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Hence, loathed Melancholy,
But come, thou goddess fair and free,
To live with her, and live with thee, In unreproved pleasures free; To hear the lark begin his flight, And singing, startle the dull night, From his watch-tower in the skies, Till the dappled dawn doth rise; Then to come in spite of sorrow, And at my window bid good morrno, Through the sweet-briar, or the vine, Or the twisted eglantine; While the cock with lively din, Scatters the rear of darkness thin, And to the stack or the barn-door Stoutly struts his dames before: Oft listening how the hounds and horn Cheerly rouse the slumbering morn, From the side of some hoar hill, Through the high woodrechoing shrill: Sometimes walking, not unseen, By hedge-row elms, on hillocks green, Right against the eastern gate, Where the great Sun begins his state, Robed in flames and amber light, The clouds in thousand liveries dight; While the ploughman near at hand, Whistles o'er the furrowed land, And the milkmaid singeth blithe, And the mower whets his scythe, And every shepherd tells his tale,4 Under the hawthorn in the dale. Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures, Whilst the landskip round it measures, Russet lawns, and fallows gray, Where the nibbling flocks do stray, Mountains, on whose barren breast The laboring clouds do often rest Meadows trim with daisies pied, Shallow brooks and rivers wide. Towers and battlements it sees Bosom'd high in tufted trees, Where perhaps some beauty lies,
The cynosure of neighboring eyes. Hard by, a cottage chimney smokes, From betwixt two aged oaks ; Where Corydon and Thyrsis, met, Are at their savory dinner set
Of herbs, and other country messes,
Ther, to the well-trod stage anon,
Milton shows his early fondness for the Italian language, by taking from it the titles of these poems. L'Allegro is the mirthful (man), and Il Penseroso the melancholy (pensive rather, or thoughtful). These two poems are supposed, with good reason, to have been written at Horton in Buckinghamshire, where his parents were residing at the time of their composition. I mention this circumstance, first because it is pleasant to know when poetry is written in poetical places, and next for the sake of such readers as may happen to know the spot.
1“ Some sager sing.”—Ben Jonson, in one of his Masks. “Because,” says Warburton, “ those who give to Mirth such gross companions as Eating and Drinking, are the less sage mythologists.”
2« Quips, and Cranks, and wanton Wiles.”—What a Crank is, the commentators are puzzled to say. They guess, from analogy with “winding turns” (which the word originally appears to signify), that the poet means cross purposes, or some other such pastime. The witty author of Hints to a young Reviewer (after. wards, I believe, no mean reviewer himself), who criticised these 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 occasion, from the obscu. rity of this word, to observe, that the “phenomenon of a tripping crank” would be very curious, and “ doubtless attract numerous 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 seen 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 inquired 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