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Their descriptions are more faithful to the acuteness of their own feelings than to the real qualities of the objects described. Paradoxical as it may sound, they are often deficient in truth, in proportion to the excess of their sincerity; the charm or the merit they celebrate is partly the phantom of their own fancy; but they believe it real, while they praise it as a reality; and as long as their belief is fincere, it is unjust to accuse them of adulation. Milton himself gives us an excellent touchstone for the trial of praise in the following passage of his Areopagitica; " there are three
principal things, without which all praising is but court
ship and flattery; first, when that only is praised, which “ is solidly worth praise ; next, when greatest likelihoods
are brought that such things are truly and really in those
persons to whom they are ascribed; the other, when he “ who praises, by shewing that such his actual persuasion " is of whom he writes, can demonstrate that he flatters not. If we try Milton by this his own equitable law, we must honourably acquit him of the illiberal charge that might almost be thought fufficiently refuted by its apparent inconsistency with his elevated spirit.
Though in the temperate judgment of posterity, Cromwell appears only a bold bad man, yet he dazzled and deceived his contemporaries with such a strong and continued blaze of real and visionary splendor, that almost all the power and all the talents on earth seemed eager to pay him unsolicited homage: but I mean not to rest the vindication of Milton on the prevalence of example, which, however high and dignified it might be, could never serve as a fanc
tion for the man, to whom the rare union of spotless integrity with consummate genius had given an elevation of character that no rank and no powers unsupported by probity could possibly beftow; though all the potentates and all the literati of the world conspired to fatter the usurper, we might expect Milton to remain, like his own faithful Abdiel,
Unshaken, unseduc'd, unterrified.
Assuredly he was so; and in praifing Cromwell he praised a personage, whose matchlefs hypocrisy assumed before him a mask that the arch apostate of the poet could not wear in the presence of Abdiel, the mask of affectionate zeal towards man, and of devoût attachment to God; a mask that Davenant has described with poetical felicity in the following couplet:
Diffembled zeal, ambition's old disguise,
: It was more as a faint than as an hero that Cromwell deluded the generous credulity of Milton; and, perhaps, the recollection of his having been thus deluded infpired the poet with his admirable apology for Uriel deceived by Satan.
For neither man nor angel can discern
At wisdom's gate, and to fimplicity
That sublime religious enthusiasm, which was the predominant characteristic of the poet, exposed his particularly to be duped by the prime artifice of the political impostor, who was indeed so consummate in the art of deception, that he occasionally deceived the prudent unheated Ludlow and the penetrating inflexible Bradshaw; nay, who carried his habitual deception to such a length, that he is supposed, by some acute judges of human nature, to have been ultimately the dupe of his own hypocritical fervour, and to have thought himself, what he induced many to think him, the selected servant of God, expressly chosen to accomplish wonders, not only for the good of his nation, but for the true interest of Christendom.
Though Cromwell had assumed the title of Protector, when Milton in his second defence sketched a masterly portrait of him (as we have seen he did of Bradshaw in the fame production) yet the new potentate had not, at this period, completely unveiled his domineering and oppressive character; on the contrary, he affected, with the greatest art, such a tender concern for the people; he represented himself, both in his public and private protestations, so perfectly free from all ambitious desires, that many persons, who possessed not the noble unsuspecting fimplicity of Milton, believed the Protector sincere in declaring, that he reluctantly submitted to the cares of government, merely for the settlement and
security of the nation. With a mind full of fervid admiration for his marvellous atchievements, and generally difposed to give him credit for every upright intention, Milton hailed him as the father of his country, and delineated his character: if there were some particles of Aattery in this panegyric, which, if we adhere to our author's just definition of flattery we cannot allow, it was completely purified from every cloud or speck of servility by the most splendid and sublime admonition that was ever given to a man . poffeffed of great talents and great power by a genuine and dauntless friend, to whom talents and power were only objects of reverence, when under the real or fancied direction of piety and virtue.
“-* Revere (says Milton to the Protector) the great expectation, the only hope, which our country now rests upon
• Reverere tantam de te expectationem, (pem patriz de te unicam; reverere vultus et vulnera tot fortium virorum, quotquot, te duce, pro libertate tam ftrenuè decertarunt; manes etiam eorum qui in ipfo certamine occubuerunt; reverere exterarum quoque civitatum existimationem de nobis atque fermones, quantas res de libertate noftra tam fortiter partâ, de nostra republica tam gloriose exorta fibi polliceantur ; quæ fi tam citò quasi aborta evanuerit, profecto nihil æquè dedecorosum huic genti, atque pudendum fuerit; teipfum denique reverere, ut pro quâ adipiscenda libertate tot ærumnas pertulisti, tot pericula adiisti, eain adeptus violatam per te, aut ulla in parte imminutam aliis ne sinas esile. Profecto tu ipse liber sine nobis esse non potes, fic enim natura comparatum eft, ut qui aliorum libertatem occupat, fuam ipfe primum omnium amittat; feque
primum omnium intelligat serviri ; atque id quidem non injuriâ. At vero, si patronus ipse libertatis, et quasi tutelaris deus, fi is, quo nemo justior, nemo fanctior eft habitus, nemo vir melior, quam vindicavit ipse, eam poftmoduin invaferit, id non ipfi tantum fed univerfæ virtutis ac pietatis rationi pernicio. sum ac lethale prope modum fit necesse est : ipfa honeftas ipsa virtus decoxisle videbitur religionis augusta fides, existimatio perexigua in pofterum erit, quo gravius generi humano vulnus, poft illud primum, infligi nullum poterit. Onus longè gravissimum suscepisti, quod te penitus explorabit totum te atque intimum perscrutabitur atque oftendet, quid tibi animi, quid virium insit, quid ponderis ; vivatne in te verè illa pietas, fiJes, juititia, animique inoderatio, ob quas eve&tum te præ cæteris Dei numine ad hanc fummam digni. tatem credimus. Tres nationes validiffimas
you-revere the fight and the sufferings of so many brave men, who, under your guidance, have fought so strenuously for freedom-revere the credit we have gained in foreign nations-reflect on the great things they promise themselves from our liberty, so bravely acquired; from our republic, so gloriously founded, which, should it perish like an abortion, must expose our country to the utmost contempt and dishonour.
“ Finally, revere yourself; and having fought and sustained every hardship and danger for the acquisition of this liberty, let it not be violated by yourself, or impaired by others, in the smallest degree. In truth, it is impossible for you to be free yourself unless we are so; for it is the ordinance of nature, that the man who first invades the liberty of others must first lose his own, and first feel himself a Nave.. This indeed is just. But if the very patron and tutelary angel of liberty, if he who is generally regarded as pre-eminent in justice, in sanctity, and virtue ; if he should ultimately invade that liberty which he asserted himself, such invasion must indeed be pernicious and fatal, not only to himself, but to the general interest of piety and virtue. Truth, probity, and religion would then lose the estimation
consilio regere, populos ab institutis pravis ad meliorem, quam antehac, frugem ac disciplinam velle perducere, remotiffimas in partes, sollicitam mentem, cogitationes immittere, vigilare, prævidere, nullum laborem recufare, nulla voluptatum blandimenta non fpernere, divitiarum atque potentiæ oftentationem fugere, hæc sunt illa ardua, præ quibus bellum ludus est; hæc te ventilabunt at.
que excutient, hæc virum pofcunt divino fultum auxilio, divino penè colloquio monitum atque edoctum. Quæ tu, et plura, læpenumero quin tecum reputes atque animo revolvas, non dubito; uti et illud, quibus potissimum queas modis et illa maxima perficere et libertatem falvam nobis reddere et auctiorem.Prose Works, vol. 2. p 399.