Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

But I haften to give the reader an account of my design and conduct, and of what he is to expect, in this edition.

My volume exhibits those poems of Milton, of which a fecond edition, with some Nender additions, appeared in 1673, while the author was yet living, under the title, “ Poems upon several " occasions, by Mr. John Milton. Both English " and Latin, &c. Composed at several times." In this collection our author did not include his PARADISE REGAINED and SAMSON AGONISTES, as some later editors have, perhaps improperly, done. Those two pieces, forming a single volume by themselves, had just before been printed together, in 1671. Milton here intended only an edition of his Juvenile Poems: and to this plan the present edition is confined, except only that two or three Latin epigrams, and a few petty fragments of translation selected from the prose works, are admitted.

The chief purpose of the Notes is to explain our author's allusions, to illustrate or to vindicate his beauties, to point out his imitations both of others and of himself, to elucidate his obsolete diction, and by the adduction and juxtaposition of parallels universally gleaned both from his poetry and prose, to ascertain his favourite words, and to shew the peculiarities of his phraseology. And thus some of the Notes, those I mean which relate to his imitations of himself, and to his language, have a more general effect, and are applicable to all Milton's writings.

C 2

Among Among the English poets, those readers who trust to the late commentators will be led to believe, that our author imitated Spenser and Shakespeare only. But his style, expression, and more extensive combinations of diction, together with many of his thoughts, are also to be traced in other English poets, who were either his contemporaries or predecessors, and of whom many are now not commonly known. Of this it has been a part of my task to produce proofs. Nor have his imitations from Spenser and Shakespeare been hitherto sufficiently noted.

When Milton wrote these poems, many tradi

, tionary superstitions, not yet worn out in the popular belief, adhered to the poetry of the times, Romances and fabulous narratives were still in fashion, and not yet driven away by puritans and usurpers. To ideas of this fort, and they corres, ponded with the complexion of his genius, allufions often appear even in Milton's elder poetry : but it was natural that they should be found at least as largely in his early pieces, which were professedly written in a lighter strain, at a period when they more universally prevailed, and were more likely to be caught by a young poet. Much imagery in these poems is founded on this source of fiction. Hence arose obscurities, which have been overlooked or misinterpreted : and thus the force of many strikingly poetical passages has been weakened or unperceived, because their origin was

unknown

unknown, unexplored, or misunderstood. Coeval books, which might clear such references, were therefore to be consulted; and a new line of commentary was to be pursued. Comparatively, the claffical annotator has here but little to do. Doctor Newton, an excellent scholar, was unacquainted with the treasures of the Gothic library. From his more solid and rational studies, he never deviated into this idle track of reading. Milton, at least in these poems, may be reckoned an old English poet; and therefore here requires that illustration, withou which no old English poet can be well illustrated.

Hitherto I have been speaking of the Notes to the English poems. As to those on the POEMATA LATINA, of which something has already been incidentally said, they may have their use in unfolding many passages even to the learned reader. These pieces contain several curious circumstances of Milton's early life, fituations, friendships, and connections; which are often so transiently or implicitly noticed, as to need examination and enlargement. It also seemed useful to Thew, which of the antient Roman poets were here Milton's models, and how far and in what instances they have been copied. Here a new source of criticism on Milton, and which displays him in a new light and character, was opened. That English notes are joined with a Latin text, may be censured as an inconsistency, or as an arbitrary departure from the customary practice. But I know not any satisfactory reason, why books in a learned or unfamiliar

language

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

language fhould be always explained in a language equally difficult.

It was no part of my plan to add to my own the Notes of my predecessors. Perhaps it has happened, that some of my remarks have been anticipated by doctor Newton and others. Such coincidencies are accidental and undesigned. I have been favoured with a few Notes by Mr. Bowle, the learned and ingenious publisher of Don Quixote, extracted from his interleaved copy of Milton's second edition of these poems. A few others have been communicated by my brother; and I am convinced that my reader will concur with me in wishing, that his indispensable engagements would have permitted him to communicate many more. These valuable contributions are constantly marked with the names of their respective authors.

Although not immediately connected with its contents, it was my intention to have enriched this publication with a copy of Milton's Will. But I have been disappointed. It is not to be found in the Prerogative Office, where it had been long ago fought in vain by the industrious Oldys, and the late Mr. Hollis. But here, as Milton died possessed only of a small fortune in Middlesex, it never could have been properly lodged. If any where, it was to be discovered among the records of the bishoprick of London. But it does not appear in the epifcopal books, nor in the archives of the chapterhoufe of faint Paul's, nor in any registry belong

a

[ocr errors]

ing to the diocese. For this search, which was very tedious and intricate, I acknowledge myself much obliged to the polite attention and indefati. gable perseverance of Mr. Jenner, proctor of the Commons, and commissary of faint Paul's. The inquiry however, if unsuccessful, has ascertained one important point, which is that no such curiofity at prefent exists; and it may therefore prevent the trouble of all future inquiries. Our author probably left a Will, as he is said to have bequeathed fifteen hundred pounds to his wife and daughters, having fold his library. But in such proscriptive abhorrence was Milton held, a man who had been so eminently obnoxious to the interests of the church and the regal family now newly restored to their injured rights, that when an opportunity was offered, whatever might serve in any kind or degree to perpetuate his name or memory, would naturally be treated with contempt : and it is therefore probable, however unjuftifiable and uncharitable, that his Will was never allowed the privilege of admittance into a public ecclefiaftical repository, or, if admitted, that it was easily suffered to be suppressed. Comus and the PARADISE LOST could not on this occasion apologise for the defender of the king's murther. The violence of political prejudice, exulting in the recent recovery of the power of retaliation, , was not to be softened by the fascinations of fancy. But the jealous partisans of the Restoration little suspected that an age would arrive, in which their old antagonist would again triumph:

that

« ZurückWeiter »