Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tion of true poetical genius, and never did it add greater purity of heart to that divine yet perilous talent, to guide and sanctify its exertion. Those who are best acquainted with the writings and the virtues of my inestimable friend, must be most fervent in their hopes, that in the course and the close of his poetical career he may resemble his great and favourite predecessors, Homer and Milton; their spirits were cheered and illuminated in the decline of life by a fresh portion of poetical power; and if in their latter productions they rose not to the full force and fplendor of their meridian glory, they yet enchanted mankind with the sweetness and serenity of their descending light.

Literature, which Cicero has' so eloquently described as the friend of every period and con-' dition of human existence, is peculiarly the friend of age; a truth of which Warton, are a very lively illustration-you, who at a season of life when unlettered mortals

generally murmur against the world, are miniftering to its instruction and its pleasure by continuing to write with temper, vivacity, and grace.

That

you, my dear

[ocr errors]

That you may long retain and display this happy assemblage of endowments, so rare in a critical veteran, is the cordial wish of many, and particularly the wish of your very sincere and affectionate friend,

W. H.

Eartham, October 29, 1795.

1

THE

L I
LIF F E

OF

MIL Το Ν.

7

P A R T I.

L' ETA PRECORSE, E LA SPERANZA ; E PRESTI
PAREANO I FIOR, QUANDO N'USCIRO I FRUTTI.

TASSO. The character of MILTON has been ferutinized with all the minuteness of investigation, which opposite passions could suggest. The virulent antagonist and the enraptured idolater have pursued his steps with equal pertinacity; nor have we want. ed men of learning and virtue, who, devoid of prejudice and enthusiasm, both in politics and in poetry, have endeavoured to weigh his merits exactly in the balance of truth and reason.

What new light then can be thrown upon a life, whose incidents have been so eagerly collected, and so frequently retailed? What novelty of remark can be expected in a review of poems, whose beauties and blemishes have been elaborately examined in critical dissertations, that almost rival in excellence the poetry they discuss ? Afsuredly but little ; yet there remains, perhaps, one method of giving a degree of interest and illustration to the life of Milton, which it has not hitherto received ; a method which his accomplished friend of Italy, the Marquis of Villa, in some measure adopted in his interesting life of Tasso ; and which two engaging biographers of later date, the Abbé de Sade and Mr. Mafon, have carried to greater perfection in their respective memoirs of Petrarch and of Gray. By weaving into their narrative selections of verse and prose from the various writings of those they wished to commemorate, each of these affectionate memorialists may be said to have taught the poet he loved “ to become his own biographer ;” an experiment that may, perhaps, be tried on Milton with the happiest effect! as in his works, and particularly in those that are at present the least known, he has spoken frequently of himself.—Not from vanity, a failing too cold and low for his ardent and elevated mind; but, in advanced life, from motives of justice and honour, to defend himself against the poisoned arrows of flander; and, in his younger days, from that tenderness and simplicity of heart, which lead a youthful poet to make his own affections and amusements the chief subjects of his fong.

The great aim of the subsequent account is to render full and perfect justice to the general character of Millon. His manners and cast of mind, in

various

various periods of life, may appear in a new and agreeable light, from the following collection and arrangement of the many little sketches, which his own hand has occasionally given us, of his passions and pursuits. Several of these, indeed, have been fondly assembled by Toland or Richardson; men, who, different as they were in their general sentiments and principles, yet fympathized completely in their zeal for the renown of Milton ; delighting to dwell on his character with 66 that shadow of “ friendship, that complacency and ardour of attach“ ment, which, as Pope has observed in speaking “ of Homer, we naturally feel for the great ge" niuses of former time."-But those who have endeavoured to illustrate the personal history of the great English Author, by exhibiting passages from some of his neglected works, have almost confined brane themselves to selections from his prose.

There is an ampler field for the study of his early temper and turn of his mind in his Latin and Italian Poetry: here the heart and spirit of Milton are displayed with all the frankness of youth. I select what has a peculiar tendency to shew, in the clearest light, his native disposition, because his character as a man appears to have been greatly mistaken. I am under no fear that the frequency or length of such citations may be exposed to censure, having the pleasure and advantage of presenting them to the English reader in the elegant and spirited version of a poet and a friend--with pride and delight I add the name of Cowper. This gentle. man, who is prepared to oblige the world with a

complete

a

« AnteriorContinuar »