Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

have washed and salted the infant, de. “ Yet these are the men cried out against for clared her legitimate.” * He stood schismatics and sectaries, as if, while the templo

of the Lord was building, some cutting, some out in three or four writings against squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, the flood of insults and anathemas, and there should be a sort of irrational men, who dared even more ; he attacked the could not consider there must be many schisms censorship before Parliament, though in the timber ere the house of God can be

and many dissections made in the quarry and its own work; he spoke as a man who built. And when every stone is laid artfully is wounded and oppressed, for whom together, it cannot

be united into a continuity, a public prohibition is a personal out- it can but be contiguous in this world: neither rage, who is himself fettered by the can every piece of the building be of one form;

nay, rather the perfection consists in this, that fetters of the nation. He does not out of many moderate varieties and brotherly want the pen of a paid "licenser," to dissimilitudes that are not vastly dispropor insult by its approval the first page of tional, arises the goodly and the graceful symhis book. He hates this ignorant and metry, that commends the whole pile and strua imperious hand, and claims liberty of writing on the same grounds as he

Milton triumphs here through sym. claims liberty of thought :

pathy; he breaks forth in... magnificent

images, he displays in his sole the “What advantage is it to be a man, over it force which he perceives arouna him is to be a boy at school, if we have only escaped and in himself. He lauds the revo the ferula, to come under the fescue of an imprimatur? If serious and elaborate writings, lution, and his praises seem like the as if they were no more than the theme of a blast of a trumpet, to come from a grammar-lad under his pedagogue, must not be brazen throat:uttered without the curso eyes of a temporizing and extemporizing licenser? He who is “ Behold now this vast city, a city of refuge, pot trusted with his own actions, his drift not the mansion-house of liberty, encompassed and being known to be evil, and standing to the surrounded with his protection; the shop of hazard of law and penalty, has no great argu- war has not there more anvils and hammers ment to think himself reputed in the common working, to fashion out the plates and instru. wealth wherein he was born for other than a ments of armed justice in defence of beleagured fool or a foreigner. When a man writes to the truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitworld, he summons up all his reason and de- ting by their studious lamps, musing, searching liberation to assist him ; he searches, meditates, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to is industrious, and likely consults and confers present, as with their homage and their feality, with his judicious friends ; after all which done, the approaching reformation. .. What could he takes himself to be informed in what he a man require more from a nation so pliant, and writes, as well as any that wrote before him ; if so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants in this, the most consummate act of his fidelity there to such a towardly and pregnant soil, but and ripeness, no years, no industry, no former wise and faithful labourers, to make a knowing proof of his abilities, can bring him to that state people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of of maturity, as not to be still mistrusted and sus-worthies?t ... Methinks I see in my mind pected, unless he carry all his considerate dili- a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like gence, all his midnight watchings, and expense a strong man after sleep, and shaking her inof Palladian oil, to the hasty view of an un- vincible locks: methinks I see her as an eagle leisured licenser, perhaps much his younger, mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her un. perhaps far his inferior in judgment, perhaps dazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging one who never knew the labour of book writ- and unscaling her long-abused sight at the ing; and if he be not repulsed, or slighted, fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the must appear in print żike a puny with his whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with guardian, and his censor's hand on the back of those also that love the twilight, futter about, his title to be his bail and surety, that he is no amazed at what she means, and in their envious idiot or seducer; it cannot be but a dishonour gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and And derogation to the author, to the book, to schisms." I be privilege and dignity of learning." +

It is Milton who speaks, and it is Throw open, then all the doors; let Milton whom he unwittingly describes. there be light; let every man think, With a sincere writer, doctrines foreand bring his thoughts to the light. tell the style. The sentiments and Dread not any diversities of opinion, needs which form and govern his berejoice in this great work; why insult liefs, construct and color his phrases. the laborers by the name of schismatics The same genius leaves once and again and sectaries?

the same impress, in the thought and

in the form. The power of logic and • Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Mit- enthusiasm which explains the opinions Bo sd, ii. 5. Arcopagitica Mithord, äi. 4430%.

+ Ibid. 4375.

# Ihid. 439.

1 Ibid. .

.. coin

of Milton, explains his genius. The nation authorizes o explains these sectary and the writer are one man, and varied colors and there mingling flashes we shall find the faculties of the sectary More connected and more master of in the talent of the writer.

himself, Milton develops to the end the When an idea is planted in a logical threads which these poets break. All mind, it grows and fructifies there in a his images display themselves in little multitude of accessory and explanatory poems, a sort of solid allegory, of ideas which surround it, entangled which all the interdependent parts conamong themselves, and form a thicket centrate their light on the single iilea

id a forest. The sentences in Milton which they are intended to embellist un are immense ; page-long periods are demonstrate :necessary to enclose the train of so

“ In this manner the prelates, .. many linked arguments, and so many from a mean and plebeian life on a sudden te metaphors accumulated around the be lords of stately palaces, rich furniture, de' governing thought. In this great tra

cious fare, and princely attendance, thought the yail, heart and imagination are sha- plain and homespun verity of Christ's gospel ken; Milton exults while he reasons, ance, unless the poor threadbare matron were

unfit any longer to hold their lordships' acquaint. and the words come as from a catapult, put into better clothes : her chaste and modest doubling the force of their flight by their veil surrounded with celestial beams, they over. heavy weight. I dare not place before laid with wanton tresses, and in a faring tire

bespeckled her with all the gaudy allurements a modern reader the gigantic periods of a whore." which commence the treatise Of Reformation in England. We no longer pos

Politicians reply that this gaudy church sess this power of breath; we only un- supports royalty. derstand little short phrases; we cannot “What greater debasement can there be tu fix our attention on the same point for royal dignity, whose towering and steadfast 2 page at a time. We require manage-justice, and heroic virtue, than to chain it in

height rests upon the unmovable foundations of able ideas; we have given up the big a dependence of subsisting, or ruining, to the two-handed sword of our fathers, and we painted battlements and gaudy rottenness of only carry a light foil. I doubt, how- prelatry, which want but one puff of the king's ever, if the piercing phraseology of Volto blow them down like a pasteboard house

built of court-cards ?taire be more mortal than the cleaving of this iron mace :

Metaphors thus sustained receive a “ If in less noble and almost mechanick arts They

are spread forth without clashing

singular breadth, pomp, and majesty. he is not esteemed to deserve the name of a compleat architect, an excellent painter, or the together, like the wide folds of a like, that bears not a generous mind above the scarlet cloak, bathed in light and peasantly regard of wages and hire ; much more fringed with gold. must we think him a most imperfect and incompleat Divine, who is so far from being a con

Do not take these metaphors for an temner of filthy lucre ; that his whole divinity accident. Milton lavishes them, like a is moulded and bred up in the beggarly and priest who in his worship exhibits brutish hopes of a fat prebendary, deanery, or splendors and wins the eye, to gain the bishoprick." *

heart. He has been nourished by the If Michael Angelo's prophets could reading of Spenser, Drayton, Shak. speak, it would be in this style ; and speare, Beaumont, all the most spark. wenty times while reading it, we may ling poets; and the golden flow of the discern the sculptor.

preceding age, though impoverished The powerful logic which lengthens all around him and slackened within the periods sustaṁs the images. If himself, has become enlarged like a Shakspeare and the nervous poets em- lake through being dammed up in his brace a picture in the compass of a fleet heart. Like Shakspeare, he imagines ing expression, break upon their meta- at every turn, and even out of turn, and phors with new ones, and exhibit suc- scandalizes the classical and French cessively in the same phrase the same taste. idea in five or six different forms, the

As if they could make God earthly abrupt motion of their winged imagi. and Aeshly, because they could not make them

* Animadversions upon Remonstrants' Do Of Reformation in England, first boob fence, Mitford, i. 234-5.

Mitford, i. 23.

Ibid. second book, the

.

selves heavenly,

and spiritual; they began to only ma tufests the vigor and lyric dash draw down all the divine intercourse betwixt whích Milton's character had foretold God and the soul, yea, the very shape of God himself, into an exterior and bodily form;

Passion follows naturally; exaltation they hallowed it, they fumed up, they sprinkled brings it with the images. Bold ex it, key bedecked it, not in robes of pure inno pressions, exaggeration of style, cause cenoy, but of pure liner, with other deformed and fantastic dresses, in palls and mitres, and

us to hear the vibrating voice of the gewgaws fetched from Aaron's old

wardrobe, suffering man, indignant end de er or the famins vestry: then was the priest set mined. to con his motions and his postures, his liturgies and his lurries, till the soul by this means, “ For books are not absolutely dead things, of overbudying herself, given up justly to flesh- but do contain a potency of life in them to be x ly delights, bated her wing apace downward ; active as that soul was whose progeny they are ind finding the ease she had from her visible nay, they do preserve as in a vial the puresi and sensuous colleague, the body in perform- efficacy and extraction of that living intellect ance of religious duties, her pinions now

that bred them. I know they are as lively, and broken, and flagging, shifted off from herself as vigorously productive, as those fabulous the labour of high soaring any more, forgot her dragon's teeth: and being sown up and down, heavenly flight, and left the 'dull and droiling may chance to spring up armed men. And yet, carcase to plod on in the old road, and drudging on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as trade of outward conformity.” *

good almost kill a man as kill a good book ;

who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, If we did not discern here the traces of God's image ; but he who destroys a good book, theological coarseness, we might fancy kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it we were reading an imitator of the to the earth; but a good book is the precious

in the eye. Many a man lives a burden Phædo, and under the fanatical anger life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and recognize the images of Plato. There treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. is one phrase which for manly beauty It is true, no age can restore a life, whereof, and enthusiasm recalls the tone of the perhaps there is no great loss; and revolutions

of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected Republic :-“I cannot praise a fugitive truth, for the want of which whole nations fare and cloistered virtue unexercised and the worse. We should be wary, therefore, unbreathed, that never sallies out and what persecution we raise against the living sees her adversary, but slinks out of labours of public men, how we spill that seathe race where that immortal garland books;

since we see a kind of homicide may be

soned life of man, preserved and stored up in is to be run for, not without dust and thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom; and heat.”+ But Milton is only Platonic if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of by his richness and exaltation. For the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at

massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the rest, he is a man of the Renaissance, the ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of pedantic and harsh; he insults the reason, itself ; slays an immortality rather than Pope, who, after the gift of Pepin le a life.”. Bref, never ceased baiting and goring This energy is sublime; the man is the successors of his best lord Con- equal to the cause, and never did a stantine, what by his barking curses loftier eloquence match a loftier truth. and excommunications; ” 1 he is

Terrible expressions overwhelm the mythological in his defence of the

book-tyrants, the profaners of thought, press, showing that formerly

no en the assassins of liberty.. "The council vious Juno sat cross-legged over the of Trent and the Spanish inq uisition, nativity of any man's intellectual off- engendering together, brought torth or spring.” It matters little: these

perfected those catalogues and exlearned, familiar, grand images, whatever they be, are powerful and natural, purging indexes, that rake through the

entrails of many an old good author fuperabundance like crudity, here

with a violation worse than any thai . Of Reformation in England, book first, could be offered to his tomb." * Simi. Mitford, i. 3.

lar expressions lash the carnal minds 1 Areopagitica, ii. 411-12. Of Reformation in England, book second, make their servility into a religion

which believe without thinking, and Arcopagitica, ii. 406. "Whatsoever time. There is a passage which, by its bitter or the heerlless hand of blind chance, hath familiarity, recalls Swift, and surpasses drawn down from of old to this present, in her him in all loftiness of imagination and huge drag-net, whether fish or sea-weed, shells or shrubs, un picked, unchosen, those are the genius :fathers." (Of Prolatical Episcopacy, Mitford,

* Arcopagitican ibish ii. Hoa Ibich 404

[ocr errors]

9

[ocr errors]

· 13.)

.

“A man niay be an heretic in th: trath, and They shall be thrown downe eternally int if he believes things only because his pastor the darkest and deepest Gulfe of Hell, where, says so, ... the very truth he holds becomes under the despightfull controule, the trampli his heresy. A wealthy man, addicted to and spurne of all the other Damned, that is his pleasure and to his profits, finds religion to the anguish of their Torture shall have no be a traffic so entangled, and of so many pid- other ease than to exercise a Raving and dling accounts, that of all mysteries he cannot Bestiall Tyranny over them as their Šlaves skill to keep a stock going upon that trade. and Negro's, they shall remaine in that plight

What does he therefore, but resolves to for ever, the basest, the lower most, the most give over toiling, and to find himself out some dejected, most underfoot, ano downe trodden factor, to whose care and credit he may com- | Vassals of Perdition. * mit the whole managing of his religious affairs; some divine of note and estimation that Fury here mounts to the sublime, and must be. To him he adheres, resigns the Michael Angelo's Christ is not more whole warehouse of his religion, with all the inexorable and vengeful. locks and keys, into his custody ; and indeed makes the very person of that man his religion.

Let us fill the measure, let us aidd, . . . So that a man may say his religion is now as he does, the prospects of heaven to no more within himself, but is become a dividual the visions of darkness; the pamphlet movable, and goes and contes near him, accord- becomes a hymn : ing as that good man frequents the house. He entertains him, gives him gifts, feasts him, “ When I recall to mind at last, after so lodges him; his religion comes home at night, many dark ages, wherein the huge overshadow

1 prays, is liberally supped, and sumptuously ing train of error had almost swept all the stars laid to sleep; rises, is saluted, and after the out of the firmament of the church ; how the malmsey, or some well-spiced bruage, bright and blissful Reformation (by divin his religion walks abroad at eight, and leaves power) struck through the black and settlea his kind

entertainer in the shop trading all day night of ignorance and anti-christian tyranny, without his religion." *

methinks a sovereign and reviving joy must

needs rush into the bosom of him that reads or He condescended to mock for an in- hears ; and the sweet odour of the returning stant, with what piercing irony we have gospel imbathe his soul with the fragrancy of seen. But irony, piercing as it may be, heaven.” + seems to him weak. † Hear him when Overloaded with ornaments, infinitely he comes to himself, when he returns prolonged, these periods are triumphto open and serious invective, when ant choruses of angelic alleluias sung after the carnal believer he overwhelms by deep voices to the accompaniment the carnal prelate :

of ten thousand harps of gold. In the “The table of communion, now becomes a

midst of his syllogisms, Milton prays, table of separation, stands like an exalted plat- sustained by the accent of the bulwark and barricado, to keep off the profane the Bible, ravished with the splendors Sorm upon the brow of the quire, fortified with prophets, surrounded by memories of touch of the laics, whilst the obscene and surfeited priest scruples pot to paw and mammoc of the Apocalyse, but checked on the the sacramental bread, as familiarly as his brink of hallucination by science and tavern biscuit." I

logic, on the summit of the calm clear He triumphs in believing that all these atmosphere, without rising to the burn.

where ecstasy

dissolves profanations are to be avenged. The ing tracts horrible doctrine of Calvin has once reason, with a majesty of eloquence more fixed men's gaze on the dogma of and a solemn grandeur never surpassed, reprobation and everlasting damnation.

whose perfection proves that he has Hell in hand, Milton menaces ; he is entered is domain, and gives promise drunk with justice and vengeance amid of the poet beyond the prose-writer :the abysses which he opens, and the Thou, therefore, that sittest in light and brands which he wields :

glory unapproachable, parent of angels and

men! next, thee I implore, omnipotent King, * Areopagitica, Mitford, ii. 431-2.

Redeemer of that lost remnant whose nature † When he is simply comic, he becomes, like thou didst assume, ineffable and everlasting Hogarth and Swift, eccentric, rude, and farc Love! and thou, the third subsistence of diical. “A bishop's foot that has all his toes, vine infinitude, illumining Spirit, the joy and maugre the gout, and a linen sock over it, is solace of created things I one Tri-personal the aptest emblem of the prelate himself; Godhead! look upon this thy poor and almost who, being a pluralist, may, under one surplice, spent and expiring, church. ..O let them which is also linen, hide four benef:9s, besides not bring about their damned designs, . the great metropolitan toe.'

66

.."-An Apology, ste, i. 375.

* Ibid. i. 71. [The old spelling has bem I of Reformation in England Mitford, i. retained in this passage.--TR.]

Ibid. 4.

17.

.

reinvolve us in that pitchy cloud of infernal and of being shaken by them, remain, darkness, where we shall never more see the the same in Milton's two careers, and sun of thy truth again, never hope for the cheerful dawn, never more hear the bird of we will see in the Paradise and Comus morning sing." .

what we have met with in the treatise "o Tbou the ever-begotten Light and per- of Reformation, and in the Aniinaaver fect Imag: of the Father, Who is there

sions on the Remonstrant. that caniwt trace thee now in thy beamy walk through the midst of thy sanctuary, amidst those golden candlesticks, which have long suf

VI. fe: ed a dimness amongst us through the violence of those that had seized them, and were

“ Milton has acknowledged to me,' more taken with the mention of their gold than writes Dryden, “that Spencer was his of their starry light? . Come therefore, o original.” In fact, by the purity and the u that hast the seven stars in thy right hand, elevation of their morals, by the fulappoint thy chosen priests according to their orders and courses of old, to minister before

ness and connection of their style, by thce, and duly to press and pour out the con- the noble chivalric sentiments, and secrated oil into thy holy and ever-burning their fine classical arrangement, they lamps. Thou hast sent out the spirit of prayer are brothers. But Milton had yet upon thy servants over all the land to this effect, and stirred up their vows as the sound of other masters-Beaumont, Fletcher, many waters about thy throne. O perfect Burton, Drummond, Ben Jonson, Shakand accomplish thy glorious acts! forth out of thy royal chambers, o Prince of speare, the whole splendid English Reall the kings of the earthi put on the visible naissance, and behind it the Italian mahes of thy imperial majesty, take up that un- poesy, Latin antiquity, the fine Greek limited sceptre which thy Almighty Father literature, and all the sources whence hath bequeathed thee ; for now the voice of the English Renaissance sprang. He thy bride calls thee, and all creatures sigh to be continued the great current, but in a renewed." +

manner of his own. He took their This song of supplication and joy is an mythology, their allegories, sometimes outpouring of splendors; and if we their conceits,* and discovered anew search all literature, we will hardly find their rich coloring, their magnificent a poet equal to this writer of prose. sentiment of living nature, their inex

Is he truly a prose-writerEntan- haustible admiration of forms and colgled dialectics, a heavy and awkward ors. But, at the same time, he transmind, fanatical and ferocious rusticity, formed their diction, and employed an epic grandeur of sustained and poetry in a new service.

He wrote, superabundant images, the blast and not by impulse, and at the mere conthe recklessness of implacable and all tact with things, but like a man of letpowerful passion, the sublimity of re ters, a classic, in a scholarlike manner ligious and lyric exaltation ; we do not with the assistance of books, seeing recognize in these features a man born objects as much through previous writo explain, persuade, and prove. The tings as in themselves, adding to his scholasticism and coarseness of the images the images of others, borrowing time have blunted or rusted his logic, and re-casting their inventions, as an Imagination and enthusiasm carried artist who unites and multiples the him away and enchained him in meta- bosses and driven gold, already enphor. Thus dazzled or marred, he twined on a diadem by twenty work. could not produce a perfect work; he

He made thus for himself a did but write useful tracts, called forth composite and brilliant style, less nat: by practical interests and actual hate, ural than that of his precursors, less ord fine isolated morsels, inspired by fit for effusions, less akin to the lively collision with a grand idea, and by the first glow of sensation, but more solid. suc ler burst of genius. Yet, in all more regular, more capable of ccr.centhese aban.ɔned fragments, the man trating in one large patch of light all snows in his enti.ay. The systematic their sparkle and splendor. He brings and lyric spirit is manifested in the together like Æschylus, words of “six pamphlet as well as in the poem; the cubits," plumed and decked in purple, faculty of embracing general effects, and makes them pass like a royal train

* Of Reformation in England, Mitford, i. * See the Hymn on the Nativity; amongst 1869.

others, the first few "trophes. See Animadversions, etc., ibid. 270 7. Lycidas.

men.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »