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welcome guest at their “academies,” as the reunions of the learned were then termed. We can conceive the rapture with which he felt himself in the city of Dante, perused the masterpieces of Italian art, gazed on the beautiful environs of the city, and, above all, mingled for the first time, to any full measure, in the society of men of kindred tastes and feelings. Of these, Dati wrote a Latin eulogy on him, and Francini an Italian ode in his praise, and Malatesti dedicated to him one of his works. At this time, too, occurred his celebrated interview with Galileo, then in the dungeons of the Inquisition; surely another theme for the noblest pencil—the meeting of Italy's old savan and England's young genius, the grayhaired sage, each wrinkle on his forehead the furrow of a star, and the “Lady of his College,” with his long curling locks, and a dream of Eden sleeping on his smooth brow; while the dim twilight of the cell, spotted by the fierce eyes of the officials, seemed the age too late or too early on which both had fallen—a meeting like that of Morning with her one star, and day in the distance, and of Midnight, with all her melancholy maturity and host of diminished suns. From Florence he went by way of Sienna to Rome, where other and yet rarer thrills of delight awaited him. Although few if any allusions to the works of Italian statuary, painting, or architecture occur in his writings; and although some of his commentators have in vain sought to find traces of resemblance between some great Italian pictures and certain scenes in his “Paradise Lost,” there can be no doubt that a mind so susceptible as his, drank in influence and inspiration from the sculptures, the paintings, and buildings of the Eternal City, from the dome of St Peter's seen by morning light, and from the ruins of Mount Palatine dim-discovered in the midnight moon. Michael Angelo, like Dante, was of a genius kindred to Milton's own—stern, lofty, ever covered by the shadow of the Infinite; and it were treason against both to suppose that the one was not enchanted by the productions of the other. At Rome, as at Florence, he was treated with the utmost consideration, particularly by Holstenius, the keeper of the Vatican library; by Cardinal Barberini, the patron cardinal of the English; and by Salvaggi and Salsilli, who praised his powers and learning in verses which were afterwards prefixed to his Latin poems. From Rome, after two months' stay, he proceeded to Naples in the company of a religious recluse, who introduced him to John Baptista Manso, the Marquis of Villa. This eminent person had been the patron of Tasso, and received with open arms a far greater than he. Such were his attentions to Milton that, in gratitude, on his departure from Naples, he presented him with his elegant eclogue entitled “Mansus,” a poem well calculated, by even Dr Johnson's confession, to raise in the noble Italian a very high opinion of English taste and literature. Manso, in his turn, addressed a complimentary distich to Milton. From Naples he intended to have proceeded to Sicily and Greece. How he must have regretted, and how much we also may, that he had not fulfilled his intention—not seen with that anointed and anointing eye of his—
“Etna's fires grow dim before the rising day”—
the vale of Tempe, the pastures of Peneus, the heights of Parnassus, the unmelted snows of Olympus, the gray plain of Marathon, and the marvellous combination of natural and artistic beauties which gathers round the city of Athens; nay, that he had not extended his tour eastwards to those awful lands which must far oftener have visited his dreams, where Siloa's brook still flows, where Olivet still looks down on the Holy City, and the scathed summits of Sinai tower into the torrid air as boldly as on that morning when the Ancient of Days descended on them 1 But he had heard of the great controversy which was raging in his native country, and this drew him back from what had been the cherished purpose of his soul. “I thought it base,” he says, “to be travelling for amusement abroad while my fellow-citizens were fighting for liberty at home.” And with probably a few natural sighs and wistful looks cast to the east, he turned his steps and went back to Rome. His language, while in that city before, on the subject of religion, had been fearless and outspoken. This had made him enemies, and had restrained the kindness of friends. He was now warned that the Jesuits were framing plots against him, and that if he would escape their malice he must “keep his thoughts close and his countenance open.” Such warnings and advices he did not regard, but continued two more months in Rome, and altered in no whit either his conduct or his language. From Rome he proceeded again to Florence, and then visited Lucca. He next crossed the Apennines, and went by Bologna and Ferrara to Venice, in which city he spent a month; thence he took his course through Verona, Milan, and along the lake Leman, to Geneva. In this part of his journey he, of course, saw the Alps; and the eye of Milton, looking at the dome of Mont Blanc, must itself have been a sight. After spending some time in Geneva, where he became intimate with Deodati and Spanheim, he returned through France, and arrived at home after fifteen months' absence. During that time, the scenery and manners with which he came in contact were silently and unalterably daguerreotyping themselves upon his mind; but it is even more important to observe that, according to his own express and solemn statement, he came back as he had gone out, a virgin, free of all taint from the licentious lands he had traversed. Art alone could not thus have preserved her votary, however ardent and sincere—Religion only could. Returned to London, he hired a lodging in St Bride's Churchyard, Fleet Street, and undertook the education of his sister's sons, John and Edward Phillipps, the first ten, the other nine years of age; and in a year's time made them capable of interpreting a Latin author at sight! From Fleet Street, finding his house not large enough, he passed to Aldersgate Street, where he took a commodious and handsome house, situated at the end of an entry, and in a garden, and received a few more pupils besides his nephews. It has been objected to him that, instead of taking public part in the grand struggle of the age, he should have sunk down into a schoolmaster. Milton was himself the best judge. He felt that he could serve the popular cause better by his pen than by his sword. He sate calmly down, therefore, to write down every species of arbitrary power, and supported himself b
honourably the while by teaching a school. In this we see no disgrace and no cowardice; but, on the contrary, recognise in it the conduct of a man as brave and honest as he was wise.
The mode of education he established was strict and peculiar. Occasionally, however, he relaxed in the hard study and spare diet which he had allotted to his pupils and himself; and spent with them a general day of harmless enjoyment in the country. In 1641, he published his Treatise on Reformation, in two books, strongly and eloquently defending the Puritanic side. He was moved to this the more, that he knew that the Puritans were inferior in learning to their opponents. His opinions on the controverted questions had been made up long before. The accession of such a man to the party of the movement, was of the utmost importance. Its other writers had courage, determination, and talent; but Milton and Howe alone had genius; and Milton had, what Howe wanted, the ear of Europe and an imperial command over the purest Latinity, to which only that ear was then willing to hearken. This treatise, indeed, was in English, but contained some of the most magnificent passages of prose in the language—passages, according to Coleridge, as distinctly prophetic of the “Paradise Lost,” as the red clouds of dawn are of the rising of the sun. In the same year, he issued, in reply to Bishop Usher's Confutation of Smectymnuus, a treatise of Prelatical Episcopacy. Usher, that “great luminary of the Irish Church,” as Dr Johnson calls him, had at last met his match, not perhaps to the full in learning, but certainly in fervid sincerity, acute intellect, and powerful eloquence. One is reminded of Milton's own—
“Two black clouds
Hovering a space, till winds the signal blow,
We cannot add, however, in this case, although Johnson does in another, that “Hell grew darker at their frown.” Milton treats Usher, on the whole, respectfully, and compliments him on his learning, in his next publication. That was the Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy, and it was followed by Animadversions on Bishop Hall's Defence of the Humble Remonstrance. In the former occurs the celebrated passage in which he announces his intention of writing a Heroic Poem, “not to be raised from the heat of youth or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amorist, or the trencher fury of a riming parasite, nor to be obtained by the invocation of Dame Memory and her siren daughters; but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases.” He finally closed this controversy with an Apology for Smectymnuus, confessing ingenuously, however, that he was “led by the genial power of nature to another task;” and that in this he had but the “use, as it were, of his left hand.” He panted for beholding the “bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies,” and had yet long enough to pant.
Hitherto, Milton had remained alone—and his life, on the whole, had been a monologue. He was now to enter upon the married state. About Whitsuntide 1643, when he had reached his thirty-fifth year, he, to use the words of his nephew, Phillipps, “took a journey into the country, nobody about him certainly knowing the reason, or that it was more than a journey of recreation, till after a month's stay, home he returns a married man, that went out a bachelor.” His bride was Mary, the eldest daughter of Mr Powell, formerly mentioned as a squire residing at Forest Hill. Hastily got up, this match turned out miserably ill; contradicting for once the common notion that marriages made in middle life are the happiest. His wife seems to have been a gay, commonplace girl, fond of dancing and other trifling amusements—in short, the last person fitted to be the companion of an austere and lofty-souled scholar like Milton. At the end of a month, wearied with the monotony of his life, terrified at the statuesque precision of his habits and character, and sighing after the parties and pleasures of the gay corner from which she came, under pretext of a visit to her friends, she