study and contempt of pleasure, by obedience to his masters and by piety to his pa. rents, it might be regarded as not open to attack and in no way to be made the subject of malevolence: it was indebted however for its immunity to other circumstances perhaps than to those of its innocence and excellence. It continued, as we have the strongest reasons to believe, equally pure and exemplary throughout the subsequent stages of his life: but no sooner did he tread the threshold of manhood, and begin to offend by the exhibition of novel opinions and strong censures, than he became the object of that enmity which, pursuing him with detraction to his grave, has in later times disturbed his ashes and endeavoured to deform his memory.

Of his conduct and the treatment which he experienced in his college much has been asserted and much been made the subject of dispute.' His enemies in his own days, (a son of bishop Hall is supposed to have been the immediate advancer of the charge,) accused him of having been vomited, after an inordinate and riotous youth, out of the University; and his adversaries in the present age, inflamed with all the hate of their predecessors, have pretended to prove, from some vague expressions in one of his own poems, that the slander, though completely overthrown at the time of its first production, was not altogether unsupported by truth. The lines, supposed to contain the proof in question, are the following which have been so frequently cited from the first of his elegies to his friend, C. Deodati:

Jam nec arundiferum mihi cura revisere Camum ;

Nec dudum vetiti me laris angit amor :
Nuda nec arva placent, umbrasque negantia molles :

Quàm malè Phæbicolis convenit ille locus!
Nec duri libet usque minas perferre magistri;

Cæteraque ingenio non subeunda meo.
Si sit hoc exiliuin patrios adiisse penates

Et vacuum curis otia grata sequi:

* Our author seems in this place to be guilty of a false quantity, and to begin his hexameter very unwarrantably with a cretic. Terentianus Maurus accuses Virgil of the same inaccuracy in the line “ Solus hic inflexit sensus," &c. affirmning, with the old grammarians, that hic and hoc were formerly written with two c's, hicc, hocc, being contracted from hicce and hocce, and were always long. Vossius on the contrary asserts that these pronouns were long only when they were written with the double CC.-" Ad quantitatem hujus pronominis quod attinet, producebant et hic et hoc veteres quando per duplex c scribebant hicc vel hocc, abjecto, e; corripiebant cum c simplex scripsere. Art. Gram. 29. Of a short hịc more than one instance may be produced : “ Hic vir hîc est, tibi quem promitti sæpius audis; but not one, as far as my recollection is accurate, of a short hoc. ** Hoc illud, germana, fuit.” “ Hic labor hoc opus est;" “Hoc erat, alma parens."-" Hoc erat experto frustra Varrone." ** Hoc erat in votis." My friend, Dr. Parr, however, has sug. gested that, hoc, is to be found' short in the comic poets; and

Non ego vel profugi nomen sortemque recuso

Lætus et exilii conditione fruor.

has referred me to two places, one in Plautus and one in Terence, where it certainly occurs with this quantity. If this authority, from poetry neither epic, elegiac nor lyric, can save Milton in this instance, it will be well; and one sin against prosody will be struck from his account. Salmasius, in his abusive reply to “ The Defence of the People of England,' charges our author's Latin verse with many of these violations of quantity, and the accusation is repeated, as I shall remark in the proper place, by N. Heinsius. Though Milton's Latin metre be not proof against rigorous inquisition, yet are its offences against quantity very few-not more, per haps, (if the scazons, addressed to Salsilli, which seem to be constructed on a false principle, and some of the lines in the ode to Rouse, which appear to have been formed in defiance of every prin. ciple, be thrown out of the question,) than four or, at the most, five, of a nature not to be disputed. Of these I shall notice two in the Damon, one of them evidently a slip of the pen, as in a former instance he had observed the right quantity, and the other an unwarrantable licence rather than a fault of this specific description. In the Ideá Platonicâ, he is guilty of shortening the second syllable of, sempiternus, which beyond all controversy is long; and in his poem to his Father he makes the last syllable of, ego, long, when it is unquestionably short; though here perhaps he might be justified in lengthening it, as the ictus of the verse falls on it. Of Academia, in the second Elegy, he shortens the penult in opposition to the uniform practice of the Greeks, and not sanctioned by any authorities though countenanced, as Dr, Parr has acutely discriminated, by some examples among the Latins; and lastly, in the Alcaic ode on the death of Dr. Goslyn, he has left the interjective, O, open in a situation in which it is never found open in the Roman classics. When, contrary to the usage of Virgil, Horace, &c. he lengthens the first syllable of Britonicum, in the Damon, he is supported by the authority of Lucretius, vi. 1104. “ Nam quid Britannis cælum differre putamus ;” and when he makes the final syllable of temere short in" Quid temere violas

Extinct my love of mansions late denied,
No wish now leads me to Cam's reedy side:

non nocenda a numina,” he is justified not only by analogy but by the sole authority which can be produced on the occasion, and as such to be admitted, the authority of Seneca, who in two places uses it as short" Sic temere jactæ colla perfundant coma." Hippo. 392.

Pondusque et artus temere congestos date." Id.—1244. For these instances I am indebted to Dr. Parr. By Gray this syllable of temere is improperly made long-Hospiti ramis temere jacentem. I have omitted to state that in the iambics on the death of Felton, Bishop of Ely, Neobòlen is substituted without authority for Neobūlen.

This I believe to be an accurate and full statement of Milton's real and imputed transgressions of Latin prosody in all its just severity; and this will vindicate me for saying that his offences of this description ate few, and not sufficient to support in its full extent the charge which has been brought against him. I am aware however, though the circumstance was not in the contemplation either of Salmasius or of Heinsius, that Milton has frequently sinned against the celebrated metrical canon, (advanced by Dawes, and acknowledged by the chief scholars of the present age,) which determines that in Latin prosody a short vowel is necessarily lengthened by the immediate sequence, though in a distinct word, of sc, sp, and st. But, though I must thus dissent from the opinion of Dr. Parr, from which it is impossible to dissent without a feeling of trembling diffidence, I cannot profess myself to be certain of the authenticity of a law which has not been invariably observed by the greatest masters of Roman numbers in the purest age of Roman taste-of a law, in short, which has been broken by Catullus, by Horace, by Virgil, by Ovid, and by Propertius. To get rid of an infraction cf this rule by Virgil, its supporters are reduced to the violent expedient of erasing the offending line without the authority of a single MS. and when Horace with his fine judgment and nice ear, is guilty, as he frequently is, of this imputed crime, the circumstance is attributed to the laxity of the numbers, the “ carmina sermoni prow

Where genial shade the naked fields refuse;
(Ah most unfriendly to the courted Muse!)

priora," which he professes to employ. Well-be it so: but what is to be said of the following instances, which have not been hitherto produced, of a neglect of this rule by other writers of the golden age of Roman poetry, and particularly by the learned Propertius; in whom more instances of a similar nature are to be found?

“ Testis erit magnis vertutibus unda Scamandri." CATUL.
“ Brachia spectavi sacris admorsa colubris.” PROPER.
Consuluitque stryges nostro de sanguine, et in me." Id.
Tuque O Minoa venundata Scylla figura.” GALLI ELEG.

If this last instance, as brought from a work the authenticity of which has been suspected by Broukhusits and others, should be thrown out of the question, examples enough have been adduced, and their number might easily be increased,) to vindicate Milton when, with many of the first-rate scholars of the age just past, he disregards a rule of prosody which, whatever may be advanced in its support by the great scholars of our own times, must be considered as possessing at the most only doubtful authority. Though Homer, if he may be allowed to have written his Iliad or to have known the orthography of one of the rivers of the Troad, has frequently transgressed this rule, it was very generally observed by the Greek poets: and by the poets of what has been called the silver age of Roman composition, it has not, as far as I can discover, been ever violated. It would seem that to a Greek or a Roman ear the immediate sequence of the strong consonants in question suspended the voice on the preceding short vowel; but not in that degree as to make inattention to its effect an unpardonable offence against the harmony of the verse.

I have occasionally hinted that Milton's Latin prose composition is not altogether faultless : but its faults are few and trivial; and to dwell on them would expend time for an insufficient object. On his Greek composition, of which the errors are more numerous and perhaps of greater magnitude, I have purposely forborne to offer any remarks, as that accomplished scholar and very acute

« VorigeDoorgaan »