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country, had he confined himself to these pursuits; his learning was general and extensive; both theoretically and practically he was an architect and designer * ; his fondness for poetry was enthusiastic t, and he played upon the lute with the most exquisite skill and taste. To these varied acquisitions in science, literature, and art, were added the blessings of an amiable disposition ; for though keenly sensible of the injustice of his enemies, whose malevolence and oppression, indeed, have scarcely had a parallel, he was yet cheerful, affable, and open in his temper, and his aspect, we are told, was singularly venerable, mild, and intelligent.
That such a man, though living in an age of extreme bigotry, should be an object of ardent attachment to those who best knew him, may be readily conceived. We shall not be surprised, therefore, to learn that he was enthusiastically beloved by his
* A manuscript treatise by Galileo on Military Architecture, in twenty-three chapters, is still existing in the library at Milan.
+ Galileo wrote, when young, Considerations on the comparative merits of Tasso and Ariosto ; an essay which, not having been printed in any edition of his works, was thought to have been lost, until lately discovered by Serassi.-See Black's Life of Tasso, 4to. vol. i. p. 375.
pupils, and that when visited by Milton, Vincenzo Viviani, his last and favourite disciple, then a youth of seventeen, was attending upon him with all the zeal of the most affectionate son. So great, indeed, was the veneration entertained for him by this young man, who subsequently became his biographer, and a mathematician of great celebrity, that he never during the remainder of his life, and he reached the age of eighty-one, subscribed his name without the addition of the “ scholar of Galileo ;” and had constantly before him, in the room in which he studied, a bust of his revered master, with several inscriptions in his praise *.
How must Milton have been interested and affected by the spectacle which opened to his view on entering beneath the roof of Galileo; how deeply must he have felt and penetrated into the feelings of the characters then placed before him; the sublime fortitude and resignation of the aged but persecuted astronomer, and the delighted love and admiration of his youthful companion! It is, indeed, highly probable, that the poet's deep-rooted abhorrence of bigotry and oppression was first im
* Fabroni Vitæ Italorum.
bibed on beholding this illustrious martyr of intolerance. There can also be little doubt but that the conference which, on this occasion, took place between the philosopher and the bard, led, as the Italian biographer of Milton has remarked *, to those ideas in the Paradise Lost which approximate to the Newtonian doctrine of the planetary system. It can also admit of less, that, when Milton, old and deprived of sight, was composing his immortal poem, he must often have recalled to memory this interview with the blind and suffering Galileo, under feelings of peculiar sympathy and commiseration; and with the same christian patience and firmness which so remarkably distinguished the great Florentine, he could truly say,
I argue not
* "In Firenze certamente egli apprese dagli Scritti e dalle Massime del Galileo invalorite gia né di lui Seguaci, quelle Nozioni filosofiche sparse poi nel Poema, che tanto si uniformano al Sistema del cavalier Newton.” Rolli, Vita di Milton, 1735.
+ Sonnet to Cyriack Skinner.
Independent of a succinct annunciation, in the eighth book of his poem, of the system of the universe as taught by Galileo, he has twice by name distinctly alluded to him : thus in the first book, when describing the shield of Satan, he says, its
And again in his fifth book :
As when by night the glass
It is somewhat remarkable that Milton, who appears to have been well acquainted with the Copernican theory of the world as taught, and, I may say, indeed, demonstrated by Galileo, should have hesitated a moment in his choice between the system of his great contemporary and that of Ptolemy; -yet this dubiety, this trimming, as it were, between the ancient and modern doctrines, is but too apparent in his sublime account of the creation, and interrupts in some measure the satisfaction of the
philosophical reader. “ If Pliny in regard to Hipparchus,” says a pleasing and popular writer, “ could extravagantly say, “ Ausus rem Deo improbam annumerare posteris stellas,' what would that historian of nature have said, had it been foretold him, that in the latter days a man would arise who should enable posterity to enumerate more new stars than Hipparchus had counted of the old ; who should assign four moons to Jupiter, and in our moon point out higher mountains than any here below; who should in the sun, the fountain of light, discover dark spots as broad as two quarters of the earth, and by these spots ascertain his motion round his axis; who, by the varying phases of the planets, should compose the shortest and plainest demonstration of the solar system ? Yet these were but part of the annunciations to the world of a single person, of Galileo, of unperishing
memory * !"
This great and good man died at Arcetri, near Florence, in 1642, three years after Milton's visit, and in the same year
birth to sir Isaac
* Adams's Lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy, v. ii. p. 477.