صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Regain'd, and Samson Agonistes into Latin verse in 1690 ; but this version is very unworthy of the originals. There is a better transation of the Paradise Lost by Mr. Thomas Power Fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge, the first book of which was printed in 1691, and the rest in manuscript is in the library of that College. The learned Dr. Trap has also published a tranflation into Lalin verse; and the world is in expectation of another, that will surpass all the rest, by Mr. William Dobson of New College in Oxford. So that by one means or other Milton is now consider'd as an English classic; and the Paradise Lost is generally esteemed the noblest and most sublime of modern poems, and equal at least to the best of the ancient ; the honor of this country, and the envy

and admiration of all others !

In 1670 he published his History of Britain, that part especially now called England. He began it above twenty years before, but was frequently interrupted by other avocations; and he designed to have brought it down to his own times, but stopped at the Norman conquest; for indeed he was not well able to pursue it any farther by reason of his blindness, and he was engaged in other more delightful studies; having a genius turned for poetry rather than history. When his history was printed, it was not printed perfect and entire; for the licencer expunged several paltages, which reflecting upon the pride and superstion of the Monks in the Saxon times, were understood as a concealed satir upon the Bishops in Charles the Second's reign. But the author himself gave a copy of his unlicenced papers to the Earl of Anglelea, who, as well as several of the nobility and gen

try,

try, constantly visited him : and in 1681 a confiderable passage, which had been suppressed at the beginning of the third book, was published, containing a character of the Long Parlament and Assembly of Divines in 1641, which was inserted in its proper place in the last edition of 1738. Bishop Kennet begins his Complete History of England with this work of Milton, as being the best draught, the clearest and most authentic account of those early times : and his file is freer and easier than in most of his other works, more plain and simple, less figurative and metaphorical, and better suited to the nature of history, has enough of the Latin turn and idiom to give it an air of antiquity, and sometimes rises to a surprising dignity and majesty.

In 1670 likewise his Paradise Regain’d and Samson Agonistes were licenced together, but were not published till the year following. It is someu hat remarkable, that these two poems were not printed by Simmons, the same who printed the Paradise Lost, but by J. M. for one Starkey in Fleetstrect : and what could induce Milton to have recourse to another printer? was it because the former was not enough encouraged by the sale of Paradise Loft to become a purchaser of the other copies? The first thought of Paradise Regain’d was owing to Elwood the quaker, as he himself relates the occasion in the history of his life. When Milton had lent him the inanu. script of Paradise Lost at St. Giles Chalfont, as we said before, and he returned it, Milton asked him how he liked it, and what he thought of it: “ Which “ I modestly, but freely told him, lays Elwood; and " after some further discourse about it, I pleasantly " said to him, Thou hast said much of Paradise

e 3

“ Loft,

Loft, but what hast thou to say of Paradise Found ? " He made me no answer, but sat some time in a iš muse; then broke off that discourse, and fell up“ on another subject.” When Elwood afterwards waited upon him in London, Milton showed him his Paradise Regain’d, and in a pleasant tone faid to him, " This is owing to You, for You put it into

my head by the question You put me at Chalfont, « which before I had not thought of.” It is commonly reported, that Milton himself preferred this poem to the Paradise Loft; but all that we can alsert upon good authority is, that he could not indure to hear this poem cried down so much as it was, in comparison with the other. For certainly it is very worthy of the author, and contrary to what Mr. Toland relates, Milton may be seen in Paradise Regain'd as well as in Paradise Lost, if it is inferior in

poetry, I know not whether it is not superior in sentiment ; if it is less descriptive, it is more argumentative; if it doth not sometimes rise fo high, neither doth it ever fink so low; and it has not met with the approbation it deserves, only because it has not been more read and confidered. His subject indeed is confined, and he has a narrow foundation to build upon; but he has raised as noble a fuperftru&ure, as such little room and such scanty materials would allow. The great beauty of it is the contrast between the two characiers of the Tempter and our Saviour, the artful fophiftry and fpecious infinuations of the one refuted by the strong sense and manly cloquence of the other. This poem has also been tranflated into French together with fome other pieces of Milton, Lycidas, L'Allegro, Il Penseroío, and the Ode on Christ's nativity, and in 1732 was printed a Critical

Ditter,

Differtation with notes upon Paradise Regain’d, pointing out the beauties of it, and written by Mr. Meadowcourt, Canon of Worcester : and the very learned and ingenious Mr. Jortin has added fome observations

upon

this work at the end of his excellent Remarks upon Spenfer, published in 1734: and indeed this

poem of Milton, to be more admired, needs only to be better known. His Samson Agonistes is the only tragedy that he has finished, tho' he has sketched out the plans of several, and proposed the subjects of more, in his manuscript preserved in Trinity College library: and we may suppose that he was determined to the choice of this particular subject by the similitude of his own circumstances to those of Samson blind and among the Philistines. This I conceive to be the last of his poetical pieces; and it is written in the very spirit of the Ancients, and equals, if not exceeds, any of the most perfect tragedies, which were ever exhibited on the Athenian Tage, when Greece was in its glory. As this work was never intended for the stage, the division into acts and scenes is omitted. Bishop Atterbury had an intention of getting Mr Pope to divide it into acts and scenes, and of having it acted by the King's Scholars at Westminster: but his commitment to the Tower put an end to that design. It has fince been brought upon the stage in the form of an Oratorio; and Mr. Handel's music is never employed to greater advantage, than when it is adapted to Milton's words. That great artist has done equal justice to our author's L'Allegro and I1 Penferoso, as if the fame fpirit poffeffed both masters, and as if the God of mulic and of verse was still one and the same. There are also some other pieces of Milton, for he

e 4

con

continued publishing to the last. In 1672 he puhlithed Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio ad Petri Rami methodum concinnata, an Institution of Logic after the method of Petrus Ramus; and the

year

following, a treatise of true Religion, and the best means to prevent the growth of popery, which had greatly increased thro' the connivance of the King, and the more open encouragement of the Duke of York ; and the same year his poems, which had been printcd in 1645, were reprinted with the addition of reveral others. His familiar epistles, and some academical exercises, Epistolarum familiarum Lib. I. ei Prolusiones quædam Oratoriæ in Collegio Christi habitæ, were printed in 1674; as was also his tranflation out of Latin into English of the Poles Declaration concerning the election of their King John III, setting forth the virtues and merits of that prince. He wrote also a brief History of Muscovy, collected from the relations of several travellers; but it was not printed till after his death in 1682. He had likewise his state-letters transcribed at the request of the Danith resident, but neither were they printed till after his death in 1676, and were tranllated into English in 1694 ; and to that translation a life of Milton was prefixed by his nephew Mr. Edward Philips, and at the end of that life his excellent sonners to Fairfax, Cromwell, Sir Henry Vane, and Cyriac Skinner, on his blindness were first printed. Besides these works which were published, he wrote his system of divinity, which Mr. Toland says was in the hands of his friend Cyriac Skinner, but where at present is uncertain. And Mr. Philips says, that he had prepared for the press an answer to fome little scribbling quack in London, who had written a fcurrilous libel a

gainst

« السابقةمتابعة »