1758 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Anonymous, "The Maid's Soliloquy" London Chronicle (18 February 1758) 165.



"The Maid alone, with Milton in her hand, open at this celebrated passage, 'Hail wedded love! mysterious love! &c.'"

It must be so, Milton thou reason'st well,
Else why this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
This longing after something unpossess'd;
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Of dying unespous'd? why shrinks the soul
Back on itself, and startles at virginity?
'Tis instinct, faithful instinct, stirs within us,
'Tis nature's self that points out an alliance,
And intimates an husband to the sex.
Marriage thou pleasing and yet anxious thought!
Thro' what variety of hopes and fears,
Thro' what new scenes and changes must we pass!
Th' unchanging state in prospect lies before me,
But shadows, clouds, and darkness, rest upon it.

Here will I hold, if nature prompts the wish
(And that she does is plain from all her works)
Our duty and our interest bid indulge it,
For the great end of nature's laws is bliss:
But yet — in wedlock, woman must obey—
I'm weary of these doubts — the priest shall end them.

Nor rashly do I venture loss and gain,
Bondage and pleasure meet my thoughts at once:
I wed, my — liberty is gone for ever;
But, happiness from time itself secur'd;
Love first shall recompence my loss of freedom.
And when my charms shall fade away, my eyes
Themselves grow dim, my stature bend with years;
Then, virtuous friendship shall succeed to love;
Then, pleas'd, I'll scorn infirmities and death,
Renewed, immortal, in a filial race.