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Anno ætatis 17. On the death of a fair infant, dying of a cough.


O FAIREST flow'r no sooner blown but blasted,
Soft silken primrose fading timelessly,

Summer's chief honour, if thou hadst out-lasted
Bleak Winter's force that made thy blossom dry;
For he being amorous on that lovely dye

That did thy cheek envermeil, thought to kiss,
But kill'd, alas, and then bewail'd his fatal bliss.

This elegy was not inserted in the first edition of the author's poems printed in 1645, but was added in the second edition printed in 1673. It was composed in the year 1625, that being the seventeenth year of Milton's age. In some editions the title runs thus, On the death of a fair infant, a nephew of his, dying of a cough: but the sequel


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For since grim Aquilo his charioteer

By boist'rous rape th' Athenian damsel got,
He thought it touch'd his deity full near,
If likewise he some fair one wedded not,
Thereby to wipe away th' infamous blot

Of long-uncoupled bed, and childless eld,
Which 'mongst the wanton Gods a foul reproach was held.
So mounting up in icy-pearled car,
Through middle empire of the freezing air
He wander'd long, till thee he spied from far;

Copied probably from this verse in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis,

He thought to kiss him, and hath kill'd him so.

8. For since grim Aquilo &c.] Boreas or Aquilo carried off by force Orithyia daughter of Erectheus king of Athens, Ovid, Met. vi. fab. 9. as she crossed over the river Ilissus, (as Apollodorus says, lib. 3.) that is, she was drowned in a high wind crossing that river. Richardson.

12. -th' infamous blot Of long-uncoupled bed, and childless eld, &c.] The author probably pronounced infamous with the middle syllable long as it is in Latin. Eld is old age, a word used in innumerable places of Spenser and our old writers. And in saying that long-uncoupled bed and childless eld was held a reproach among the wanton Gods, the poet seems to allude particularly to the ease



of Pluto, as reported by Claudian. De Rapt. Pros. i. 32.

Dux Erebi quondam tumidas exarsit
in iras

Prælia moturus superis, quod solus
Connubii, sterilesque diu consumeret
Impatiens nescire torum, nullasque
Illecebras, nec dulce patris cognos-

cere nomen.

15. So mounting up in icypearled car] We should rather read ice-ypearled. And so in the Mask, v. 890. rush-yfringed. Otherwise we have two epithets instead of one, with a weaker sense. Milton himself affords an

instance in the Ode on The Nativity, v. 155.

Yet first to those ychain'd in sleep. Of the prefixture of y, in a concatenated epithet there is an example in the Epitaph on Shakespeare, v. 4.

Under a star-ypointing pyramid.
T. Warton.

There ended was his quest, there ceas'd his care.
Down he descended from his snow-soft chair,
But all unwares with his cold-kind embrace
Unhous'd thy virgin soul from her fair biding place.
Yet art thou not inglorious in thy fate;
For so Apollo, with unweeting hand,
Whilome did slay his dearly-loved mate,
Young Hyacinth born on Eurotas' strand,
Young Hyacinth the pride of Spartan land;

But then transform'd him to a purple flower;
Alack that so to change thee Winter had no power.

Yet can I not persuade me thou art dead,

Or that thy corse corrupts in earth's dark womb,
Or that thy beauties lie in wormy bed,
Hid from the world in a low delved tomb;
Could Heav'n for pity thee so strictly doom?

Oh no! for something in thy face did shine
Above mortality, that show'd thou wast divine.
Resolve me then, oh Soul most surely blest,
(If so it be that thou these plaints dost hear,)

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And in Spenser's Astrophel, st. 48.

Ah no! it is not dead, ne can it die, But lives for aye in blissful Paradise, &c.

The fine periphrasis for grave in v. 31. is from Shakespeare, Mids. N. Dr. a. iii. s. ult.

Already to their wormy beds are gone.
T. Warton.

Tell me bright Spirit where'er thou hoverest,
Whether above that high first-moving sphere,
Or in th' Elysian fields, (if such there were,)
Oh say me true, if thou wert mortal wight,
And why from us so quickly thou didst take thy flight.

Wert thou some star which from the ruin'd roof
Of shak'd Olympus by mischance didst fall;
Which careful Jove in nature's true behoof
Took up, and in fit place did reinstall?
Or did of late earth's sons besiege the wall

Of sheeny heav'n, and thou some goddess fled
Amongst us here below to hide thy nectar'd head?

Or wert thou that just Maid who once before

38. Tell me bright Spirit where'er thou hoverest, Whether above, &c.] These hypothetical questions are like those in Lycidas, "Whether "beyond the stormy Hebrides, "&c." v. 156. originally from Virgil, Georg. i. 32. Anne novum tardis sidus te mensibus

addas, &c.

T. Warton.

39.-that high first-moving sphere,] The primum mobile, that first moved as he calls it, Paradise Lost, iii. 483. where see the note.

40. if such there were.] He should have said are, if the rhyme had permitted. Hurd.

44. Of shak'd Olympus] For shaken. In Cymbeline, a. ii. s. 2. A sly, and constant knave, not to be shak'd

T. Warton.




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Forsook the hated earth, O tell me sooth,
And cam❜st again to visit us once more?
Or wert thou that sweet smiling Youth?
Or that crown'd matron sage white-robed Truth?

Or any other of that heav'nly brood


Let down in cloudy throne to do the world some good?

Or wert thou of the golden-winged host,
Who having clad thyself in human weed,
To earth from thy prefixed seat didst post,
And after short abode fly back with speed,

offended with the crimes of men forsook the earth. Ovid, Met. i. 150.

Ultima cœlestum terras Astrea reliquit.

53.-that sweet smiling Youth?] At first I imagined that the author meant Hebe, in Latin Juventa, or Youth. And Mr. Jortin communicated the following note. "A word of two syllables is


wanting to fill up the measure "of the verse. It is easy to "find such a word, but impos"sible to determine what word "Milton would have inserted. "He uses Youth in the feminine


gender, as the Latins some"times use juvenis, and by this "fair youth he probably means "the Goddess Hebe, who was " also called Juventas or Ju

"venta." But others have proposed to fill up the verse thus,

Or wert thou Mercy that sweet smiling youth?

For Mercy is often joined with
Justice and Truth, as in the
Hymn on the Nativity, st. 15.

Yea Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,


Orb'd in a rainbow; and like glories


Mercy will sit between &c.

And Mercy is not unfitly represented as a sweet smiling youth, this age being the most susceptible of the tender passions.

53. The late Mr. John Heskin, of Ch. Ch. Oxford, who published an elegant edition of Bion and Moschus, was the author both of this ingenious conjecture and of the reasons for it in the preceding note. T. Warton.

57. Or wert thou of the goldenwinged host.] Mr. Bowle cites Spenser's Hymne of Heavenlie


-Bright Cherubins Which all with golden wings are overdight.

And Spenser's Heavenly Love has golden wings. Tasso thus describes Gabriel's wings, Gier. Lib. i. 14.

Ali bianche vestì ch' han d' or le cime.

See Il Penseroso, v. 52. T. Warton.

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