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Pastoral Ode so remarkable for the Variety and Power of Numbers, as well as for every other Beauty." By 1755, moreover, Milton is invoked as the author, not only of the epic and the octosyllabics, but of the monody; 2 and in the following year the London Magazine published a letter' devoted entirely to the piece, which was termed "one of the most poetical and moving elegies that ever was wrote," the passage that begins “Return, Alpheus, the dread voice is past," being praised in particular as "extremely striking and beautiful, superior to anything of the kind I ever read." Yet this same year another periodical said, "As to the structure of the verse, and the irregular succession of the rhimes, we must confess, they do not greatly delight but some, perhaps, will see grace and beauty in that wildness and disorder, which to others may afford only perplexity and disgust." 4 Johnson's strictures appeared in 1779, and as late as 1793 the poem was characterized as "a stiff unnatural performance." It was not until 1785, one hundred and forty-seven years after its publication, that anything like John Scott's twenty-eight-page critique of it appeared. Was a great poem ever so long in coming to its own!
The earliest appreciation of Lycidas of which we have any record has been omitted from the foregoing account because it contained a still warmer tribute to the other minor poems. This work is the curious jumble known as the Cyprian Academy, which came from the pen of Robert Baron two years after the appearance of the 1645 volume. Though "imitation is the sincerest flattery," plagiarism may be regarded as the most complete, and from this point of view Baron's work is "the perfect tribute." There are many lines as close to Milton as
Flame in the forehead of the azure skie,'
and many passages much longer than the following and quite as untainted by originality,
1 Poems and Two Critical Essays (1745), 118. This comment, like Duncombe's (p. 426, n. 6, above), sounds as if it were uncertain that readers would be familiar with the poem. Say also quotes from Comus (ib. 127).
2 H. Kiddell, Genius of Milton (see Gent. Mag., xxv. 518; noted by Good, p. 81). 3 XXV. 235-6. Mo. Rev., xiv. 352.
• Bee, Aug. 21, 1793. Two years earlier (May 11, 1791) a writer in the same journal said that Adam Smith praised the octosyllabics but thought "all the rest of Milton's short poems were trash."
6 See above, p. 251, n. 5.
7 ii. 28; cf. Lycidas, 171. Baron's plagiarisms, as well as a number of the other matters mentioned in this chapter, were pointed out by that great Miltonian, Thomas Warton, in his edition of Milton's minor poems (2d ed., 1791, pp. 403-7), where many illustrations are given. Warton (ib. p.v) also discovered among Archbishop Sancroft's papers in the Bodleian a transcript of the Nativity made about 1648, and one of Milton's paraphrase of the fifty-third Psalm.
Sol has quencht his glowing beame
As Baron borrowed from most of Milton's early pieces, it is not surprising that he took a phrase from one of the sonnets. He seems to have been one of the few, however, who read those "soul-animating strains" before 1738. Philip Ayres, to be sure, mentioned them in 1687 as unsuccessful; Phillips appended four of them to his life of the poet and Toland quoted six in his, but in each case it was merely for biographical purposes; Zachary Pearce referred to three; * John Hughes borrowed from one," Pope from three, his assistant Elijah Fenton quoted one,' and phrases and ideas taken from three make up the lines To Aristus, in Imitation of a Sonnet of Milton. But the general attitude was probably that of John Hughes, an admirer and imitator of the octosyllabics, who, after discussing Spenser's sonnets, adds baldly enough, "Milton has writ some, both in Italian and English." 9
The references given in this chapter to the various minor poems cannot, of course, pretend to include every mention of the pieces in the first hundred years after their collective publication. Yet they represent more than the findings of one man: they include not only everything I have discovered, but everything that seems to me significant in what a century and a half of English and American scholarship has pointed out. Accordingly, though other references to these poems will undoubtedly come to light, it is not likely that they
1i. 59; cf. Comus, 95-7, 141, 122-8. In the first line the original reads "have" instead of "has," probably a misprint.
2 Not, however, for the Cyprian Academy, but for the Pocula Castalia (1650, p. 27). Todd called attention to this borrowing in his note to Milton's sonnet, "How soon hath Time"; cf. also his appendix on Baron's imitations, at the end of his last volume (1801 ed.). On page A2 verso of the Pocula a number of lines from Milton's poem on Shakespeare are introduced.
3 See below, p. 488, n. 7.
4 See above, p. 422, n. 9.
7 Fenton, in speaking of Waller's lines on "Observations" appended to his edition of burn, p. 275).
5 See below, p. 443, n. 4.
• See Appendix A, below.
Lawes, quotes the sonnet to Lawes. See Waller's Works, 1730, p. c (noted by Sher8 See below, p. 489.
• In his edition of Spenser (1715), vol. i, p. cx. On the widespread indifference to sonnets in the eighteenth century, see pp. 480-82, 488 n. 7, 521-3, below.
will be numerous or enthusiastic enough to change the conclusions based upon the testimony we have now. Verbal parallels will continue to be adduced, as they have been hitherto; but, unless there is other evidence that an author probably knew Milton's early work, such parallels are usually worthless.1 Phrases from the 1645 volume are most frequent and striking in Pope and Thomson, who made use of them in their earliest pieces and (except in Pope's Homer) borrowed from them about as often as from the epic. One important source of information as to the popularity of the poems — the number of pieces influenced by them - will be examined in detail a little later. The conclusions to be drawn from such an examination will,
This is why little weight can be attached to the only parallel which seems to me significant that Alexander Harrach gives in his attempt to prove the anonymous Sylvan Dream (1701) to be the work of John Philips:
Hear me, Sweet Echo, hear, and bless
One that like thy Narcissus is
(John Philips, 1906, p. 100; cf. Comus, 230, 237). Nor does the phrase "sooth'd with soft Lydian Airs," in Samuel Wesley's Hymn on Peace to the Prince of Peace (1713, p. 8), prove that Wesley (who certainly was familiar with Paradise Lost, see pp. 38, 45 n. 1, 109 n. 1, above) knew Allegro, 136, any more than the line, "Thro' the long levell'd Tube, our stretching Sight," makes it certain that the author of an Epistle from a Gentleman to his Friend in the Country (Bee, 1733, i. 543) knew Comus, 340. Yet there can hardly be any question as to the source of the "wanton Wile, And Nod, and secret Beck, and amorous Leer" which N. Brown introduced into the Miltonic blank verse of his North-Country Wedding (Miscellaneous Poems, published by M. Concanen, 1724, p. 9). Of Mr. Sherburn's parallels, aside from those in poems that have been or will be referred to, the following seem to me striking, though hardly sufficient by themselves to establish a case: "Warble . the wild-wood Notes" (William Thompson, Nativity, 1736, in Poems, Oxford, 1757, i. 62, cf. Allegro, 134; the early borrowings from Allegro and Lycidas given above, p. 112, n. 1, are from the work of another William Thompson);
Fly, rigid Winter, with thy horid face,
And let the soft and lovely Spring take place;
Oh! come thou fairest season of the year,
With garlands deck'd and verdant robes appear
(Elizabeth Rowe, On our Saviour's Nativity, 1733, in Letters Moral and Entertaining,
(David Mallet, Excursion, in Works, 1759, i. 77; and note "hoar hill," p. 71, cf. Allegro, 55). Mallet certainly knew Penseroso later (see p. 451 below). Yet in the first edition of The Excursion (1728, the only one published before 1740), the last two lines quoted above appear as one,
The serious Hour, and solemn Thoughtfulness;
and, since the latter part of the first line is pretty clearly adapted from the last but one of Paradise Lost (with which Mallet was familiar), there is little left in the passage to suggest Penseroso. * See Appendix A, below.
however, be found to be in line with what we have already learned; for, aside from Allegro and Penseroso, the minor poems had almost no influence before 1740, and even the number of pieces modelled on the companion poems (thirty) was decidedly small as compared either with the number that copied Paradise Lost in the same period or with the number that imitated the octosyllabics themselves a decade or two later.1
Yet, if up to 1740 Milton's early productions had little of the vogue which his epic enjoyed, it is clear that they were known to many and were warmly admired by some. That is, the evidence would show that Joseph Warton went altogether too far in saying that Allegro and Penseroso "lay in a sort of obscurity, the private enjoyment of a few curious readers, till they were set to admirable music by Mr. Handel." Warton refers to Handel's oratorio, L'Allegro, Il Pensieroso, ed Il Moderato, which was first sung in 1740 and was popular enough to require two printings of the libretto that year and five others before 1802.3 The success of this oratorio encouraged Handel to undertake immediately another composition with a Miltonic libretto, drawn this time from Samson Agonistes (1742), and by 1746 to complete his Occasional Oratorio, the words of which are taken mainly from Milton's translations of the Psalms. Since these last are among the minor poems, this use of them, wretched perversions of the Scriptures though they be, is interesting in the present connection; yet it is less significant than the interpolation into the Samson of a number of lines from the Nativity, On Time, At a Solemn Music, and the Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester. Handel's music undoubtedly did much to make people familiar with Milton's work outside of the epic field, and in particular with the companion pieces; but those who admired the octosyllabics before 1740, like those who cared for Paradise Lost before 1712, were by no means limited to "a few curious readers." Such off-hand remarks as Warton's regarding contemporary conditions are apt to carry more weight than they should; and, as the author of this one
1 These figures are summarized above, p. 9, n. 1, and below, p. 469.
2 Essay on Pope (1756), 4th ed., 1782, i. 40.
3 Mr. Alwin Thaler (Milton in the Theatre, Univ. of North Carolina, Studies in Philology, xvii. 286) records three performances in London the first season, three in Dublin the following year, and six more by 1822.
♦ The last twelve lines of act i are adapted from On Time; four of the last six of act ii, and six of act iii, scene i, from the Nativity, stanzas vi, xvii, xxvi; six lines of act iii, scene iii, from the Marchioness of Winchester, 47-50, 67-8; and the last six lines of act iii from At a Solemn Music. Mr. Thaler notes (p. 278) eight performances in 1743 and twenty-two more by 1829, besides at least twelve editions of the text (by Newburgh Hamilton) before 1840.
In the same volume, for example, he wrote (p. 154), "When Thomson published
was a schoolboy at Winchester from 1736 to 1740 and at Oxford from 1740 to 1744, he could have known very little about literary conditions at the capital. Certainly men who were to become the chief poets of the mid-century and were to give Milton's pieces their great vogue did not become acquainted with them through Handel's work. Gray was on the continent when the oratorio was given; besides, he had referred to Penseroso in a letter to Walpole in 1736, and the same year two of his intimate friends exhibited familiarity with other of the minor poems.1 The Warton brothers undoubtedly gained their enthusiasm for Milton from their father, one of the earliest of the eighteenth-century admirers and imitators of the 1645 volume; and Joseph Warton, in turn, probably made the poems known to his schoolmate and college friend Collins, the first of whose "Oriental Eclogues," written about 1738, shows the influence of Allegro. Nor could the popular Scottish poet, Hamilton of Bangour, have been attracted to the Puritan lyrics by Handel, as his Miltonic octosyllabics were composed at least a year before the oratorio was given.
In fact, it seems highly probable that Warton had the cart before the horse, and that Handel came to use Allegro and Penseroso through the influence of some discriminating friends upon whom the beauty of the poems had recently dawned. For there are signs on every side, about this time, of an awakening, among more intelligent readers, to an interest in Milton's early work. Evidence of this new appreciation is to be found in the rapid increase in the number of poems influenced otherwise than verbally by the octosyllabics. Before 1700 there are only three such poems, between 1700 and 1715 three, from 1716 to 1725 seven, from 1726 to 1735 seven, from 1736 to 1740 (five years only) eleven, from 1741 to 1745 (five years) sixteen, and in 1746 alone, an unusual year, sixteen. That is, the companion pieces seem to have exerted almost as much influence in the one year 1746 as they did in the ninety years before 1736, which is approximately his Winter ... it lay a long time neglected"; yet the second edition of Winter appeared within three months of the first. Thomas Warton, in his edition of Milton's minor poems (1785, p. x), remarked that blank verse "after its revival by Philips had been long neglected"; and H. J. Todd said in his edition of Comus (Canterbury, 1798, preface, p. xvi), "It was not till late in the present century, that Comus emerged from the obscurity in which it had long been buried," an assertion that will be shown to be absolutely false. Even the truth-loving Wordsworth wrote in 1815 (Prose Works, ed. Grosart, ii. 114) that Milton's minor poems were "little heard of till more than 150 years after their publication," that is, not until 1800!
1 Correspondence of Gray, Walpole, etc. (ed. Toynbee, Oxford, 1915), i. 94, 79, 96. West's octosyllabic, The View from the Thatcht House, written in 1738, also shows unmistakably the influence of Milton's companion poems (see p. 453 below).