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been conclusively proved by quite a number of distinguished editors and critics of Milton's works; especially, by the Rev. Henry John Todd * in the Introduction to his variorum Edition, where he enumerates the claims of some thirty authors, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch, to the credit of having, probably or possibly, contributed something to the conception, the plan, or the execution of Milton's great poem. Voltaire, in his Essay on Epic Poetry, originally written in English (1727], during his stay in England, was the first to suggest that Milton had borrowed his “ original ” from a Scriptural drama that he had witnessed while in Italy (1638–9], entitled Adamo, written by a certain Giovanni Battista Andreini, the son of an Italian actress, and known, in both Italy and France, as a writer of comedies and religious poems. This hint of Voltaire's, led to the opening up of one of those, so-called, literary questions that, now and again, have diverted the attention of the scholar from the study of true literature into channels of worthless speculation and useless criticism. Indeed, for many a long year, the question of the particular author to whom Milton may have been indebted for hints and fancies in his Paradise Lost, continued to be a favourite topic of research; and unfortunately, even

* Vide Vol. I., pp. 230-270, Edition 1852.

at this late day, the question, thus mooted, has not received its final quietus.

Leaving out of consideration this unedifying ques. tion of Milton's possible obligations to previous authors, and passing by even the perfectly legitimate literary question of Milton's "borrowings," and the sources of his poetic similes, illustrations, and images, all that we propose to do is to consider the only two works, written anterior to Milton's time, which can, by any stretch of the imagination, be compared, as literary works, with the celebrated epic of the Latin Secretary of the Commonwealth; we refer to the Divina Commedia of Dante and Cadmon's “ Fall of Man."

That Milton was thoroughly familiar with the immortal work of the great Italian poet there can be no doubt, both from the fact of his well known familiarity with Italian literature, and from his evident “borrowings” from Dante. In the lines in which he describes Hell, as

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all,

we are, at once, reminded of the terrible inscription over the entrance to Inferno,

“ Lasciate ogni speranza voi che entrate.”

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So, again, the influence of Dante's healthier and less materialistic views on the punishments of Hell, as expressed in his Inferno, and his more philosophical, or psychological treatment of the subject, can be traced in many a passage of Paradise Lost, where the Italian's more metaphysical conception crops out quaintly from beneath the puritan theology of Milton's day.

But granting all this, there is no ' copying," no "original,” but simply a suspicion of Dante's higher philosophy, flavouring, so to speak, the dry theology of the puritan poet.

With regard to Cædmon, however, the case is somewhat different. His “ Fall of Man" is the only poem, so far discovered, that could be supposed for a single moment to have influenced Milton's brilliant and powerful imagination. As we have already seen, the discovery of this long lost manuscript, and its publication by Junius at Amsterdam in 1655, render it possible that Milton may have seen the work of the Anglo-Saxon poet, prior to the commencement of his Paradise Lost. Indeed, if we take into consideration Milton's insatiable appetite for reading, and his keen interest in all that was passing in the literary world of his day, it amounts to a moral certainty that the publication of such a literary curiosity as the long lost manuscript of Cædmon, must have found its way into Milton's quiet home in Petty

France, and have been read to him by one of his acquaintances, if not by Junius himself.

However this may be, the two poems are sufficiently similar in plot and mode of treatment, to indicate a common origin ; and sufficiently dissimilar, to warrant the opinion that Milton, even if he had seen the Paraphrasis, was but slightly, if at all, influenced by the perusal of the Anglo-Saxon poem. At the same time, the points of coincidence between the two poems, with regard both to the plot, the incidents, the characters, and even some of the speeches, are as remarkable as the points of divergence; and hence the two poems offer a most interesting field for critical comparison.

In order, however, to appreciate the true status of Cædmon's verse and Milton's epic, we must bear in mind the fact that Cædmon was not, so far as we know, either a trained scholar or a trained theologian ; and we must suppose, if Beda's narrative is to be taken literally, that his theological learning and poetic skill, from what source soever derived, were acquired with the easy assimilation of genius. Milton, on the other hand, was a scholar in every sense of the word. Educated at one of the two most celebrated seats of learning in England, and endowed by nature with talents of the highest order, he became Latinist, Hellenist, Hebraist, a master of

Italian, and, like all great scholars, was endowed, in a very high degree, with the faculty of reproducing at will, the results of his wide reading. As a consequence, Paradise Lost is, perhaps, the most learned poem in the English language; while Cædmon's “Fall of Man," although it contains, like Paradise Lost, innumerable evidences of an intimate knowledge of the Bible, of Rabbinical writings, and of early Christian traditions, is charmingly free from every vestige of that ponderous learning which is a stumbling-block to the averagely intelligent reader of Milton.

Although, in this study, we propose to consider the works of Cadmon and Milton, not from a religious stand-point, but as literature, pure and simple, still, we may say in passing, that the theology of Cædmon is the healthy Christianity of the early Anglo-Saxon Church, and not, like Milton's, the peculiar and disenchanting theology of quasi-Arianism or of seventeenth century Puritanism.

But before entering upon our comparative study of the two works, it is essential to have a clear idea of the "setting," or environment, or background, of Milton's epic. We have already shown, in the last chapter, the "setting” of Cædmon's “Fall of Man," and we depicted, in a series of diagrams, the various changes in Cædmon's portrayal of infinite space

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