Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE POLITICAL CHARACTER OF MILTON.

“ No, Sir, Milton was not a democrat; let not his venerable name be uplifted like a banner before the dissolute rush of revolutionary madness; let not that harp which discoursed of things beyond the eye of sense, be woke to hymn the march of every crowd of disaffected citizens.-If ever a man was impelled by pure and disinterested patriotism to advocate a particular course of policy, Milton was that individual. He was not a 'displeaser, or molester' of the world, from any personal or ambitious motive. When God, he said, commands to take up the trumpet, and blow a jarring or dolorous blast, it lies not in man's will what he shall say, or what he shall conceal. This was the reason he gave for his attacks upon the Episcopacy. It was to appease the restless calls of Conscience, that he armed himself for the combat with a mighty hierarchy. In all his bitter outpourings of intemperate zeal, the yearning of his heart after purer and better things is visible. He longs to return to the calm and pleasing solitariness of gentle thoughts, to the beauty of the Pierian Shade. The politics of Milton were poetry put into action ; night and day, the idea of a perfect and faultless state haunted his

cause.

imagination. Hence his rapturous praise of every attempt to ennoble the condition, or to exalt the feelings and aspirations of his fellow men. Hence the ardour with which he embraced the republican

With their leaders he maintained no intimacy; he demanded from them no patronage. When he saw them falling away from their high professions, deceiving the hopes of a sorrowful nation,—whose voice was uplifted louder against them? who unmasked their treachery with a fiercer hand? who inveighed with sterner indignation against the plunderers, who, called from shops and warehouses, fell to huckster the Commonwealth ? He had emptied the quiver of his wrath upon the Prelacy; and the same bow was strung against its enemies, when, instead of devoting themselves to a single cure, they set sail, as he complained, to all winds that might blow gain into their covetous bosoms. A Commonwealth, he affirmed, ought to be but as one huge Christian personage; one mighty growth and stature of an honest man, as vigorous and compact in virtue as in body. Not to be tossed about by a multiplicity of interests; but to be governed by one heart; to be regulated by one pulse. The political honesty and devotion of Milton, rest not alone upon the weak flourishes of a rhetorician. His Defence of the People of England was written, as

it were, under the shadow of that night which
afterwards fell upon him. He was the martyr of
his own enthusiasm. But he did not faint or mur-
mur; and when, after a lapse of three years, we
find him mentioning the loss of sight to his friend
Cyriac Skinner, it is with no expression of sorrow
or despair at his lot; no repining at the dispen-
sation of Heaven. He does not bate a jot of
heart or hope, but presses forward to the high goal
of the race which is before him. Hear the strain
of sublime philosophy as it flows from his own
lips :-
Cyriac, this three years day, these eyes tho clear

To outward view of blemish or of spot,
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot,

Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Of sun, or moon, or star, throughout the year,

Or man, or woman; yet, I
Against heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot

Of heart or hope ; but still bear up and steer Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?

The conscience, Friend, to have lost them overply'd In liberty's defence, my noble task,

Of which all Europe rings from side to side. This thought might lead me thro' the world's vain

mask, Content tho' blind, had I no better guide! “ It is, Sir, the fate of men to err, and even Milton was not exempt from the failings of mor

argue not

tality. But it becomes us while lamenting the violence and fierceness of his indignation, to remember the disinterested purity and grandeur of his motives; to look back upon the tumult and clamour of those stormy days; and, above all, to judge with impartiality. If we have no other offering for his tomb, let us, at least, sacrifice our prejudices to the Manes of this immortal poetthis sincere and dignified Believer!"

EDWARD LYTTON BULWER

AND

T. M.

A. When we were at Cambridge together, do you remember

how the young pedants of our time were wont to consider that all intellect consisted in puzzling, or setting down

each other? L. Ay, they thought us very poor souls, I fancy, for being early wise and ridiculing what they thought so fine.

The New Phædo.

BULWER.

How insignificant modern literature becomes when compared with the works of those illustrious men who wrote only from an overruling impulse to instruct the world, and were content to live laborious days for a future and immortal reward. Therefore are their brows crowned with the undying amaranth, and their tombs visited by a thousand hearts. The constant estimation of every pursuit, by the emolument to be derived from it, is one of the most marked features of this degraded age—one of those hideous seams that mar the beauty of the time.Every day witnesses the desolating spread of an Utilitarian spirit, which, not satisfied with banishing poetry from our Commonwealth, would con

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »