spect of poetic immortality, till the baleful

dis, et Francis, et Germanis, ad illud tempus quo illis ab Rodolpho Germaniæ rege concessa libertas est; exinde quid quæque civitas suo marte gesserit, separatim legere præstabit. Ta vero quid? quousque rebus domesticis filius familias imminebis urbanarum sodaliiarum oblitus? quod, nisi bellum hoc novercale, vel Dacico, vel Sarmatico infestius sit, debebis profecto maturare, ut ad nos saltem ia hyberna concedas. Interim, quod sine tua molestia fiat, Justinianun mili Venetorum historicum rogo mittas; ego mea fide aut in adventum tuum probe asservatain curabo; aut, si mavis, haud ita multo post ad te remissum. Vale."

Londino, Septemler 23, 1637.


« Other friends iu their letters generally reckon it sufficient to wish only a single health to their correspondents ; I can assigo a reason, however, why you so often repeat the salutation. For in addition to your old wishes, which are all that others are still able to offer, you would have me now consider our whole art and energy of medicine as engaged: since you bid me hail indefinitely, to the height of my desires, of my powers-mnay, beyond. You must surely have become of late the very housesteward of health, you so lavishly dispense her whole stores ; or health herself is without doubt your obsequious attendant, you so imperiously like a king enjoin her, obedience. Accept therefore my congratulations, and allow me to return you my double tbanks, on account both of your friendship and your profound skill. I had long indeed, in consequence of your arrangement, been expecting a letter from you, but, trust me, so far was I from feeling the slightest diminution of kindness towards you on account of its non-arrival, that I had even anticipated the very excuse for its delay, which you yourself allege in the beginning of it. And this too justly, and without any derogation from our intimacy. For true friendship should not depend upon the

fury of politics diverted his fancy from where she

Roll'd o'er Elysian flowers her amber stream,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

into a channel polluted with weeds, and horrid with precipices.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]



balancings of letters and salutations, which may be all hypocritical; but should cling and sustain itself by the deep roots of the soul, and, originating in pure and hallowed principles, should through the whole of life, even without the intervention of reciprocal civilities, avoid both suspicion and offence, cherished, not so much by letters, as by the lively remembrance of mutual virtues. Nor, should you happen to omit writing, would you be without a substitute in that office. Your integrity writes to me in your stead, and inscribes its deep characters upon my inmost senses. Your simplicity, your honour, and your genius (genius of no common stamp) are my correspondents, and give me a still stronger impression in your favour. Do not then

your lordly eminence of medicine, hold out to me the threat of reclaiming, with rigid minuteness of calculation, your indefinitely-multiplied salutations, in the event (which God avert!) of my proving treacherous to friendship; but take off that dread injunction, which you seem to have laid upon me, of not daring to be sick without your leave. For, without your denunciations, I cannot belp loving such as resemble you; since, whatever God may have determined concerning me in other rem spects, he has certainly implanted in me, if in any one, a vehement love of the To 23.207: nor is Ceres herself represented in fable to bave sought her daughter Proserpine with so much zeal, as I daily and nightly pursue and trace the steps of this fair idea, this enchanting image through every form and face of things--" for various are the shapes wbich people heaven." Hence he, who, in contempt of the depraved estimates of popular opinion, dares to think and speak, and be what genuine wisdom has universally pronounced best, by a kind of necessity becomes instantly, wherever I bind him, an object of my ardent

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

L'Allegro and Il Penseroso made their

áttachment. I myself may from nature or through destiny be so circumstanced, as to be incapable by any struggles or exertions of my own of attaining such an honourable elevation : but neither gods, I trust, nor men, will forbid my looking up to such as have attained, or are successfully labouring to attain it, with reverence and veneration.

“ Your curiosity will now, I know, expect some satisfaction. Amongst other subjects of anxious inquiry, you ask me, upon what I am thinking. Hear me, my heaven-bestowed friend, but in a whisper, to spare my blushes; and permit me for a moment to utter great things. Do you ask me," Upon what I am' thinking?" So help me heaven, upon immortality. Bat what am I doing? I am fledging myself, and meditate a flight, My Pegasus however as yet soars only on slender pinions: let me moderate my thoughts. I will now tell you, what is my serious project :-to remove into some inn of court, where I may find pleasant and shady walks; because it is both more convenient to reside among a few companions, if I choose to stay at home; and I shall have a better point of setting off, whenever I wish to go abroad. My present abode, you know, is both gloomy and confined. You shall also be informed of my studies. I have read straightforward the history of the Greeks, till they lost their title to the name: and have lingered in the dark ages of Italy among the Lombards, the Franks, and the Germans, down to the period in which they obtained liberty from the Emperor Rodolph. From that epoch it will be better to read separately the exertions of each distinct state.

" And what are you doing? How long will you allow your domestic engagements, as a son, to interfere with your cityfriendships? Surely if this stepmother's warfare be not more bitter than that of Dacia or Sarmatia, you will dispatch it speedily, and join us in winter-quarters. In the mean while I shall be obliged to you, if you can without inconvenience lend me Giustiniani's History of Venice; and I will engage either to take the utmost care of it till your arrival, or (if you choose) in a very short time to return it to you: Farewell,''

London, Sept. 23, 1637.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

first public appearance in the edition of our author's poems, which was published by himself in 1645; and we have no positive testimony to determine the precise time of their production. There is reason, however, to suppose that they were written in the interwal between the composition of Comus, and that of Lycidas. The opening lines of the latter

poem seem to refer to some work of a more recent date than the Mask, since the representation of which three years had now elapsed; and we cannot, with the least

pretence of probability, assign their origin 10 any other portion of their author's life than to that which was passed at Horton. The evidence of their ripened excellence would not allow us to ascribe them to his more youthful years, even if the accurate and circumstantial account, which has been transmitted to us, of the produce of those years had left us any doubt upon the subject, With his compositions also during his residence in Italy, we are so particularly acquainted as not to be permitted to hesitate when we exclude from their number the objects of our reference. The character also of these pieces establishes them to be English. Their lineaments and their tints are so specific, and so peculiarly genuine as to

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

prove them to be drawn from the vivid nature before the poet's eye, and not from the dimmer result of the reflection of his mind. The landscape, indeed, with all its shades, is of his own country, and when he speaks of " towers and battlements”

Bosom'd high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some beauty lies

The Cynosure of neighb'ring eyes, we may suppose that his sight was directed immediately to the woods and the mansion of Harefield.

These poems, then, must be received as the indisputable natives of our island; and they cannot be considered as born after their parent's return from the continent, when his talents were withdrawn from the Muses; and when, immersed in the capital and in polemics, his thought could not easily escape to play and to cull flowers among the scenery of the country. L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, therefore, were certainly written at Horton, and, probably, at no long period before the Lycidas, which was the last of our author's works while he resided with his father. They were unquestionably com. posed in the happiest humour of the poet's mind, when his fancy was all sunshine, and

no cloud, or, to obstruct her view, Star interposed..

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »