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Or if Virtue feeble were,
Heav'n itself would stoop to her*.

with the thought for the conclusion of his Ode on St. Cecilia's day. Warburton.

1021. Higher than the sphery chime.] Chime, Ital. Cima. Yet he uses chime in the common sense, Ode Nativ. v. 128. He may do so here, but then the expression is licentious, I suppose for the sake of the rhyme. Hurd. Sphery occurs in Mids. N. Dr. a. ii. s. 7. "Hermia's sphery 66 eyne."

Spery chime is the music of the spheres. As in Machin's Dumbe Knight, 1608. Reed's Old Pl. iv. 447.

We must not read Comus with an eye to the stage, or with the expectation of dramatic propriety. Under this restriction, the absurdity of the Spirit speaking to an audience in a solitary forest at midnight, and the want of reciprocation in the dialogue, are overlooked. Comus is a suite of Speeches, not interesting by

And in the Ode on the Nativity, discrimination of character; not

st. xiii.

conveying a variety of incidents, nor gradually exciting curiosity: but perpetually attracting attention by sublime sentiment, by fanciful imagery of the richest vein, by an exuberance of picturesque description, poetical allusion, and ornamental expression. While it widely departs from the grotesque anomalies of the Mask now in fashion, it does not nearly approach to the natural constitution of a regular play. There is a chastity in the application and conduct of the machinery: and Sabrina is introduced with much address, after the Brothers had imprudently suffered the inchantment of Comus to take effect. This is the first time the old English Mask was in some degree re

It was of silver as the chime of spheres. In the same sense, At a solemn music, v. 9.

-Till disproportion'd sin Jarr'd against nature's chime.

And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time.

Compare P. L. xi. 559. P. R. ii. 363. Milton is fond of the word chime in this acceptation, and it has hence been adopted by Dryden. Jonson also has it in several places. T. Warton.

1023. would stoop to her.] Would bow to her was at first in the Manuscript, and we have been at the trouble of transcribing these variations and alterations more for the satisfaction of the curious, than for any entertainment that it afforded to ourselves.

formed, it had been the most exquisite of all his poems. As it is, there are some puerilities in it, and many inaccuracies of expression and versification. The two editions of his Poems are of 1645 and 1673. In 1645, he was, as he would think, better employed. In 1673, he would condemn himself for having written such a thing as a Mask, especially to a great lord, and a sort of viceroy. Hurd.

*If this Mask had been revised by Milton, when his ear and judgment were perfectly

duced to the principles and form of rational composition; yet still it could not but retain some of its arbitrary peculiarities. The poet had here properly no more to do with the pathos of tragedy, than the character of comedy: nor do I know that he was confined to the usual modes of the atrical interlocution. A great critic observes, that the dispute between the Lady and Comus is the most animated and affecting scene of the piece. Perhaps some other scenes, either consisting only of a soliloquy, or of three or four speeches only, have afforded more true pleasure. The same critic thinks, that in all the moral dialogue, although the language is poetical, and the sentiments generous, something is still wanting to allure attention. But surely, in such passages, sentiments so generous, and language so poetical, are sufficient to rouse all our feelings. For this reason I cannot admit his position, that Comus is a drama tediously instructive. And if, as he says, to these ethical discussions the auditor listens, as to a lecture, without passion, without anxiety, yet he listens with elevation and delight. The action is said to be improbable: because the Brothers, when their sister sinks with fatigue in a pathless wilderness, wander both away together in search of berries, too far to find their way back, and leave a helpless lady to all the sadness and danger of solitude. But here is no desertion,

or neglect of the lady. The Brothers leave their sister under a spreading pine in the forest, fainting for refreshment: they go to procure berries or some other fruit for her immediate relief, and, with great probability, lose their way in going or returning. To say nothing of the poet's art, in making this very natural and simple accident to be productive of the distress, which forms the future business and complication of the fable. It is certainly a fault, that the Brothers, although with some indications of anxiety, should enter with so much tranquillity, when their sister is lost, and at leisure pronounce philosophical panegyrics on the mysteries of virginity. But we must not too scrupulously attend to the exigencies of situation, nor suffer ourselves to suppose that we are reading a play, which Milton did not mean to write. These splendid insertions will please, independently of the story, from which however they result; and their elegance and sublimity will overbalance their want of place. In a Greek tragedy, such sentimental harangues, arising from the subject, would have been given to a chorus.

On the whole, whether Comus be or be not deficient as a drama, whether it is considered as an Epic drama, a series of lines, a Mask, or a poem, I am of opinion, that our author is here only inferior to his own Paradise Lost. T. Warton.

XVII.

LYCIDA S.

In this Monody the author bewails a learned friend, unfortunately drowned in his passage from Chester on the Irish seas, 1637; and by occasion foretels the ruin of our corrupted clergy, then in their height.

This poem was made upon the unfortunate and untimely death of Mr. Edward King, son of Sir John King, Secretary for Ireland, a fellow-collegian and intimate friend of our author, who as he was going to visit his relations in Ireland, was drowned on the 10th of August, 1637, and in the twenty-fifth year of his age. The year following, 1638, a small volume of poems Greek, Latin, and English, was printed at Cambridge in honour of his memory, and before them was prefixed the following account of the deceased. P. M. S. Edovardus King, f. Joannis (equitis aurati, qui S SS R R R Elisabethæ, Jacobo, Carolo, pro regno Hiberniæ a secretis) col. Christi in Academia Cant. socius, pietatis atque eruditionis conscientia et fama felix, in quo nihil immaturum præter ætatem; dum Hiberniam cogitat, tractus desiderio suorum, patriam, agnatos et amicos, præ cæteris fratrem, Dominum Robertum King (equitem auratum, virum ornatissimum)

sorores (fœminas lectissimas) Annam, Dom. G. Caulfeild, Baronis de Charlemont; Margaretam, D. G. Loder, summi Hiberniæ Justitiarii, uxorem ; venerandum Præsulem, Edovardum King, Episcopum Elphinensem (a quo sacro fonte susceptus) reverendissimum et doctissimum virum Gulielmum Chappel, Decanum ecclesiæ Casseliensis, et collegii Sanctæ Trinitatis apud Dublinienses præpositum (cujus in Academia auditor et alumnus fuerat) invisens; haud procul a littore Britannico, navi in scopulum allisa, et rimis et ictu fatiscente, dum alii vectores vitæ mortalis frustra satagerent, immortalitatem anhelans, in genua provolutus oransque, una cum navigio ab aquis absorptus, animam Deo reddidit IIII. Eid. Sextileis, anno salutis M,DC,XXXVII. ætatis XXV. The last poem in the collection was this of Milton, which by his own Manuscript appears to have been written in November, 1637, when he was almost twenty-nine years old:

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YET once more, O ye laurels, and once more Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,

and these words in the printed titles of this poem, and by occasion foretels the ruin of our corrupted clergy, then in their height, are not in the Manuscript. This poem is with great judgment made of the pastoral kind, as both Mr. King and Milton had been designed for holy orders and the pastoral care, which gives a peculiar propriety to several passages in it: and in composing it the poet had an eye particularly to Virgil's tenth Eclogue lamenting the unhappy loves of Gallus, and to Spenser's pastoral poems upon the death of the Muses' favourite, Sir Philip Sidney. The reader cannot but observe, that there are more antiquated and obsolete words in this than in any other of Milton's poems; which I conceive to be owing partly to his judgment, for he might think them more rustic, and better adapted to the nature of pastoral poetry; and partly to his imitating of Spenser, for as Spenser's style is most antiquated, where he imitates Chaucer most, in his Shepherd's Calendar, so Milton's imitations of Spenser might have the same effect upon the language of this poem. It is called a monody, from a Greek word signifying a mournful or funeral song sung by a single person: and we have lately had two admirable poems published under this title, one occasioned by the death of Mr. Pope by a very ingenious poet of Cambridge, and the other to the memory of his deceased lady by a gentleman, whose excellent

poetry is the least of his many excellencies.

1. Yet once more] The poem begins somewhat like Virgil's Gallus,

Extremum hunc, Arethusa, mihi concede laborem:

And this yet once more is said in allusion to his former poems upon the like occasions, On the death of a fair infant dying of a cough, Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester, &c.

1.

O ye laurels, and once

more

Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,]

The laurel, as he was a poet, for that was sacred to Apollo; the myrtle, as he was of a proper age. for love, for that was the plant of Venus; the ivy, as a reward of his learning. Hor. Od. i. i. 29.

-doctarum ederæ præmia frontium. Ivy never sere, that is, never dry, never withered, being one of the evergreens. We have the word in Paradise Lost, x. 1071. where it was explained and justified by parallel instances from Spenser.

1. The best poets imperceptibly adopt phrases and formularies from the writings of their contemporaries or immediate predecessors. An Elegy on the death of the celebrated Countess of Pembroke, Sir Philip Sydney's sister, begins thus.

Yet once againe, my Muse. See Songes and Sonnettes of Uncertain Auctours, added to Surrey's and Wyat's Poems.

I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
And with forc'd fingers rude
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,

Yet once more, has an allusion not merely to some of Milton's former poems on similar occasions, but to his poetical compositions in general, or rather to his last poem, which was Comus. He would say, "I am again, in "the midst of other studies, un"expectedly and unwillingly "called back to poetry, &c." Neither are the plants here mentioned, as some have suspected, appropriated to elegy. They are symbolical of general poetry. Theocritus, in a Epigram cited in the next note, dedicates myrtles to Apollo. In the mean time, I would not exclude another probable implication: by plucking the berries and the leaves of laurel, myrtle, and ivy, he might intend to point out the pastoral or rural turn of his poem. T. Warton.

2. Ye myrtles brown.] Brown and black are classical epithets for the myrtle. Theocritus, Epig. i. 3.

Ται δε ΜΕΛΑΜΦΥΛΛΑΙ ΔΑΦΝΑΙ σιν, Πυθι Παιαν.

Ovid, Art. Amator. lib. iii. 690. Ros maris, et lauri, nigraque myrtus olet.

Horace contrasts the brown myrtle with the green ivy, Od. i.

XXXV. 17.

Læta quod pubes edera virenti Gaudeat, pulla magis atque myrto.

A

2. with ivy never sere.] notion has prevailed, that this pastoral is written in the Doric

5

dialect, by which in English we are to understand an antiquated style. But of the three or four words in Lycidas which even we now call obsolete, almost all are either used in Milton's other poems, or were familiar to readers and writers of verse in the

year 1638. The word sere, or dry, in the text, one of the most uncommon of these words, occurs in P. L. b. x. 1071. And in our author's Psalms, ii. 27. T. Warton.

3. I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,] This beautiful allusion to the unripe age of his friend, in which death shattered his leaves before the mellowing year, is not antique, I think, but of those secret graces of Spenser. See his Eclogue of January in the Shepherd's Calendar. The poet there says of himself under the name of Colin Clout,

Also my lustful leaf is dry and sere.
Richardson,

5. Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.] So in P. L. b. x. 1066.

-shattering the graceful locks Of these fair spreading trees. T. Warton.

occasion dear,] So in Spenser, 6. Bitter constraint, and sad Faery Queen, b. i. cant. i. st. 53. Love of yourself, she said, and dear constraint,

Let me not sleep, but waste the
weary night

In secret anguish, and unpitied plaint.
Richardson.

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