« السابقةمتابعة »
the melancholy man, but of a very different order; the solemn sounds that murmur through old abbeys; not the rebeck, but the organ ; not the merry sounds of the cheerful dancers, but the solemn choristers in the old and vast cathedral.
“But let my due feet never fail
And may at last my weary age
These pleasures, Melancholy, give,
Dr. Johnson calls these pieces “two noble efforts of the imagination.” Almost every line
is a picture; and by ordinary readers they will perhaps be more readily perused than the more august and exalted strains of the poet. They are both portraits of temperaments entirely individual; they are “silent, solitary inhabitants of the breast; they neither receive nor transmit communication : no mention is therefore made of a philosophical friend, or a pleasant companion. The seriousness does not arise from any participation of calamity, nor the gaiety from the pleasures of the bottle."*
Mr. Todd quotes a fine letter from that accomplished scholar, Sir William Jones, to Lady Spenser, dated Oxford, September 7th, 1769. It seems from it, that it was his opinion that we are indebted, not to Horton, but to Forest Hill, for his descriptive pictures of the country. It was written during the celebrated Garrick Jubilee, in honour of Shakspeare, at Stratfordupon-Avon, and is interesting for many reasons : we will therefore cite it here.
“ The necessary trouble of correcting the first printed sheets of my history, prevented me to-day from paying a proper respect to the memory of Shakspeare, by attending his jubilee. But I was resolved to do all the honour in my power to so great a poet ; and set out in the morning, in company with a friend, to visit a place where Milton spent some part of his life, and where, in all probability, he had composed some of his earliest productions. It is a small village on a pleasant hill, about three miles from Oxford, called Forest Hill, because it formerly lay contiguous to a forest, which has since been cut down. The poet chose this place of retirement after his first marriage, and he describes the beauties of his retreat in that fine passage of his L'Allegro :
* Johnson's Life of Milton, Lives of Poets.
“« Sometimes walking, not unseen,
By hedge-row elms, or hillocks green,-
“It was neither the proper season of the year, nor time of the day, to hear all the rural sounds, and see all the objects mentioned in this description ; but, by a pleasing concurrence of circumstances, we were saluted, on our approach to the village, with the music of the mower and his scythe: we saw the ploughman
intent upon his labonr, and the milk-maid returning from her country employment.
“As we ascended the hill, the variety of beautiful objects, the agreeable stillness and natural simplicity of the whole scene, gave us the highest pleasure. We at length reached the spot whence Milton undoubtedly took most of his images ; it is on the top of the hill, from which there is a most extensive prospect on all sides : the distant mountains that seemed to support the clouds, the villages and turrets, partly shaded with trees of the finest verdure, and partly raised above the groves that surrounded them, the dark plains and meadows of a greyish colour, where the sheep were feeding at large ; in short, the view of the streams and rivers convinced us that there was not a single useless or idle word in the above-mentioned description ; but that it was a most exact and lively representation of nature. Thus will this fine passage, which has always been admired for its elegance, receive an additional beauty from its exactness. After we. had walked, with a kind of poetical enthusiasm, over this enchanted ground, we returned to the village.
“ The poet's house was close to the church ; the greatest part of it has been pulled down ; and what remains belongs to an adjacent farm.
I am informed that several papers, in Milton's own hand, were found by the gentleman who was last in possession of the estate. The tradition of his having lived there is current among the villagers : one of them shewed us a ruinous wall that made part of the chamber. I was much pleased with another, who had forgotten the name of Milton, but recollected him by the title of “The Poet.'
“It must not be omitted that the groves near this village are famous for nightingales, which are so elegantly described in the Penseroso. Most of the cottage windows are overgrown with sweet-briers, vines, and honey-suckles ; and that Milton's habitation had the same rustic ornament, we may conclude from the description of the lark bidding him goodmorrow'—
for it is evident he meant a sort of honeysuckle by the eglantine, though that word is commonly used for the sweet-brier, which he could not mention twice in the same couplet.
“If ever I pass a month or six weeks at Oxford, in the summer, I shall be inclined to hire