Page images

four times in two years, Musaeus is wretched stuff. It has interest only because it imitates Lycidas and because, by uniting two literary movements often thought hostile, the school of Pope and the schools of Milton and Spenser, it illustrates how little the so-called romanticists of the mid-eighteenth century revolted from neoclassicism.

The pleasant relations that usually existed between these schools is also shown in the case of George, Lord Lyttelton, the friend of Pope and Thomson and the admirer of Milton. In 1747, the year in which Musaeus appeared, Lyttelton won general praise with a "Monody" on the death of his wife, the best poem the movement produced. Inspired by the sincerity and depth of his grief for the woman whom he had tenderly loved, he was able, while retaining the classical allusions and something of the pastoral element, to be natural and unhackneyed. He may have been somewhat influenced by Dryden's great ode to the memory of Anne Killigrew, particularly since he did not, like Milton and most of his imitators, begin every line flush with the margin, but printed his monody as a Pindaric, varying the indentation with the length of the line. Yet there can be no question of the debt to Lycidas here:

Where were ye, Muses, when relentless Fate
From these fond Arms your fair Disciple tore..
Nor then did Pindus, or Castalia's Plain,
Or Aganippe's Fount your Steps detain,
Nor in the Thespian Vallies did you play;
Nor then on Mincio's Bank

Beset with Osiers dank,

Nor where Clitumnus rolls his gentle Stream....
Now what avails it that in early Bloom,

When light, fantastic Toys

Are all her Sex's Joys,

With you she search'd the Wit of Greece and Rome??

None of the succeeding monodies have sufficient esthetic value to merit specific comment, and few are of interest on other grounds. One was included in the volume of elegies on the Prince of Wales published in 1751 by the University of Cambridge; one was written for the Seaton prize at the same university, and several were called forth by the deaths of Gray, Garrick, Chatterton, Shenstone, and the

1 For the surprisingly high opinion held of Musaeus in the eighteenth century, see Mr. J. W. Draper's doctor's thesis on Mason, Harvard, 1920.

2 To the Memory of a Lady lately Deceased, a Monody (1747), §§ vii-ix. The best lines are not in the passage quoted, but in the last eight sections. The poem is parodied in Smollett's Burlesque Ode in memory of a grandmother (Plays and Poems, 1777, pp. 248-9), which uses several phrases from Lycidas.


Warton brothers. A number of the authors are already familiar to us through their imitation of Milton's other poems, Benjamin Stillingfleet the blue-stocking sonneteer, Robert Potter translator of the Greek dramatists, Michael Bruce author of the Ode to the Cuckoo, Anna Seward the Swan of Lichfield, Thomas Dermody the drinkcurst Irish Chatterton,1 besides W. L. Bowles, Thomas Warton, and Coleridge. The Monody on the Death of Chatterton which Coleridge wrote in 1790 is Miltonic not alone in title and in being an elegy on a dead poet, but in the arrangement of its rimes and the varying length of its lines. The most interesting, if not the only interesting, part of the piece comes near the end of the rewritten version, where the pantisocracy project is referred to:

Wisely forgetful! O'er the ocean swell

Sublime of Hope I seek the cottag'd dell

Where Virtue calm with careless step may stray..

O Chatterton! that thou wert yet alive!

Sure thou would'st spread the canvass to the gale,
And love with us the tinkling team to drive

O'er peaceful Freedom's undivided dale. . . .

Where Susquehannah pours his untamed stream.2

Not every monody was Miltonic; in fact, the term came to mean little more than an elegy which did not employ the quatrain with alternate rimes used in Gray's famous poem and in most of the numerous eighteenth-century laments. Yet monodies became sufficiently common to be recognized as a distinct species; for one section is devoted to them in Bell's Classical Arrangement of Fugitive Poetry, and Richard Cumberland warned fathers not to be "tickled into ecstacy" because their sons had

hammer'd out a song,

Or epigram, or monody perhaps

On a dead greyhound, or a drown'd she-cat.

They were also known well enough to be burlesqued in some lines To a Gentleman who desired Proper Materials for a Monody:

1 Dermody composed his Miltonic Corydon, a Monody, when he was ten years old; before he was twelve he wrote a Monody on the Death of Chatterton and a translation of Milton's Epitaphium Damonis, neither of which apparently was ever published (see his Life, by J. G. Raymond, 1806, i. 6–9, ii. 342).

2 In his poem To a Friend . . . writing no more Poetry (1796) he quotes the line, "Without the meed of one melodious tear" (cf. Lycidas, 14). His Monody on a Teakettle (written 1790) is intended to be humorous, but is not a burlesque. Lines 14-22 of his Religious Musings were clearly suggested by Paradise Lost, iv. 641-56. For his sonnets, see pp. 515-16 above.

3 See p. 681 below.

Retrospection (1811), lines 1090-93. In an "Essay on Elegiac Poetry" (Poems, 1802, i. 70) George Dyer has something to say of the monody as a literary form.

[blocks in formation]

More amusing than this parody is George Huddesford's diverting Monody on the Death of Dick, an Academical Cat, which is connected directly with Lycidas only through its title and the lines,


Where were ye, Nymphs, when to the silent coast
Of gloomy Acheron DICK travell'd post? ...
For not on Isis' classic shores ye stray'd. . . .
Regardless of the meed that Fame bestows.2

Yet it may be that the picture of Lycidas in heaven is burlesqued in the account of Dick's occupations in the same place:

There shall the worthies of the Whisker'd Race
Elysian Mice o'er floors of sapphire chase,
Midst beds of aromatic marum stray,

Or raptur'd rove beside the Milky Way.'

Huddesford bubbles over with puns, from the motto on the title-
page, "Micat inter omnes," through the reference to Caligula's horse,
-which, when consul, could "silence Opposition with his Neigh,"
to the cataract of words, "catacomb," "catechise," "categorical,"
"catarrhs," "catastrophe," "catalepsy." But the humor is varied,
for we are told that Dick

Taught the great Truth, to half his race unknown:
"Cats are not kitten'd for themselves alone;
But hold from Heav'n their delegated claws,
Guardians of Larders, Liberty, and Laws."...
Tho' much for Milk, more for Renown he mews,
And nobler objects than his Tail pursues. . .
What mice descended, at each direful blow,
To nibble brimstone in the realms below!...
Unpill'd, unpoultic'd, unphlebotomiz'd!'

Singularly enough, what seems to be the latest piece influenced by Milton's monody is another burlesque, one in which "Mary Jane, ex-munition worker, demobilized, speaks" of the aftermath of the

1 Poetical Calendar (1763), v. 11II.

2 Salmagundi (1791), 131-2; with the last line compare Lycidas, 84, and Comus, 9. In the "thousand Cats... on sainted seats," one of which descends from his "throne" (p. 146), there is another reminiscence of the passage in Comus (line 11). ▲ Ib. 133, 138-40.

3 Ib. 146.

world war.1 In the century and a quarter between the disappearance of the "academical cat" and the demobilization of Mary Jane, the only close imitation of Lycidas I know of is that with which the Hon. Julian Fane won the chancellor's gold medal at Cambridge in 1850, Monody on the Death of the Queen Dowager. But of course the influence of Milton's elegy in the past century was not limited to these belated survivors of the movement. For, although the monody as a genre may be said to have disappeared from our literature leaving no significant traces, the elegiac pastoral to which Milton gave new life still lives, and lives to the glory of English poetry. Just how much Shelley's Adonais and Arnold's Thyrsis owe to Lycidas it is impossible to say, but some inspiration and guidance at least; for, even if little in either piece can be pointed out as definitely Miltonic, nobody could have written a poem of the kind without thinking of Lycidas. Milton's irregular rime-scheme and varying length of lines have been adopted by many later writers, by Coventry Patmore, for example, and by Milton's American editor William Vaughn Moody, whose poem on his dead mother's picture makes use of them. In a few instances, as Tennyson's Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington (1852), Richard Le Gallienne's Robert Louis Stevenson (1895), and the Cecil Rhodes (1902) of Francis Thompson, who used the measure often, the meter of Lycidas is employed in elegies. This meter is too unusual and the poem too well known for such resemblances to be dismissed as mere coincidences; yet one hesitates to say they are more."


In view of the remarkable popularity of Comus on the stage and the success of Handel's admirable music for Samson Agonistes, it is surprising that Milton's dramas have exerted so little influence. The matter cannot be explained on the ground that no masques and dramas on the classic model were written, for such is not the case. The eighteenth-century masque was not like the Elizabethan or the

1 Kathleen O'Brien, Mary Jane, etc., in Littell's Living Age, July 19, 1919, p. 188. 2 Poems which have obtained the Chancellor's Gold Medal in the University of Cambridge (Camb., 1860), 293–300.

3 In three pieces, To the Unknown Eros, Amelia, and L'Allegro.

The Daguerreotype. Moody's Ode in Time of Hesitation and The Brute are in the

same meter.

• Another instance is W. J. Lampton's At Grover Cleveland's Grave, which appeared in the New York World, presumably about July 1, 1908.

There is probably some influence from the meter of Lycidas upon the irregular Pindaric ode which Lowell and many other nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets have used.

Jacobean, to be sure; it was a kind of light opera on the Italian model, consisting largely of songs and dances, a difference easily realized if the Comus that Milton wrote be compared with the adaptation of it that held the stage. Samson Agonistes would hardly be expected to find many imitators; for, though it has always won admiration, it has apparently never roused the enthusiasm of any large number of readers. Comus, on the other hand, was widely known. Through regular stage presentations it became more familiar to persons of a certain class than did Milton's non-dramatic writings, and through frequent amateur productions it was brought home to still another group. Its songs were in every mouth, and its phrases were sown thick in eighteenth-century poetry. Robert Baron plagiarized it as early as 1647; the elder Warton and an anonymous writer imitated the invocation of Sabrina, and another poet copied the echo song;2 one of the burlesque “Probationary Odes for the Laureatship" (1785) has the lines,

Sweetest nymph, that liv'st unseen

Within that lov'd recess; 3

and in Bowles's African (or Dying Slave) the negroes chant,

Now thy long, long task is done,
Swiftly, brother, wilt thou run.

Furthermore, the plan and contents of Comus did exert some influence on the drama of the time. In Gilbert West's Institution of the Order of the Garter, a Dramatic Poem (1742), a spirit descends and speaks these lines:

From the gay realms of cloudless day I come,

Where in the glitter of unnumber'd worlds,

That like to isles of various magnitudes

Float in the ocean of unbounded space;
On my invisible aërial throne

I sit, attended with a radiant band
Of spirits immortal.

The Monthly Review says that Parthenia, or the Lost Shepherdess, an Arcadian Drama (1764), is "a close imitation of Shakespear and Milton in the same species of poetry," and that Midsummer Eve, or the Sowing of Hemp (1793), is “an imitation, apparently, of the style of Comus, and of the Faithful Shepherdess; and it abounds with 1 See pp. 427-8 above.

3 Ode XVII, pt. ii.

2 See below, Bibl. III B, bef. 1745 w., 1787, 1788.

4. "Dodsley's Miscellany" (1748), ii. 151. Compare with this the opening of Comus, which is also faintly suggested by the descent and first words of the spirit (the “Genius of England") near the beginning of the poem (ib. 113).

« PreviousContinue »