all men, has most eminently deserved.
In the preceding citation it is evidently the purpose of Dr. Johnson to degrade Milton below Cowley, and many other poets, distinguished by juvenile compofitions; but Mr. Warton has, with great taste and judgment, exposed the error of Dr. Johnson, in preferring the Latin poetry of Cowley to that of Milton. An eminent foreign critic has bestowed that high praise on the juvenile productions of our author, which his prejudiced countryman is inclined to deny. Morhoff has affirmed, with equal truth and liberality, that the verses, which Milton produced in his childhood, discover both the fire and judgment of maturer life: a commendation that no impartial reader will be inclined to extenuate, who peruses the spirited epistle to his exiled preceptor, composed in his eighteenth year. Some of his English verses bear an earlier date. The first of his juvenile productions, in the language which he was destined to ennoble, is a paraphrase of the hundred and fourteenth pfalm ; it was executed at the age of fifteen, and discovers a power that Dryden, and other more presumptuous critics, have S