1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Anonymous, "Reflections on Il Penseroso" General Evening Post (11 January 1787).



Sir,

Being at Winton, I went into the cathedral in the afternoon at service-time, and was struck with a pleasing kind of melancholy, arising from the venerable appearance with which I was surrounded: the organ assisting the choir, and the sun-beams endeavouring to strike through the windows, half-closed by the small Gothic workmanship of arches and divisions, whilst the painted glass added a mellowness to the tinge, and admitted a dim light to penetrate only, which gave the whole a gloom very striking.

And storied windows richly dight
Casting a dim, religious light,
There let the pealing organ blow
To the full-voiced choir below.

And bring all heaven before mine eyes.

Milton's ideas in Il Penseroso have certainly nothing to do with politics; but they are to be wondered at, because diametrically opposite to his religious professions, cathedrals and organs at that time of day being held in the utmost detestation by those of his profession.

Query, Does not the effect which it has on the mind prove the beauty and justness of the service, against even a warped imagination?

VIATOR.