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There was poetry then, and poetical associations, within Milton's home in the close city. Nor were poetical influences wanting without. The early writings of Milton teem with the romantic associations of his youth, and they have the character of the age sensibly impressed upon them. In the epistle to Deodati we have an ample description of that love of the drama, whether comedy or tragedy, which he subsequently connected with the pursuits of his mirthful and his contemplative man. To the student of nineteen,

The grave or gay colloquial scene recruits

My spirits spent in learning's long pursuits.” His descriptions of the comic characters in which he delights appear rather to be drawn from Terence than from Jonson or Fletcher. But in tragedy he pretty clearly points at Shakspere's “Romeo' and at 'Hamlet.' 'L'Allegro' and · Il Penseroso' were probably written some four or five years after this epistle, when Milton's father had retired to Horton, and his son's visits to London were occasional. But “the well-trod stage” is still present to his thoughts. There is a remarkable peculiarity in all Milton's early poetry which is an example of the impressibility of his imagination under local circumstances. He is the poet, at one and the same time, of the city and of the country. In the epistle to Deodati he displays this mixed affection for the poetical of art and of nature :

“ Nor always city-pent, or pent at home,

I dwell; but, when spring calls me forth to roam,
Expatiate in our proud suburban shades

Of branching elm, that never sun pervades."
But London is thus addressed :-

“Oh city, founded by Dardanian hands,

Whose towering front the circling realms commands,
Too blest abode! no loveliness we see

In all the earth, but it abounds in thee." Every reader is familiar with the exquisite rural pictures of · L'Allegro;' but the scenery, without the slightest difficulty, may be placed in the immediate “suburban shades” which he has described in the epistle. It is scarcely necessary to remove them even as far as the valley of the Colne. The transition is immediate from the hedge-row elms, the russet lawns, the upland hamlets, and the nut-brown ale, to

“ Tower'd cities please us then,

And the busy hum of men,
Where throngs of knights and barons bold
In weeds of peace high triumphs hold,
With store of ladies, whose bright eyes
Rain influence, and judge the prize
Of wit, or arms, while both contend
To win her grace, whom all commend.
There let Hymen oft appear
In saffron robe, with taper clear,
And pomp and feast and revelry,
With mask and antique pageantry,
Such sights as youthful poets dream
On summer-eves by haunted stream.
Then to the well-trod stage anon,” &c.

So, in Il Penseroso,' there is a similar transition from the even-song of the nightingale, and the sullen roar of the far-off curfew, to

“ The bellman's drowsy charm

To bless the doors from nightly harm." And there, in like manner, we turn from

“ Arched walks of twilight groves

And shadows brown," 'to

the high embowed roof
With antic pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,

Casting a dim religious light." “No man,” says Thomas Warton, “was ever so disqualified to turn Puritan as Milton.” In these his early poems, according to this elegant critic, his expressed love of choral church music, of Gothic cloisters, of the painted windows and vaulted aisles of a venerable cathedral, of tilts and tournaments, of masques and pageantries, is wholly repugnant to the anti-poetical principles which he afterwards adopted. We doubt exceedingly whether Milton can be held to have turned Puritan to the extent in which Warton accepts the term.

Milton was a republican in politics, and an asserter of liberty of conscience, independent of Church government, in religion. But the constitution of his mind was utterly opposed to the reception of such extreme notions of moral fitness as determined the character of a Puritan. There has been something of exaggeration and mistake in this matter. For example: Warton, in a note on that passage in the epistle to Deodati in which Milton is supposed to allude to Shakspere's tragedies, says, “His warmest poetical predilections were at last totally obliterated by civil and religious enthusiasm. Seduced by the gentle eloquence of fanaticism, he listened no longer to the wild and native wood-notes of Fancy's sweetest child.' In his Iconoclastes' he censures King Charles for studying one, whom we well know was the closet-companion of his solitudes, William Shakespeare.' This remonstrance, which not only resulted from his abhorrence of a king, but from his disapprobation of plays, would have come with propriety from Prynne or Hugh Peters. Nor did he now perceive that what was here spoken in contempt conferred the highest compliment on the elegance of Charles's private character." Mr. Waldron had the merit of pointing out, some forty or fifty years ago, that the passage in the · Iconoclastes' to which Warton alludes gives not the slightest evidence of Milton's listening no longer to “Fancy's sweetest child,” nor of reproaching Charles for having made Shakspere the “closet-companion of his solitudes." Milton is arguing—with the want of charity certainly which belongs to an advocate-that “the deepest policy of a tyrant hath been ever to counterfeit religious ;” and, applying this to the devotion of the ‘Icon Basilike,' he thus proceeds :—“The poets also, and some English, have been in this point so mindful of decorum as to put never more pious words in the mouth of any person than of a tyrant. I shall not instance an abstruse author, wherein the King may be less conversant, but one whom we well know was the closet-companion of his solitudes, William Shakespeare, who introduces the person of Richard III. speaking in as high a strain of piety and mortification as is uttered in any passage in this book” (the Icon Basilike'). He then quotes a speech of Shakspere's

Richard III., and adds, “The poet used not much licence in departing from the truth of history.” If Milton had meant to reproach Charles with being familiar with Shakspere, the reproach would have recoiled upon himself, in evidencing the same familiarity. There was, in truth, scarcely a greater disparity between the clustering, locks of Milton and the cropped hair of the Roundheads, than between his abiding love of poetry and music and the frantic denunciations of both by such as Prynne. Prynne, for example, devotes a whole chapter of the 'Histrio-mastix’ to a declamation against “effeminate, delicate, lust-provoking music,” in which the mildest thing he quotes from the Fathers is, “Let the singer be thrust out of thy house as noxious; expel out of thy doors all fiddlers, singing-women, with all this choir of the devil, as the deadly songs of syrens." Compare this with Milton's sonnet, published in 1648, “ To my Friend Mr. Henry Lawes,"—the royalist Henry Lawes :

Harry, whose tuneful and well-measur'd song
First taught our English music how to span
Words with just note and accent, not to scan
With Midas' ears, committing short and long,
Thy worth and skill exempt thee from the throng,
With praise enough for envy to look wan;
To after age thou shalt be writ the man

That with smooth air couldst humour best our tongue.” Doubtless since Comus' was presented at Ludlow Castle in 1634, and Lawes composed and sung some of its lyrics, up to the period when Milton wrote the • Iconoclastes,' the elegancies, the splendours, the high triumphs, the antique pageantries, which so captivated the youthful poet, had given place to sterner things. In his own mind, especially, that process of deep reflection was going forward which finally made him a zealous partisan and a bitter controversialist ; but which was blended with purer and loftier aspirations than usually belong to politics or polemics. But his was an age of deep thinkers and resolute actors. The leaders and the followers then of either party were sincere in their thoughts and earnest in their deeds. They were not a compromising and evasive generation. There was no mistaking their friendships or their enmities. Milton early chose his part in the great contention of his times. Amidst the classical imagery of Lycidas we have his bitter denunciations against the hirelings of the Church, who

Creep and intrude and climb into the fold.” He would not enter the service of that Church himself lest he should be called upon to "subscribe slave.” To that vocation, however, he says, “I was destined of a child and in mine own resolutions." That he was impatient of what he considered the tyranny which interfered between a service so suited to his character was to be expected from the ardour of his nature; but we can scarcely think that in those lines of Lycidas, written in 1637—

“ But that two-handed engine at the door

Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more", he anticipates, as some have maintained, the execution of Archbishop Laud. Matters were scarcely then come to that pass. But yet Laud in 1637 had some unpleasant demonstrations of the temper of the times. In that year Bastwick, Burton, and Prynne were sentenced by the Star Chamber, “That each of the

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defendants should be fined five thousand pounds; that Bastwick and Burton should stand in the pillory at Westminster, and there lose their ears; and that Prynne, having lost his ears before by sentence of this court, should have the remainder of his ears cut off, and should be branded on both cheeks with the letters S. L., to signify a seditious libeller.” The execution to the tittle of this barbarous sentence maddened and disgusted those who looked upon the spectacle. Laud's Diary, for two months after this revolting exhibition, contains some very significant entries, recording the libels which it produced. A short libel pasted on the cross in Cheapside described him as the arch-wolf of Canterbury; another, on the south gate of St. Paul's, informed the people that the devil had let that house to the Archbishop; another, fastened to the north gate, averred that the government of the Church of England is a candle in the snuff going out in a stench. These were warnings; but power is apt to look upon its own pomp,

and forget that the day of humiliation and weakness may arise. Howell, in one of his letters written in the year of Laud's execution, says, “Who would have dreamt ten years since, when Archbishop Laud did ride in state through London streets, accompanying my Lord of London, to be sworn Lord High Treasurer of England, that the mitre should have now come to such a scorn, to such a national kind of hatred ?” In those eventful days such contrasts were not unfrequent; and they sometimes followed each other much more closely than the triumphal procession of Laud, and his execution. On the 25th of November, 1641, the city of London welcomed Charles from Scotland with an entertainment of unusual magnificence; and the historian of the city, after revelling in his description of aldermen and liverymen, to the number of five hundred, mounted on horseback, with all the array of velvet and scarlet and golden chains,—of conduits running with claret,--of banquetings and loyal anthems, says, “ the whole day seemed to be spent in a kind of emulation, with reverence be it spoken, between their Majesties and the City; the citizens blessing and praying for their Majesties and their princely issue, and their Majesties returning the same blessings upon

the heads of the citizens.” In 1642, not quite a year after these pleasant gratulations, Milton wrote the following noble sonnet :

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WHEN THE ASSAULT WAS INTENDED TO THE CITY.

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“ Captain, or Colonel, or Knight in arms,

Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize,
If deed of honour did thee ever please,
Guard them, and him within protect from harms.
He can requite thee, for he knows the charms
That call fame on such gentle acts as these.
And he can spread thy name o'er lands and seas,
Whatever clime the sun's bright circle warms.
Lift not thy spear against the Muses' bow'r:
The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
The house of Pindarus, when temple and tow'r
Went to the ground: and the repeated air
Of sad Electra's poet had the pow'r

To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare."
On the 25th of August, 1642, the King erected his standard on Notting.
ham Castle. Essex, as Generalissimo of the Parliament forces, had already
marched upon Northampton. The King's army was advancing towards the

capital; and London, with its vast suburbs, required to be put in a state of defence. It was on this occasion that the dogged resolution, the unflinching courage of the citizens of all ranks and all ages, manifested themselves in their willing labours to give London in some degree the character of a fortified city. The royalists ridiculed the citizens in their song of “Roundheaded cuckolds, come dig." The battle of Edgehill was fought on the 23rd of October; and on the 7th of November Essex returned to London. While the Parliament was negotiating, the sound of Prince Rupert's cannon was heard in the immediate neighbourhood of the capital; and the citizens marched out to battle. But the bloody contest of Edgehill was not to be renewed at Brentford and Turnham Green. The King's forces retired ; and the trained-bands refreshed themselves and made merry with the good things which their careful wives had not forgotten to send after them in this hour of danger and alarm. It was upon this occasion that the sonnet which we have just transcribed was written. We might infer from the tone of this sonnet that Milton had little confidence that the arms of the citizens would be a sufficient protection for his “ defenceless doors.” He was living then in Aldersgate Street; in that sort of house which was common in Old London, and which Milton always chose--a garden-house. This house might unquestionably be called “ the Muses' bower;" for here he was not only carrying on the education of his nephews and of the sons of a few intimate friends, but, as we learn from · The Reason of Church Government,' he was preparing for some high work which should be of power “ to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civility; to allay the perturbation of the mind, and set the affections in right tune- **** a work 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 invocation of dame Memory and her syren 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.” Cherishing high thoughts such as these, Milton called upon the assaulting soldier,

"Lift not thy spear against the Muses' bow'r.” Since his return from Italy, in 1639, his principles had been too openly proclaimed for him to appeal to

*Captain, or Colonel, or Knight in arms," to spare the house of Milton the polemic. It was Milton the poet who left unwillingly “a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes," that thus asked that the Muses' bower should be protected, as the house of Pindar and the city of Euripides had been spared. But London was saved from the assault ; and a few months after the Common Council and the Parliament raised up much more formidable defences than invocations founded upon classical lore. All passages

and

ways leading to the city were shut up, except those entering at Charing Cross, St. Giles's in the Fields, St. John Street, Shoreditch, and Whitechapel. The ends of these streets were fortified with breastworks and turnpikes, musket proof; the city wall was repaired and mounted with artillery;

the

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