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poems upon the pleasant assumption of their having “just come out,” and expressed his astonishment at “Mr. Milton's amatory notions" (I quote from memory), takes cccasion, from the obscu. rity of this word, to observe, that the “phenomenon of a tripping crank” would be very curious, and “doubtless attract nu. merous spectators.” He also, in reference to passages a little further on, wonders how “Mirth can be requested to come and go at the same instant;" and protests at the confident immortal. ity of the "young gentleman who takes himself for a poet," in proposing to live with Mirth and Liberty both together.
To live with her, and live with thee,
How delightful is wit, when bantering in behalf of excellence !
3 « Through the sweet-briar,” &c.— Sweet-briar and eglantine," says
Warton, are the same plant: by the twisted eglantine he therefore means the honey-suckle: all three are plants often growing against the side or walls of a house.
This is true; yet the deduction is hardly certain. The same name sometimes means different flowers, in different counties; as may be from passages in Shakspeare. Eglantine, however, is the French word for the flower of the sweet-briar (eglantier); and hence it came to mean, in English, the briar itself. Perhaps, if Milton had been asked why he used it in this place, he would have made Johnson's noble answer to the lady, when she inquir. ed why he defined pastern, in his Dictionary, to be a horse's knee ;-" Ignorance, madam, ignorance.” Poets are often fonder of flowers than learned in their names; and Milton, like his illustrious brethren, Chaucer and Spenser, was born within the sound of Bow bell.
4 “ And every shepherd tells his tale.”—It used to be thought, till Mr. Headley informed Warton otherwise, telling his tale meant telling a love-tale, or story. The correction of this fancy is now admitted ; namely, that tale is a technical word for numbering sheep, and is so used by several poets,-Dryden for one. Warton, like a proper Arcadian, was loth to give up the fancy ; but he afterwards found the new interpretation to be much the better one. Every shepherd telling his story or love-tale, under a hawthorn, at one and the same instant, all over a district, would resemble indeed those pastoral groups upon bed-curtains, in which, and in no other place, such marvels are to be met with. Yet, in common perhaps with most young readers, I remember the time when I believed it, and was as sorry as Warton to be undeceived.
5 « The Cynosure of neighboring eye.”—Cynosure (dog's-tail) for load-star, must have been a term a little hazardous, as well as over-learned, when it first appeared; though Milton, thinking of the nymph who was changed into the star so called (since known as Ursa minor), was probably of opinion, that it gave his image a peculiar fitness and beauty. That enjoying and truly poetical commentator, Thomas Warton, quotes a passage from Browne's Britannia's Pastorals, that may have been in Milton's recollection :
Yond palace, whose pale turret tops
and then he indulges in pleasing memories of the old style of building, and in regrets for the new, which was less picturesque and less given to concealment. “ This was the great mansion. house,” says he, “ in Milton's early days. With respect to their rural residences, there was a coyness in our Gothic ancestors. Modern seats are seldom so deeply ambushed.” Warton would have been pleased at the present revival of the old taste, which indeed is far superior to the bald and barrack-like insipi. dities of his day, though as to the leafy accessories, I am afraid the poetic pleasure of living “embosom’d” in trees is not thought the most conducive to health.
6“ Rain influence."-Da begli occhi un piacer si caldo piove.
Petrarch, Son. cxxxi
7“ Jonson's learned sock.”—“ Milton has more frequently and openly copied the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher than of Shakspeare. One is therefore surprised, that in his panegyric on the stage he did not mention the twin-bards, when he celebrated the learned sock of Jonson, and the wood-notes wild of Shakspeare. But he concealed his love.”—WARTON.
Perhaps he was afraid of avowing it, on account of the licence of their muse.
Hence, vain deluding Joys,
But hail, thou Goddess, sage and holy,
And sable stole of Cypress lawn
Far from all resort of mirth,
and solemn tunes have sung,