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have washed and salted the infant, de
clared her legitimate." * He stood out in three or four writings against the flood of insults and anathemas, and dared even more; he attacked the censorship before Parliament, though its own work; he spoke as a man who is wounded and oppressed, for whom a public prohibition is a personal outrage, who is himself fettered by the fetters of the nation. He does not want the pen of a paid "licenser," to insult by its approval the first page of his book. He hates this ignorant and imperious hand, and claims liberty of writing on the same grounds as he claims liberty of thought :
"Yet these are the men cried out against for schismatics and sectaries, as if, while the temple of the Lord was building, some cutting, some squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there should be a sort of irrational men, who could not consider there must be many schisms in the timber ere the house of God can be and many dissections made in the quarry and built. And when every stone is laid artfully together, it cannot be united into a continuity, it can but be contiguous in this world: neither nay, rather the perfection consists in this, that can every piece of the building be of one form; out of many moderate varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes that are not vastly dispropor tional, arises the goodly and the graceful symmetry, that commends the whole pile and struc
Milton triumphs here through sympathy; he breaks forth in magnificent images, he displays in his style the force which he perceives around him and in himself. He lauds the revolution, and his praises seem like the blast of a trumpet, to come from a brazen throat:
"What advantage is it to be a man, over it is to be a boy at school, if we have only escaped the ferula, to come under the fescue of an imprimatur? If serious and elaborate writings, as if they were no more than the theme of a grammar-lad under his pedagogue, must not be uttered without the cursory eyes of a temporizing and extemporizing licenser? He who is "Behold now this vast city, a city of refuge, not 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 commonwealth wherein he was born for other than a fool or a foreigner. When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers with his judicious friends; after all which done, he takes himself to be informed in what he writes, as well as any that wrote before him; if in this, the most consummate act of his fidelity and ripeness, no years, no industry, no former proof of his abilities, can bring him to that state of maturity, as not to be still mistrusted and suspected, unless he carry all his considerate diligence, all his midnight watchings, and expense of Palladian oil, to the hasty view of an unleisured licenser, perhaps much his younger, perhaps far his inferior in judgment, perhaps one who never knew the labour of book writing; and if he be not repulsed, or slighted, must appear in print like a puny with his guardian, and his censor's hand on the back of bis title to be his bail and surety, that he is no idiot or seducer; it cannot be but a dishonour And derogation to the author, to the book, to the privilege and dignity of learning." ↑
Throw open, then all the doors; let there be light; let every man think, and bring his thoughts to the light. Dread not any diversities of opinion, rejoice in this great work; why insult the laborers by the name of schismatics and sectaries?
working, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleagured truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their feality, the approaching reformation. . . . What could a man require more from a nation so pliant, and so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly and pregnant soil, but wise and faithful labourers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies? † Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unscaling her long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms." ‡
It is Milton who speaks, and it is Milton whom he unwittingly describes.
With a sincere writer, doctrines foretell the style. The sentiments and needs which form and govern his beliefs, construct and color his phrases. The same genius leaves once and again 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 ford, ii. 5.
Areopagitica Mitford, ii. 423-4.
* Ibid. 439- + Ibid. 437.S. ↑ [bid. 40.
of Milton, explains his genius. The sectary and the writer are one man, and we shall find the faculties of the sectary in the talent of the writer.
nation authorizes or explains these varied colors and these mingling flashes More connected and more master of himself, Milton develops to the end the threads which these poets break. All his images display themselves in little poems, a sort of solid allegory, of which all the interdependent parts concentrate their light on the single ilea which they are intended to embellish demonstrate :
"In this manner the prelates,... coin a from a mean and plebeian life on a sudden te be lords of stately palaces, rich furniture, deli cious fare, and princely attendance, thought the plain and homespun verity of Christ's gospel unfit any longer to hold their lordships' acquaint ance, unless the poor threadbare matron were put into better clothes: her chaste and modest veil surrounded with celestial beams, they over. laid with wanton tresses, and in a flaring tire bespeckled her with all the gaudy allurements of a whore."
When an idea is planted in a logical mind, it grows and fructifies there in a multitude of accessory and explanatory ideas which surround it, entangled among themselves, and form a thicket ad a forest. The sentences in Milton are immense; page-long periods are necessary to enclose the train of so many linked arguments, and so many metaphors accumulated around the governing thought. In this great travail, heart and imagination are shaken; Milton exults while he reasons, and the words come as from a catapult, doubling the force of their flight by their heavy weight. I dare not place before a modern reader the gigantic periods which commence the treatise Of Refor-Politicians reply that this gaudy church mation in England. We no longer possess this power of breath; we only understand little short phrases; we cannot "What greater debasement can there be to fix our attention on the same point for royal dignity, whose towering and steadfast ʼn 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 Vol- built of court-cards?" + to blow them down like a pasteboard house taire be more mortal than the cleaving of this iron mace:
"If in less noble and almost mechanick arts
he is not esteemed to deserve the name of a
compleat architect, an excellent painter, or the like, that bears not a generous mind above the peasantly regard of wages and hire; much more must we think him a most imperfect and incompleat Divine, who is so far from being a contemner of filthy lucre; that his whole divinity is moulded and bred up in the beggarly and brutish hopes of a fat prebendary, deanery, or bishoprick."
If Michael Angelo's prophets could speak, it would be in this style; and twenty times while reading it, we may discern the sculptor.
The powerful logic which lengthens ine periods sustains the images. If Shakspeare and the nervous poets embrace a picture in the compass of a fleeting expression, break upon their metaphors with new ones, and exhibit successively in the same phrase the same idea in five or six different forms, the abrupt motion of their winged imagi
Animadversions upon Remonstrants' Defence, Mitford, i. 234-5.
Metaphors thus sustained receive a singular breadth, pomp, and majesty. They are spread forth without clashing together, like the wide folds of a scarlet cloak, bathed in light and fringed with gold.
Do not take these metaphors for an accident. Milton lavishes them, like a priest who in his worship exhibits splendors and wins the eye, to gain the heart. He has been nourished by the reading of Spenser, Drayton, Shakspeare, Beaumont, all the most spark ling poets; and the golden flow of the preceding age, though impoverished all around him and slackened within himself, has become enlarged like a lake through being dammed up in his heart. Like Shakspeare, he imagines at every turn, and even out of turn, and scandalizes the classical and French
66 As if they could make God earthly and fleshly, because they could not make them
Of Reformation in England, first book Mitford, i. 23. ↑ Ibid. second beɔk, 48.
selves heavenly and spiritual; they began to
only ma lifests the vigor and lyric dash which Milton's character had foretold
Passion follows naturally; exaltation brings it with the images. Bold ex pressions, exaggeration of style, cause us to hear the vibrating voice of the suffering man, indignant and de er mined.
"For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be a active as that soul was whose progeny they are, nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon's teeth: and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. It is true, no age can restore a life, whereof, perhaps there is no great loss; and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse. We should be wary, therefore, what persecution we raise against the living soned life of man, preserved and stored up in labours of public men, how we spill that seabooks; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom; and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of reason itself; slays an immortality rather than a life."*
If we did not discern here the traces of theological coarseness, we might fancy we were reading an imitator of the Phado, and under the fanatical anger recognize the images of Plato. There is one phrase which for manly beauty and enthusiasm recalls the tone of the Republic:-"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat." But Milton is only Platonic by his richness and exaltation. For the rest, he is a man of the Renaissance, pedantic and harsh; he insults the Pope, who, after the gift of Pepin le Bref, never ceased baiting and goring the successors of his best lord Constantine, what by his barking curses excommunications; " + he is mythological in his defence of the press, showing that formerly no envious Juno sat cross-legged over the nativity of any man's intellectual offspring."§ It matters little: these learned, familiar, grand images, what-perfected those catalogues and exever they be, are powerful and natural. Superabundance like crudity, here Of Reformation in England, book first, Mitford, i. 3.
Areopagitica, ii. 411-12.
Areopagitica, ii. 406. "Whatsoever time, or the heedless hand of blind chance, hath drawn down from of old to this present, in her huge drag-net, whether fish or sea-weed, shells or shrubs, unpicked, unchosen, those are the fathers." (Of Prelatical Episcopacy, Mitford, 73.)
This energy is sublime; the man is
entrails of many an old good author purging indexes, that rake through the with a violation worse than any that could be offered to his tomb." * Simi. lar expressions lash the carnal minds make their servility into a religion which believe without thinking, and There is a passage which, by its bitter familiarity, recalls Swift, and surpasses him in all loftiness of imagination and genius:
• Areopagitica, ibid. ii. 400.
+ Ibid. 404.
"A man may be an heretic in the truth, and if he believes things only because his pastor says so,... the very truth he holds becomes his heresy. A wealthy man, addicted to his pleasure and to his profits, finds religion to be a traffic so entangled, and of so many piddling accounts, that of all mysteries he cannot skill to keep a stock going upon that trade. What does he therefore, but resolves to give over toiling, and to find himself out some factor, to whose care and credit he may commit the whole managing of his religious affairs; some divine of note and estimation that must be. To him he adheres, resigns the whole warehouse of his religion, with all the locks and keys, into his custody; and indeed makes the very person of that man his religion. So that a man may say his religion is now no more within himself, but is become a dividual movable, and goes and comes near him, according as that good man frequents the house. He entertains him, gives him gifts, feasts him, lodges him; his religion comes home at night, prays, is liberally supped, and sumptuously laid to sleep; rises, is saluted, and after the malmsey, or some well-spiced bruage, . his religion walks abroad at eight, and leaves his kind entertainer in the shop trading all day without his religion." *
He condescended to mock for an instant, with what piercing irony we have seen. But irony, piercing as it may be, seems to him weak. † Hear him when he comes to himself, when he returns to open and serious invective, when after the carnal believer he overwhelms the carnal prelate :
"The table of communion, now becomes a table of separation, stands like an exalted platJorm upon the brow of the quire, fortified with bulwark and barricado, to keep off the profane touch of the laics, whilst the obscene and surfeited priest scruples not to paw and mammoc the sacramental bread, as familiarly as his tavern biscuit." t
He triumphs in believing that all these profanations are to be avenged. The horrible doctrine of Calvin has once more fixed men's gaze on the dogma of reprobation and everlasting damnation. Hell in hand, Milton menaces; he is drunk with justice and vengeance amid the abysses which he opens, and the brands which he wields :
Areopagitica, Mitford, ii. 431-2.
† When he is simply comic, he becomes, like Hogarth and Swift, eccentric, rude, and farc ical. "A bishop's foot that has all his toes, maugre the gout, and a linen sock over it, is the aptest emblem of the prelate himself; who, being a pluralist, may, under one surplice, which is also linen, hide four benefes, besides the great metropolitan toe."-An Apology, etc., i. 275.
+ Of Reformation in England Mitford, i.
"They shall be thrown downe eternally int the darkest and deepest Gulfe of HELL, where, under the despightfull controule, the trample and spurne of all the other Damned, that in the anguish of their Terture shall have no other ease than to exercise a Raving and Bestiall Tyranny over them as their Slaves and Negro's, they shall remaine in that plight for ever, the basest, the lower most, the most dejected, most underfoot, and downe-trodden Vassals of Perdition.*
Fury here mounts to the sublime, and Michael Angelo's Christ is not more inexorable and vengeful.
Let us fill the measure, let us add, as he does, the prospects of heaven to the visions of darkness; the pamphlet becomes a hymn:
"When I recall to mind at last, after so many dark ages, wherein the huge overshadow ing train of error had almost swept all the stars out of the firmament of the church; how the bright and blissful Reformation (by divin power) struck through the black and settled night of ignorance and anti-christian tyranny, methinks a sovereign and reviving joy must needs rush into the bosom of him that reads or hears; and the sweet odour of the returning gospel imbathe his soul with the fragrancy heaven." t
Overloaded with ornaments, infinitely prolonged, these periods are triumphant choruses of angelic alleluias sung by deep voices to the accompaniment of ten thousand harps of gold. In the midst of his syllogisms, Milton prays, sustained by the accent of the prophets, surrounded by memories of the Bible, ravished with the splendors of the Apocalyse, but checked on the brink of hallucination by science and logic, on the summit of the calm clear atmosphere, without rising to the burnwhere ecstasy dissolves ing tracts and a solemn grandeur never surpassed, reason, with a majesty of eloquence whose perfection proves that he has entered is domain, and gives promise of the poet beyond the prose-writer :—
"Thou, therefore, that sittest in light and glory unapproachable, parent of angels and men! next, thee I implore, omnipotent King, Redeemer of that lost remnant whose nature thou didst assume, ineffable and everlasting Love! and thou, the third subsistence of divine infinitude, illumining Spirit, the joy and solace of created things! one Tri-personal Godhead! look upon this thy poor and almost spent and expiring church. .. O let them not bring about their damned designs,
Ibid. i. 71. [The old spelling has been retained in this passage.-TR.] ↑ Ibid. 4.
reinvolve us in that pitchy cloud of infernal darkness, where we shall never more see the sun of thy truth again, never hope for the cheerful dawn, never more hear the bird of morning sing."*
and of being shaken by them, remains the same in Milton's two careers, and we will see in the Paradise and Comus what we have met with in the treatise Of Reformation, and in the Animadver sions on the Remonstrant.
"O Thou the ever-begotten Light and perfect Image of the Father, Who is there that cannot trace thee now in thy beamy walk through the midst of thy sanctuary, amidst those golden candlesticks, which have long suffeed a dimness amongst us through the vio"Milton has acknowledged to me,' fence of those that had seized them, and were 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 thau 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 thee, 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!... Come speare, the whole splendid English Reforth out of thy royal chambers, O Prince of naissance, and behind it the Italian all the kings of the earth! put on the visible robes 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 manner of his own. He took their
This song of supplication and joy is an outpouring of splendors; and if we search all literature, we will hardly find a poet equal to this writer of prose.
mythology, their allegories, sometimes their conceits, and discovered anew their rich coloring, their magnificent sentiment of living nature, their inexIs he truly a prose-writer? Entan- 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 con the 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 recognize in these features a man born to explain, persuade, and prove. The scholasticism and coarseness of the time have blunted or rusted his logic. Imagination and enthusiasm carried him away and enchained him in metaphor.
Thus dazzled or marred, he could not produce a perfect work; he did but write useful tracts, called forth by practical interests and actual hate, and fine isolated morsels, inspired by collision with a grand idea, and by the sac ler burst of genius. Yet, in all these abandoned fragments, the man snows in his entity. The systematic and lyric spirit is manifested in the pamphlet as well as in the poem; the faculty of embracing general effects,
*Of Reformation in England, Mitford, i. 18-69.
Animadversions, etc., ibid. 230-2.
with the assistance of books, seeing objects as much through previous writings as in themselves, adding to his images the images of others, borrowing and re-casting their inventions, as an artist who unites and multiples the bosses and driven gold, already entwined on a diadem by twenty workmen. He made thus for himself a composite and brilliant style, less nat ural than that of his precursors, less fit for effusions, less akin to the lively first glow of sensation, but more solid. more regular, more capable of cor.centrating in one large patch of light all their sparkle and splendor. He brings together like Eschylus, words of "six cubits," plumed and decked in purple, and makes them pass like a royal train
* See the Hymn on the Nativity; amongst others, the first few trophes. See also Lycidas.