Anno ætatis 16. English translation. Back to Latin text. Open Latin text in new window.

Introduction. Milton titled this collection of Latin and Greek verses, "Sylvarum," or "of the woods, indicating the variety of metrical forms included, even a variety of languages, since two are in Greek. The metrical forms employed here include iambics, hexameters and various kinds of Horatian modes, including alcaic stanzas. Milton arranged the poems in a roughly chronological order according to their dates of composition, probably to emphasize his progress as a poet from his earliest attempts to his more mature poems.

The first is an obsequy for the death of Dr. John Gostlin, master of Caius College, Cambridge and Regius Professor of Medicine. The poet claims he wrote the poem when he was sixteen years old but Dr. Gostlin died on October 21, 1626 when Milton was less than two months shy of his eighteenth birthday. Leo Miller, in "Dating Milton's 1626 Obituaries," suggests that the first twenty lines and the last four could indeed have been composed before Gostlin's death and then put to use later for this poem. Only lines 21-44 refer directly to Gostlin.

The translation follows that of Walter MacKellar with a few changes based on consulting The Columbia Milton and Merritt Y. Hughes.

children of Iapetus. According to one Greek myth, all mortals are children of Iapetus (or Japetus), father of Prometheus. See Hesiod, Theogony 507-10 and Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.604-705.

Taenarus. According to Appolodorus, Library 2.5.10-11, Taenarum in Laconia is "the mouth of the descent to Hades."

Styx. According to Greek myth, the river Styx divides earth from the underworld, Hades.

Aemathian Oeta. The complicated and fascinating story of Hercules's death on Mt. Oeta is told in Ovid's Metamorphoses 9.89-181.

Nessus. Hercules killed the centaur, Nessus, who tried to rape his wife, Deianira. As he died, Nessus told Deianira that the tunic soaked with his centaur blood would revive any lover's flagging ardor, but the blood was really poisonous. See Ovid's story in Metamorphoses 9.89-181.

Hector slain. Homer tells the story of how Pallas Athena, disguised as his brother Deiphobus, convinced Hector to face Achilles in single combat, and he was killed in Iliad 22.224-336.

Sarpedon. Homer tells the story of Zeus's grief for the deathe of Sarpedon at Achilles's hands in Iliad 16.430-61.

Hecatean. Magical spells in the tradition of Hecate, or the infernal version of the triple goddess Luna, Diana and Hecate.

mother of Telegonus. Telogonus was born to Circe after her affair with Odysseus.

sister of Aegialeus. In Greek mythology, Medea was the Aegialeus's sister. His more familiar name is Absyrtus. Piling up learned allusions, Milton may have lost his way a bit. According to Appolodorus in Library 1.9.24, Medea murdered her brother and scattered his bits in the way to deter her father's pursuit as she fled with Jason.

Machaon. According to Greek mythology, Machaon was a son of Asclepius and served as a surgeon in the Trojan war. See Homer's Iliad 11.613-15. According to Stella Revard (Shorter Poems 206n10) "His death is told not by Homer but by Quintus Smyrnaeus (Posthomerica 6.390–429).

Philyreius. The Son of Philyra, more commonly known as Chiron the centaur. He was said to have been killed by an arrow poisoned with the blood of the hydra and shot by Hercules.

O son. Aesclepius was said to have been cut from his mother's womb by his father Apollo. He was the Greek god of medicine. Later he was killed by one of his grandfather's (Zeus's) thunderbolts. See Pindar's Pythian Ode 3.

gowned flock. That is, the gowned medical students at Cambridge.

Cyrrha. The peak of Parnassus, a mountan sacred to Apollo. See Dante, Paradiso 1.36.

Helicon. A mountain said to be sacred to the muses.

flock of Pallas. That is the followers of Athena, or the students at Cambridge.

Charon's skiff. Charon is the mythical boatman who ferries souls across the Styx to Hades, or the underworld.

Persephone. Persephone was believed to be queen of the underworld, or Hades. Her Roman name is Proserpina. She was said to have been abducted from her native Sicily by Pluto and taken to hades to be his queen.

Aeacus. Aeacus is a mythological king of the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf. He was son of Zeus and Aegina, a daughter of the river-god Asopus.

Elysian fields. Heaven.