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here, but as the work before us has called attention to it, we may as well let Milton speak for himself on one or two points.
Why should Milton, the Poes, thrust himself into the heat of violent political agitations, and take such an active and prominent part in the discussion of questions quite alien, one would think, to his pursuits ? The answer is given by himself in a fascinating account of his youthful studies, habits, and aspirations, extorted from him by the abuse of an antagonist. He“ was confirmed,” he says, " in this opinion : that he who would not frustrate 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 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." His whole character-all his habits of thought and feeling, the hopes of his youth, and his plans for manhood and age, were after the severest precepts and models, Roman, Grecian, and Hebrew. He was " bred up in the knowledge of ancient and illustrious deeds,” and controlled by impulses and laws of duty which constrained him to use as effectively as possible for the public good, all those resources of genius and learning with which God had endowed him, or which he had made part of his intellectual and moral being by that "labor and intent study” which, he tells us, " he took to be his portion in this life. Accordingly, as soon as the news of revolutionary movements in England reached him at Florence, “ I thought it base,” he says, “when my fellow citizens were fighting for liberty at home, that I, even for the improvement of my mind, should be travelling at my ease abroad "- and he hastened to their assistance.
With what elevated motives, and yet with what reluctance and constraint upon the genial impulses of his nature, he engaged in controversy, is yet more evident in that extraordinary passage with which the second book of the “Reason of Church Government” commences—a passage unsurpassed in attractions, all things considered, by any in English literature. It begins as follows:
“How happy were it for this frail, and as it may be truly called, mortal life of man, since all earthly things which have the name of good and convenient in our daily use, are withal so cum
Apology for Smectymnuus.
bersome and full of trouble, if knowledge, yet which is the best and lightsomest possession of the mind, were, as the common saying is, no burden ; and that what it wanted of being a load to any part of the body, it did not with a heavy advantage overlay upon the spirit! For not to speak of that knowledge that rests in the contemplation of natural causes and dimensions, which must needs be a lower wisdom, as the object is low, certain it is, that he who hath obtained in more than the scantiest measure to know any thing distinctly of God, and of his true worship, and what is infallibly good and happy in the state of man's life, what in itself evil and miserable, though vulgarly not so esteemed; he that hath obtained to know this, the only high valuable wisdom indeed, remembering also that God, even to a strictness, requires the improvement of these his intrusted gifts, cannot but sustain a sorer burden of mind, and more pressing than any supportable toil or weight which the body can labor under, how and in what manner he shall dispose and employ those sums of knowledge and illumination, which God hath sent him into this world to trade with.
“ And that which aggravates the burden more, is, that, having received amongst his allotted parcels, certain precious truths of such an orient lustre as no diamond can equal, which nevertheless he has in charge to put off at any cheap rate, yea, for nothing to them that will, the great merchants of this world, fearing that this course would soon discover and disgrace the false glitter of their deceitful wares wherewith they abuse the people, like poor Indians with beads and glasses, practise by all means how they may suppress the vending of such rarities, and at such a cheap.
as would undo them, and turn their trash upon their hands. Therefore, by gratifying the corrupt desires of men in fleshly doctrines, they stir them up to persecute with hatred and contempt all those that seek to bear themselves uprightly in this their spiritual factory; which they foreseeing, though they cannot but testify of truth and the excellency of that heavenly traffic 'which they bring, against what opposition or danger soever, yet needs must it sit heavily upon their spirits, that being in God's prime intention and their own, selected heralds of peace, and dispensers of treasure inestimable, without price to them that have no pence, they find in the discharge of their commission, that they are made the greatest variance and offence, a very sword and fire both in house and city over the whole earth. This is that which the sad prophet Jeremiah Jaments; Wo is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and contention !' And although divine inspiration must certainly have been sweet to those ancient prophets, yet the irksomeness of that truth which they brought, was so unpleasant unto them, that everywhere they call it a burden. Yea, that mysterious book of Revelation, which the great evangelist was bid to eat, as it had
been some eyebrightening electuary of knowledge and foresight, though it were sweet in his mouth, and in the learning, it was bitter in his belly, bitter in the denouncing. Nor was this hid from the wise poet Sophocles, who, in that place of his tragedy, where Tiresias is called to resolve king Edipus in a matter which he knew would be grievous, brings him in bemoaning his lot, that he knew more than other men. For surely to every good and peaceable man, it must in nature needs be a hateful thing to be the displeaser and molester of thousands; much better would it like him doubtless to be the messenger of gladness and contentment, which is his chief intended business to all mankind, but that they resist and oppose their own true happiness.
“But when God commands to take the trumpet, and blow a dolorous or a jarring blast, it lies not in man's will what he shall say, or what he shall conceal. If he shall think to be silent, as Jeremiah did, because of the reproach and derision he met with daily, and all his familiar friends watched for his halting,' to be revenged on him for speaking the truth, he would be forced to confess as he confessed, his word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary with forbearing, and could not stay ;' which might teach these times not suddenly to condemn all things that are sharply spoken, or vehemently written, as proceeding out of stomach, virulence, and ill nature ; but to consider rather that if the prelates have leave to say the worst that can be said, or do the worst that can be done, while they strive to keep to themselves, to their great pleasure and commodity, those things which they ought to render up, no man can be justly offended with him that shall endeavor to impart and bestow, without any gain to himself, those sharp but saving words, which would be a terror and a torment in him to keep back. For me, I have determined to lay up as the best treasure and solace of a good old age, if God vouchsafe it me, the honest liberty of free speech from my youth, where I shall think it available in so dear a concernment as the church's good. For if I be either by disposition or what other cause, too inquisitive, or suspicious of myself and mine own doings, who can help it? But this I foresee, that should the church be brought under heavy oppression, and God have given me ability the while to reason against that man that should be the author of so foul a deed, or should she, by blessing from above on the industry and courage of faithful men, change this her distracted estate into better days, without the least furtherance or contribution of those few talents which God at that present had lent me; I foresee what stories I should hear within myself, all my life after, of discourage and reproach. 'Timorous and ungrateful, the church of God is now again at the foot of her insulting enemies, and thou bewailest; what matters it for thee, or thy bewailing? When time was, thou couldst not find a syllable of all that thou hast read or studied, to
utter in her behalf. Yet ease and leisure was given thee for thy retired thoughts, out of the sweat of other men. Thou hadst the diligence, the parts, the language of a man, if a vain object were to be adorned or beautified ; but when cause of G and his church 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.'
“Or else I should have heard on the other ear; Slothful, and ever to be set light by, the church hath now overcome her late distresses after the unwearied labors of many her true servants that stood up in her defence; thou also wouldst take upon thee to share amongst them of their joy; but wherefore thou? Where canst thou show any word or deed of thine which might have hastened her peace ? Whatever thou dost now talk, or write, or look, is the alms of other men's active prudence and zeal. Dare not now to say, or do any thing better than thy former sloth and infancy; or if thou darest, thou dost impudently to make a thrifty purchase of boldness to thyself, out of the painful merits of other men ; what before was thy sin, is now thy duty, to be abject and worthless.'
“ These, and such like lessons as these, I know would have been my matins duly, and my even song. 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 honor to be admitted mourners. But, if she lift up her drooping head and prosper, among those that have something more than wished her welfare, 1 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
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; so, lest it should be still imputed to me, as I have found it hath been, that some self-pleasing humor of vain glory hath incited me to contest with men of high estimation, now while green years are upon my head ; from this needless surmisal I shall hope to dissuade the intelligent and equal auditor, if I can but say successfully that which in this exigent behoves me, although I would be heard only, if it might be, by the elegant and learned reader, to whom principally for a while I shall beg leave I may address myself. To him it will be no new thing, though I tell him that if I hunted after praise by the ostentation VOL. I.
of wit and learning, I should not write thus out of mine own season, when I have neither yet completed to my mind the full circle of my private studies, although I complain not of any insufficiency to the matter in hand; or were 1 ready to my wishes, it were a folly to commit any thing elaborately composed, to the careless and interrupted listening of these tumultuous times.”
Another very natural inquiry relates to Milton's connection with Cromwell. Milton was a republican of the severest school, and as such labored for the realization of his idea with untiring zeal, up to the very day, almost, of the Restoration. How, then, could he consistently connect himself as he did with the government of the Protector? The simple answer is, that he had confidence in Cromwell's principles and intentions; and sincerely believed, with some of his party (for on this point the republicans split), that the object of their hopes and labors would be more certainly and speedily secured, by acting with him, than by indignantly retiring, with Vane and others, from all participation in the management of public affairs. That he was faithful to his principles, is evident from his writings during the Protectorate; in which he never hesitated on proper occasions to tell Cromwell in the plainest terms the reasons of the support given him by the Republicans, and what they expected from him as the “patron of freedom.” Take, for instance, the following direct appeal to the Protector, from the Defensio Secunda.
“Reflect then frequently, (how dear alike the trust, and the parent from whom you received it,) that to your hands your country has commended and confided her freedom ; that, what she lately expected from her choicest representatives, she now hopes exclusively from you. Oh, reverence this high confidence, this hope of your country, relying exclusively upon yourself: reverence the countenances and the wounds of those brave men, who have so nobly struggled for liberty under your auspices, as well as the names of those who have fallen in the conflict. Rev. erence also the opinion and the discourse of foreign communities; their lofty anticipations with respect to our freedom, so valiantly obtained—to our republic, so gloriously established, of which the speedy extinction would involve us in the deepest and most unexampled infamy. Reverence, finally, yourself: and suffer not that liberty, for the attainment of which you have encountered so many perils, and endured so many hardships, to sustain any violation from your own hands, or any from those of others. Without our freedom, in fact, you cannot yourself be free: for it is justly ordained by nature, that he who invades the liberty of