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Hence, loathed Melancholy,
But come, thou goddess fair and free,
To live with her, and live with thee,
Of herbs, and other country messes, Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses ; And then in haste her bower she leaves With Thestylis to bind the sheaves; Or, if the earlier season lead, To the tann'd haycock in the mead Sometimes, with secure delight, The upland hamlets will invite, When the merry bells ring round, And the jocund rebecks sound To màný a youth and màný & maid, Dancing in the chequer'd shade ; And young and old come forth to play On a sunshine holy-day, Till the live-long day-light fail. Then to the spicy nut-brown ale, With stories told of many a feat, How faery Mab the junkets eat: She was pinch’d, and pull’d, she said, And he, by friars' lantern led; Tells how the drudging Goblin sweat, To earn his cream-bowl duly set, When in one night, ere glimpse of morn, His shadowy flail had thrash'd the corn, That ten-day laborers could not end; Then lies him down the lubber fiend, And stretch'd out all the chimney's length Basks at the fire his hairy strength; And crop-full out of doors he flings, Ere the first cock his matin rings. Thus done the tales, to bed they creep, By whispering winds soon lulld to sleep, Tower'd cities please us then, And the busy hum of men, Where throngs of knights and barons bold, In weeds of peace, high triumphs hold, With store of ladies, whose bright eyes Rain influence, and judge the prize Of wit, or arms, while both contend To win her grace, whom all commend. There let Hymen oft appear In saffron robe, with taper clear; And pomp, and feast, and revelry, With masque and antique pageantry; Such sights as youthful poets dream On summer eves by haunted stream.
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. cause,” says Warburton, “those who give to Mirth such
gross companions as Eating and Drinking, are the less sage mytholo
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 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 !
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