« AnteriorContinuar »
same patriotic idea, that he should be satisfied with glory confined to these Islands.
Mi fatis ampla
And it shall well suffice me, and shall be
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
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 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 fpirit, indeed, appears útterly incompatible with the native disposition of Milton, whose generous 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 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 recommended 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
eloquent of the passions, which is said to convert almost every man who feels it into a poet, induced the imagination 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, so spirited 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;
il gran mondo, e scocca il tuono,
; Tanto del forse, e d'invidia sicuro,
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,
By certain proofs, not few, intrepid, sound,
Good, and addicted to conceptions high:
It rests in adamant, self wrapt around,
From hopes and fears that vulgar minds abuse,
As fond of genius, and fixt solitude,
will find it in one only part, Now pierc'd by love's immedicable dart.
It was at Rome that Milton was complimented, in Latin verse, by Selvaggi and Salflli: his reply to the latter, then suffering from a severe malady, is so remarkable for its elegance, tenderness, and spirit, that Mr. Warton praises it as one of the finest lyrical compofitions, which the Latin poetry of modern times can exhibit.
The circumstances that happened to our author in his travels, and, indeed, the most striking particulars of his life, are related by himself, in his “ Second Defence.” He there tells us, that in passing from Rome to Naples his fellowtraveller was a hermit, who introduced him to Baptista Manso, Marquis of Villa, an accomplished nobleman, and singularly distinguished as the friend and the biographer of two eminent poets, Tasso and Marini; they have both left poetical memorials of their esteem for the Marquis, who acquired his title as a soldier in the service of Spain, but retiring early, with considerable wealth, to Naples, his native
city, he founded there a literary academy, and lived in splendor as its president.
This graceful and venerable hero, whose politeness and learning had been fondly celebrated by Tasso, in a dialogue on friendship, that bears the name of Manso, was near eighty when Milton became his guest: he seems to have been endeared to the imagination of our poet by the liberal and affectionate tribute he had paid to the memory of his illustrious poetical friends; a tribute very feelingly described by Milton in the following lines, addressed to the noble and generous biographer—they speak first of Marini:
Ille itidem moriens tibi foli debita vates
To thee alone the poet would entrust