POEMATA: LATIN, GREEK AND ITALIAN POEMS BY JOHN MILTON (Translated by William Cowper).
Digraphs, accents and italics have been omitted. Spelling has been modernized. Some notes and Titles have been slightly edited without comment. Notes follow the poem to which they refer.
Complimentary Pieces Addressed to the Author.
Elegy I -To Charles Diodati. Elegy II -On the Death of the University Beadle at Cambridge. Elegy III-On the Death of the Bishop of Winchester. Elegy IV -To My Tutor, Thomas Young. Elegy V -On the Approach of Spring. Elegy VI -To Charles Diodati. Elegy VII On the Gunpowder Plot. Another on the Same. Another on the Same. Another on the Same. On the Invention of Gunpowder. To Leonora, Singing in Rome. Another to the Same. Another to the Same. The Fable of the Peasant and his Landlord.
2. Poems in Various Metres.
On the Death of the Vice-Chancellor, a Physician. On the Fifth of November. On the Death of the Bishop of Ely. That Nature is Not Subject to Decay. On the Platonic Ideal as Understood by Aristotle. To My Father. Psalm CXIV. The Philosopher and the King. On the Engraver of his Portrait. To Giovanni Salzilli. To Giovanni Battista Manso. The Death of Damon. To John Rouse.
3. Translations of the Italian Poems.
Appendix: To Christina, Queen of Sweden. Appendix: Translations of Poems in the Latin Prose Works. Appendix: Translation of a Latin Letter. Appendix: Translations of the Italian Poems by George MacDonald (I876).
Complimentary Pieces Addressed to the Author.
1Well as the author knows that the following testimonies are not so much about as above him, and that men of great ingenuity, as well as our friends, are apt, through abundant zeal, so to praise us as rather to draw their own likeness than ours, he was yet unwilling that the world should remain always ignorant of compositions that do him so much honour; and especially because he has other friends, who have, with much importunity, solicited their publication. Aware that excessive commendation awakens envy, he would with both hands thrust it from him, preferring just so much of that dangerous tribute as may of right belong to him; but at the same time he cannot deny that he sets the highest value on the suffrages of judicious and distinguished persons.
1 Milton's Preface, Translated.
1 These complimentary pieces have been sufficiently censured by a great authority, but no very candid judge either of Milton or his panegyrists. He, however, must have a heart sadly indifferent to the glory of his country, who is not gratified by the thought that she may exult in a son whom, young as he was, the Learned of Italy thus contended to honour.—W.C.
The Neapolitan, Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, to the Englishman, John Milton.
What features, form, mien, manners, with a mind Oh how intelligent, and how refined! Were but thy piety from fault as free, Thou wouldst no Angle1 but an Angel be.
1 The reader will perceive that the word "Angle" (i.e. Anglo- Saxon) is essential, because the epigram turns upon it.—W.C.
An Epigram Addressed to the Englishman, John Milton, a Poet Worthy of the Three Laurels of Poesy, the Grecian, Latin, and Etruscan, by Giovanni Salzilli of Rome
Meles1 and Mincio both your urns depress! Sebetus, boast henceforth thy Tasso less! But let the Thames o'erpeer all floods, since he, For Milton famed, shall, single, match the three.
1 Meles is a river of Ionia, in the neighborhood of Smyrna, whence Homer is called Melesigenes. The Mincio watered the city of Mantua famous as the birthplace of Virgil. Sebetus is now called the Fiume della Maddalena—it runs through Naples.—W.C.
To John Milton.
Greece sound thy Homer's, Rome thy Virgil's name, But England's Milton equals both in fame. —Selvaggi.
To John Milton, English Gentleman.
Exalt Me, Clio,1 to the skies, That I may form a starry crown, Beyond what Helicon supplies In laureate garlands of renown; To nobler worth be brighter glory given, And to a heavenly mind a recompense from heaven.
Time's wasteful hunger cannot prey On everlasting high desert, Nor can Oblivion steal away Its record graven on the heart; Lodge but an arrow, Virtue, on the bow That binds my lyre, and death shall be a vanquished foe.
In Ocean's blazing flood enshrined. Whose vassal tide around her swells, Albion. from other realms disjoined, The prowess of the world excels; She teems with heroes that to glory rise, With more than human force in our astonished eyes.
To Virtue, driven from other lands, Their bosoms yield a safe retreat; Her law alone their deed commands, Her smiles they feel divinely sweet; Confirm my record, Milton, generous youth! And by true virtue prove thy virtue's praise a truth.
Zeuxis, all energy and flaine, Set ardent forth in his career, Urged to his task by Helen's fame, Resounding ever in his ear; To make his image to her beauty true, From the collected fair each sovereign charm he drew.2
The bee, with subtlest skill endued, Thus toils to earn her precious juice, From all the flowery myriads strewed O'er meadow and parterre profuse; Confederate voices one sweet air compound, And various chords consent in one harmonious sound.
An artist of celestial aim, Thy genius, caught by moral grace, With ardent emulation's flame The steps of Virtue toiled to trace, Observed in everv land who brightest shone, And blending all their best, make perfect good thy own.
Front all in Florence born, or taught Our country's sweetest accent there, Whose works, with learned labor wrought, Immortal honors justly share, Then hast such treasure drawn of purest ore, That not even Tuscan bards can boast a richer store.
Babel, confused, and with her towers Unfinished spreading wide and plain, Has served but to evince thy powers, With all hot, tongues confused in vain, Since not alone thy England's purest phrase, But every polished realm thy various speech displays.
The secret things of heaven and earth, By nature, too reserved. concealed From other minds of highest worth, To thee ate copiously revealed; Thou knowest them clearly, and thy views attain The utmost bounds prescribed to moral truth's domain.
Let Time no snore his wing display, And boast his ruinous career, For Virtue, rescued front his sway. His injuries may cease to fear; Since all events that claim remembrance find A chronicle exact in thy capacious mind.
Give me, that I may praise thy song, Thy lyre, by which alone I can, Which, placing thee the stars among, Already proves thee more than man; And Thames shall seem Permessus,3 while his stream Graced with a swan like thee. shall be my favorite theme.
I, who beside the Arno, strain To match thy merit with my lays, Learn, after many an effort vain, To admure thee rather than to praise; And that by mute astonishment alone, Not by the fathering tongue, thy worth may best be shown.
—Signor Antonio Francini, Gentleman, of Florence.
1 The muse of History.
2 The portrait of Helen was painted at the request of the people of Crotna, who sent to the artist all their lovliest girls for models. Zeuxis selected five, and united their separate beauties in his picture.
3 A river in Boeotia which took its rise in Helicon. See Virgil Ecl. vi.64
To Mr. John Milton of London
A youth eminent from his country and his virtues,
Who in his travels has made himself acquainted with many nations, and in his studies, with all, that, life another Ulysses, lie might learn all that all could teach him;
Skilful in many tongues, on whose lips languages now mute so live again, that the idioms of all are insufficient to his praise; happy acquisition by which he understands the universal admiration and applause his talents trace excited;
Whose endowments of mind and person move us to wonder, but at the same time fix us immovable: whose works prompt us to extol him, but by their beauty strike us mute;
In whose memory the whole world is treasured; in whose intellect, wisdom; in whose heart, the ardent desire for glory; and in whose mouth, eloquence. Who with Astronomy for his conductor, hears the music of the spheres; with Philosophy for the teacher, deciphers the hand-writing of God, in those wonders of creation which proclaim His greatness; and with the most unwearied literary industry for his associate, examines, restores, penetrates with case the obscurities of antiquity, the desolations of ages, and the labyrinths of learning;
"But wherefore toil to reach these arduous heights?"
To him, in short, whose virtues the mouths of Fame are too few to celebrate, and whom astonishment forbids us to praise a he deserves, this tribute due to his merits, and the offering of reverence and affection, is paid by Carlo Dati, a patrician Florentine. This great man's servant, and this good man's friend.
Tres tria, sed longe distantia, saecula vates Ostentant tribus e gentibus eximios. Graecia sublimem, cum majestate disertum Roma tulit, felix Anglia utrique parem. Partubus ex binis Natura exhausta, coacta est, Tertis ut fieret, consociare duos. —Joannem Dridenum.
1 Translation of Dryden's Lines Printed Under the Engraved Portrait of Milton in Tonson's Folio Edition of "Paradise Lost," I688.
Stanzas on the Late Indecent Liberties Taken with the Remains of the Great Milton, by Wm. Cowper, Esq.1
Me too, perchance, in future days, The sculptur'd stone shall show, With Paphian myrtle, or with bays Parnessian, on my brow.
But I, before that season come, Escap'd from ev'ry care, Shall reach my refuge in the tomb, And sleep securely there.
So sang in Roman tone and style The youthful bard, ere long Ordain'd to grace his native isle With her sublimest song.
Who then but must conceive disdain, Hearing the deed unblest Of wretches who have dar'd profane His dread sepulchral rest?
Ill fare the hands that heav'd the stones Where Milton's ashes lay! That trembled not to grasp his bones. And steal his dust away!
Oh! ill-requited bard! Neglect Thy living worth repaid, And blind idolatrous respect As much affronts thee dead.
1 This shocking outrage took place in I790 whilst the Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, was repairing. The overseers (for the sake of gain) opened a coffin supposed to be Milton's, found a body, extracted its teeth, cut off its hair, and left the remains to the grave-diggers, who exhibited them for money to the public.
Forsitan & nostros ducat de marmore vultus, Nectens aut Paphia myrti aut Parnasside lauri Fronde comas, at ego secura pace quiescam. —Milton. "Mansus" ("Manso")
Cowper's translation :
To honour me, and with the graceful wreath Or of Parnassus or the Paphian isle Shall bind my brows—but I shall rest the while."
To Charles Diodati.1
At length, my friend, the far-sent letters come, Charged with thy kindness, to their destin'd home, They come, at length, from Deva's2 Western side, Where prone she seeks the salt Vergivian tide.3 Trust me, my joy is great that thou shouldst be, Though born of foreign race, yet born for me, And that my sprightly friend, now free to roam, Must seek again so soon his wonted home. I well content, where Thames with refluent tide My native city laves, meantime reside, 10 Nor zeal nor duty, now, my steps impell To reedy Cam,4 and my forbidden cell.5 Nor aught of pleasure in those fields have I, That, to the musing bard, all shade deny. Tis time, that I, a pedant's threats6 disdain, And fly from wrongs, my soul will ne'er sustain. If peaceful days, in letter'd leisure spent Beneath my father's roof, be banishment, Then call me banish'd, I will ne'er refuse A name expressive of the lot I chuse. 20 I would that exiled to the Pontic shore, Rome's hapless bard7 had suffer'd nothing more! He then had equall'd even Homer's lays, And, Virgil! thou hadst won but second praise. For here I woo the Muse with no control, And here my books—my life—absorb me whole. Here too I visit, or to smile, or weep, The winding theatre's majestic sweep; The grave or gay colloquial scene recruits My spirits spent in Learning's long pursuits. 30 Whether some Senior shrewd, or spendthrift heir, Wooer, or soldier, now unarm'd, be there, Or some coif'd brooder o'er a ten years' cause Thunder the Norman gibb'rish of the laws. The lacquey, there, oft dupes the wary sire, And, artful, speeds th'enamour'd son's desire. There, virgins oft, unconscious what they prove, What love is, know not, yet, unknowing, love. Or, if impassion'd Tragedy wield high The bloody sceptre, give her locks to fly 40 Wild as the winds, and roll her haggard eye, I gaze, and grieve, still cherishing my grief. At times, e'en bitter tears! yield sweet relief. As when from bliss untasted torn away, Some youth dies, hapless, on his bridal day, Or when the ghost, sent back from shades below, Fills the assassin's heart with vengeful woe, When Troy, or Argos, the dire scene affords, Or Creon's hall8 laments its guilty lords. Nor always city-pent or pent at home 50 I dwell, but when Spring calls me forth to roam Expatiate in our proud suburban shades Of branching elm that never sun pervades. Here many a virgin troop I may descry, Like stars of mildest influence, gliding by, Oh forms divine! Oh looks that might inspire E'en Jove himself, grown old, with young desire! Oft have I gazed on gem-surpassing eyes, Outsparkling every star that gilds the skies. Necks whiter than the iv'ry arm bestow'd 60 By Jove on Pelops, or the Milky Road! Bright locks, Love's golden snares, these falling low, Those playing wanton o'er the graceful brow! Cheeks too, more winning sweet than after show'r, Adonis turn'd to Flora's fav'rite flow'r! Yield, Heroines, yield, and ye who shar'd th'embrace Of Jupiter in ancient times, give place; Give place ye turban'd Fair of Persia's coast, And ye, not less renown'd, Assyria's boast! Submit, ye nymphs of Greece! Ye once the bloom 70 Of Ilion,9 and all ye of haughty Rome, Who swept of old her theatres with trains Redundant, and still live in classic strains! To British damsels beauty's palm is due, Aliens! to follow them is fame for you. Oh city,10 founded by Dardanian hands, Whose towering front the circling realm commands, Too blest abode! no loveliness we see In all the earth, but it abounds in thee. The virgin multitude that daily meets, 80 Radiant with gold and beauty, in thy streets, Outnumbers all her train of starry fires With which Diana gilds thy lofty spires. Fame says, that wafted hither by her doves, With all her host of quiver-bearing Loves, Venus, prefering Paphian scenes no more, Has fix'd her empire on thy nobler shore. But lest the sightless boy inforce my stay, I leave these happy walls, while yet I may. Immortal Moly11 shall secure my heart 90 From all the sorc'ry of Circaean art, And I will e'en repass Cam's reedy pools To face once more the warfare of the Schools. Meantime accept this trifle; Rhymes, though few, Yet such as prove thy friend's remembrance true.
1 Diodati was a schoolfellow of Milton at St. Paul's, of Italian extraction, nephew of Giovanni Diodati, the translator of the Bible into Italian, and son of Theodore Diodati, a physician of eminence, who married and settled in England. charles Diodati's early death formed the subject of The "Epitaphium Damonis" ("The Death of Damon").
2 The Dee of Chester.
3 The Vergivian Sea, so called by Ptolemy, was the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.
5 Milton had been rusticated (suspended) on account of a quarrel with his tutor, Chappell.
8 In Thebes—the guilty lords are Eteocles and Polynices the brothers-sons of Oedipus and Jocasta, who fell in their unnatural strife.
10 London. The Dardanian (i.e. Trojan) hands are those of Brutus, the legendary founder of London.
11 The magical plant by which Odysseus was enabled to escape from Circe. See Homer (Odyssey, x. 370-375).
On the Death of the University Beadle at Cambridge.1
Thee, whose refulgent staff and summons clear, Minerva's flock longtime was wont t'obey, Although thyself an herald, famous here, The last of heralds, Death, has snatch'd away. He calls on all alike, nor even deigns To spare the office that himself sustains.
Thy locks were whiter than the plumes display'd By Leda's paramour2 in ancient time, But thou wast worthy ne'er to have decay'd, Or, Aeson-like,3 to know a second prime, 10 Worthy for whom some Goddess should have won New life, oft kneeling to Apollo's son.4
Commission'd to convene with hasty call The gowned tribes, how graceful wouldst thou stand! So stood Cyllenius5 erst in Priam's hall, Wing-footed messenger of Jove's command, And so, Eurybates6 when he address'd To Peleus' son Atrides' proud behest.
Dread Queen of sepulchres! whose rig'rous laws And watchful eyes, run through the realms below, 20 Oh, oft too adverse to Minerva's cause, Too often to the Muse not less a foe, Chose meaner marks, and with more equal aim Pierce useless drones, earth's burthen and its shame!
Flow, therefore, tears for Him from ev'ry eye, All ye disciples of the Muses, weep! Assembling, all, in robes of sable dye, Around his bier, lament his endless sleep, And let complaining Elegy rehearse In every School her sweetest saddest verse. 30
1 Richard Redding of St. John's College, M.A. He died in October, I626.
2 The Swan—Jove had turned himself into that bird.
3 i.e. Jason, who was restored to youth by his daughter Medea.
4 Esculapius, the god of medicine.
6 One of the heralds sent to Achilles by Agamemnon.
ELEGY III Anno Aetates 17.1
On the Death of the Bishop of Winchester.2
Silent I sat, dejected, and alone, Making in thought the public woes my own, When, first, arose the image in my breast Of England's sufferings by that scourge, the pest.3 How death, his fun'ral torch and scythe in hand, Ent'ring the lordliest mansions of the land, Has laid the gem-illumin'd palace low, And level'd tribes of Nobles at a blow. I, next, deplor'd the famed fraternal pair4 Too soon to ashes turn'd and empty air, 10 The Heroes next, whom snatch'd into the skies All Belgia saw, and follow'd with her sighs; But Thee far most I mourn'd, regretted most, Winton's chief shepherd and her worthiest boast; Pour'd out in tears I thus complaining said— Death, next in pow'r to Him who rules the Dead! Is't not enough that all the woodlands yield To thy fell force, and ev'ry verdant field, That lilies, at one noisome blast of thine, And ev'n the Cyprian Queen's own roses, pine, 20 That oaks themselves, although the running rill Suckle their roots, must wither at thy will, That all the winged nations, even those Whose heav'n-directed flight the Future shows, And all the beasts that in dark forests stray, And all the herds of Proteus5 are thy prey? Ah envious! arm'd with pow'rs so unconfined Why stain thy hands with blood of Human kind? Why take delight, with darts that never roam, To chase a heav'n-born spirit from her home? 30 While thus I mourn'd, the star of evening stood, Now newly ris'n, above the western flood, And Phoebus from his morning-goal again Had reach'd the gulphs of the Iberian main. I wish'd repose, and, on my couch reclined Took early rest, to night and sleep resign'd, When—Oh for words to paint what I beheld! I seem'd to wander in a spacious field, Where all the champain glow'd with purple light Like that of sun-rise on the mountain height; 40 Flow'rs over all the field, of ev'ry hue That ever Iris wore, luxuriant grew, Nor Chloris,6 with whom amtrous Zephyrs play, E'er dress'd Alcinous' gardens7 half so gay. A silver current, like the Tagus, roll'd O'er golden sands, but sands of purer gold, With dewy airs Favonius fann'd the flow'rs, With airs awaken'd under rosy bow'rs. Such poets feign, irradiated all o'er The sun's abode on India's utmost shore. 50 While I, that splendour and the mingled shade Of fruitful vines, with wonder fixt survey'd, At once, with looks that beam'd celestial grace, The Seer of Winton stood before my face. His snowy vesture's hem descending low His golden sandals swept, and pure as snow New-fallen shone the mitre on his brow. Where'er he trod, a tremulous sweet sound Of gladness shook the flow'ry scene around: Attendant angels clap their starry wings, 60 The trumpet shakes the sky, all aether rings, Each chaunts his welcome, folds him to his breast, And thus a sweeter voice than all the rest. "Ascend, my son! thy Father's kingdom share, My son! henceforth be free'd from ev'ry care." So spake the voice, and at its tender close With psaltry's sound th'Angelic band arose. Then night retired, and chased by dawning day The visionary bliss pass'd all away. I mourn'd my banish'd sleep with fond concern, 70 Frequent, to me may dreams like this return.
1 i.e. "In my seventeeth year," meaning at the age of sixteen.
2 Lancelot Andrewes, Fuller's "peerless prelate."
3 The plague which ravaged England in I626.
4 Prince Christian of Brunswick, and Count Mansfelt. They were brothers in arms and the Protestant champions. They both died in I626.
5 Marine creatures. Proteus was the shepherd of the seas.
7 See the account of his gardens in the Odyssey.
ELEGY IV. Anno Aetates 18.
To My Tutor, Thomas Young,1 Chaplain of the English Merchants Resident at Hamburg.
Hence, my epistle—skim the Deep—fly o'er Yon smooth expanse to the Teutonic shore! Haste—lest a friend should grieve for thy delay— And the Gods grant that nothing thwart thy way! I will myself invoke the King2 who binds In his Sicanian ecchoing vault the winds, With Doris3 and her Nymphs, and all the throng Of azure Gods, to speed thee safe along. But rather, to insure thy happier haste, Ascend Medea's chariot,4 if thou may'st, 10 Or that whence young Triptolemus5 of yore Descended welcome on the Scythian shore. The sands that line the German coast descried, To opulent Hamburg turn aside, So call'd, if legendary fame be true, From Hama,6 whom a club-arm'd Cimbrian slew. There lives, deep-learn'd and primitively just, A faithful steward of his Christian trust, My friend, and favorite inmate of my heart— That now is forced to want its better part! 20 What mountains now, and seas, alas! how wide! From me this other, dearer self divide, Dear, as the sage7 renown'd for moral truth To the prime spirit of the Attic youth! Dear, as the Stagyrite8 to Ammon's son,9 His pupil, who disdain'd the world he won! Nor so did Chiron, or so Phoenix shine10 In young Achilles' eyes, as He in mine. First led by him thro' sweet Aonian11 shade Each sacred haunt of Pindus I survey'd; 30 And favor'd by the muse, whom I implor'd, Thrice on my lip the hallow'd stream I pour'd. But thrice the Sun's resplendent chariot roll'd To Aries, has new ting'd his fleece with gold, And Chloris twice has dress'd the meadows gay, And twice has Summer parch'd their bloom away, Since last delighted on his looks I hung, Or my ear drank the music of his tongue. Fly, therefore, and surpass the tempest's speed! Aware thyself that there is urgent need. 40 Him, ent'ring, thou shalt haply seated see Beside his spouse, his infants on his knee, Or turning page by page with studious look Some bulky Father, or God's Holy Book, Or minist'ring (which is his weightiest care) To Christ's assembled flock their heav'nly fare. Give him, whatever his employment be, Such gratulation as he claims from me, And with a down-cast eye and carriage meek Addressing him, forget not thus to speak. 50 If, compass'd round with arms, thou canst attend To verse, verse greets thee from a distant friend, Long due and late I left the English shore, But make me welcome for that cause the more. Such from Ulysses, his chaste wife to cheer, The slow epistle came, tho' late, sincere. But wherefore This? why palliate I a deed, For which the culprit's self could hardly plead? Self-charged and self-condemn'd, his proper part He feels neglected, with an aching heart; 60 But Thou forgive—Delinquents who confess, And pray forgiveness, merit anger less; From timid foes the lion turns away, Nor yawns upon or rends a crouching prey, Even pike-wielding Thracians learn to spare, Won by soft influence of a suppliant's prayer; And heav'n's dread thunderbolt arrested stands By a cheap victim and uplifted hands. Long had he wish'd to write, but was witheld, And writes at last, by love alone compell'd, 70 For Fame, too often true when she alarms, Reports thy neighbouring-fields a scene of arms;12 Thy city against fierce besiegers barr'd, And all the Saxon Chiefs for fight prepar'd. Enyo13 wastes thy country wide around, And saturates with blood the tainted ground; Mars rests contented in his Thrace no more, But goads his steeds to fields of German gore, The ever-verdant olive fades and dies, And peace, the trumpet-hating goddess, flies, 80 Flies from that earth which justice long had left, And leaves the world of its last guard bereft. Thus horror girds thee round. Meantime alone Thou dwell'st, and helpless in a soil unknown, Poor, and receiving from a foreign hand The aid denied thee in thy native land. Oh, ruthless country, and unfeeling more Than thy own billow-beaten chalky shore! Leav'st Thou to foreign Care the Worthies giv'n By providence, to guide thy steps to Heav'n? 90 His ministers, commission'd to proclaim Eternal blessings in a Saviour's name? Ah then most worthy! with a soul unfed In Stygian night to lie for ever dead. So once the venerable Tishbite stray'd An exil'd fugitive from shade to shade, When, flying Ahab and his Fury wife, In lone Arabian wilds he shelter'd life; So, from Philippi wander'd forth forlorn Cilician Paul, with sounding scourges torn; 100 And Christ himself so left and trod no more The thankless Gergesenes' forbidden shore. But thou take courage, strive against despair, Quake not with dread, nor nourish anxious care. Grim war indeed on ev'ry side appears, And thou art menac'd by a thousand spears, Yet none shall drink thy blood, or shall offend Ev'n the defenceless bosom of my friend; For thee the Aegis of thy God shall hide, Jehova's self shall combat on thy side, 110 The same, who vanquish'd under Sion's tow'rs At silent midnight all Assyria's pow'rs, The same who overthrew in ages past, Damascus' sons that lay'd Samaria waste; Their King he fill'd and them with fatal fears By mimic sounds of clarions in their ears, Of hoofs and wheels and neighings from afar Of clanging armour and the din of war. Thou therefore, (as the most affiicted may) Still hope, and triumph o'er thy evil day, 120 Look forth, expecting happier times to come, And to enjoy once more thy native home!
1 Young was private tutor to Milton before he went to St. Paul's. (Milton's prose letter to Young is included in an appendix below.)
2 Aeolus, god of the east wind. Sicania was a name for Sicily.
3 Mother of the Nereids (sea-nymphs).
4 Drawn by winged dragons.
5 Triptolemus was presented by Ceres with a winged chariot.
6 A Saxon warrior slain by a giant.
7 Socrates. 8 Aristotle. 9 Alexander.
10 Chiron and Phoenix were the tutors of Achilles.
12 Alluding to the war between the Protestant League and the Imperialists.
13 The goddess of war.
ELEGY V. Anno Aetates 20.
On the Approach of Spring.
Time, never wand'ring from his annual round, Bids Zephyr breathe the Spring, and thaw the ground; Bleak Winter flies, new verdure clothes the plain, And earth assumes her transient youth again. Dream I, or also to the Spring belong Increase of Genius, and new pow'rs of song? Spring gives them, and, how strange soere it seem, Impels me now to some harmonious theme. Castalia's fountain and the forked hill1 By day, by night, my raptur'd fancy fill, 10 My bosom burns and heaves, I hear within A sacred sound that prompts me to begin, Lo! Phoebus comes, with his bright hair he blends The radiant laurel wreath; Phoebus descends; I mount, and, undepress'd by cumb'rous clay, Through cloudy regions win my easy way; Rapt through poetic shadowy haunts I fly: The shrines all open to my dauntless eye, My spirit searches all the realms of light, And no Tartarean gulphs elude my sight. 20 But this ecstatic trance—this glorious storm Of inspiration—what will it perform? Spring claims the verse that with his influence glows, And shall be paid with what himself bestows. Thou, veil'd with op'ning foliage, lead'st the throng Of feather'd minstrels, Philomel! in song; Let us, in concert, to the season sing, Civic, and sylvan heralds of the spring! With notes triumphant spring's approach declare! To spring, ye Muses, annual tribute bear! 30 The Orient left and Aethiopia's plains The Sun now northward turns his golden reins, Night creeps not now, yet rules with gentle sway, And drives her dusky horrors swift away; Now less fatigued on his aetherial plain Bootes2 follows his celestial wain; And now the radiant centinels above Less num'rous watch around the courts of Jove, For, with the night, Force, Ambush, Slaughter fly, And no gigantic guilt alarms the sky. 40 Now haply says some shepherd, while he views, Recumbent on a rock, the redd'ning dews, This night, this surely, Phoebus miss'd the fair, Who stops his chariot by her am'rous care. Cynthia,3 delighted by the morning's glow, Speeds to the woodland, and resumes her bow; Resigns her beams, and, glad to disappear, Blesses his aid who shortens her career. Come—Phoebus cries—Aurora come—too late Thou linger'st slumb'ring with thy wither'd mate,4 50 Leave Him, and to Hymettus' top repair, Thy darling Cephalus expects thee there. The goddess, with a blush, her love betrays, But mounts, and driving rapidly obeys. Earth now desires thee, Phoebus! and, t'engage Thy warm embrace, casts off the guise of age. Desires thee, and deserves; for who so sweet, When her rich bosom courts thy genial heat? Her breath imparts to ev'ry breeze that blows Arabia's harvest and the Paphian rose. 60 Her lofty front she diadems around With sacred pines, like Ops on Ida crown'd, Her dewy locks with various flow'rs new-blown, She interweaves, various, and all her own, For Proserpine in such a wreath attired Taenarian Dis5 himself with love inspired. Fear not, lest, cold and coy, the Nymph refuse, Herself, with all her sighing Zephyrs sues, Each courts thee fanning soft his scented wing, And all her groves with warbled wishes ring. 70 Nor, unendow'd and indigent, aspires Th'am'rous Earth to engage thy warm desires, But, rich in balmy drugs, assists thy claim Divine Physician! to that glorious name. If splendid recompense, if gifts can move Desire in thee (gifts often purchase love), She offers all the wealth, her mountains hide, And all that rests beneath the boundless tide. How oft, when headlong from the heav'nly steep She sees thee plunging in the Western Deep 80 How oft she cries—Ah Phoebus! why repair Thy wasted force, why seek refreshment there? Can Tethys6 win thee? wherefore should'st thou lave A face so fair in her unpleasant wave? Come, seek my green retreats, and rather chuse To cool thy tresses in my chrystal dews, The grassy turf shall yield thee sweeter rest, Come, lay thy evening glories on my breast, And breathing fresh through many a humid rose, Soft whisp'ring airs shall lull thee to repose. 90 No fears I feel like Semele7 to die, Nor lest thy burning wheels8 approach too nigh, For thou can'st govern them. Here therefore rest, And lay thy evening glories on my breast. Thus breathes the wanton Earth her am'rous flame, And all her countless offspring feel the same; For Cupid now through every region strays Bright'ning his faded fires with solar rays, His new-strung bow sends forth a deadlier sound, And his new-pointed shafts more deeply wound, 100 Nor Dian's self escapes him now untried, Nor even Vesta9 at her altar-side; His mother too repairs her beauty's wane, And seems sprung newly from the Deep again. Exulting youths the Hymenaeal10 sing, With Hymen's name roofs, rocks, and valleys ring; He, new attired and by the season dress'd Proceeds all fragrant in his saffron vest. Now, many a golden-cinctur'd virgin roves To taste the pleasures of the fields and groves, 110 All wish, and each alike, some fav'rite youth Hers in the bonds of Hymenaeal truth. Now pipes the shepherd through his reeds again, Nor Phyllis wants a song that suits the strain, With songs the seaman hails the starry sphere, And dolphins rise from the abyss to hear, Jove feels, himself, the season, sports again With his fair spouse, and banquets all his train. Now too the Satyrs in the dusk of Eve Their mazy dance through flow'ry meadows weave, 120 And neither God nor goat, but both in kind, Sylvanus,11 wreath'd with cypress, skips behind. The Dryads leave the hollow sylvan cells To roam the banks, and solitary dells; Pan riots now; and from his amorous chafe Ceres12 and Cybele seem hardly safe, And Faunus,13 all on fire to reach the prize, In chase of some enticing Oread14 flies; She bounds before, but fears too swift a bound, And hidden lies, but wishes to be found. 130 Our shades entice th'Immortals from above, And some kind Pow'r presides oter ev'ry grove, And long ye Pow'rs o'er ev'ry grove preside, For all is safe and blest where ye abide! Return O Jove! the age of gold restore— Why chose to dwell where storms and thunders roar? At least, thou, Phoebus! moderate thy speed, Let not the vernal hours too swift proceed, Command rough Winter back, nor yield the pole Too soon to Night's encroaching, long control. 140
2 The Great Bear, called also Charles's Wain (wagon). "Bootes" is the constellation called "The Waggoner," who is said to be "less fatigued" because he drives the wain higher in the sky.
3 Diana (the Moon).
4 Tithonus, mortal husband to Aurora (the dawn), granted immortality without eternal youth. See Homer's Hymn to Aphrodite (lines 218-238). Cephalus was her lover, unwillingly taken by her from his beloved wife Procris. See Ovid (Met. vii, 700-708).
5 Hades (Pluto).
6 A water goddess—mother of the river gods and wife of Oceanus.
7 The mother of Dionysus. Juno persuaded her to ask to see Jove in all his divine glory, the vision of which struck her dead. See Ovid (Met. iii, 308-309.)
8 The wheels of Apollo's chariot. See Ovid (Met. ii, I9-328.)
9 The goddess of chastity.
10 Hymn to Hymen, the goddess of marriage. 11 The wood god.
12 The goddess of agriculture. Cybele (Rhea) was called the mother of the gods and of men. See Virgil (Aen. x, 252-253.)
13 The god of shepherds. 14 A wood nymph.
To Charles Diodati, When He Was Visiting in the Country
Who sent the Author a poetical epistle, in which he requested that his verses, if not so good as usual, might be excused on account of the many feasts to which his friends invited him, and which would not allow him leisure to finish them as he wished.
With no rich viands overcharg'd, I send Health, which perchance you want, my pamper'd friend; But wherefore should thy Muse tempt mine away From what she loves, from darkness into day? Art thou desirous to be told how well I love thee, and in verse? Verse cannot tell. For verse has bounds, and must in measure move; But neither bounds nor measure knows my love. How pleasant in thy lines described appear December's harmless sports and rural cheer! 10 French spirits kindling with caerulean fires, And all such gambols as the time inspires! Think not that Wine against good verse offends; The Muse and Bacchus have been always friends, Nor Phoebus blushes sometimes to be found With Ivy, rather than with Laurel, crown'd. The Nine themselves oftimes have join'd the song And revels of the Bacchanalian throng. Not even Ovid could in Scythian air Sing sweetly—why? no vine would flourish there. 20 What in brief numbers sang Anacreon's1 muse? Wine, and the rose, that sparkling wine bedews. Pindar with Bacchus glows—his every line Breathes the rich fragrance of inspiring wine, While, with loud crash o'erturn'd, the chariot lies And brown with dust the fiery courser flies. The Roman lyrist steep'd in wine his lays So sweet in Glycera's, and Chloe's praise.2 Now too the plenteous feast, and mantling bowl Nourish the vigour of thy sprightly soul; 30 The flowing goblet makes thy numbers flow, And casks not wine alone, but verse, bestow. Thus Phoebus favours, and the arts attend Whom Bacchus, and whom Ceres, both befriend. What wonder then, thy verses are so sweet, In which these triple powers so kindly meet. The lute now also sounds, with gold inwrought, And touch'd with flying Fingers nicely taught, In tap'stried halls high-roof'd the sprightly lyre Directs the dancers of the virgin choir. 40 If dull repletion fright the Muse away, Sights, gay as these, may more invite her stay; And, trust me, while the iv'ry keys resound, Fair damsels sport, and perfumes steam around, Apollo's influence, like ethereal flame Shall animate at once thy glowing frame, And all the Muse shall rush into thy breast, By love and music's blended pow'rs possest. For num'rous pow'rs light Elegy befriend, Hear her sweet voice, and at her call attend; 50 Her, Bacchus, Ceres, Venus, all approve, And with his blushing Mother, gentle Love. Hence, to such bards we grant the copious use Of banquets, and the vine's delicious juice. But they who Demigods and Heroes praise And feats perform'd in Jove's more youthful days, Who now the counsels of high heav'n explore, Now shades, that echo the Cerberean roar,3 Simply let these, like him of Samos4 live, Let herbs to them a bloodless banquet give; 60 In beechen goblets let their bev'rage shine, Cool from the chrystal spring, their sober wine! Their youth should pass, in innocence, secure From stain licentious, and in manners pure, Pure as the priest's, when robed in white he stands The fresh lustration ready in his hands. Thus Linus5 liv'd, and thus, as poets write, Tiresias, wiser for his loss of sight,6 Thus exil'd Chalcas,7 thus the bard of Thrace,8 Melodious tamer of the savage race! 70 Thus train'd by temp'rance, Homer led, of yore, His chief of Ithaca9 from shore to shore, Through magic Circe's monster-peopled reign, And shoals insidious with the siren train; And through the realms, where griesly spectres dwell, Whose tribes he fetter'd in a gory spell; For these are sacred bards, and, from above, Drink large infusions from the mind of Jove. Would'st thou (perhaps 'tis hardly worth thine ear) Would'st thou be told my occupation here? 80 The promised King of peace employs my pen, Th'eternal cov'nant made for guilty men, The new-born Deity with infant cries Filling the sordid hovel, where he lies; The hymning Angels, and the herald star That led the Wise who sought him from afar, And idols on their own unhallow'd floor Dash'd at his birth, to be revered no more! This theme10 on reeds of Albion I rehearse; The dawn of that blest day inspired the verse; 90 Verse that, reserv'd in secret, shall attend Thy candid voice, my Critic and my Friend!
1 A poet native to Teios in Ionia.
2 See Horace's Odes (i, 19-23).
3 Cerberus, the guardian of Hades.
4 Pythagoras. 5 A son of Apollo.
6 Tiresias was gifted by Pallas with the power of understanding the language of birds to atone for his loss of sight.
7 The Grecian soothsayer at the siege of Troy. 8 Orpheus.
10 "The Hymn" from "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity."
Elegy VI. Anno Aetates undevigesimo.1
As yet a stranger to the gentle fires That Amathusia's smiling Queen2 inspires, Not seldom I derided Cupid's darts, And scorn'd his claim to rule all human hearts. Go, child, I said, transfix the tim'rous dove, An easy conquest suits an infant Love; Enslave the sparrow, for such prize shall be Sufficient triumph to a Chief like thee; Why aim thy idle arms at human kind? Thy shafts prevail not 'gainst the noble mind. 10 The Cyprian3 heard, and, kindling into ire, (None kindles sooner) burn'd with double fire. It was the Spring, and newly risen day Peep'd o'er the hamlets on the First of May; My eyes too tender for the blaze of light, Still sought the shelter of retiring night, When Love approach'd, in painted plumes arrayed; Th'insidious god his rattling darts betray'd, Nor less his infant features, and the sly Sweet intimations of his threat'ning eye. 20 Such the Sigeian boy4 is seen above, Filling the goblet for imperial Jove; Such he, on whom the nymphs bestow'd their charms, Hylas,5 who perish'd in a Naiad's arms. Angry he seem'd, yet graceful in his ire, And added threats, not destitute of fire. "My power," he said, "by others pain alone, 'Twere best to learn; now learn it by thy own! With those, who feel my power, that pow'r attest! And in thy anguish be my sway confest! 30 I vanquish'd Phoebus, though returning vain From his new triumph o'er the Python slain, And, when he thinks on Daphne,6 even He Will yield the prize of archery to me. A dart less true the Parthian horseman7 sped, Behind him kill'd, and conquer'd as he fled, Less true th'expert Cydonian, and less true The youth, whose shaft his latent Procris slew.8 Vanquish'd by me see huge Orion bend, By me Alcides,9 and Alcides's friend.10 40 At me should Jove himself a bolt design, His bosom first should bleed transfix'd by mine. But all thy doubts this shaft will best explain, Nor shall it teach thee with a trivial pain, Thy Muse, vain youth! shall not thy peace ensure, Nor Phoebus' serpent yield thy wound a cure.11 He spoke, and, waving a bright shaft in air, Sought the warm bosom of the Cyprian fair. That thus a child should bluster in my ear Provok'd my laughter more than mov'd my fear. 50 I shun'd not, therefore, public haunts, but stray'd Careless in city, or suburban shade, And passing and repassing nymphs that mov'd With grace divine, beheld where'er I rov'd. Bright shone the vernal day, with double blaze, As beauty gave new force to Phoebus' rays. By no grave scruples check'd I freely eyed The dang'rous show, rash youth my only guide, And many a look of many a Fair unknown Met full, unable to control my own. 60 But one I mark'd (then peace forsook my breast) One—Oh how far superior to the rest! What lovely features! Such the Cyprian Queen Herself might wish, and Juno wish her mien. The very nymph was she, whom when I dar'd His arrows, Love had even then prepar'd. Nor was himself remote, nor unsupplied With torch well-trimm'd and quiver at his side; Now to her lips he clung, her eye-lids now, Then settled on her cheeks or on her brow. 70 And with a thousand wounds from ev'ry part Pierced and transpierced my undefended heart. A fever, new to me, of fierce desire Now seiz'd my soul, and I was all on fire, But she, the while, whom only I adore, Was gone, and vanish'd to appear no more. In silent sadness I pursue my way, I pause, I turn, proceed, yet wish to stay, And while I follow her in thought, bemoan With tears my soul's delight so quickly flown. 80 When Jove had hurl'd him to the Lemnian coast12 So Vulcan sorrow'd for Olympus lost, And so Oeclides, sinking into night, From the deep gulph look'd up to distant light.13 Wretch that I am, what hopes for me remain Who cannot cease to love, yet love in vain? Oh could I once, once more, behold the Fair, Speak to her, tell her of the pangs I bear, Perhaps she is not adamant, would show Perhaps some pity at my tale of woe. 90 Oh inauspicious flame—'tis mine to prove A matchless instance of disastrous love. Ah spare me, gentle Pow'r!—If such thou be Let not thy deeds, and nature disagree. Now I revere thy fires, thy bow, thy darts: Now own thee sov'reign of all human hearts. Spare me, and I will worship at no shrine With vow and sacrifice, save only thine. Remove! no—grant me still this raging woe! Sweet is the wretchedness, that lovers know: 100 But pierce hereafter (should I chance to see One destined mine) at once both her and me. ___________14
Such were the trophies, that in earlier days, By vanity seduced I toil'd to raise, Studious yet indolent, and urg'd by youth, That worst of teachers, from the ways of Truth; Till learning taught me, in his shady bow'r, To quit love's servile yoke, and spurn his pow'r. Then, on a sudden, the fierce flame supprest, A frost continual settled on my breast, 110 Whence Cupid fears his flames extinct to see, And Venus dreads a Diomede15 in me.
1 i.e. "In my nineteenth year."
2 Venus (Aphrodite), so called from Amethus in Cyprus, where she had a temple.
3 Cupid, called after his mother's title.
4 Ganymede, whom Jove, in the form of an eagle, spirited away to serve as his cup-bearer. See Ovid (Met. x, 155-161)
5 The friend of Hercules, stolen by nymphs who had fallen in love with him.
6 She fled from Apollo, and was transformed into a laurel.
7 The Roman Crassus was defeated in 53 B.C. by the Parthian cavalry when they fired backwards with devastating effect. The Cydonians were also famed for their skill in archery.
8 Cephalus, who shot his wife Procris by mistake.
9 Hercules. 10 Telemon.
11 Esculapius, who came to Rome in the form of a snake.
12 Vulcan (Hephaestus) was cast down from Olympus to the isle of Lemnos.
13 One of the Argonauts. He was swallowed up by the sea.
14 A later retraction by Milton. The line appears in the original to separate it from what came before it.
15 Diomedes wounded Venus (Aphrodite) at Troy. See Homer (Il. v, 335-343)
On the Gunpowder Plot.1
Cum simul in regem nuper satrapasque Britannos Ausus es infandum perfide Fauxe nefas, Fallor? an & mitis voluisti ex parte videri, Et pensare mala cum pietate scelus; Scilicet hos alti missurus ad atria caeli, Sulphureo curru flammivolisque rotis. Qualiter ille feris caput inviolabile Parcis Liquit Jordanios turbine raptus agros.
1 The Poems on the subject of the Gunpowder Treason2 I have not translated, both because the matter of them is unpleasant, and because they are written with an asperity, which, however it might be warranted in Milton's day, would be extremely unseasonable now.—W.C.
2 This includes "On the Fifth of November" below.
Another on the Same.
Siccine tentasti caelo donasse Jacobum Quae septemgemino Bellua monte lates? Ni meliora tuum poterit dare munera numen, Parce precor donis insidiosa tuis. Ille quidem sine te consortia serus adivit Astra, nec inferni pulveris usus ope. Sic potius foedus in caelum pelle cucullos, Et quot habet brutos Roma profana Deos, Namque hac aut alia quemque adjuveris arte, Crede mihi, caeli vix bene scandet iter. 10
Another on the Same.
Purgatorem animae derisit Jacobus ignem, Et sine quo superum non adeunda domus. Frenduit hoc trina monstrum Latiale corona Movit & horrificum cornua dena minax. Et nec inultus ait temnes mea sacra Britanne, Supplicium spreta relligione dabis. Et si stelligeras unquam penetraveris arces, Non nisi per flammas triste patebit iter. O quam funesto cecinisti proxima vero, Verbaque ponderibus vix caritura suis! 10 Nam prope Tartareo sublime rotatus ab igni Ibat ad aethereas umbra perusta plagas.
Another on the Same.
Quem modo Roma suis devoverat impia diris, Et Styge damnarat Taenarioque sinu, Hunc vice mutata jam tollere gestit ad astra, Et cupit ad superos evehere usque Deos.
On the Inventor of Gunpowder.
Praise in old time the sage Prometheus won, Who stole ethereal radiance from the sun; But greater he, whose bold invention strove To emulate the fiery bolts of Jove.
To Leonora,1 Singing in Rome.2
Angelus unicuique suus (sic credite gentes) Obtigit aethereis ales ab ordinibus. Quid mirum? Leonora tibi si gloria major, Nam tua praesentem vox sonat ipsa Deum. Aut Deus, aut vacui certe mens tertia coeli Pertua secreto guttura serpit agens; Serpit agens, facilisque docet mortalia corda Sensim immortali assuescere posse sono. Quod si cuncta quidem Deus est, per cunctaque fusus, In te una loquitur, caetera mutus habet. 10
1 Leonora Baroni, celebrated Neapolitan singer. Milton heard her perform at the palace of Cardinal Barberini in I638.
2 I have translated only two of the three poetical compliments addressed to Leonora, as they appear to me far superior to what I have omitted.—W.C.
Another to the Same.
Another Leonora1 once inspir'd Tasso, with fatal love to frenzy fir'd, But how much happier, liv'd he now, were he, Pierced with whatever pangs for love of Thee! Since could he hear that heavenly voice of thine, With Adriana's lute2 of sound divine, Fiercer than Pentheus'3 tho' his eye might roll, Or idiot apathy benumb his soul, You still, with medicinal sounds, might cheer His senses wandering in a blind career; 10 And sweetly breathing thro' his wounded breast, Charm, with soul-soothing song, his thoughts to rest.
1 Leonora d'Este, supposed lover of Torquato Tasso.
2 Adriana Baroni, who accompanied her daughter on the lute.
3 A mad Theban king.
Another to the Same.
Naples, too credulous, ah! boast no more The sweet-voiced Siren buried on thy shore, That, when Parthenope1 deceas'd, she gave Her sacred dust to a Chalcidic2 grave, For still she lives, but has exchanged the hoarse Pausilipo for Tiber's placid course, Where, idol of all Rome, she now in chains, Of magic song both Gods and Men detains.
1 One of the Sirens.
2 From Chalcis, whence the Greek colonies of South Italy came.
The Fable of the Peasant and his Landlord.1
A Peasant to his lord yearly court, Presenting pippins of so rich a sort That he, displeased to have a part alone, Removed the tree, that all might be his own. The tree, too old to travel, though before So fruitful, withered, and would yield no more. The squire, perceiving all his labour void, Cursed his own pains, so foolishly employed, And "Oh," he cried, "that I had lived content With tribute, small indeed, but kindly meant! 10 My avarice has expensive proved to me, Has cost me both my pippins and my tree."
1 Added to the Elegies in the I673 edition.
2. POEMS IN VARIOUS METRES
On the Death of the Vice-Chancellor, A Physician.1
Learn ye nations of the earth The condition of your birth, Now be taught your feeble state, Know, that all must yield to Fate!
If the mournful Rover, Death, Say but once-resign your breath- Vainly of escape you dream, You must pass the Stygian stream.
Could the stoutest overcome Death's assault, and baffle Doom, 10 Hercules had both withstood Undiseas'd by Nessus' blood.2
Ne'er had Hector press'd the plain By a trick of Pallas slain, Nor the Chief to Jove allied3 By Achilles' phantom died.
Could enchantments life prolong, Circe, saved by magic song, Still had liv'd, and equal skill Had preserv'd Medea still.4 20
Dwelt in herbs and drugs a pow'r To avert Man's destin'd hour, Learn'd Machaon5 should have known Doubtless to avert his own.
Chiron had survived the smart Of the Hydra-tainted dart,6 And Jove's bolt had been with ease Foil'd by Asclepiades.7
Thou too, Sage! of whom forlorn Helicon and Cirrha mourn, 30 Still had'st filled thy princely place, Regent of the gowned race,
Had'st advanc'd to higher fame Still, thy much-ennobled name, Nor in Charon's skiff explored The Tartarean gulph abhorr'd.
But resentful Proserpine, Jealous of thy skill divine, Snapping short thy vital thread Thee too number'd with the Dead. 40
Wise and good! untroubled be The green turf that covers thee, Thence in gay profusion grow All the sweetest flow'rs that blow!
Pluto's Consort bid thee rest! Oeacus pronounce thee blest! To her home thy shade consign, Make Elysium ever thine!
1 Dr. John Goslyn, Regius Professor of Medicine at Cambridge. He died on the 21st October, I626.
2 A centaur whom Hercules shot with a poisoned arrow. Hercules was later poisoned by the centaur's blood-stained robe, which he was induced to put on.
3 Sarpedon. See Homer (Il. xvi, 477-491).
4 Circe and Medea were enchantresses.
5 Son of Esculapius. He was a healer to the Greeks during the siege of Troy. See Homer (Il. xi, 514).
6 The centaur Chiron was killed by Hercules's poisoned arrows.
7 Esculapius. He was killed by Jove's lightning for having saved too many from death.
On the Fifth of November. Anno Aetates 17.
Am pius extrema veniens Jacobus ab arcto Teucrigenas populos, lateque patentia regna Albionum tenuit, jamque inviolabile foedus Sceptra Caledoniis conjunxerat Anglica Scotis: Pacificusque novo felix divesque sedebat In solio, occultique doli securus & hostis: Cum ferus ignifluo regnans Acheronte tyrannus, Eumenidum pater, aethereo vagus exul Olympo, Forte per immensum terrarum erraverat orbem, Dinumerans sceleris socios, vernasque fideles, 10 Participes regni post funera moesta futuros; Hic tempestates medio ciet aere diras, Illic unanimes odium struit inter amicos, Armat & invictas in mutua viscera gentes; Regnaque olivifera vertit florentia pace, Et quoscunque videt purae virtutis amantes, Hos cupit adjicere imperio, fraudumque magister Tentat inaccessum sceleri corrumpere pectus, Insidiasque locat tacitas, cassesque latentes Tendit, ut incautos rapiat, seu Caspia Tigris 20 Insequitur trepidam deserta per avia praedam Nocte sub illuni, & somno nictantibus astris. Talibus infestat populos Summanus & urbes Cinctus caeruleae fumanti turbine flammae. Jamque fluentisonis albentia rupibus arva Apparent, & terra Deo dilecta marino, Cui nomen dederat quondam Neptunia proles Amphitryoniaden qui non dubitavit atrocem Aequore tranato furiali poscere bello, Ante expugnatae crudelia saecula Troiae. 30 At simul hanc opibusque & festa pace beatam Aspicit, & pingues donis Cerealibus agros, Quodque magis doluit, venerantem numina veri Sancta Dei populum, tandem suspiria rupit Tartareos ignes & luridum olentia sulphur. Qualia Trinacria trux ab Jove clausus in Aetna Efflat tabifico monstrosus ab ore Tiphoeus. Ignescunt oculi, stridetque adamantinus ordo Dentis, ut armorum fragor, ictaque cuspide cuspis. Atque pererrato solum hoc lacrymabile mundo 40 Inveni, dixit, gens haec mihi sola rebellis, Contemtrixque jugi, nostraque potentior arte. Illa tamen, mea si quicquam tentamina possunt, Non feret hoc impune diu, non ibit inulta, Hactenus; & piceis liquido natat aere pennis; Qua volat, adversi praecursant agmine venti, Densantur nubes, & crebra tonitrua fulgent. Jamque pruinosas velox superaverat alpes, Et tenet Ausoniae fines, a parte sinistra Nimbifer Appenninus erat, priscique Sabini, 50 Dextra veneficiis infamis Hetruria, nec non Te furtiva Tibris Thetidi videt oscula dantem; Hinc Mavortigenae consistit in arce Quirini. Reddiderant dubiam jam sera crepuscula lucem, Cum circumgreditur totam Tricoronifer urbem, Panificosque Deos portat, scapulisque virorum Evehitur, praeeunt summisso poplite reges, Et mendicantum series longissima fratrum; Cereaque in manibus gestant funalia caeci, Cimmeriis nati in tenebris, vitamque trahentes. 60 Templa dein multis subeunt lucentia taedis (Vesper erat sacer iste Petro) fremitoesque canentum Saepe tholos implet vacuos, & inane locorum. Qualiter exululat Bromius, Bromiique caterva, Orgia cantantes in Echionio Aracyntho, Dum tremit attonitus vitreis Asopus in undis, Et procul ipse cava responsat rupe Cithaeron. His igitur tandem solenni more peractis, Nox senis amplexus Erebi taciturna reliquit, Praecipitesque impellit equos stimulante flagello, 70 Captum oculis Typhlonta, Melanchaetemque ferocem, Atque Acherontaeo prognatam patre Siopen Torpidam, & hirsutis horrentem Phrica capillis. Interea regum domitor, Phlegetontius haeres Ingreditur thalamos (neque enim secretus adulter Producit steriles molli sine pellice noctes) At vix compositos somnus claudebat ocellos, Cum niger umbrarum dominus, rectorque silentum, Praedatorque hominum falsa sub imagine tectus Astitit, assumptis micuerunt tempora canis, 80 Barba sinus promissa tegit, cineracea longo Syrmate verrit humum vestis, pendetque cucullus Vertice de raso, & ne quicquam desit ad artes, Cannabeo lumbos constrinxit fune salaces, Tarda fenestratis figens vestigia calceis. Talis uti fama est, vasta Franciscus eremo Tetra vagabatur solus per lustra ferarum, Sylvestrique tulit genti pia verba salutis Impius, atque lupos domuit, Lybicosque leones. Subdolus at tali Serpens velatus amictu 90 Solvit in has fallax ora execrantia voces; Dormis nate? Etiamne tuos sopor opprimit artus? Immemor O fidei, pecorumque oblite tuorum, Dum cathedram venerande tuam, diadmaque triplex Ridet Hyperboreo gens barbara nata sub axe, Dumque pharetrati spernunt tua jura Britanni; Surge, age, surge piger, Latius quem Caesar adorat, Cui reserata patet convexi janua caeli, Turgentes animos, & fastus frange procaces, Sacrilegique sciant, tua quid maledictio possit, 100 Et quid Apostolicae possit custodia clavis; Et memor Hesperiae disjectam ulciscere classem, Mersaque Iberorum lato vexilla profundo, Sanctorumque cruci tot corpora fixa probrosae, Thermodoontea nuper regnante puella. At tu si tenero mavis torpescere lecto Crescentesque negas hosti contundere vires, Tyrrhenum implebit numeroso milite Pontum, Signaque Aventino ponet fulgentia colle: Relliquias veterum franget, flammisque cremabit, 110 Sacraque calcabit pedibus tua colla profanis, Cujus gaudebant soleis dare basia reges. Nec tamen hunc bellis & aperto Marte lacesses, Irritus ille labor, tu callidus utere fraude, Quaelibet haereticis disponere retia fas est; Jamque ad consilium extremis rex magnus ab oris Patricios vocat, & procerum de stirpe creatos, Grandaevosque patres trabea, canisque verendos; Hos tu membratim poteris conspergere in auras, Atque dare in cineres, nitrati pulveris igne 120 Aedibus injecto, qua convenere, sub imis. Protinus ipse igitur quoscumque habet Anglia fidos Propositi, factique mone, quisquamne tuorum Audebit summi non jussa facessere Papae. Perculsosque metu subito, casmque stupentes Invadat vel Gallus atrox, vel saevus Iberus Saecula sic illic tandem Mariana redibunt, Tuque in belligeros iterum dominaberis Anglos. Et nequid timeas, divos divasque secundas Accipe, quotque tuis celebrantur numina fastis. 130 Dixit & adscitos ponens malefidus amictus Fugit ad infandam, regnum illaetabile, Lethen. Jam rosea Eoas pandens Tithonia portas Vestit inauratas redeunti lumine terras; Maestaque adhuc nigri deplorans funera nati Irrigat ambrosiis montana cacumina guttis; Cum somnos pepulit stellatae janitor aulae Nocturnos visus, & somnia grata revolvens. Est locus aeterna septus caligine noctis Vasta ruinosi quondam fundamina tecti, 140 Nunc torvi spelunca Phoni, Prodotaeque bilinguis Effera quos uno peperit Discordia partu. Hic inter caementa jacent praeruptaque saxa, Ossa inhumata virum, & trajecta cadavera ferro; Hic Dolus intortis semper sedet ater ocellis, Jurgiaque, & stimulis armata Calumnia fauces, Et Furor, atque viae moriendi mille videntur Et Timor, exanguisque locum circumvolat Horror, Perpetuoque leves per muta silentia Manes Exululant, tellus & sanguine conscia stagnat. 150 Ipsi etiam pavidi latitant penetralibus antri Et Phonos, & Prodotes, nulloque sequente per antrum Antrum horrens, scopulosum, atrum feralibus umbris Diffugiunt sontes, & retro lumina vortunt, Hos pugiles Romae per saecula longa fideles Evocat antistes Babylonius, atque ita fatur. Finibus occiduis circumfusum incolit aequor Gens exosa mihi, prudens natura negavit Indignam penitus nostro conjungere mundo; Illuc, sic jubeo, celeri contendite gressu, 160 Tartareoque leves difflentur pulvere in auras Et rex & pariter satrapae, scelerata propago Et quotquot fidei caluere cupidine verae Consilii socios adhibete, operisque ministros. Finierat, rigidi cupide paruere gemelli. Interea longo flectens curvamine caelos Despicit aetherea dominus qui fulgurat arce, Vanaque perversae ridet conamina turbae, Atque sui causam populi volet ipse tueri. Esse ferunt spatium, qua distat ab Aside terra 170 Fertilis Europe, & spectat Mareotidas undas; Hic turris posita est Titanidos ardua Famae Aerea, lata, sonans, rutilis vicinior astris Quam superimpositum vel Athos vel Pelion Ossae Mille fores aditusque patent, totidemque fenestrae, Amplaque per tenues translucent atria muros; Excitat hic varios plebs agglomerata susurros; Qualiter instrepitant circum mulctralia bombis Agmina muscarum, aut texto per ovilia junco, Dum Canis aestivum coeli petit ardua culmen 180 Ipsa quidem summa sedet ultrix matris in arce, Auribus innumeris cinctum caput eminet olli, Queis sonitum exiguum trahit, atque levissima captat Murmura, ab extremis patuli confinibus orbis. Nec tot Aristoride servator inique juvencae Isidos, immiti volvebas lumina vultu, Lumina non unquam tacito nutantia somno, Lumina subjectas late spectantia terras. Istis illa solet loca luce carentia saepe Perlustrare, etiam radianti impervia soli. 190 Millenisque loquax auditaque visaque linguis Cuilibet effundit temeraria, veraque mendax Nunc minuit, modo confictis sermonibus auget. Sed tamen a nostro meruisti carmine laudes Fama, bonum quo non aliud veracius ullum, Nobis digna cani, nec te memorasse pigebit Carmine tam longo, servati scilicet Angli Officiis vaga diva tuis, tibi reddimus aequa. Te Deus aeternos motu qui temperat ignes, Fulmine praemisso alloquitur, terraque tremente: 200 Fama siles? an te latet impia Papistarum Conjurata cohors in meque meosque Britannos, Et nova sceptrigero caedes meditata Jacobo: Nec plura, illa statim sensit mandata Tonantis, Et satis ante fugax stridentes induit alas, Induit & variis exilia corpora plumis; Dextra tubam gestat Temesaeo ex aere sonoram. Nec mora jam pennis cedentes remigat auras, Atque parum est cursu celeres praevertere nubes, Jam ventos, jam solis equos post terga reliquit: 210 Et primo Angliacas solito de more per urbes Ambiguas voces, incertaque murmura spargit, Mox arguta dolos, & detestabile vulgat Proditionis opus, nec non facta horrida dictu, Authoresque addit sceleris, nec garrula caecis Insidiis loca structa silet; stupuere relatis, Et pariter juvenes, pariter tremuere puellae, Effaetique senes pariter, tanteaeque ruinae Sensus ad aetatem subito penetraverat omnem Attamen interea populi miserescit ab alto 220 Aethereus pater, & crudelibus obstitit ausis Papicolum; capti poenas raptantur ad acres; At pia thura Deo, & grati solvuntur honores; Compita laeta focis genialibus omnia fumant; Turba choros juvenilis agit: Quintoque Novembris Null Dies toto occurrit celebratior anno.
On the Death of the Bishop of Ely.1 Anno Aetates 17.
My lids with grief were tumid yet, And still my sullied cheek was wet With briny dews profusely shed For venerable Winton dead,2 When Fame, whose tales of saddest sound Alas! are ever truest found, The news through all our cities spread Of yet another mitred head By ruthless Fate to Death consign'd, Ely, the honour of his kind. 10 At once, a storm of passion heav'd My boiling bosom, much I grieved But more I raged, at ev'ry breath Devoting Death himself to death. With less revenge did Naso3 teem When hated Ibis was his theme; With less, Archilochus,4 denied The lovely Greek, his promis'd bride. But lo! while thus I execrate, Incens'd, the Minister of Fate, 20 Wondrous accents, soft, yet clear, Wafted on the gale I hear. Ah, much deluded! lay aside Thy threats and anger misapplied. Art not afraid with sounds like these T'offend whom thou canst not appease? Death is not (wherefore dream'st thou thus?) The son of Night and Erebus, Nor was of fel1 Erynnis born5 In gulphs, where Chaos rules forlorn, 30 But sent from God, his presence leaves, To gather home his ripen'd sheaves, To call encumber'd souls away From fleshly bonds to boundless day, (As when the winged Hours excite, And summon forth the Morning-light) And each to convoy to her place Before th'Eternal Father's face. But not the wicked-Them, severe Yet just, from all their pleasures here 40 He hurries to the realms below, Terrific realms of penal woe! Myself no sooner heard his call Than, scaping through my prison-wall, I bade adieu to bolts and bars, And soar'd with angels to the stars, Like Him of old, to whom 'twas giv'n To mount, on fiery wheels, to heav'n. Bootes' wagon,6 slow with cold Appall'd me not, nor to behold 50 The sword that vast Orion draws, Or ev'n the Scorpion's horrid claws.7 Beyond the Sun's bright orb I fly, And far beneath my feet descry Night's dread goddess, seen with awe, Whom her winged dragons draw. Thus, ever wond'ring at my speed Augmented still as I proceed, I pass the Planetary sphere, The Milky Way—and now appear 60 Heav'ns crystal battlements, her door Of massy pearl, and em'rald floor. But here I cease. For never can The tongue of once a mortal man In suitable description trace The pleasures of that happy place, Suffice it that those joys divine Are all, and all for ever, mine.
1 Nicholas Felton.
2 Dr. Felton died a few days after Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester. See Milton's Third Elegy.
4 A Greek poet. He was refused by Lycambes as a suitor to his daughters, and in revenge lampooned the entire family. Lycambes's daughters hanged themselves.
5 Erebus and Erynnis are Furies.
6 See Milton's Fifth Elegy, line 6, and the note thereto.
7 The constellation Scorpio.
That Nature is Not Subject to Decay.
Ah, how the Human Mind wearies herself With her own wand'rings, and, involved in gloom Impenetrable, speculates amiss! Measuring, in her folly, things divine By human, laws inscrib'd on adamant By laws of Man's device, and counsels fix'd For ever, by the hours, that pass, and die. How?—shall the face of Nature then be plow'd Into deep wrinkles, and shall years at last On the great Parent fix a sterile curse? 10 Shall even she confess old age, and halt And, palsy-smitten, shake her starry brows? Shall foul Antiquity with rust and drought And famine vex the radiant worlds above? Shall Time's unsated maw crave and engulf The very heav'ns that regulate his flight? And was the Sire of all able to fence His works, and to uphold the circling worlds, But through improvident and heedless haste Let slip th'occasion?—So then—All is lost— 20 And in some future evil hour, yon arch Shall crumble and come thund'ring down, the poles Jar in collision, the Olympian King Fall with his throne, and Pallas, holding forth The terrors of her Gorgon shield in vain,1 Shall rush to the abyss, like Vulcan hurl'd Down into Lemnos through the gate of heav'n. Thou also, with precipitated wheels Phoebus! thy own son's fall shalt imitate, With hideous ruin shalt impress the Deep 30 Suddenly, and the flood shall reek and hiss At the extinction of the Lamp of Day. Then too, shall Haemus cloven to his base Be shattered, and the huge Ceraunian hills,2 Once weapons of Tartarean Dis, immersed In Erebus, shall fill Himself with fear. No. The Almighty Father surer lay'd His deep foundations, and providing well For the event of all, the scales of Fate Suspended, in just equipoise, and bade 40 His universal works from age to age One tenour hold, perpetual, undisturb'd. Hence the Prime Mover wheels itself about Continual, day by day, and with it bears In social measure swift the heav'ns around. Not tardier now is Saturn than of old, Nor radiant less the burning casque of Mars. Phoebus, his vigour unimpair'd, still shows Th'effulgence of his youth, nor needs the God A downward course that he may warm the vales; 50 But, ever rich in influence, runs his road, Sign after sign, through all the heav'nly zone. Beautiful as at first ascends the star3 From odorif'rous Ind, whose office is To gather home betimes th'ethereal flock, To pour them o'er the skies again at Eve, And to discriminate the Night and Day. Still Cynthia's changeful horn waxes and wanes Alternate, and with arms extended still She welcomes to her breast her brother's beams. 60 Nor have the elements deserted yet Their functions, thunder with as loud a stroke As erst, smites through the rocks and scatters them, The East still howls, still the relentless North Invades the shudd'ring Scythian, still he breathes The Winter, and still rolls the storms along. The King of Ocean with his wonted force Beats on Pelorus,4 o'er the Deep is heard The hoarse alarm of Triton's sounding shell, Nor swim the monsters of th'Aegean sea 70 In shallows, or beneath diminish'd waves. Thou too, thy antient vegetative pow'r Enjoy'st, O Earth! Narcissus still is sweet, And, Phoebus! still thy Favourite, and still Thy Fav'rite, Cytherea!5 both retain Their beauty, nor the mountains, ore-enrich'd For punishment of Man, with purer gold Teem'd ever, or with brighter gems the Deep. Thus, in unbroken series all proceeds And shall, till, wide involving either pole, 80 And the immensity of yonder heav'n, The final flames of destiny absorb The world, consum'd in one enormous pyre!
1 Pallas Athena (Minerva) had the head of the Gorgon Medusa in her shield; it turned all who looked upon it into stone.
2 Phaeton, who fled from the chariot of the Sun while driving it.
4 The North-east promontory of Sicily.
5 The Hyacinth, favorite of Apollo. The Anemone, favorite of Venus.
On the Platonic 'Ideal' as it was Understood by Aristotle.
Ye sister Pow'rs who o'er the sacred groves Preside, and, Thou, fair mother of them all Mnemosyne,1 and thou, who in thy grot Immense reclined at leisure, hast in charge The Archives and the ord'nances of Jove, And dost record the festivals of heav'n, Eternity!—Inform us who is He, That great Original by Nature chos'n To be the Archetype of Human-kind, Unchangeable, Immortal, with the poles 10 Themselves coaeval, One, yet ev'rywhere, An image of the god, who gave him Being? Twin-brother of the Goddess born from Jove,2 He dwells not in his Father's mind, but, though Of common nature with ourselves, exists Apart, and occupies a local home. Whether, companion of the stars, he spend Eternal ages, roaming at his will From sphere to sphere the tenfold heav'ns, or dwell On the moon's side that nearest neighbours Earth, Or torpid on the banks of Lethe3 sit 20 Among the multitude of souls ordair'd To flesh and blood, or whether (as may chance) That vast and giant model of our kind In some far-distant region of this globe Sequester'd stalk, with lifted head on high O'ertow'ring Atlas, on whose shoulders rest The stars, terrific even to the Gods. Never the Theban Seer,4 whose blindness proved His best illumination, Him beheld 30 In secret vision; never him the son Of Pleione,5 amid the noiseless night Descending, to the prophet-choir reveal'd; Him never knew th'Assyrian priest,6 who yet The ancestry of Ninus7 chronicles, And Belus, and Osiris far-renown'd; Nor even Thrice-great Hermes,7 although skill'd So deep in myst'ry, to the worshippers Of Isis show'd a prodigy like Him. And thou,8 who hast immortalized the shades 40 Of Academus, if the school received This monster of the Fancy first from Thee, Either recall at once the banish'd bards To thy Republic, or, thyself evinc'd A wilder Fabulist, go also forth.
1 Goddess of Memory and mother of the Muses.
2 Pallas Athena.
3 Waters of oblivion and forgetfulness.
4 Tiresins. See Milton's Sixth Elegy, line 68.
5 Hermes (Mercury).
6 Perhaps the legendary Phoenician sage, Sanchuniathon.
7 A legendary Assyrian king. Belus is the Assyrian god Bel.
7 Hermes Trismegistus, author of Neo-Platonic works must esteemed.
To My Father.
Oh that Pieria's spring1 would thro' my breast Pour its inspiring influence, and rush No rill, but rather an o'erflowing flood! That, for my venerable Father's sake All meaner themes renounced, my Muse, on wings Of Duty borne, might reach a loftier strain. For thee, my Father! howsoe'er it please, She frames this slender work, nor know I aught, That may thy gifts more suitably requite; Though to requite them suitably would ask 10 Returns much nobler, and surpassing far The meagre stores of verbal gratitude. But, such as I possess, I send thee all. This page presents thee in their full amount With thy son's treasures, and the sum is nought; Naught, save the riches that from airy dreams In secret grottos and in laurel bow'rs, I have, by golden Clio's2 gift, acquir'd. Verse is a work divine; despise not thou Verse therefore, which evinces (nothing more) 20 Man's heav'nly source, and which, retaining still Some scintillations of Promethean fire, Bespeaks him animated from above. The Gods love verse; the infernal Pow'rs themselves Confess the influence of verse, which stirs The lowest Deep, and binds in triple chains Of adamant both Pluto and the shades. In verse the Delphic priestess, and the pale Tremulous Sybil make the Future known, And He who sacrifices, on the shrine 30 Hangs verse, both when he smites the threat'ning bull, And when he spreads his reeking entrails wide To scrutinize the Fates envelop'd there. We too, ourselves, what time we seek again Our native skies, and one eternal Now Shall be the only measure of our Being, Crown'd all with gold, and chanting to the lyre Harmonious verse, shall range the courts above, And make the starry firmament resound. And, even now, the fiery Spirit pure 40 That wheels yon circling orbs, directs, himself, Their mazy dance with melody of verse Unutt'rable, immortal, hearing which Huge Ophiuchus3 holds his hiss suppress'd, Orion, soften'd, drops his ardent blade, And Atlas stands unconscious of his load. Verse graced of old the feasts of kings, ere yet Luxurious dainties destin'd to the gulph Immense of gluttony were known, and ere Lyaeus4 deluged yet the temp'rate board. 50 Then sat the bard a customary guest To share the banquet, and, his length of locks With beechen honours bound, proposed in verse The characters of Heroes and their deeds To imitation, sang of Chaos old, Of Nature's birth, of Gods that crept in search Of acorns fall'n, and of the thunderbolt Not yet produc'd from Aetna's fiery cave. And what avails, at last, tune without voice, Devoid of matter? Such may suit perhaps 60 The rural dance, but such was ne'er the song Of Orpheus, whom the streams stood still to hear And the oaks follow'd. Not by chords alone Well-touch'd, but by resistless accents more To sympathetic tears the Ghosts themselves He mov'd: these praises to his verse he owes. Nor Thou persist, I pray thee, still to slight The sacred Nine, and to imagine vain And useless, Pow'rs by whom inspir'd, thyself Art skillfill to associate verse with airs 70 Harmonious, and to give the human voice A thousand modulations, heir by right Indisputable of Arion's fame.5 Now say, what wonder is it, if a son Of thine delight in verse, if so conjoin'd In close affinity, we sympathize In social arts and kindred studies sweet? Such distribution of himself to us Was Phoebus' choice; thou hast thy gift, and I Mine also, and between us we receive, 80 Father and son, the whole inspiring God. No. Howsoe'er the semblance thou assume Of hate, thou hatest not the gentle Muse, My Father! for thou never bad'st me tread The beaten path and broad that leads right on To opulence, nor did'st condemn thy son To the insipid clamours of the bar, To laws voluminous and ill observ'd, But, wishing to enrich me more, to fill My mind with treasure, led'st me far away 90 From city-din to deep retreats, to banks And streams Aonian,6 and, with free consent Didst place me happy at Apollo's side. I speak not now, on more important themes Intent, of common benefits, and such As Nature bids, but of thy larger gifts My Father! who, when I had open'd once The stores of Roman rhetoric, and learn'd The full-ton'd language, of the eloquent Greeks, Whose lofty music grac'd the lips of Jove, 100 Thyself did'st counsel me to add the flow'rs That Gallia7 boasts, those too with which the smooth Italian his degentrate speech adorns, That witnesses his mixture with the Goth, And Palestine's prophetic songs divine.8 To sum the whole, whate'er the Heav'n contains, The Earth beneath it, and the Air between, The Rivers and the restless deep, may all Prove intellectual gain to me, my wish Concurring with thy will; Science herself, 110 All cloud removed, inclines her beauteous head And offers me the lip, if, dull of heart, I shrink not and decline her gracious boon. Go now, and gather dross, ye sordid minds That covet it; what could my Father more, What more could Jove himself, unless he gave His own abode, the heav'n in which he reigns? More eligible gifts than these were not Apollo's to his son, had they been safe As they were insecure, who made the boy 120 The world's vice-luminary, bade him rule The radiant chariot of the day, and bind To his young brows his own all dazzling-wreath. I therefore, although last and least, my place Among the Learned in the laurel-grove Will hold, and where the conqu'ror's ivy twines, Henceforth exempt from th'unletter'd throng Profane, nor even to be seen by such. Away then, sleepless Care, Complaint away, And Envy, with thy "jealous leer malign" 130 Nor let the monster Calumny shoot forth Her venom'd tongue at me. Detested foes! Ye all are impotent against my peace, For I am privileged, and bear my breast Safe, and too high, for your viperean wound. But thou my Father! since to render thanks Equivalent, and to requite by deeds Thy liberality, exceeds my power, Sufffice it, that I thus record thy gifts, And bear them treasur'd in a grateful mind! 140 Ye too, the favourite pastime of my youth, My voluntary numbers, if ye dare To hope longevity, and to survive Your master's funeral pile, not soon absorb'd In the oblivious Lethaean gulph Shall to Futurity perhaps convey This theme, and by these praises of my sire Improve the Fathers of a distant age.
1 A fount sacred to the Muses. 2 The Muse of History.
3 The Serpent, a constellation.
4 Bacchus, or Wine.
5 John Milton Sr. was a fine musician. Arion was a lyric poet of Methymna, in Lesbos, who was saved from drowning by dolphins which he charmed with his song.
6 Aonia is a plain in Boeotia. 7 France.
8 The Old Testament Scriptures.
Psalm CXIV 1
When Israel by Jehovah call'd From Egypt's hostile plain, Pour'd forth in numbers as the Sand And sought the adjacent main: Then God descended from on high To lead the favour'd Race To rule o'er Jacob, & his Name In Judah's Tribe to place. The Sea at their approach alarm'd In wild amazement fled 10 And Jordan's flood was driven back Within it's fountainhead. The Mountains from their basis shook Confess'd the Parent God! With sudden throws like Rams they skipp'd And broken, fell abroad. The little Hills by the same power Were from their Center torn Like Lambs resistless they gave way In Tumult wild, upborn. 20 Ye Waves what strange amazement, say, Seiz'd on you that you fled? Thou Jordan too! On Israel's march, Why driven to thy Head? Ye Mountains whence this sudden fright That shook you from your base? And whence, ye little Hills, your flight From Israel's chosen Race? Tremble thou Earth! Jehovah leads, And guards the might Host! 30 That God, who by his awful Word, Commands the Stream to flow2 From flinty Rocks; & pouring thence, To form the Lake below.
1 Translated from the Latin, and not Milton's Greek poem. Milton's own English version, presented below, was done, he tells us, "at fifteen years old."
2 See Exodus, chapter I7.
When the blest seed of Terah's faithful Son,1 After long toil their liberty had won, And past from Pharian2 fields to Canaan Land, Led by the strength of the Almighty's hand, Jehovah's wonders were in Israel shown, His praise and glory was in Israel known. That saw the troubl'd Sea, and shivering fled, And sought to hide his froth-becurled head Low in the earth, Jordan's clear streams recoil, As a faint host that hath receiv'd the foil. 10 The high, huge-bellied Mountains skip like Rams Amongst their Ewes, the little Hills like Lambs. Why fled the Ocean? And why skip'd the Mountains? Why turned Jordan toward his Crystal Fountains? Shake earth, and at the presence be aghast Of him that ever was, and ay shall last, That glassy floods from rugged rocks can crush, And make soft rills from the fiery flint-stones gush.
1 Abraham. 2 Egyptian.
The Philosopher and the King.
A Philosopher, included in the same sentence of condemnation with several guilty persons among whom he had been apprehended, sent the following lines, composed suddenly in the moment when he was going to death, to a certain King whom had ignorantly condemned him.
Know this, O King! that if thou shalt destroy Me, no man's enemy and who have liv'd Obedient to the Laws, thou may'st with ease Strike off a wise man's head, but, taught the truth Hereafter, shalt with vain regret deplore Thy city's loss of One, her chief support.
On the Engraver of his Portrait.1
Survey my Features—you will own it clear That little skill has been exerted here. My Friends, who know me not here smile to see How ill the model and the work agree.
1 Greek lines placed by Milton beneath the engraved portrait of himself by William Marshall in the I645 edition of his poems. The handsome Milton disliked Marshall's picture and took revenge with this epigram, which Marshall, ignorant of Greek, engraved beneath the portrait.
Another Translation of the Same.2
Look on myself—you will own at once This Copy of me, taken by a Dunce. My Friends, who gaze and guess not whom ye see, Laugh! Would ye think it? He intended me!
To Giovanni Salzilli, a Roman Poet, in his Illness. Scazons.1
My halting Muse, that dragg'st by choice along Thy slow, slow step, in melancholy song! And lik'st that pace expressive of thy cares Not less than Diopeia's2 sprightlier airs When in the dance she beats with measur'd tread Heav'n's floor in front of Juno's golden bed, Salute Salsillus, who to verse divine Prefers, with partial love, such lays as mine. Thus writes that Milton then, who wafted o'er From his own nest on Albion's stormy shore 10 Where Eurus, fiercest of th'Aeolian band, Sweeps with ungovern'd rage the blasted land, Of late to more serene Ausonia came To view her cities of illustrious name, To prove, himself a witness of the truth, How wise her elders, and how learn'd her Youth. Much good, Salsillus! and a body free From all disease, that Milton asks for thee, Who now endur'st the languor, and the pains That bile inflicts diffus'd through all thy veins, 20 Relentless malady! not mov'd to spare By thy sweet Roman voice, and Lesbian air! Health, Hebe's sister, sent us from the skies, And thou, Apollo, whom all sickness flies, Pythius, or Paean, or what name divine Soe'er thou chuse, haste, heal a priest of thine! Ye groves of Faunus, and ye hills that melt With vinous dews, where meek Evander3 dwelt! If aught salubrious in your confines grow, Strive which shall soonest heal your poet's woe, 30 That, render'd to the Muse he loves, again He may enchant the meadows with his strain. Numa, reclin'd in everlasting ease Amid the shade of dark embow'ring trees, Viewing with eyes of unabated fire His loved Aegeria, shall that strain admire: So sooth'd, the tumid Tiber shall revere The tombs of kings, nor desolate the year, Shall curb his waters with a friendly rein, And guide them harmless till they meet the main. 40
1 The original is written in a measure called Scazon, which signifies limping, and the measure is so denominated, because, though in other respects Iambic, it terminates with a Spondee, and has consequently a more tardy movement. The reader will immediately see that this property of the Latin verse cannot be imitated in English.—W.C.
2 Diopeia was one of Juno's nymphs.
3 The Aventine hill. Evander, great-grandson of Pallas, King of Arcadia, migrated to Italy about sixty years before the Trojan War.
To Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa.
1Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, is an Italian Nobleman of the highest estimation among his countrymen, for Genius, Literature,and military accomplishments. To Him Torquato Tasso addressed his "Dialogue on Friendship," for he was much the friend of Tasso, who has also celebrated him among the other princes of his country, in his poem entitled "Jerusalem Conquered" (Book XX).
Among cavaliers magnanimous and courteous —Manso is resplendent.
During the Author's stay at Naples he received at the hands of the Marquis a thousand kind offices and civilities, and, desirous not to appear ungrateful, sent him this poem a short time before his departure from that city.
These verses also to thy praise the Nine2 Oh Manso! happy in that theme design, For, Gallus and Maecenas3 gone, they see None such besides, or whom they love as Thee, And, if my verse may give the meed of fame, Thine too shall prove an everlasting name. Already such, it shines in Tasso's page (For thou wast Tasso's friend) from age to age, And, next, the Muse consign'd, not unaware How high the charge, Marini4 to thy care, 10 Who, singing, to the nymphs, Adonis' praise, Boasts thee the patron of his copious lays. To thee alone the Poet would entrust His latest vows, to thee alone his dust, And Thou with punctual piety hast paid In labour'd brass thy tribute to his shade. Nor this contented thee-but lest the grave Should aught absorb of their's, which thou could'st save, All future ages thou has deign'd to teach The life, lot, genius, character of each, 20 Eloquent as the Carian sage,5 who, true To his great theme, the Life of Homer drew. I, therefore, though a stranger youth, who come Chill'd by rude blasts that freeze my Northern home, Thee dear to Clio confident proclaim, And Thine, for Phoebus' sake, a deathless name. Nor Thou, so kind, wilt view with scornful eye A Muse scarce rear'd beneath our sullen sky, Who fears not, indiscrete as she is young, To seek in Latium hearers of her song. 30 We too, where Thames with his unsullied waves The tresses of the blue-hair'd Ocean laves, Hear oft by night, or, slumb'ring, seem to hear O'er his wide stream, the swan's voice warbling clear, And we could boast a Tityrus6 of yore, Who trod, a welcome guest, your happy shore. Yes, dreary as we own our Northern clime, E'en we to Phoebus raise the polish'd rhyme, We too serve Phoebus; Phoebus has receiv'd, (If legends old may claim to be believ'd) 40 No sordid gifts from us, the golden ear, The burnish'd apple, ruddiest of the year, The fragrant crocus, and, to grace his fane, Fair damsels chosen from the Druid train- Druids, our native bards in ancient time, Who Gods and Heroes prais'd in hallow'd rhyme. Hence, often as the maids of Greece surround Apollo's shrine with hymns of festive sound, They name the virgins who arriv'd of yore With British off'rings on the Delian shore, 50 Loxo, from Giant Corineus sprung, Upis, on whose blest lips the Future hung, And Hecaerge7 with the golden hair, All deck'd with Pic'ish hues, and all with bosoms bare. Thou therefore, happy Sage, whatever clime Shall ring with Tasso's praise in after-time, Or with Marini's, shalt be known their friend, And with an equal flight to fame ascend. The world shall hear how Phoebus and the Nine Were inmates, once, and willing guests of thine. 60 Yet Phoebus, when of old constrain'd to roam The earth, an exile from his heav'nly home, Enter'd, no willing guest, Admetus'8 door, Though Hercules had enter'd there before. But gentle Chiron's9 cave was near, a scene Of rural peace, clothed with perpetual green, And thither, oft as respite he requir'd From rustic clamours loud, the God retir'd. There, many a time, on Peneus' bank reclin'd At some oak's root, with ivy thick entwin'd, 70 Won by his hospitable friend's desire He sooth'd his pains of exile with the lyre. Then shook the hills, then trembled Peneus' shore, Nor Oeta10 felt his load of forests more, The upland elms descended to the plain,11 And soften'd lynxes wonder'd at the strain. Well may we think, O dear to all above! Thy birth distinguish'd by the smile of Jove, And that Apollo shed his kindliest pow'r, And Maia's son,12 on that propitious hour, 80 Since only minds so born can comprehend A poet's worth, or yield that worth a friend. Hence, on thy yet unfaded cheek appears The ling'ring freshness of thy greener years, Hence, in thy front, and features, we admire Nature unwither'd, and a mind entire. Oh might so true a friend to me belong, So skill'd to grace the votaries of song, Should I recall hereafter into rhyme The kings, and heroes of my native clime, 90 Arthur the chief, who even now prepares, In subterraneous being, future wars, With all his martial Knights, to be restor'd Each to his seat around the fed'ral board, And Oh, if spirit fail me not, disperse Our Saxon plund'rers in triumphant verse! Then, after all, when, with the Past content, A life I finish, not in silence spent, Should he, kind mourner, o'er my deathbed bend I shall but need to say—"Be yet my friend!" 100 He, faithful to my dust, with kind concern Shal1 place it gently in a modest urn; He too, perhaps, shall bid the marble breathe To honour me, and with the graceful wreath13 Or of Parnassus or the Paphian isle Shall bind my brows—but I shall rest the while. Then also, if the fruits of Faith endure, And Virtue's promis'd recompense be sure, Borne to those seats, to which the blest aspire By purity of soul, and virtuous fire, These rites, as Fate permits, I shall survey With eyes illumin'd by celestial day, 110 And, ev'ry cloud from my pure spirit driv'n, Joy in the bright beatitude of Heav'n!