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most of his power, the rare abilities, and perhaps the still rarer integrity, of Milton. It may
be said, that the truly eloquent and splendid encomium, which he has bestowed on the great work of the poet, ought to exempt him from such a charge. The singular beauties and effect of this eulogy shall be mentioned in the proper place, and with all the applause they merit; but here it is just to recollect, that the praise of the encomiast is nearly confined to the sentence he passes as a critic; his more diffusive detraction may be traced in almost every page of the biographer: not to encounter it on its first appearance, and wherever it is visible and important,' would be to fail in that justice and regard towards the character of Milton, which, he, perhaps, of all men, has most eminently deserved.
In the preceding citation it is evidently the purpose of Dr. Johnson to degrade Milton below Cowley, and many other poets distinguished by juvenile compositions; but Mr. Warton has, with great taste and judgment, exposed the error of Johnson, in
ferring the Latin poetry of Cowley to that of Milton. An eminent foreign critic has bestowed that high praise on the juvenile productions of our author, which his preju. diced countryman is inclined to deny. Mor, hoff has affirmed, with equal truth and liberality, that the verses, which Milton produced in his childhood, discover both the fire and judgment of maturer life : a commendation that no impartial reader will be inclined to extenuate, who peruses the spirited epistle to his exiled preceptor, composed in his eighteenth year.
Some of his English verses bear an earlier date. The first of his juvenile prox ductions, in the language which he was destined to ennoble, is a paraphrase of the hundred and fourteenth psalm ; it was executed at the age of fifteen, and discovers a power, that Dryden, and other more presumptuous critics, have unjustly denied to Milton, the power of moving with facility in the fetters of rhyme : this power is still more conspicuous in the poem he wrote at the age of seventeen, on the death of his sister's child; a
composition peculiarly entitled to the notice of those, who love to contemplate the early dawn of poetical genius. In this performance, puerile, as it is in every sense of the word, the intelligent reader may yet discern as in the bud, all the striking characteristics of Milton ; his affectionate sensibility, his superior imagination, and all that native tendency to devotional enthusiasm,
Which sets the heart on fire,
Admirably trained as the youth of the poet was ' to acquire academical honor by the union of industry and talents, he seems to have experienced at Cambridge a chequered fortune, very similar to his destiny in the world. It appears from some remarkable passages in the Latin exercises, which he recited in his College, that he was at first an object of partial severity, and afterwards
general admiration. He had differed in opinion concerning a plan of academical studies with some persons of authority in
his college, and thus excited their displeasure. He speaks of them as highly incensed against him ; but expresses, with the most liberal sensibility, his surprise, delight, and gratitude, in finding that his enemies forgot their animosity to honor him with unexpected applause.
An idle story has been circulated concerning his treatment in College. “I am ashamed,” says Dr. Johnson, “to relate what I fear is true, that Milton was the last student in either University that suffered the public indignity of corporal punishment. In confirmation of this incident, which appears improbable, though supported by Mr. Warton, the biographical critic alledges the following passage from the first Elegy;
Jam nec arundiferum mihi cura revisere Camum,
Nec dudum vetiti me laris angit amor; Nec duri libet usque minas perferre magistri,
.Cæteraque ingenio non subeunda meo.
Nor zeal nor duty now my steps impel
'Tis time that I a pedant's threats disdain,
Dr. Johnson considers these expressions as an absolute proof, that Milton was obliged to undergo this indignity ; but they may suggest a very different idea. From all the light we can obtain concerning this anecdote, it seems most probable, that Milton was threatened, indeed, with what he considered as a punishment, not only dishonorable but unmerited; that his manly spirit disdained to submit to it; and that he was therefore obliged to acquiesce in a short exile from Cambridge.
In speaking of his academical life, it is necessary to obviate another remark of a similar tendency
“ There is reason,” says Johnson, “to suspect that he was regarded in his college with no great fondness.” To counteract this invidious insinuation we are furnished with a reply, made by Milton himself, to this very calumny, originally fabricated by one of his contemporaries; a calumny,which