Sunday, November 10, 2019


A Barbarous Noise

John Milton (1608-1674), Sonnet 12:
I did but prompt the age to quit their cloggs
    By the known rules of antient libertie,
    When strait a barbarous noise environs me
    Of Owles and Cuckoes, Asses, Apes and Doggs.
As when those Hinds that were transform'd to Froggs        5
    Raild at Latona's twin-born progenie
    Which after held the Sun and Moon in fee.
    But this is got by casting Pearl to Hoggs;
That bawle for freedom in their senceless mood,
    And still revolt when truth would set them free.        10
    Licence they mean when they cry libertie;
For who loves that, must first be wise and good;
    But from that mark how far they roave we see
    For all this wast of wealth, and loss of blood.
1 cloggs = foot shackles

5-7 Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.317-381, tells how Latona transformed peasants into frogs when they refused to give a drink of water to her children Apollo and Diana.

8 Matthew 7.6: Neither cast ye your pearls before swine.

10 John 8.32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

12 wast = waste

See Nathaniel H. Henry, "Who Meant Licence when They Cried Liberty?" Modern Language Notes 66.8 (December, 1951) 509-513.

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