« PredošláPokračovať »
ventures on a comment, he follows the primitive, the most learned, and orthodox guides ; he embraces and confines himself to the principles of Christianity, and these he enforces most convincingly. All his most eminent critics (no matter the complexion of their creed) declare that he is always perfectly orthodox-corrupt doctrine finds no sanction in his works. A learned German has assured me, that Paradise Lost is read in German families, not alone as the sublimest of all poems, but as one of the most religious of all books ; and deservedly should it be so read in every family at home, for it is in truth a synopsis of all the elegances of ancient literature, and of the history and truths of the Bible. No poem was ever published from which the reader can, independently of pleasure, derive more solid, useful, and permanent instruction, and therefore more advantage. Besides the delight to be gained from his poetry, and the information to be gained from his learning, there are ulterior advantages to be gained from the pure fervour of his religion (and this religion thoroughly true), which far transcends the considerations of worldly pleasure or learning. The book regulates, while it warms devotion; and places religious faith on its safe, true, and simple basis.
Dissertations on Milton's taste, character, beauties, imperfections, &c. I have not thought it necessary to introduce. It is better the reader should form his own judgment of all this from an examination of the original passages and their explanations. I have also excluded an immense mass of quotations from obscure English and Italian authors, in which similitudes have been attempted to be shewn by men more ambitious of character for learning and research, than for useful and appropriate commentary ; i.e. I have discarded wbat is called the treasures of the Gothic library, just because I have found them useless. Todd's edition is full of this curious though idle learning (yet he has some good original notes). All these references to such passages I have unserupulously swept away. To no reader could they be instructive; and most readers they would tire and disgust. My wish is to fill, not to overload, the mind of the reader. It would require a great stretch of credulity to believe that there was even a remote coincidence between the original passages and most of the passages often quoted as parallel. It is doubtful
to me, if Milton, allowing that he read most of these productions, (including sonnets, madrigals, low comedies, romances, and fairy tales, &c.) ever thought of them, when composing Paradise Lost. I have confined myself to comparisons with passages of the greatest authors, which he is known to have constantly read and admired-Shakspeare, Spenser, Dante, Ariosto, and Tasso; and the most approved of the Greek and Latin authors; adding, of course, the scriptural writers. Whenever I found only a gleam of likeness, I have barely given a reference to the passage referred to: but when I find a coincidence in sentiment or style, I quote the original passage, not alone for the sake of elucidation, but for an exercise to the classical reader's mind and memory.
I have observed the same rule, in a great degree, as to the scriptural authorities. Translations of the passages quoted from the classics I have also omitted, because to the learned reader they are unnecessary; and to the unclassical, delusive. Poetic translations (especially if in rhyme) of the ancient authors are never faithful; they are decorative paraphrases at best, if not mutilations carried on with great nicety of dissection. I have divided the text into paragraphs, for a more proper distinction of the several parts of the subject ; and have marked the speeches by inverted commas-a plan which, though novel in the printing of this poem, I imagine the reader will find convenient. I have also occasionally used the dash (thus —) between members of a sentence, to mark apposition, and the absence of the copulative conjunction, especially when the ordinary punctuation would be insufficient to determine the necessary pause. In the first portion of the poem, I have marked many elisions and contractions, to serve the inexperienced reader as a guide during the remainder. The text is now pretty well established, (the punctuation of Milton's editions having been, in consequence of his blindness, very incorrect,) and I have generally followed that of Todd's edition, which is the best. There may be discovered some typographical mistakes in this edition, but they cannot be very important. I have noticed in the notes errors (chiefly of punctuation) in this text and others. I cannot claim a peculiar exemption from verbal errors—no work is free from them. In the Index I have contrived to blend the advantages of a historical and verbal index.
In the Memoir of his Life I have compressed whatever I could find of interest or advantage to the reader, in the numerous biographies of him, from the sketches by his nephew, to the elaborate “ Life” by Symmons; and have endeavoured to combine, with the chief incidents of his life, a correct exposition of his views, principles, and feelings. For this purpose I have quoted many passages from his prose works, which, from the unstained and uncompromising honesty, and the unyielding independence of the man, are fair indications of the spirit that spurred and guided him. These quotations I have adopted from the best accredited translations, (for most of the passages are taken from his Latin prose works,) although these translations I think objectionable in point of style and fidelity. But there is one passage-his character and vindication of Cromwell, which is so very remarkable, not only as a vindication of the conduct and principles of the most extraordinary man of ancient or modern times,-a man who rose by the force of genius, and a dexterous application of subsidiary circumstances, by slow but unerring steps to the highest pitch of power, and used this power for the aggrandizement of his country —who found at the commencement of his career the empire distracted and feeble, and left it consolidated and powerful, (though some of his means were, I think, criminal ;) but as a vindication of Milton himself, for cooperating with him, that I thought it right to give a new and more correct translation of it, preserving, as far as possible, the character and spirit of the original.
In the prefatory remarks on Paradise Lost, I have confined myself to generals, as I have given particular exemplifications of them abundantly in the Notes. In fine, I have taken pains to make this edition perfect for all classes of readers ; and, by reducing it to one volume, to save them labour and expense. quence of my plan and object, the Notes are necessarily of a mixed and unequal character : some are intended for the
young learned reader, and some for scholars. The worth of this edition the public alone must determine—I at least have meant well.
THE LIFE OF MILTON.
MILTON'S ANCESTRY-HIS BIRTH-EDUCATION.
Milton descended from a long line of respectable ancestors, the Miltons of Milton near Halton and Thame in Oxfordshire, who possessed considerable property for many generations, till, the representative of the family having joined the unsuccessful party in the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, the estate was sequestered. However, John Milton, the poet's grandfather, who was ranger of the forest of Shotover near Halton, was a man of property, and sent his son John, the poet's father, to be educated at Christ Church, Oxford ; where he espoused the doctrines of the Reformation : for this his father, who was a bigoted Roman Catholic, disinherited him. The student, not deterred by this act of paternal cruelty, zealously adhered to his principles, and on quitting College settled in London, where, by the advice and encouragement of some influential friends, he pursued the respectable and lucrative profession of scrivener, in Bread Street, at the sign of “ The Spread Eagle," which was the armorial ensign of the family. (A scrivener in those days received money to place it out at interest; supplied those who wanted to raise money on security ; and drew up the contract between the parties; thus rendering himself useful to, and receiving profit from both. At that time,