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The Mask was presented in 1634, and confequently in the 26th year of our author's age. In the title page of the first edition printed in 1637, it is faid that it was presented on Michaelmas night, and there was this motto,
Eheu quid volui mifero mihi! floribus auftrum
In this edition, and in that of Milton's poems in 1645, there was prefixed to the Mask the following dedication.
To the Right Honorable
JOHN Lord Vicount BRACKLY fon and heir apparent to the Earl of BRIDGEWATER &C.
THIS poem, which received its firft occafion of
birth from yourself and others of your noble family, and much honor from your own perfon in the performance, now returns again to make a final dedication of itself to you. Although not openly acknowledg'd by the author, yet it is a legitimate ofspring, fo lovely, and so much desired, that the often copying of it hath tir'd my pen to give my several friends fatisfaction, and brought me to a neceffity of producing it to the public view; and now to offer it up in all rightful devotion to thofe fair hopes, and rare endowments of your much promifing youth,
which give a full affurance, to all that know you, of a future excellence. Live fweet Lord to be the honor of your name, and receive this as your own, from the hands of him, who hath by many favors been long oblig❜d to your moft honor'd parents, and as in this representation your attendent Thyrfis, fo now in all real expression
Your faithful and most
In the edition of 1645 was also prefixed Sir Henry Wotton's letter to the author upon the following poem: but as we have inferted it in the Life of Milton, there is no occafion to repeat it here..
A M MAS K.
The firft fcene difcovers a wild wood.
The attendent Spirit defcends or enters.
EFORE the ftarry threshold of Jove's court
My manfion is, where those immortal shapes Of bright aereal Spirits live infpher'd
In regions mild of calm and ferene air,
Milton feems in this poem to have imitated Shakespear's manner more than in any other of his works; and it was very natural for a young author preparing a piece for the ftage to propofe to himself for a pattern the most celebrated master of English dramatic poetry.
Milton has here more profeffedly imitated the manner of Shakespear in his faery scenes than in any other of his works: and his poem is much the better for it, not only for the beauty variety and novelty of his images, but for a brighter vein of poetry, and an ease and delicacy of expreffion very fuperior to his natural manner. Warburton.
1. Before the ftarry threshold &c] This character of the attendent Spirit is formed upon that of Ariel in the Tempeft, but very much highten'd and improv❜d by Milton, who was well acquainted with the Platonic notions of Spirits or Demons; and in Milton's Manufcript this perfonage is intitled a Guardian Spirit
4. In regions mild of calm and ferene air, ] Alluding probably to Homer's happy feats of the Gods. Odyff. VI. 42.
· ὅθι Φασι θεων εδο ασφαλές αιαι Εμμεναι στ' ανεμοισι τινάσσεται, ετε ποτ' ομο βρω
Δίνεται, ότε χιων επιπιλναται άλλα μαλ' сорт
Πεπλαται αννέφελα, λάκη επιδεδομεν αιγλη.
Which verfes Lucretius has excellently copied.
Apparet Divûm numen, fedefque quietæ ; Quas neque concutiunt venti, neque nubila nimbis
Adfpergunt; neque nix acri concreta pruina Cana cadens violat; femperque innubilus æther
Integit, et large diffufo lumine ridet.
Amidst th' Hefperian gardens, on whose
Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot,
Which men call Earth, and with low thoughted care
Eternal rofes grow, and hyacinth,
And fruits of golden rind, on whose fair tree
Yet thence I come, and oft from thence be-
The fmoke and ftir of this dim narrow spot
These lines, I think, may ferve as a fpecimen
of the truth of what Waller says,
Poets lofe half the praise they should have
Could it be known what they difcreetly blot.
I am still inclin'd to think that this line is better omitted. For though it may not be a fault in itself to
Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being, yet it certainly is so to strive to keep it up
Unmindful of the crown that virtue gives: and he could not have added
the crown that virtue gives After this mortal change
That opes the palace of eternity:
I would not foil these pure ambrofial weeds
But to my task. Neptune befides the fway
if he had faid juft before
Beyond the written date of mortal change: and therefore I cannot but think that he blotted out this line not without reason.
11. Amongst the enthron'd Gods on fainted feats.] So this verse stands in Milton's Manuscript as well as in all his editions: and yet I cannot but prefer the reading of Mr. Fenton's edition.
Amongst th' enthroned Gods on fainted feats.
13. that golden key, &c] This feems to be faid in allufion to Peter's golden key, mention'd in Lycidas 110.
Two maffy keys he bore of metals twain, (The golden opes, the iron fhuts amain)
And this verse, which was first written That fbows &c, afterwards alter'd,
That opes the palace of eternity,
Of every falt flood, and each ebbing stream,
22. That like to rich and various gems inlay The unadorned bofom of the deep,] The first hint of this beautiful paffage feems to have been taken from Shakespear's Rich. II. Act 2. Sc. 1. where John of Gaunt calls this iland by the fame fort of metaphor,
this little world, This precious stone fet in the filver fea.