1] First published in Poems, 1645. This and the companion piece Il Penseroso, though usually attributed to the period of Milton's retirement at Horton after 1632, were more probably written during the summer of 1631. The titles mean respectively "The Cheerful Man" and "The Thoughtful Man". In metre and conception the two poems are to some extent indebted to the verses prefixed to Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, of which the first two stanzas are as follows:
When I go musing all alone, Thinking of divers things foreknown, When I build castles in the air, Void of sorrow and void of fear; Pleasing myself with phantoms sweet, Methinks the time runs very fleet. All my joys to this are folly; Naught so sweet as melancholy.
When I lie waking all alone, Recounting what I ill have done, My thoughts on me do tyrannize, Fear and sorrow me surprise; Whether I tarry still or go, Methinks the time moves very slow. All my griefs to this are jolly; Naught so sad as melancholy.
125] Cf. the stage direction for Ben Jonson's Masque of Hymen (presented at the court of James I): "on the other hand entered Hymen, in a saffron-coloured robe, his under-vestures white, his socks yellow, a yellow veil of silk on his left arm, his head crowned with roses and marjoram, in his right hand a torch of pine-tree". Back to Line
132] sock. The low-heeled shoe worn by comic actors, hence a symbol of comedy. Back to Line
134] Cf. Milton's Epitaph on Shakespeare: "Whiles to the shame of slow-endeavouring art Thy easy numbers flow." Back to Line
135] eating cares. A literal translation of curas edaces in Horace, Odes, II, viii, 18. Back to Line
136] Lydian airs. In Greek music the Lydian mood was considered especially tender and voluptuous. Back to Line
145] Orpheus by his music induced Pluto, god of Hades, to restore his wife, Eurydice, on condition that he should not look back at her on his journey to earth. He disobeyed and lost her. Cf. Il Penseroso, 105-109. Back to Line
151] Cf. Marlowe, Passionate Shepherd:
If these delights thy mind may move, Then live with me and be my love.