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John Milton's 'Ad Patrem' and Hugo Grotius's 'In Natalem Patris.'.

Almost half a century ago Marguerite Little, in search of possible rico-Latin analogues for Milton's Ad Patrem, adduced a poem entitled In Natalem mei Parentis by Alexander Gill the younger, included in Gill's [Greek Text Omitted] sire Poetici Conatus (London, 1632).(1) Her arguments for links between the two poems rested upon three points: (1) that both poems were pervaded by a spirit of banter; (2) that Gill and Milton frequently exchanged Latin verses; (3) that the subject was not a common one in neo-Latin poetry. She thus regarded 'the almost identical subject and the almost identical treatment'(2) as the most important parallels between the two poems, concluding with the recommendation that Gill's poem be considered in an assessment of 'the possible directly inspirational sources of Ad Patrem'.(3) But apart from the shared tone of banter (which is actually much less explicit in Milton than in Gill),(4) points of contact are very tenuous. More recently, I suggested a rather different neo-Latin context in which Ad Patrem should be read, that of Marco Girolamo Vida's De Arte Poetica, which in its phraseology in general and in its fusion of the themes of the poet's education and the defence of poetry in particular, seems indeed to function as an important subtext of Milton's poem.(5) And if the more personal element of Ad Patrem was lacking in the essentially didactic De Arte Poetica, Milton could have turned perhaps to another of Vida's poems, the Gelelmi Vidae et Leonae Oscasalae Parentum Manibus for an expression of gratitude to a parent who did not deter a son from his vocation to be a poet.(6) For in Ad Patrem the personal and the educationally theoretical are closely intertwined and indeed interdependent. Thus such stock phrases as pater optimus take on a very special significance, signalling a father who was not only highly regarded on personal grounds by his son, but who was also optimus in a literal sense: the 'best', the ideal Renaissance educator.(7)

There is moreover another neo-Latin verse-tribute, likewise addressed by a son to his father, which fuses such personal and formal elements in a very similar way, is certainly more closely related than Gill's poem to Milton's Ad Patrem, and which seems to assume a hitherto unnoticed place within what is in effect the poem's rather complex intertextual background. This is Hugo Grotius's In Natalem Patris, included in his Poemata Collecta (Leiden, 1617).(8) Like Gill's poem, this tribute was occasioned by a father's birthday, but like Milton's, the entire piece is presented as a son's gift to his father in return for the priceless gift of education which he has received; as in Milton, the father is presented as an ideal Renaissance educator; as in Milton, this point is highlighted through the echoing of precepts recommended by educational theorists.

But apart from methodological affinities, there are also sufficiently cogent verbal and thematic parallels to suggest that Milton is echoing and at times inverting details from Grotius's poem. The fact that Milton was later to meet Grotius in the course of his travels abroad provides an additional element of interest. In relating that encounter moreover, Milton describes Grotius as extremely learned and as a man whom he most eagerly wanted to see:

Commendatum ab aliis nobilissimus vir Thomas Scudamorus vicecomes Slegonensis, Caroli regis Legatus, Parisiis humanissime accepit, meque Hugoni Grotio viro eruditissimo ab Regina Suecorum tunc temporis ad Galliae regem Legato, quem invisere cupiebam suo nomine et suorum uno atque altero deducente commendavit.

(Defensio Secunda)(9)

Milton's express eagerness to meet Grotius is possible evidence that he was familiar with his writings.(10)

Grotius's poem opens with the speaker's wish to outline the benefits which he has received from his father who, although oppressed by many misfortunes, should find the poem a source of consolation (1-13). He reviews the privileges of education which he has received from a parent who in fact was also his tutor (14-20). Any acclaim which his writings achieve is really due to his father, who saw to the upbringing of his son, dissuaded him from evil influences and encouraged him to study (21-32). In return, the speaker offers his poem and indeed his other compositions as a gift (though an inadequate one) to his father (33-58).

Ad Patrem, while differing in a number of respects, such as the absence of the father's hardships and the inclusion of a section celebrating the powers of poetry, is nevertheless strikingly similar to In Natalem Patris in its theme of a son's gratitude to his father for the benefits of an excellent education. Milton too makes use of the gift motif as he offers his poem as a gift in return for the priceless gift of education which his father has bestowed on him.(11) Like Grotius, Milton recounts both his father's dissuasions and recommendations. The poem concludes with the gift motif, and the speaker's wish that his verses will survive the test of time.

Both poems commence with the notion of filial gratitude. Grotius gives himself the epithet pius (prima piae soboli lex est placuisse parenti (5)).(12) Milton wishes to pay duty to a venerable parent (surgat in officium venerandi Musa parentis (5)). The parent is presented as a tutor figure who was sympathetic to, and instrumental in, the development of the young poet. Grotius states that it was his father who taught him the first rudiments of speech. It was under his guidance (duce te (17)) that he was able to learn the Liberal Arts. He swears by the Muses that all his compositions are really the consequence of the unstinting efforts of his father:

. . . quamquam horrida mentem cura premit, placidamque negat commissa quietem aula ducis, tamen haec mecum solatia sume quae te sola iuvant lustris plus quattuor ex quo formasti teneras primo mihi tempore voces,(13) errorem discentis amans. tum protinus artes ingenuas, quantum haec aetas permisit et ultra, exhausi duce te. testor mea gaudia, famam, et quas nunc etiam non possum odisse Camoenas, septenasque artes et sidera testor Arati fasque sacrum, totaque deam tellure fugatam, si quid in orbe meum legitur, patris omnia, patris lector habes, didici quo solo audere magistro, et veniam sperare tuam.

(In Natalem Patris, 10-23)

In his diligent instructions Grotius pere has even surpassed the normal educational expectations of his day (et ultra (16)). Ad Patrem contains a parallel passage in which Milton outlines in more elaborate detail the different stages of the thorough education which he has received. It is through his father's generous efforts and expense (tuo . . . sumptu (78)) that the young Milton learned a wide variety of languages: Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and Hebrew. Furthermore, it is thanks to him (per te (89)) that he has the chance of knowing everything that exists in the sky, on earth, in the air, and beneath the waves. In short, he welcomes the arrival of Scientia:

Officium cari taceo commune parentis: me poscunt maiora; tuo, pater optime, sumptu cum mihi Romuleae patuit facundia linguae et Latii veneres et quae Iovis ora decebant grandia magniloquis elata vocabula Graiis, addere suasisti quos iactat Gallia flores, et quam degeneri novus Italus ore loquelam fundit barbaricos testatus voce tumultus,(14) quaeque Palaestinus loquitur mysteria vates.(15) Denique quicquid habet caelum subiectaque caelo terra parens terraeque et caelo interfluus aer, quicquid et unda tegit pontique agitabile marmot, per te nosse ricer, per te, si nosse licebit. Dimotaque venit spectanda Scientia nube, nudaque conspicuos inclinat ad oscula vultus, ni fugisse velim, ni sit libasse molestum.

(Ad Patrem, 77-92)

These lines find a general parallel in Defensio Secunda, in which Milton emphasizes the central role which his father played in his education, stimulating his desire for learning, and enabling him to receive private as well as public tuition:

Pater me puerulum humaniorum literarum studits destinavit; quas ita avide arripui ut ab anno aetatis duodecimo vix unquam ante mediam noctem a lucubrationibus cubitum discederem; . . . et in ludo literario et sub allis domi magistris erudiendum quotidie curavit; ira variis instructum linguis et percepta haud leviter philosophiae dulcedine ad Gymnasium gentis alterum, Cantabrigiam misit.(16)

Milton, like Grotius, states that his father surpassed normal expectations - the officium . . . commune (77). His deeds are maiora (78). Grotius's et ultra (16) seems to be balanced by Milton's addere suasisti (82), while line 12 of Grotius's poem (tamen haec mecum solaria sume) may be echoed in Milton's sed tamen haec nostros ostendit pagina census (12).

But Milton also seems to invert certain details of Grotius's poem. For example, where Grotius in acknowledging his father's educational guidance, had called to witness the Muses whom even now he (the son) is unable to hate: et quas nunc etiam non possum odisse Camoenas (18), Milton in acknowledging his father's diligence in choosing the precise form of education for his son, transfers this lack of hatred for the Camoenae from son/pupil to father/teacher. Now it is Milton pere who, in spite of his pretence, does not in fact hate the Muses: Tu tamen ut simules teneras odisse Camoenas, / non odisse reor (Ad Pat. 67 8).(17)

On a general level, it is evident that both poems in describing a father's interest in his son's education are in full accordance with the precepts laid down by Renaissance educators. For example, Petrus Paulus Vergerius in his De Ingenuis Moribus (1493) states that this is the third duty which parents owe their children:

tertium autem erat ut bonis artibus liberos erudirent . . . neque enim opes ullas firmiores aut certiora praesidia vitae parare filiis genitores possunt quam si eos exhibeant honestis artibus et iiberalibus disciplinis instructos.(18)

Richard Mulcaster advocates that a parent should decide, at least to some extent, the age at which his child's schooling should begin:

. . . and therefore I conclude thus that the parent himselfe ought in reason to be more then halfe a judge of the entrie to schooling, as being best acquainted with the particular circumstance of his owne child.(19)

Both Grotius and Milton however echo educational theories on a much more specific level. One particularly striking parallel between the two poems is an account of the behaviour from which the father dissuaded the son. In both instances he is thereby depicted as following the advice of Renaissance educators who had denounced such notions. Grotius says that his father taught him how to despise excessive feasting and drinking:

. . . quam spernere longas dulce dapes mentemque animi non mergere Baccho.

(In Natalem Patris, 23-4)

This is an important statement when viewed against the background of educational theories which had constantly recommended moderation in food and drink. Vergerius warns:

a vino vero in ea aetate maxime sunt arcendi cuius minus usus et valetudini bonae inimicus est et rectae rationis usum magnopere perturbat.

He advocates temperance in diet (ventre cibum potumve metiri).

The point is also made by Aeneas Silvius:

sit moderata bibitio, non quae mentem gravet, sed quae sitim auferat . . . muniendus est ergo puer adversus vini maliciam non fuga sicut Aegyptii faciunt, neque ingurgitatione sicut Bohemis placuit, sed animi vigore et constanti praesentia et usus moderatione temperatus fiat et continens.(20)

Michael Marullus disapproves of a young boy drinking diluted wine:

Atque ideo frugique animorum acrisque iuventae insignem prius exquirunt, tum deinde salubri disponunt habilem ventura ad munia victu dilutique mero Bacchi, licet humida vina ipse parum credam succis differre cicutae in puero, nisi septenis iam solibus actis decoxit tenera conceptum actate fluorem.

(Institutiones Principales, 60-6)(21)

Thomas Elyot has a heading 'Of Sobriety in diet' and seeks to recommend moderation by stressing the ill-effects of over-indulgence in food and drink:

First, of satiety or fullness be engendered painful diseases and sicknesses . . . Of too much drinking proceedeth dropsy, wherewith the body and oftentimes the visage is swollen and defaced, beastly fury, wherewith the minds be perished, and of all other most odious, swine drunkennesss . . .(22)

Richard Mulcaster recommends a moderate diet:

Concerning students, for whose health my care is greatest, the lesse they eate, the lesse they neede to voide: and therefore small diet in them best preventeth all superfluities, which they cannot avoide if their diet be great and their exercise small.(23)

Milton himself was later to assert:

Now lastly for their diet there cannot be much to say, save only that it would be best in the same house; for much time else would be lost abroad, and many ill habits got; and that it should be plain, healthful, and moderate I suppose is out of controversie.(24)

Grotius mentions another influence - that of bad company - from which his father dissuaded him (nec iuvenum novisse choros (25)).

Vergerius stresses the importance of worthy companions

. . . iuvenibus adhibendi sunt comites quorum monitis discant et conscientia retrahantur et imitatione proficiant.

Similarly Aeneas Sylvius states:

sint veraces tecum pueri, verecundi, pudici, modesti, cultores et sanitatis non ficti, non fallaces, non pertinaces, non vinolenti, non crapulosi, non iniurii.

The same theme occurs in Marullus:

nec quisquam sine delectu sine iudicio certo convictu temere cari admittendus alumni

(484 -5)

and in Elyot:

also to provide for them such companions and playfellows which shall not do in his presence any reproachable act or speak any unclean word or oath.(25)

Grotius proceeds to outline the positive precepts issued by his father. This contrast is emphasized by sed (25) as the father teaches his son to study late at night, and diverts his attention from the distractions of the present age:

. . . sed saepe tenebras furari studiis et nocte extendere vitam monstravit genitor, dum corda inconscia culpae avertit saeclo laudisque inflammat amore

(In Natalem Patris, 25-8)(26)

Milton too has a passage which mentions the behaviour from which he was dissuaded by his father. As in Grotius, this is followed by an emphatic sed(27) and a series of positive precepts recommended by his father - a father who did not command his son to follow a more lucrative pursuit or the legal profession; on the contrary, he enabled him to withdraw from the din of the city and to relax in the country:

. . . neque enim, pater, ire iubebas qua via lata patet, qua pronior area lucri certaque condendi fulget spes aurea nummi, nec rapis ad leges, male custoditaque gentis iura, nec insulsis damnas clamoribus aures, sed magis excultam cupiens ditescere mentem, me procul urbano strepitu secessibus altis abductum Aoniae iucunda per otia ripae Phoebaeo lateri comitem sinis ire beatum.

(Ad Patrem 68-76)

The important point is that Milton pere did not attempt to deter his son from his vocation as poet by compelling him to follow a wealthier profession. This latter practice was denounced by Vergerius:

verum evenit ut plerique ingenio liberali praediti dum recta studia sequi ipso contendunt aut manu iniecta revocant aut quibusdam oppositis quasi repagulis in cursu subsistere cogunt aut alio divertunt; plurimis nam angustia rei familiaris impedimento fuit quae liberum animum et ad meliora natum quaestui coegit inservire.

Vida had criticized duri . . . parentes for this reason:

nonne vides, duri natos ubi saepe parentes dulcibus amorunt studiis et discere avaras iusserunt artes

(De Arte Poetica, 1. 290-2)

With the emphatic sed (73) Milton, like Grotius, outlines his father's positive precepts. He enabled his son to retire to the country - a reference to Milton's retirement to Horton, which he describes elsewhere,(28) a concept which as Fink has shown,(29) is in accordance with Renaissance literary theory.(30) A further parallel between Grotius and Milton is the depiction of education as a gift from father to son - a gift which is repaid by the gift of a poem or poems. This is conveyed through the juxtaposition of the two nouns dona and munera. Grotius wishes that he could repay his father's munera with some dona of his own - his poems:

O saltem liceat, si non persolvere grates, (quod divinae opis est, hominum insuperabile votis) certe aliquos fructus et dona rependere tantis muneribus.

(In Natalem Patris 33-6)

His works, though a small gift, are offered to his father (accipe et haec quae parva fero (48)). Milton likewise employs the gift motif but develops it to a much greater extent. Like Grotius, he offers a poem which is 'small' - it is an exiguum . . . opus (7). Nevertheless, it is a sincere attempt to repay one gift by another. Again this is denoted by the juxtaposition of dona and munera:

Hoc uteunque tibi gratum, pater optime, carmen exiguum meditatur opus, nec novimus ipsi aptius a nobis quae possunt munera donis respondere tuis, quamvis nec maxima possint respondere tuis, nedum ut par gratia donis esse queat vacuis quae redditur arida verbis. Sed tamen haec nostros ostendit pagina census, et quod habemus opum charta numeravimus ista.

(Ad Patrem 6-13)

The motif is developed as Milton states that both he, a poet, and his father, a musician, have received dona from Apollo and in fact share the god:

ipse volens Phoebus se dispertire duobus, altera dona mihi, dedit altera dona parenti, dividuumque deum genitorque puerque tenemus.

(Ad Patrem 64-6)

The theme recurs towards the end of the poem in a passage which seems to echo Grotius on a thematic, structural, and verbal level. Milton says that he cannot repay his father as he deserves or do anything that can requite his gifts. He hopes that it will suffice that he has stored them away in his memory:

At tibi, care pater, postquam non aequa merenti posse referre datur, nec dona rependere factis, sit memorasse satis repetitaque munera grato percensere animo fidaeque reponere menti.

(Ad Patrem 111-14)

There is a clear verbal similarity between Grotius's dona rependere tantis / muneribus (35-6) and Milton's dona rependere factis (112).(31) The progression of both is similar, moving from a statement of the impossible (si non persolvere grates (33); non aequa merenti / posse referre datur (111-12)) to a wish (o saltem liceat (33); sit . . . satis (113)) to compensate for this by some other means.

Finally, both poems consider the prospect of immortality and fame which the poet and his work hope to enjoy. In both instances the infinitive superesse occurs juxtaposed with a noun denoting the tomb or funeral pyre.

Grotius says that his father has in fact given him life twice over - not only in a natural sense, but also in that through him he will be able to survive the tomb itself and hope (sperare) to be remembered by future generations:

plus hoc (ipsa dabit veniam natura fatenti) quam genuisse fuit nam vitam et luminis auras non semel ille dedit, per quem superesse sepulchro possumus et nostri memores sperare nepotes.

(In Natalem Patris 29-32)

In the closing lines of Ad Patrem Milton converts this statement into a wish that his poems, if they have the audacity to hope for immortality and to survive their master's pyre, will preserve this tribute to his father for future generations:

Et vos, o nostri, iuvenilia carmina, lusus, si modo perpetuos sperare audebitis annos, et domini superesse rogo lucemque tueri nec spisso rapient oblivia nigra sub Orco, forsitan has laudes decantatumque parentis nomen ad exemplum sero servabitis aevo.

(Ad Patrem 115-20)

Posterity was certainly to grant both Milton and Grotius their desire.

ESTELLE HAAN The Queen's University of Belfast

1 Marguerite Little, 'Milton's Ad Patrem and the Younger Gill's In Natalem Mei Parentis', JEGP, xlix (1950), 345 51.

2 Little, 'Milton's Ad Patrem', 350.

3 Little, 'Milton's Ad Patrem', 351.

4 For a very balanced view of the playfulness of Milton's poem, see in general William J. Kennedy, 'The audiences of Ad Patrem', Milton Studies, xix (1984), 73 86.

5 See Estelle Haan, 'Milton's Latin poetry and Vida', Humanistica Lovaniensia: Journal of Neo-Latin Studies, xliv (1995), 282-304 at 283-93.

6 See in particular lines 60 6, discussed by Haan, 'Milton's Latin poetry', 287. For classical precedent, cf. Horace, Satires I.vi.85-8, in which Horace praises his father for not forcing him into money-making.

7 The vocative pater optime occurs twice in Ad Patrem: at lines 6 and 78.

8 The poem occurs at pp. 286-8.

9 The Works of John Milton, ed. Frank A. Patterson, et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1931-40), 8, 120-2. Italics are mine. All quotations are from this edition, abbreviated hereafter to CM. I have modernized spelling and punctuation.

10 J. C. Boswell, Milton's Library (New York and London, 1975), Item 694, refers to this passage, but leaves the question open.

11 That Milton viewed education as a crucial and integral element of any child's upbringing is attested not only by his later practical experience as a schoolmaster, but also by his composition of the vernacular tractate Of Education (1644), in which he states: 'I will point you out the right path of a virtuous and noble education, laborious indeed at the first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospect and melodious sounds on every side that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming' (CM, 4, 280).

12 Text: Poemata Collecta (Leiden, 1617). I have numbered the lines.

13 Cf. Milton, At a Vacation Exercise, 1-4: 'Hail native language, that by sinews weak/did'st move my first endeavouring tongue to speak, / and mad'st imperfect words with childish trips, / half unpronounc'd slide through my infant-lips'.

14 It is possible that Milton's description of Italian as a degenerate language (in a poem on education) was suggested by Vida, De Arte Poetica 1. 183-9 which makes the same point and alludes to the Barbarian invasions. See Haan, 'Milton's Latin poetry', 288-9.

15 In Of Education Milton recommends Italian and Hebrew: '. . . they may have easily learned at any odd hour the Italian tongue; . . . the Hebrew tongue at a et hour might have been gained' (CM, 4, 284-5).

16 CM, 8, 118-20.

17 Douglas Bush, A Variorum Commentary on the Poems of John Milton: Vol. I: The Latin and Greek Poems (London, 1970), 249, notes the verbal echo, but not the important inversion, of Grotius. I would add as a further verbal parallel Vida, De Arte Poetica 1. 235: ne forte et sacras simul oderit tile Camoenas. See Haan, 'Milton's Latin poetry', 285, where I also suggest that Milton's simules (67) may be a pun on Vida's simul (235).

18 Text: De Ingenuis Moribus (Venice, 1493).

19 Positions, ed. Robert H. Quick (London, 1888), 21. Cf. Vida, De Arte Poetica 1. 82-3, which emphasizes the care which a father must show in rearing his son; cf. also 1. 21620, which states that it is the parent's responsibility to choose an excellent tutor.

20 De Liberorum Educatione (Opera Omnia (Basel, 1551)).

21 Text: Michaelis Marulli Carmina, ed. A. Perosa (Zurich, 1951). I have modernized spelling and punctuation.

22 The Book Named the Governor, ed. S. E. Lehmburg (London, 1962), 214.

23 Positions, 45.

24 Of Education (CM, 4, 291).

25 The Book Named the Governor, 16.

26 Cf. Milton's habitual practice of studying late into the night as described in Defensio Secunda (CM, 8, 118-20) noted above.

27 Cf. Horace, Satires I.vi.72 6: noluit in Flavi ludum me mittere . . . / . . . sed puerum est ausus Romam portare . . . etc.

28 Defensio Secunda: paterno rure quo is transigendae senectutis causa concesserat, evolvendis Graecis Latinisque scriptoribus summum per otium totus vacavi (CM, 8, 120).

29 Z. S. Fink, 'Milton's retirement to Horton and Renaissance literary theory', English Studies, xxii (1940), 137-8.

30 Cf. Vida, De Arte Poetica, 1. 486-95. See Haan 'Milton's Latin poetry', 287-8.

31 Cf. Vida, Gelelmi Vidae et Leonae Oscasalae Parentum Manibus, 138-9: quae vobis meritis pro tantis muta contra / persolvam infelix? quae vobis digna rependam?
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Title Annotation:poems
Author:Haan, Estelle
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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