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“ Such was his force of eloquence to make
“ To him no author was unknown,
As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises from his improvement of our numbers, his versification ought to be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the observation of a man of judgment naturally right, forsaking bad copies by degrees, and advancing towards a better practice, as he gains more confi. dence in himself.
In his translation of Virgil, written when he was about twenty-one years old, may be still found the old manner of continuing the sense ungracefully from verse to verse:
66 Then all those 56 Who in the dark our fury did escape,
Returning, know our borrow'd arms, and shape, " And differing dialect; then their numbers swell “ And grow upon us; first Chorcebus fell
66 Before Minerva's altar; next did bleed
From this kind of concatenated metre he afterwards refrained, and taught his followers the art of concluding their sense in couplets ; which has perhaps been with rather too much constancy pursued.
This passage exhibits one of those triplets which are not unfrequent in this first essay, but which it is to be supposed his maturer judgment disapproved, since in his latter works he has totally forborn them.
His rhymes are such as seem found without difficulty, by following the sense; and are for the most part as exact at least as those of other poets, though now and then the reader is shifted off with what he can get :
“ O how transform’d!
And again :
Sometimes the weight of rhyme is laid
upon a word too feeble to sustain it:
Troy confounded falls “ From all her glories: if it might have stood “ By any power, by this right hand it shou'd.
And though my outward state misfortune hath “ Deprest thus low, it cannot reach my faith.”
- Thus, by his fraud and our own faith o'ercome, “ A feigned tear destroys us, against whom
Tydides nor Achilles could prevail, “ Nor ten years conflict, nor a thousand sail.”
He is not very careful to vary the ends of his verses ; in one passage the word die rhymes three couplets in six.
Most of these petty faults are in his first productions, when he was less skilful, or at least less dextrous in the use of words; and though they had been more frequent, they could only have lessened the
grace, not the strength of his composition. He is one of the writers that improved our taste, and advanced our language, and whom we ought there. fore to read with gratitude, though, having done much, he left much to do.
THE life of Milton has been already written in so many forms, and with such minute enquiry, that I might perhaps more properly have contented myself with the addition of a few notes on Mr. Fenton's elegant Abridgement, but that a new narrative was thought necessary to the uniformity of this edition.
JOHN MILTON was by birth a gentleman, descended from the proprietors of Milton, near Thame, in Oxfordshire, one of whom forfeited his estate in the times of York and Lancaster. Which side he took I know not; his descendant inherited no vene. ration for the White Rose.
His grandfather John was keeper of the forest of Shotover, a zealous papist, who disinherited his son, because he had forsaken the religion of his ancestors.
His father, John, who was the son disinherited, had recourse for his support to the profession of a scri. vener. He was a man eminent for his skill in musick, many of his compositions being still to be found; and his reputation in his profession was such, that he grew
rich, and retired to an estate. He had probably more than common literature, as his son addresses him in one of his most elaborate Latin poems. He married a gentlewoman of the name of Caston, a Welsh family, by whom he had two sons, John the poet, and Christopher, who studied the law, and adhered, as the law taught him, to the King's party, for which he was a while persecuted, but having, by his brother's interest, obtained permission to live in quiet, he supported himself so honourably by chamber-practice, that, soon after the accession of King James, he was knighted, and made a judge; but, his constitution being too weak for business, he retired before any disreputable compliances became necessary.
He had likewise a daughter Anne, whom he married with a considerable fortune to Edward Philips, who came from Shrewsbury, and rose in the Crownoffice to be secondary: by him she had two sons, John and Edward, who were educated by the poet, and from whom is derived the only authentic account of his domestic manners.
John, the poet, was born in his father's house, at the Spread-Eagle in Bread-street, Dec. 9, 1608, between six and seven in the morning. His father appears to have been very solicitous about his education; for he was instructed at first by private tuition under the care of Thomas Young, who was afterwards chaplain to the English merchants at Hamburgh, and of whom we have reason to think well, since his scholar considered him as worthy of an epistolary elegy.