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first composed them. Some may have scarcely known his work, and only a few may have been inspired by his example to use the quatorzain for sterner, loftier purposes. The qualities, for example, that make the work of the younger De Vere seem Miltonic are probably due to the natural temper of his mind and to his study of Greek, for they are present in his other poetry. Milton may have had nothing directly to do with De Vere's belief that “a true sonnet is characterized by greatness, not prettiness ... it is in substance solidly simple”;1 yet ultimately this idea of the genre is derived from the Puritan stanzas which are the earliest, and perhaps still the greatest, exemplificalions of it. The channel which let the mightier waters flow through the sonnet was dug by Milton, and, however little those who use these streams to-day may realize it, they are profiting by his originality and daring and are following his course. Even those who employ the form for lighter purposes and amorous themes copy him when, as often, they disregard the pauses and the turn or use run-over lines and internal pauses, — when, like most of the sonneteers of the last two centuries, they make their prosody practically that of blank verse. Furthermore, in so far as the poems have been held to the legitimate rime-scheme, the credit is in no slight degree due to Milton, who is also somewhat responsible for the many quatorzains that are addressed to persons and begin with proper names in the vocative.
Some of these obligations may be unimportant, others undesirable, but in one matter Milton has rendered vital service. The sonnet has always in all languages shown a tendency towards sweetness rather than strength, towards finish rather than thought, towards pretty trifling and absorption in the single theme, love. Not only does this hold of Elizabethan times and the late eighteenth century, but it is the popular conception of the form in our own day. The tendency, if it had not constantly been met by powerful forces of another kind, would have greatly narrowed the scope of the poem, would have made it monotonous, have lessened the esteem in which practically all modern English poets have held it, and have deprived us of much noble verse. Without the salutary influence of Milton and his followers the sonnet might have been devoted largely to what Johnson termed the carving of heads upon cherry-stones. This influence has / been of the more permanent significance because, instead of being so decided as to suppress originality, it has only stimulated and given direction to it. Unlike the poems modelled upon the octosyllabics, those that have followed the sonnets are by no means slavish copies;
1 Memoir prefixed to his edition of his father's sonnets, 1875, p. xiii.
they are like children, bearing their father's features but having their own tastes and wills and living their own lives. It is safe to say, then, not only that the sonnet was reborn under the influence of Milton and for many years kept subject almost solely to him, but that from the time of its rebirth, one hundred and fifty years ago, to the very present it has carried his impress as it has that of no other poet.
THE INFLUENCE OF THE REMAINING POEMS
THE definite, tangible influence of Milton's other poems has been relatively slight. Not one of them has ever enjoyed a vogue comparable to that of the epic, the octosyllabics, or the sonnets; not one has furnished a pattern that other poets have used extensively. A mould was, to be sure, made from Lycidas by means of which some very chalky casts were turned out; but, as compared with the odes to abstractions, the sonnets, or the pieces in Miltonic blank verse, their number is negligible. This is not to minimize the inspiration that Comus, Lycidas, and Samson Agonistes have given to generations of readers and poets, the suggestions they have furnished, or the imponderable, often vague and unconscious, but none the less valuable influence they have exerted on the versification, language, imagery, and other aspects of the poet's art. But such things cannot be proved or their extent and importance estimated. All great art, like great action, makes impressions that cannot be calculated; it is only the more definite, and often more superficial, traces that we may hope to detect.
For this reason we cannot expect to separate the influence of Paradise Regained from that of Paradise Lost. Different as the two works are, it is impossible to tell, except by the subject-matter, whether a poet is following the later or the earlier one; and the subject matter of Paradise Regained was little used, -- never, I think, in a piece uninfluenced by Paradise Lost. From the almost universal preference for the epic and the remarkable frequency with which its phrases are borrowed, as well as from the expressive silence, or the occasionally-expressed indifference, in regard to its successor, the assumption seems warranted that Paradise Regained exerted a relatively unimportant influence, and that writers who employ the Miltonic style and diction derive them mainly from the account “Of man's first disobedience."
LYCIDAS Lycidas, as has been said, did furnish the pattern for a number of poems, principally of the eighteenth century. I have found some thirty-five such, very few of which attracted any contemporary
attention or are known to-day even to scholars. The features that impressed most of the imitators were that Lycidas is a pastoral on the death of a friend, that it is termed a “monody" (the English word appears to have been known in the eighteenth century only through Milton's use of it), that the lines vary in length and the rime-scheme is irregular, that several persons come to lament the dead, and that the piece ends with the departure of the shepherd who ‘sings' the elegy. The expressions “Yet once more, O ye laurels,” “Where were ye, Nymphs," "Alas! what boots it," and "Weep no more, woefu! shepherds ... For Lycidas ... is not dead,” were apt to linger in the memory, as were the references to college days and the picture of the young poet's life in heaven.
The history of the monody movement is that of the AllegroPenseroso vogue in miniature: it was of little account before 1747 or after 1800, and was at its height from 1770 to the end of the century. Although there are some borrowings from Lycidas in Robert Baron's Cyprian Academy (1647), in the Funeral Poem on Thomas Gunston which Isaac Watts wrote during 1701, in Pope's Windsor Forest (1713), and in a few other pieces, the first poem to show any significant influence from it was Colin's Despair, an Imitation of Milton's Lycidas, one of Moses Browne's “Piscatory Eclogues” (1729). The piece is pastoral but not elegiac, and the "imitation" is limited to a varying line-length, an irregular rime-scheme, a somewhat similar ending, and a few verbal borrowings.?
In 1737 Richard West, whose death called forth Gray's sonnet, composed a Monody on the Death of Queen Caroline, which takes from Lycidas its lines of different length and its arrangement of rimes, as well as a number of its phrases. Aside from these Miltonisms, to which may be added a passage reminiscent of Allegro and a line from the morning hymn of Adam and Eve curiously adapted to the queen's
i See above, p. 427.
? For example, “Yet, Oye Muses, let me once rehearse" (Eclogues, p. 74, cf. Lycidas, I); “Begin, and not ungrateful be the Verse” (74, cf. Lyc., 17); "swart Fairy-Bands" (84, cf. Lyc., 138, and Comus, 436); "the rath Hind" (84, cf. Lyc., 142). Note also “the spongy Air” (84, cf. Comus, 154) and "e'er the fled Cock rings his shrill Matin (84, cf. Allegro, 114). In later editions this eclogue is called Renock's Despair, and is much changed. For borrowings from the Vacation Exercise, Lycidas, Allegro, etc., in the other eclogues, see p. 426, n. 1, above. Browne prefixed to the volume a dedicatory poem to Bubb Dodington in Miltonic blank verse, and later wrote three other pieces in the measure (see below, Bibl. I, 1739, 1749, and App. B, 1739).
3 “Mean time thy rural ditty was not mute” (“Dodsley's Miscellany,” 1748, ii. 277, cf. Lycidas, 32); “oaten-flute” (277, cf. Lyc., 33); “Return, sad muse" (278,cf. Lyc., 132); “O honour'd flood! with reeds Pierian crown'd” (278, cf. Lyc., 85-6); “And call thy chosen sons, and bid them bring" (279, cf. Lyc., 134); “Ah me! what boots us" (279, cf. Lyc., 64).
death, the monody is of interest to-day only because a quatrain from it suggested one of the finest stanzas in Gray's Elegy."
West's lament was not published till 1748, six years after his death and one year after William Mason gave to the public his Musaeus, a Monody to the Memory of Mr. Pope, in imitation of Milton's Lycidas, which he had written in 1744. This effusion of one who came to be thought the
Harmonious Chief of Britain's living Choir,” though not so flagrant an imitation as its author's Il Bellicoso and Il Pacifico, is of the Masonic order, since it copies every outstanding feature of Milton's elegy. The contents are curious; for, after the usual pastoral lament thickly sprinkled with phrases from Lycidas, and while “all pale th' expiring Poet laid,” Chaucer, Spenser, and Milton come to comfort him. Chaucer speaks in a grotesque, ungrammatical jargon which shows how imperfectly Middle English was understood at the time; Spenser talks in a burlesque of his own language and meters; while Milton in blank verse praises the riming of the “heav'n-taught warbler! last and best of all the train!” explaining that he himself had “aim'd to destroy” the “dire chains” of rime, “hopeless that Art could ease Their thraldom.” “Thou cam'st," he exclaims,
and at thy magic touch the chains
Milton is in the midst of an astounding adaptation of one of the finest passages in Paradise Lost to the praise of Pope's tinsel grotto, when the dying poet bids him ccase, and, after speaking in heroic couplets the best lines in the monody, expires. Then follow the laments of nymphs and shepherds and an ending similar to that of Lycidas. Though revised by Gray,: praised by many, and printed
1 Compare the last five lines of section iv with Allegro, 148–50 (for another use West made of the companion poems, see p. 453 above); and the first line of section v, “These are thy glorious deeds, almighty death,” with Paradise Lost, v. 153-4. Lines 5-8 of section v,
Ah me! what boots us all our boasted power,
Nor stay the fearful violence of fate, prefigure Gray's Elegy, 33-6.
? Hayley, Essay on Epic Poetry (Dublin, 1782), 3. “That charming poet," Fanny Burney called him (Diary, May 8, 1771). 3 See above, p. 69, n. 4.