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was to be pleaded, for which purpose that tongue was given thee which thou hast, God listened if he could hear thy voice among his zealous servants, but thou wert dumb as a beast; from henceforward be that which thine own brutish silence hath made thee. * * * But now by this little diligence, mark what a privilege I have gained with good men and saints, to claim my right of lamenting the tribulations of the church, if she should suffer, when others that have ventured nothing for her sake, have not the honour to be admitted mourners. But if she lift up her drooping head and prosper, among those that have something more than wished her welfare, I have my charter and freehold of rejoicing to me and my heirs. Concerning therefore this wayward subject against prelaty, the touching whereof is so distasteful and disquietous to a number of men, as by what hath been said I may deserve of charitable readers to be credited, that neither envy nor gall hath entered me upon this controversy, but the enforcement of conscience only, and a preventive fear lest the omitting of this duty should be against me, when I would store up to myself the good provision of peaceful hours,'-Vol. I. p. 115-117.*
He then goes on to speak of his consciousness of possessing great poetical powers, which he was most anxious to cultivate. Of these he speaks thus magnificently.
These abilities, wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God rarely bestowed, but yet to some (though most abuse) in every nation ; and are of power,-to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue, and public civility ; to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune ; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and equipage of God's Almightiness, and what he works, and what he suffers to be wrought with high providence in his church; to sing victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations, doing valiantly through faith against the enemies of Christ; to deplore the general relapses of kingdoms and states from justice and God's true worship; lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and subTime, in virtue amiable or grave, whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that which is called fortune from without : or the wily subtleties angl refluxes of man's thoughts from within ; all these things with a solid and treatable smoothness to paint out and describe.' -Vol. I. p. 120.
He then gives intimations of his having proposed to himself a great poetical work; "a work,' he says,
• Not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite ; nor to be obtained by the
* From the Introduction to the second book of The Reason of Church Government,' &c.Vol. I. p. 114, &c. of Symmons's edition of Milton's Prose Works, to which all our references are made.
invocation of dame memory and her siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that eternal spirit, who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases.'—Vol. 1. p.122.
He then closes with a passage, showing from what principles he forsook these delightful studies for controversy.
* I trust hereby to make it manifest with what small willingness I endure to interrupt the pursuit of no less hopes than these, and leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes, put from beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies. *** But were it the meanest underservice, if God by his secretary conscience enjoin it, it were sad for me if I should draw back; for me especially, now when all men offer their aid to help, ease and lighten the difficult labours of the church, to whose service, by the intentions of my parents and friends I was destined of a child, and in mine own resolutions ; till coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the church, that he who would take orders must subscribe slave, and take an oath withal, which unless he took with a conscience that would retch, he must either strait perjure, or split his faith ; I thought it better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing.'Vol. I. p. 123.
These passages, replete with Milton's genius and greatness of soul, show us the influences and motives under which his prose works were written, and help us to interpret passages which, if taken separately, might justify us in ascribing to him a character of excessive indignation and scorn.
Milton's most celebrated prose work is his "Areopagitica, or a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing,' a noble work indeed, a precious manual of freedom, an arsenal of immortal weapons for the defence of man's highest prerogative, intellectual liberty. His • Reformation in England' and • Reasons of Church Government,' are the most important theological treatises published during his life. They were his earliest prose compositions, and thrown off with much haste, and on these accounts are more chargeable with defects of style than any other of his writings. But these, with all their defects, abound in strong and elevated thought, and in power and felicity of expression. Their great blemish is an inequality of style, often springing from the conflict and opposition of the impulses under which he wrote. It is not uncommon to find in the same sentence his affluent genius pouring forth magnificent images and expressions, and suddenly his deep scorn for his opponents, suggesting and throwing into the midst of this splendour, sarcasms and degrading comparisons altogether at variance with the general strain. From this cause, and from negligence, many powerful passages in his prose writings are marred by an incongruous mixture of unworthy allusions and phrases.- In the close of his first work, that on Reformation in England,' he breaks out into an invocation and prayer to the Supreme Being, from which we extract a passage containing a remarkable intimation of his having meditated some great poetical enterprise from his earliest years, and giving full promise of that grandeur of thought and language, which characterizes Paradise Lost. Having · lifted up his hands to that eternal and propitious throne, where nothing is readier than grace and refuge to the distresses of mortal suppliants,' and besought God to perfect the work of civil and religious deliverance begun in England, he proceeds thus:
“Then, amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of saints, some one may perhaps be heard offering at high strains in new and lofty measures, to sing and celebrate thy divine mercies and marvellous judgments in this land throughout all ages; whereby this great and warlike nation, instructed and inured to the fervent and continual practice of truth and righteousness, and casting far from her the rags of her old vices, may press on hard to that high and happy emulation to be found the soberest, wisest, and most christian people, at that day, when Thou, the eternal and shortly expected King, shalt open the clouds to judge the several kingdoms of the world, and distributing national honours and rewards to religious and just commonwealths, shalt put an end to all earthly tyrannies, proclaiming thy universal and mild monarchy through heaven and earth ; where they undoubtedly, that by their labours, counsels, and prayers, have been earnest for the common good of religion and their country, shall receive above the inferior orders of the blessed, the regal addition of principalities, legions, and thrones into their glorious titles ; and in supereminence of beatific vision, progressing the dateless and irrevoluble circle of eternity, shall clasp inseparable hands with joy and bliss, in over-measure for ever.'—Vol. I. pp. 58,59.
We have not time to speak of Milton's political treatises. We close our brief remarks on his prose writings, with recommending them to all, who can enjoy great beauties in the neighbourhood of faults, and who would learn the compass, energy, and richness of our language; and still more do we recommend them to those, who desire to nourish in their breasts magnanimity of sentiment and an unquenchable love of freedom. They bear the impress of that seal, by which genius distinguishes its productions from works of learning and taste. The great and decisive test of genius is, that it calls forth power in the souls of others. It not merely gives knowledge, but breathes energy. There are authors, and among these Milton holds the highest rank, in approaching whom we are conscious of an access of intellectual strength. A virtue goes out' from them. We discern more clearly, not merely because a new light is thrown over objects, but because our own vision is strengthened. Sometimes a single word, spoken by the voice of genius, goes far into the heart. A hint, a suggestion, an undefined delicacy of expression, teaches more than we gather from volumes of less gifted men. The works which we should chiefly study, are not those which contain the greatest fund of knowledge, but which raise us into sympathy with the intellectual energy of the author, and in which a great mind multiplies itself, as it were, in the reader. Milton's prose works are imbued as really, if not as thoroughly, as his poetry, with this quickening power, and they will richly reward those who are receptive of this influence.
We now leave the writings of Milton to offer a few remarks on his moral qualities. His mural character was as strongly marked as his intellectual, and it may be expressed in one word, magnanimity. It was in harmony with his poetry. He had a passionate love of the higher, more commanding, and majestic virtues, and fed his youthful mind with meditations on the perfection of a human being. In a letter written to an Italian friend before his thirtieth year, and translated by Hayley, we have this vivid picture of his aspirations after virtue.
*As to other points, what God may have determined for me I know not; but this I know, that if he ever instilled an intense love of moral beauty into the breast of any man, he has instilled it into mine. Ceres in the fable pursued not her daughter with a greater keenness of inquiry, than I day and night the idea of perfection. Hence, wherever I find a man despising the false estimates of the vulgar, and daring to aspire in sentiment, language and conduct, to what the highest wisdom, through every age, has taught us as most excellent, to him I unite myself by a sort of necessary attachment; and if I am so influenced by nature or destiny, that by no exertion or labours of my own I may exalt myself to this summit of worth and honour, yet no powers of heaven or earth will hinder me from looking with reverence and affection upon those, who have thoroughly attained this glory, or appeared engaged in the successful pursuit of it.'
His Comus was written in his twenty-sixth year; and on reading this exquisite work our admiration is awakened, not
so much by observing how the whole spirit of poetry had descended on him at that early age, as by witnessing, how his whole youthful soul was penetrated, awed and lifted up by the austere charms, the radiant light, the invincible power, the celestial peace of saintly virtue. He reverenced moral purity and elevation, not only for its own sake, but as the inspirer of intellect, and especially of the higher efforts of poetry. I was confirmed,' he says, in his usual noble style,
I was confirmed in this opinion, that he who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem; that is, a composition and pattern of the best and honourablest things ; not presuming to sing of high praises of heroic men, or famous cities, unless he have in himself the experience and the practice of all that which is praiseworthy.'-Vol. I. p. 224.
We learn from his works, that he used his multifarious reading to build up within himself this reverence for virtue. Ancient history, the sublime musings of Plato, and the heroic self-abandonment of chivalry, joined their influences with prophets and apostles, in binding him everlastingly in willing homage to the great, the honourable, and the lovely in character. A remarkable passage to this effect we quote from his account of his youth.
* I betook me among those lofty fables and romances, which recount in solemn cantos, the deeds of knighthood founded by our victorious kings, and from hence had in renown over all christendom. There I read it in the oath of every knight, that he should defend to the expense of his best blood, or of his life, if it so befel him, the honour and chastity of virgin or matron; from whence even then I learned what a noble virtue chastity sure must be, to the defence of which so many worthies, by such a dear adventure of themselves, had sworn ; *** So that even these books, which to many others have been the fuel of wantonness and loose living, I cannot think how, unless by divine indulgence, proved to me so many incitements, as you have heard, to the love and stedfast observation of virtue.'-Ibid.
All Milton's habits were expressive of a refined and selfdenying character. When charged by his unprincipled slanderers with licentious habits, he thus gives an account of his morning hours.
“Those morning haunts are where they should be, at home ; not sleeping, or concocting the surfeits of an irregular feast, but up and stirring, in winter often ere the sound of any bell awake men to la. bour, or to devotion ; in summer as oft with the bird that first rouses, or not much tardier, to read good authors, or cause them to be read,