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Nay, quoth he, on his swooning bed out-stretch'd,
But vow, though the cross doctors all stood hearers,
Coll. MSS. Tann. 465. see pp. 235, 237. T. Warton.
I wonder Milton should suffer these two things on Hobson to appear in his edition of 1645. He, who at the age of nineteen had so just a contempt for
Those new-fangled toys, and trim-
HENCE loathed Melancholy,
Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,
In Stygian cave forlorn
'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy,
* This and the following poem are exquisitely beautiful in themselves, but appear much more beautiful, when they are considered, as they were written, in contrast to each other. There is a great variety of pleasing images in each of them; and it is remarkable, that the poet represents several of the same objects as exciting both mirth and melancholy, and affecting us differently according to the different dispositions and affections of the soul. This is nature and experience. He derives the title of both poems from the Italian, which language was then principally in vogue. L'Allegro is the cheerful merry man; and in this poem he describes the course of mirth in the country and in the city from morning till noon, and from noon till night; and possibly he might have this in his thoughts, when he said afterwards in his Areopagitica "there be delights, there be re"creations and jolly pastimes "that will fetch the day about "from sun to sun, and rock the "tedious year as in a delightful "dream." Vol. i. p. 154, 155. edit. 1738.
1. Hence loathed Melancholy, &c.] The beginning of this poem
is somewhat like the beginning of Kal. Decembres Saturnales of Statius, Sylvarum, lib. i.
Et Phoebus pater, et severa Pallas,
1. Milton was too universal a
scholar to be unacquainted with this mythology. In his Prolusions, or declamatory preambles to philosophical questions discussed in the schools at Cambridge, he says, Cæterum nec desunt qui Ethera et Diem itidem Erebo noctem peperisse tradunt. Prose Works, vol. ii. 585. See also his Latin ode on the death of Felton, Bp. of Ely, v. 31. and In quintum Novembris, v. 69. But as Melancholy is here the creature of Milton's imagination, he had a right to give her what parentage he pleased. See Observations on Spenser's F. Q. i. 73.
Milton in this exordium had Marston, Scourge of Villanie, b. an eye on some elegant lines of iii. s. 10. ed. 1598.
Sleepe, grim Reproof! My jocund muse doth sing In other keyes to nimble fingering;
Find out some uncouth cell,
Where brooding darkness spreads his jealous wings, And the night-raven sings;
There under ebon shades, and low-brow'd rocks, As ragged as thy locks,
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
Dull-sprighted Melancholie, leave my braine,
To hell, Cimmerian Night. In lively
And sullen frownes. Come sporting
Cheeke-dimpling Laughter, crowne my verie soule With jouisance. See Observat. on Spenser's F. Q. i. 60. T. Warton.
2. Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,] The poet in making Melancholy the daughter of Cerberus might perhaps intend to insinuate, that she has something of the cynic, as well as something monstrous and unnatural, in her composition: but if this poem had not undergone two impressions in Milton's life-time, and one of them before he lost his sight, I should have imagined
that he had wrote Erebus, instead of Cerberus, as being more agreeable to heathen mythology; Erebus and Night are often joined together, as in Hesiod, Theog.
Εκ Χαεος δ' Ερεβος τε μέλαινα τι Νυξ
Οὓς τικς, κυσσαμένη Έρεβει φιλότητι
And several of their children, enumerated by Cicero, are much of the same nature and complexion as Melancholy. De Nat.
But come thou Goddess fair and free,
that was now written and studied. See Fletcher's False One, act v. s. 4. Titus Andronicus, act ii. s. 3. Spenser's Teares of the Muses, and his Virgil's Gnat. But our Author might have had perhaps an immediate allusion to the cave of sleep in Ovid, Met. xi. 592. or to Homer, whom Ovid copies, Odyss. xi. 14. See also Statius, Theb. x. 84. And Chaucer, H. Fame, v. 70. p. 458. Urr. And to all or most of these authors Sylvester has been indebted in his prolix description of the cave of sleep. Du Bart. p. 316. ed. fol. 1621. And in that description we trace Milton, both here and in the opening of Il Pens.
Mr. Bowle compares this line of the text with a passage in Sydney's Arcadia, b. iii. "Let "Cimmerian darkness be my "only habitation." The execration in the text is indeed a translation of a passage in one of his own Academic Prolusions, Dignus qui Cimmeriis occlusus tenebris longam et perosam vitam transigat. Pr. W. vol. ii. 587. T. Warton.
11. But come thou goddess fair and free.] Compare Drayton, Ecl. iv. vol. 4. p. 1401.
A daughter cleped Dowsabell,
In the metrical romances these two words thus paired together are a common epithet for a lady.
Or whether (as some sager sing)
were the daughters of Jupiter and Eurynome, and this Spenser adopts in his Faery Queen, b. vi.
cant. x. st. 22.
They are the daughters of sky-ruling
By him begot of fair Eurynome. But Milton with great judgment and a very allowable liberty follows the account of their being sprung from Bacchus and Venus, because the mythology of it suited the nature of his subject better. Thyer.
17. Or whether, &c.] Compare Sophocles, Ed. Tyr. 1098.
τις σε, τέκνον, τις σ' ετικτε των μακραιωνων ; αρα Πανος ορεσσιβατα που προσπελασθείσ', η σε γε τις θυγατηρ, Λοξίου; κ. τ. λ. and not. ibid. Schaeferi de Eurip. E.
17. Or whether (as some sager sing) &c.] No mythologist either ancient or modern that I can meet with gives this account of the birth of Euphrosyne; nevertheless we must do Milton the justice to own, that he could not possibly have invented better allegorical parents for her than Zephyrus and Aurora, or the gentle western gales of a fine morning in the spring, which, to use his own words in his Paradise Lost, iv. 154.
-to the heart inspire
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive
His pretence of authority in the parenthesis (as some suger sing) is introduced, in my opinion, only to give a more venerable authoritative air to his poem: and I have often suspected, that that passage in the tenth book of Paradise Lost, where the evil angels are described turned into serpents, and as the poet adds, ver. 575.
Yearly injoin'd, some say, to undergo This annual humbling certain number'd days,
is an instance of the same sort. Thyer.
As some sager sing. It is sages in Mr. Fenton's edition, but the old editions have sager. Both these genealogies were probably of the poet's own invention, but he rather favours the latter.
19. Zephyr with Aurora playing,
As he met her once a Maying.] The rhymes and imagery are from Jonson, in the Maske at Sir William Cornwalleis's house at Highgate, 1604. Works, ed. fol. 1616. p. 881.
See who here is come a Maying?
This song is sung by Zephyrus, and Aurora, and Flora. T. War
22. And fresh-blown roses wash'd with dew.] So Shakespeare, Tam, Shr, act ii. s. 1.