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EREWHILE of musick, and ethereal mirth,
In wintry solstice, like the shorten'd light,
For now to sorrow must I tune my song,
Dangers, and snares, and wrongs, and worse than so,
Most perfect Hero, tried in heaviest plight
He, sovran Priest, stooping his regal head,
His starry front low-rooft beneath the skies:
Yet more; the stroke of death he must abide;
These latest scenes confine my roving verse;
1. Erewhile, &c. Hence we may conjecture that this Ode was probably composed soon after that on the "Nativity." And this, perhaps, was a college exercise at Easter, as the last was at Christmas.T. WARTON.
I cannot agree with Sir Egerton Brydges that this Ode or Elegy is "unaccountably inferior" to the preceding Hymn. True, this is not so highly finished as the other, but there are in it exquisite touches of beauty. A beloved friend and accomplished scholar of Oxford (J. W.) writes me-" That third stanza has often suffused my eyes and quickened my heart's pulsation: what a saddening, melancholy tenderness-a climax of pathos and of dear human sympathy in the last two lines!"
13. Most perfect Hero, Seo Heb. ii. 10. 20. Cremona's trump. Vida's "Christind," which our author seems to think the finest Latin poem on a religious subject, is here called Cremona's trump, because Vida was born at Cremona.
Me softer airs befit, and softer strings
Of lute, or viol still, more apt for mournful things.
Befriend me, Night, best patroness of grief;
The leaves should all be black whereon I write ;
See, see the chariot, and those rushing wheels,
Mine eye hath found that sad sepulchral rock
For sure so well instructed are my tears,
Or should I thence, hurried on viewless wing,
Might think the infection of my sorrows loud
This subject the author finding to be above the years he had when he wrote it, and nothing satisfied with what was begun, left it unfinished.
43. That sad sepulchral rock: That is, the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem.
51. Take up a weeping. Jer. ix. 10.
UPON THE CIRCUMCISION.*
YE flaming Powers, and winged Warriours bright,
Burn in your sighs, and borrow
Seas wept from our deep sorrow:
Sore doth begin
His infancy to seize!
O more exceeding love, or law more just?
Were lost in death, till he that dwelt above
And that great covenant which we still transgress
And the full wrath beside
Of vengeful justice bore for our excess;
Huge pangs and strong
Will pierce more near his heart.
O FAIREST flower, no sooner blown but blasted.
ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT, DYING OF A COUGH.†
*The "Circumcision" is better than the "Passion," and has two or three Miltonic lines.-BRYDGES.
The Elegy on the Death of a Fair Infant" is praised by Warton, and we'l characterized in his last note upon it; but it has more of research and 'aloured fancy than of feeling, and is not a general favourite.--BRYDGES. It was written at the age of seventeen.
20. Emptied his glory. An expression | r putation,"-but, as it is in the original, taken from Phil. ii. 7, but not as in our (avrOV EKεVWσE,) "He emptied himself." translation,-"He made himself of no -NEWTON.
Summer's chief honour, if thou hadst out-lasted
That did thy cheek envermeil, thought to kiss,
For since grim Aquilo, his charioteer,
Of long uncoupled bed and childless eld,
So, mounting up in icy-pearled car,
Through middle empire of the freezing air
But, all unwares, with his cold-kind embrace
Yet art thou not inglorious in thy fate;
But then transform'd him to a purple flower:
Yet can I not persuade me thou art dead,
O, no! for something in thy face did shine
8. Aquilo, or Boreas, the North wind. enamoured of Orithyia, the daughter of Erechtheus, King of Athens.
12. Infamous, the common accent in old English poetry.
23. For so Apollo, &c. From these lines one would suspect, although it does not immediately follow, that a boy was the subject of the de; but in the last stanza the poet says expressly,
Then thou, the mother of so sweet a child,
Yet, in the eighth stanza, the person lamented is alternately supposed to have been sent down to earth in the shape of two divinities, one of whom is styled a "just maid." and the other a "sweet smiling youth." But the child was cer tainly a niece, a daughter of Milton's sister Philips.
40. Were, instead of are, for rhyme.47. Earth's sons, the giants.-30. Maid, Justice.-54. Youth, Mercy.
67. To turn swift-rushing, &c. Among
Resolve me then, O soul most surely blest,
O, say me true, if thou wert mortal wight,
Wert thou some star, which from the ruin'd roof
Of sheeny Heaven, and thou, some goddess fled,
Or wert thou that just Maid, who once before
Or wert thou of the golden-winged host,
But, O! why didst thou not stay here below
the blessings which the Heaven-loved innocence of this child might have imparted, by remaining upon earth, the application to present circumstances, the supposition that she might have averted the pesti lence now raging in the kingdom, is happily and beautifully conceived. On the whole, from a boy of seventeen, this de is an extraordinary effort of fancy, ex
pression, and versification; even in the conceits, which are many, we perceive strong and peculiar marks of genius. I think Milton has here given a very remarkable specimen of his ability to suc ceed in the Spenserian stanza. He moves with great ease and address amidst the embarrassment of a frequent return of rhyme.-T. WARTON.