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PRESERVE thy sighs, unthrifty girl
Thy tears to thread instead of pearl,
The trumpet makes the echo hoarse,
When sorrow should be dumb.
For I must go where lazy Peace
And, for the sport of kings, increase
But first I’ll chide thy cruel theft:
Thou know'st the sacred laws of old,
To quit him of his theft, seven-fold
Thy payment shall but double be ;
My own seducéd heart to me,
The lark now leaves his watery nest,
The merchant bows unto the seaman’s star,
THE history of Milton's wives, and his checkered experience of married life, is well known ; but the story of his early loves, if he had any, is irrevocably lost. Everybody has read the romantic anecdote of the young Italian lady of rank, who, travelling in England when he was a student at Cambridge, found him one day asleep under a tree, and, alighting from her carriage, was so much struck by his beauty that she wrote in pencil a madrigal of Guarini, “Occhi stelle mortali,” which she slipped into his hand, and then pursued her journey. When he awoke he read the lines with amazement, and learning the way in which he came by them, conceived such a passion for the fair unknown, that he afterwards journeyed to Italy in search of her. A similar story is told of him in Rome, the scene being shifted to the suburbs of that city, and the date changed to correspond with the period of his visit thither, but it is as mythical as the former one. There is not a word of truth in either. That Milton did travel in Italy, where he met one or two ladies who interested him, is certain; but study, and not love, was the cause of his journey. The first of his Italian heroines, if I may call them such, was the celebrated singer, Leonora Baroni, whom he met at Rome, in the palace of Cardinal Barberini, where he had frequent opportunities of hearing her sing. He celebrated her musical talents in three Latin epigrams, which contain nothing that can be twisted into a declaration of love. Of the second lady, to whom he wrote four Italian sonnets, nothing is known. He is supposed by his latest biographer, Mr. Masson, to have met her in, or near, Bologna, in the spring of 1639. She was for a long time thought to have been a German lady, the word Rheno in the second line of one of the sonnets being interpreted to mean the German Rhine; but Mr. Masson shows that such an interpretation is unnecessary, there being a river Rheno near Bologna, in which city she probably resided. The “deceased wife” of the last sonnet was Milton's second wife, Catharine Woodcock. She married the poet in 1656, the fourth year of his blindness, and died in childbed within a year after her marriage. His touching tribute to her memory was written shortly after her death.
I have used Cowper's version of the Italian sonnets. It is an elegant one, and, bating the mistake of the Rheno for the Rhine, sufficiently faithful for poetical purposes.
Fair Lady whose harmonious name the Rhine,
As on a hill-top rude, when closing day
TO CHARLES DEODATI.
Charles, and I say it wondering, thou must know
(Full many an upright man has fallen so):
Yet think me not thus dazzled by the flow
Lady It cannot be but that thine eyes
Enamoured, artless, young, on foreign ground,
Let me devote my heart, which I have found
By certain proofs, not few, intrepid, sound,
It rests in adamant self-wrapt around,
As safe from envy, and from outrage rude,