« AnteriorContinuar »
for a third degree. Those who secure tbie are admitted to the highest literary class, from which the government make s all its appointments. Our author was eager to see the "little feet" of a Chinese lady, who was just recovering from the torturing process of their compresa on. "At my request the doctor politely asked one of his fair friends to show me one of her feet! He gravely explained to her that the modest exhibition would be a great novelty to me. She kindly handed me her shoe, which was about two and a half inches in length and neatly embroidered. After removing her very ornamental, but peculiarly-shaped stocking, she proceeded slowly to unwind the long, black bandage with which her foot (or what remained of it) was tightly wound. The bandage was several yards in length, and under this were other colored strips. When all were removed, the foot had a wedge or stump like appearance that almost destroyed its Hentity. The heel was elongated, the instep highly arched, and the great toe. was very prominent. The other toes were drawn in under the foot, and so tightly and perseveringly compressed that the bones were absorbed, and no vestige of the toes remained, but four flat pieces of skin. Although the foot was so small that one's hand could easily cover it, the ankle was proportionally thickened, and the whole had an appearance far from beautiful. This strange custom of" little feet" has prevailed in China for centuries'. The painful process of binding the feet commences at six or seven years of age, when the child's foot is fully formed. The little girls present a pitiable sight as they are sometimes seen on the street, richly dressed and attended by a servant, but hobbling slowly along, crippled for life by this unnatural and cruel fashion. When the feet have been bound for several years the young woman is forced to continue the habit, for the underside of the foot is rendered so sensitive and pinched that she cannot stand up when it is left unbound."
If mercies bumble you, and an increasing knowledge of the truth makes you zealous and active, your soul is in a healthy state: pride and inactivity are the worst of diseases.
Let not the reader of the Guardian expect a learned critical dissertation, or a formal chapter of a history of English Literature, because we have placed the name of the second greatest poet of England at the head of our article. We just finished reading a brief biography of him, by Professor Pattison of Oxford; and we concluded that a statement of a few facts, and a selection of some passages, together with a few suggestions furnished by the volume, would t>e worthy a place in these pages.
Before proceeding to Milton, we have a word or two to say of his biographer. As Prof. Pattison is rector of Lincoln College, it is natural to suppose that he is a very learned man. But his learning does not interfere much with the interest of his narrative It is true he uses a good many big words, such aa "subjectivity," "epideictic," "diathesis," "perfunctory," and some others which could hardly be found in Webster. He also uses some Latin quotations, but upon the whole, most persons can understand him. Moreover, his style is sprightly and attractive; and he knows how to select those circumstances, and bring out those points which awaken and retain the attention of the reader. Another observation to be made is that his is not a one-sided enthusiasm of admiration for the character and poetry of Milton. In this respect this book differs much from Macaulay's celebrated essay on the same subjeot. The latter sees no defects, and can hardly find terms of praise strong enough. But the English Professor displays considerable coolness of judgment, and consequently is moderate and reserved. Sometimes, indeed, he strikes us as being too cool; and here and there we find traces of a rationalism, which unfits him to put the proper estimate upon Milton's poetry, as well as upon his religious views. The following pa-sage tells us why he was not among the number of those Englishmen who came across the waters to attend the recent Pan-Presbyterian-Council:—"His dogmatic Calvinism, from the efflcts of which his mind never recovered—a system which easily disposes to a cynical abasement of our fellow-men —counted for something ".. " in producing this repellent or unsympathetic attitude in Milton."
The great poet's first employment was that of a school-teacher. He established an institution in his own house, did his own work, and threw his whole soul into it. This is evident from his "Tractate" on Education, which as a contribution to pedagogical literature is of great value at the present day. But more than this; he was not satisfied with the geographies of that day. He went to work to write one. He labored hard, and his biographer says if his undertaking had been completed it would have proved to be one "of overwhelming magnitude." Further, his boys did not have the right kind of dictionaries. This want must be likewise supplied. The following is the language of Prof. Pattison on this subject :—" The acknowledged metaphor of Peeasus harnessed to a luggage trolley will recur to us when we think of the author of L'Allesetting himself to compile a Latin icon. If there is any literary drudgery more mechanical than another, it is generally supposed to be that of making a dictionary. Nor had he taken to this industry as a resource in age, when the genial flow of invention had dried up, and original composition had ceased to be in his power. The three folio volumes of MS. which Milton left were the work of his youth; it was a work which the loss of eyesight of necessity put an end to."
Milton had three wives. Between himself and the first there was no congeniality. Domestic misery was the result. And as it would seem from what our author says, the woman was not alone to blame. "The biographer, acquainted with the event, has no difficulty in predicting it, and in saying at this point in his story that Milton might have known better than, with his puritanical connections, to have taken to wife a daughter of a cavalier bouse, to have brought her from a roystering home, frequented by the dissolute officers of the Oxford garrison, to the spare diet and philosophical retirement of a recluse student, and to have looked for sympathy and response for his speculations from an uneducated and frivolous
girl. Love has blinded, and will continue to blind, the wisest men to calculations as easy and certain as these.". . . "He was too soon undeceived. His dream of married happiness barely lasted out the honey-moon. He found that he had mated himself to a clod of earth, who not only was not now, but had r ot thecapacitvof becoming, a helpmeet for him- With Milton, as with the whole Calvinistic and Puritan Europe, woman was a creature of an inferior and subordinate class. Man was the first cause of God's creation, and woman was there to minister to this noble being." .... "But however keenly he felt and regretted the precipitancy which had yoked him for life to a mute and spiritless mate, the breach did not come from his side. The girl herself conceived an equal repugnance to the husband she bad thoughtlessly accepted, probably on the strength of his good looks, whi"h was all of Milton she was capable of appreciating. A young bride, taken suddenly from the freedom of a jovial and undisciplined home, rendered more lax by civil confusion and easy intercourse with the officers of the royalist garrison, and committed to the sole society of a stranger, and that stranger possessing the rights of a husband, and expecting much from all who lived with him, may not unnaturally have been seized with panic terror, and wished herself home again." . . . . "Mary Milton went to Forest Hill (her parents' home) in July, but on the understanding that she was to come back at Michaelmas. When the appointed time came she did not appear. Milton wrote for her to come. No answer. Several other letters met the same fate. At last he dispatched a foot-messenger to Forest Hill desiring her return. The messenger came back only to report that he had been dismissed with some sort of contempt." . . . "If Milton had hasted too eagerly to light the nuptial torch, he had been equally ardent iu his calculations of the domestic happineas upon which he was to enter. His poet's imagination had invested a dull and common girl with rare attributes, moral and intellectual, and had pictured for him the state of matrimony as an earthly Paradise, in which he was to be secure of a response of affection showing itself
in a communion of intelligent interests In proportion to the brilliancy of his ideal anticipation was the fury of despair which came upon hitn when he found out his mistake." But misfortunes in various forms fell upon his father-in-law's family. At all events a reconciliation was found desirable. "A conspiracy of the friends of both parties contrived to introduce Mary Powell (her maiden name) into a house where Milton often visited in St. Martin's-leGrand. She was secreted in an adjoining room, on an occasion when Milton was known to be coming, and he was surprised by feeing her suddenly brought in, throw herself on her kuees and ask to be forgiven. The poor young thing, now two years older and wiser, but s ill only nineteen, pleaded, ttuly or falsely, that her mother had been all along the chief promoter of her frowardness. Milton with a noble leonine clemency which became him, cared not for excuses for the past. It was em.ugh that she was come back, and was willing to live with him as his wife. He received her at once, and not only her, but on the surrender of Oxford, in June, 1646, and the sequestration of Forest Hill, took the whole family of Powells, including the mother-in-law, whose influence with her daughter might even again trouble h;s peace." . . . Milton probably abated bis exa< tious on the point of companionship, and learned to be content with her acquiescence in the duties of a wife. In July, 1646, Bhe became a mother, and bore in all four children. Of these, three, all daughters, lived to grow up. Mary Milton herself died in giving birth to her fourth child in the summer of 1652. She was only twenty sir, and had been married to Milton nine years."
Four years after the death of his first wife, Milton married Catherine Woodstock, of whom very little is known. She died fifteen months after their marriage.
Five years later, after he had lost his sight, he consulted his "judicious friend and medical adviser, Dr. Paget," on the subject of a third marriage. Paget recommended a relative of his own, Elizabeth Minshull. Milion called her Betty. "During the re naining eleven years of his life the poet was surrounded by the thoughtful at entionsof an active
and capable woman There is no
evidence that his wife rendered him any literary assistance. Perhaps as she looked so thoroughly to his material comf »rt, her function was he'd, by tacit agreement, to end there."
Notwithstanding Milton's upa and downs in matrimonial life, certain it is that English literature, much less any other literature, furnishes no conception of woman as exalted as the one presented in the following pissage to be found at the end of the eighth Book of Paradise Lost:—
When I approach
Professor Pattison remarks, howeve-, that "in the bringing up of his daughters, he puts his own typical womau entirely on one side." .... "He did not allow them to learn any language, saying with a gibe that one tongue was enough for a womau. They were not sent to any school, but had some sort of teaching at home from a mistress. But in order to make thetn useful in reading to him, their father was at the pains to train them to read aloud in five or six languages, of none of which they understood one word. When we think of the time and labor which must have been expended to teach the:n to do this, it must occur to us that a little more labor would have sufficed to teach them so much of one or two of the languages as would have made their reading a source of interest and improvement to themselves. This Milton refused to do. The consequence was, as might have been expected, the occupation became so irksome to them that they rebelled against it. In the case of one of them, Mary, who was like her mother in person, and took after her in other respec.s, this restiveuess passed intoopen revolt. She first resisted, then neglected, and fiually came to hate her father. When some one spoke in her presence of her lather's approaching marriage she said, 'that was no news to bear of his wedding; but if she could hear of his death, that was fometbing.' She combined with Anne, the eldest daughter to counsel his maidservant to cheat him in bis marketings. They sold bis books without his knowledge. 'They made nothing of deserting him,' he was often heard to complain. They continued to live with him five or six years after bis marrisge But at last the situation became intolerable to both parties, and they were si nt out to learn embroidery in gold or silver, as a means of obtaining their livelihood."
Most of what has hitherto been said has to do with Milton's external surroundings. A man's habits tell much in regard to his inner life and character. Much is contained in the following paragraph from the biography :—'
"On cold days he would walk for hours—three or four hours at a time— in his garden. A garden was a sine qua non, and he took care to have one to every house he lived in. His habit, in early life.hadbeen to study late into the night. After he lost his sight he changed his hours, and retired to rest at nine. In summer he rose at four, in winter at five,'and began the day with having the Hebrew Scriptures read to him. 'Then he contemplated. At seven his man came to him again, and then read to him and wrote till dinner. The writing was as much as the reading.' Then he took exercise, either walking in the garden, or swinging in a machine. His only recreation, besides conversation, was music. He played the organ, and the bass viol; the organ most. Sometimes he would sing himself or get his wife to sing, though she had, he said, 110 ear, yet a good voice. Then he went up to bis study to be read to till six. After six bis friends were admitted to visit him, and would sit with him till eight. At eight he went down to supper, usually olives or some light thing. He was very abstemious in his diet, having to contend with a gouty diathesis. He was not fastidious in his choice of meats, but content with anythiug that was in season, or easy to be procured After supping thus sparingly, he smoked a pipe of tobacco, drank a glass of water, and then retired to bed. He was sparing in his use of wine."
Professor Pattison has very little to say in regard to the piety of Milton, lie informs us, however, that "'there grew up in him, in the last period of his life, a secret sympathy with the mode of thinking, which came to characterize the Quaker sect." Whatever may have been the external form which it assumed, there can be no doubt as to his teligious earnestness and sincerity. In his celebrated " IVaetaie" or Theory of Education he gives as a definition of the true end of learning " to repair the ruin of our first parents by regaining to know God aright." The rector of Lincoln College savs that "here we have the theological Mdton, and what he took en from the current language of his age." Not only has this definition never betn improved upon, in spite of libraries of treatises on education which have appeared since Milton's day; but all definitions of the legitimate aim of culture are false in proportion as they differ from it.
Milton as a poet was fully conscious of the solemnity and dignity of his calling. Witness the following extracts from his writings in reference to this point. 'And long it was not after, when I was confirmed in this opinion, that he who would not be frustrate of bis 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 honorablest things, not presuming to sing high praises of heroic men or famous cities, unless he have in himself the experience and the practice of all that which is praiseworthy." "Neither do I think it shame to covenant with any knowing reader that for some few years yet I may go on trust toward the payment of what I am now indebted, as being not a work to be ra;sed from the best of youth, or the vapors of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amorist, or the trencher fury of some rhyming parasite, nor to be obtained by the invocation of Dame Memory and her Siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and all knowledge, and sends out His straphim with the hallowed fire of his altar to touch and purify the life of whom He pleases." "Poetical powers are the inspired gift of God rarely bestowed ... in every nation, and are of power, beside the office of a pulpit, to imbreed and cherish iu a great peop'e the seeds of virtue and public civility, to allay the perturbation of the mind, and set the affections in right tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and equipage of God's almighiness, and what He works, and what He suffers to be wrought with high providence in His church ; to i-ing victorious agonies of martyrs aud saint?, 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 from justice and God's true worship."
As regards the merits of Milton's poetry, Professor Pattison is willing to look on both sides of the question. The great poet once took the ground that, "pomp and ostentation of reading is admired among the vulgar; but in matters of religion, he is learnedest who is plainest." But his biographer thinks that he does not adhere to this principle consistently. "One drawback there was attendant upon the style chosen by MiltoD, viz. that it narrowly limited the circle of his readers ... of understanding English there are many degrees; it requires some education to understand literary style at all. . . . Confining ourselves only to thesmall part of our millions which .we speak of as the educated class—that is those whose schooling is carried on beyond fourteen years of age; it will be found that only a small fraction of the men, and a still smaller fraction of the women, fully apprehend the meaning of words. This is the case with what is written in the ordinary language of books. When we pass from a style in which words have only their simple signification to a style of which the effect depends on the suggestion of collateral association, we leave behind even the majority of these few. This is what is meant by the standing charge against Milton, that he is too learned"
Still according to the Rector's view Milton is, next to Shakespeare, England's greatest poet, and it behooves a representative of Oxford to vindicate a writer whom England has always pointed to with pride. "The style of Paradise Lost is then only the natural expression of a soul thus exquisitely nourished upon
the best thoughts and finest words of all ages. (Milton knew Homer by heart.) It is the language of one who lives in the companionship of the great and the wise of past time. It is inevitable that when such a one speaks, his tones, his accents, the melodies of his rhythm, the inner harmonies of his linked thoughts, the grace of his allusive tourh, should escape the common ear. To follow Milton one should at least have tasted the same training through which he put himself. Tu quoque dignum finge deo. The many cannot see it, and complain that the poet is too learned. They would have Milton talk like Bunyan or William Cobbett, whom they understand. Milton did attempt the demagogue in his pamphlets, only with the result of blemishing his fame, and degrading his genius. The best poetry is that which calls upon us to rise to it. not that which writes down to us." Whilst Processor Patt;son concedes that Paradise Lost has been more admired than read, and that the poet's wish and expectation has been fulfilled that he should fiud " fit audience, though few," he insists upon it that this must be regarded as "' in part a tribute to his excellence," for "an appreciation of Milton is the last reward of consummate scholarship; and we may apply to him whatQuintillian has said of Cicero Illese profecisse sciat, cut Cicero valde placebit.*
German Hymn Writers.
BY THE EDITOR.
The Germans are great lovers of song. They excel all other nations in the writing of good hymns. And around their heanhs and altars such singing is heard as one finds nowhere else. Two thousand years and more have they been writing hymns. Some of the best early singers came from Switzerland. Two of the earliest specimens of German sacred poetry came from the teachers of the convent of St. Gall. Louis the Pious used the first German hymn ever written, to teach them to the newly converted Saxons. Down to the eleventh or twelfth century the people took no
*He may know be is advanced who derives much pleasure from Cicero.