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court, and I should not be surprised if the deemed himself in duty bound to utter his pope himself should come to Whitehall one convictions fearlessly and unreservedly, even day to put the crown on his highness's head.” in the presence of Cromwell, and at the peril
So saying, the gay poet moved on and dis- of incurring the wrath of the powerful ruler. appeared in the crowd. Milton remained, a While he was engrossed with these thoughts, prey to mournful thoughts and apprehensions. Sir Kenelm Digby, who recognized him, in He feared more and more lest the republic, to spite of their long separation, approached which he was so ardently attached, should be on him. After greeting him with seeming cordithe brink of ruin. A new despotism, more in- ality, he said to the poet: tolerable than any other, because it rested on “Well, Mr. Milton, I am sure you are likethe brute force of arms, threatened to take wise here for the purpose of saluting the sun the place of the former tyranny. Milton had that has lately risen over England. I am alhailed Cromwell as the liberator of his father-most inclined to bet that you have in your land, the protector of freedom of conscience, pocket some poem written in honor of the the greatest man of his age; and now his ideal great man.” lay before his eyes broken and trampled in “You are mistaken,” replied the poet, inthe dust. What he had revered he could not dignantly. “I have come to Whitehall to but despise; what he had loved he could not wait on the lord protector in my capacity as but hate. It is the greatest affliction that can Secretary to the Council of State.” befall a noble soul to be compelled to tear its " Then you have really followed my advice. idols with its own hands from its heart and You have bid farewell to poetry, and turned hurl them from their exalted pedestals. It is politician. Well, I am glad of it, and wish not love deceived, but faith and trust betrayed you joy of your new career. Beware only of and abused, that strikes the deepest wounds, being impeded in your path by your poetical because it envenoms man's heart and mind, vagaries. A politician must be cool, sober, and buries and destroys all his ideals at one and destitute of poetical illusions. I am afraid fell blow. The poet's soul was filled with bit- you still possess too much imagination and enter grief, and he wept in secret not only over thusiasm ; at least, I have noticed these pecu. bis country, but over the fate of the whole liarities in your late writings, which, as an old world. He asked himself if liberty was only friend of yours, I read with a great deal of inan empty illusion, only the dream of a terest." heated imagination. On gazing upon the un- “I thank you for the sympathy which you principled crowd about him, and observing vouchsafe to my writings, but I cannot share their doings and aspirations, he felt doubts / your views. In my judgment, a great and arising in his soul whether the people would true politician must possess a heart throbbing ever be ripe for freedom. The degradation of for the liberty and welfare of the people. If human nature and the innate slavishness of he lack this, he will never exercise an endurthe vile multitude impressed him with crush- ing influence over affairs, and, at the ing force, and he experienced the disdain with best, obtain only the reputation of a skilful which lofty spirits. so often look upon the intriguer. If Moses had not sympathized so miseries and weaknesses of mankind. But profoundly with the sufferings of his people, soon these mournful thoughts gave place to if he had not revolted at the tyranny of its the sense of his own dignity, which restored oppressors, he would never have performed to him his faith in liberty and truth. He I the miracles which God caused him to do,
THE CROWN REFUSED BY CROMWELL,
He was chosen by the Lord, because he bad | her death-bed, and had to promise her to visit a heart for the sufferings of his people.” you and convey her last greetings to you."
* Precisely like our lord protector," said Milton's eyes filled involuntarily with tears, Sir Kenelm Digby, sneeringly; "only, I be- which he consecrated to Leonora's memory. lieve, with this difference, that his highness This noble and artistic nature, then, which had will not content himself with viewing the land once divided his heart with Alice, had also deof promise from afar. Unless all symptoms parted this life! deceive me, I believe we shall presently have a “ Poor Leonora !” he sighed, forgiving her coronation in London, and in that case it would the pain which she had caused him. have been a better policy for you not to bave so openly avowed your love of liberty and your republican sentiments. Believe me, my dear friend, erty is nothing but a chimera of the
CHAPTER V. poets, and a republic exists only till the right man arises to subvert it. Nowadays it. is generally only a production of weakness and StilL profoundly moved by the news he had impotence, a sort of fever which closes with just received, Milton entered the cabinet, where general exhaustion, and is cured by a skilful the protector gave his audiences. Cromwell physician. But in talking politics, I forgot to sat, with his eyes almost closed, and absorbed communicate to you intelligence which con- in his reflections. Before bim lay an open cerns you personally. I have been at Rome Bible, in which he seemed to have just been and seen Leonora Baroni.”
reading. His eyes wandered from the sacred “ Leonora !” echoed the poet, giving a start. volume to the ceiling and the wainscoting of
“I thought,” continued Sir Kenelm Digby, the walls. He contemplated musingly the “that you had not yet forgotten the signora. golden crown and the royal initials which were She fares no better than you; she told me to everywhere to be seen in the room. This was greet you, and I bring you, perhaps, her last the goal of his wishes. At present he was the farewell."
most powerful man in England. Europe bowed “She is dead ?” asked Milton, mournfully. to him ; France courted his friendship, and the Oh, tell me what has become of her." wily Mazarin flattered him in the name of his
“Shortly after your departure she was taken sovereign by means of complimentary letters sick, she loved you so fondly. As she was and costly presents. The whole Protestant growing weaker from day to day, she caused world looked upon him as its protector. His herself to be conveyed to a cloister. There I mere word had sufficed to intimidate the Duke saw her; her cheeks were very pale, but her of Savoy, who, with unheard-of cruelty, had eyes beamed with heavenly radiance. She re- persecuted the descendants of the old Walsembled a saint in her divine beauty. In de- denses in the mountain-valleys of the Alps for vout contrition she repented of her past, and the sake of their Protestant faith. He stood, with fervent ardor turned her eyes from the honored and dreaded, on the summit of an aljoys of this world to the blessedness above. most absolute power, to which he had risen The signora will soon intercede for you in solely by his merits and the strength of bis heaven. Ah ! how anxious she always was for 'mind. Nothing was wanting to him, except the salvation of your soul; with how touching that crown which was here flashing toward an affection she thought of you! I left her on him on all sides. It was only necessary for
him to stretch out his hand for it, for the newly- / seemed hewn out of granite; his flushed face summoned Parliament had voluntarily offered indicated extraordinary strength of will, and on it to him, or rather sought to force it upon him; his coarse features was stamped a firmness and yet he hesitated to accept it. He thought commanding respect. Peculiar to him was bis it was not time yet; public opinion had not glance and the expression of his large, clear been sufficiently prepared for this last and most eyes, which now gleamed with enthusiastic fire, decisive step. Through it he had become strong now seemed apathetic, as if turned inward and and powerful; to him it was the voice of God, sunk into their sockets, until they suddenly to which, he said, he would never turn a deaf and unexpectedly shot flashes and threatened
This was on his part no hypocrisy, but to crush the beholder. On the other hand, the his innermost conviction, for he regarded him- poet's figure was slender and almost feeble; self as an instrument of Providence, and as the fine dark-brown hair surrounded his delicate chosen warrior of the Lord. His belief in his face and pale cheeks; from his high forehead
mission was deeply rooted in his soul, and this beamed the noble expression of a profound I faith enhanced his greatness. Thus religious thinker, and the traces of his intellectual toils
fanaticism was blended in this wonderful nature and long-continued exertions were imprinted with a clear, sober understanding, which, in on his fragile frame. It is true, bis suffering thinking of heaven, did not forget the earth eyes had retained their old radiance, but the and its worldly schemes; his fear of the Lord immobility of the pupils indicated the almost was coupled with a high sense of his own dig- entire extinction of his eyesight. However, nity and an insatiable ambition. Fanaticism the light that was departing from them seemed and a spirit of intrigue penetrated one another, now to float around his whole being; he reand thereby added to their mutual strength. sembled a transparent alabaster lamp illumined But for his religious fanaticism, Cromwell from within. Thus the two representative men would have remained a common schemer all of their time stood face to face—the energy of his lifetime; and but for his cool, sober sa- the ruler and the enthusiasm of the poet, the gacity, he would have been a blind fanatic like beautiful ideal and the stern reality. Colonel Harrison. Possessed of these two an- Milton addressed the protector, and entagonistic qualities, he was the greatest man treated him to pardon Overton, whom Crom
well had sent to the Tower. Milton's entrance put an end to his meditą, "“ I should gladly grant your request,” said tion. He drew his strong band repeatedly the protector,“ but your friend himself renders across his broad forebead, as if to dispel the it difficult for me to do so. I call God to spirits that had haunted him. He feigned per- witness that I am a well-wisher of his, and fect tranquillity, and indifference, which he that I am sorry to treat an old comrade with dropped only in the course of the conversation. so much rigor. It is no fault of mine; but With a kind gesture he invited the poet to be both he and Harrison have forced me to adopt seated. Although he himself had not enjoyed this course. The Lord alone knows my heart, a very good education, he esteemed the more and will judge between me and them. Say bighly the learning and knowledge of others. yourself if I can act otherwise. They con
To the beholder the two men presented the spired against the government, and stirred up most striking contrast. Cromwell was heavy- a mutiny in the army. Had they been royalset; his body, in spite of the fatigues and pri-ists, I should have caused them to be bevations which it had undergone during the war, headed ; but, as they are old friends of mine,
of his age.
I have contented myself with imprisoning “By a man whom Providence has raised chem."
higher than any other mortal, who delivered “So far as I know, their only crime consists England from intolerable oppression, who in their intense devotion to the republic." achieved glorious victories in countless battles
“ Both are fanatics, incorrigible madcaps, bent over the enemies of the people, and whom on accomplishing impossibilities, and thereby the grateful country calls the father of the breeding confusion and disorder.
If their people.” views were carried into effect, we should have " And what do they say of this man now?" no government whatever. They dream of a “That he is stretching 'out his hand for a state of society that would be nothing but crown, and hankering after a title unworthy utter anarchy. This I cannot tolerate, and the transcendent majesty of his character. therefore nothing remained for me but to As yet the friends of freedom will not and canrender them harmless. I swear to you that not credit this rumor; they refuse to think the no harm shall befall either Overton or Har- great man capable of such littleness. He will rison. God forbid that I should consent to respect the fond expectations which we cherthe execution of such brave men, who shed ish, the solicitudes of his anxious country.” their blood for the good cause! I will only Milton paused to await the impression prokeep them imprisoned until they have seen duced by his bold words. Cromwell, however, the errors to which they have yielded. Do remained silent and seemed absorbed in deep not grieve, Mr. Secretary, and do not be angry thought. Carried away by his own enthusiwith me, if I cannot grant this request of asm, the poet discarded all timidity as unworyours. You know that I am your friend, and thy of his character, and addressed the proam always glad to see you. If you wish to tector without further circumlocution. say any thing else to me, speak, for I regard Respect,” he exclaimed, with flushed you as a man alike wise and modest.”
cheeks, and in a voice of noble enthusiasm, The protector thus unwittingly came to “the looks and the wounds of your brave commeet the poet, and Milton seized unhesitat- panions-in-arms, who, under your banners, ingly the opportunity to lay his wiews before have so strenuously fought for liberty; rehim.
spect the shades of those who perished in the “I grieve not only for the sake of my contest; respect also the opinions and the friend,” he said gravely, “but still more for hopes which foreign states entertain concernthe fate of a fair woman, I might almost say ing us, which promise to themselves so many the beloved of my youth."
advantages from that liberty which we have so “Ah, ah !” exclaimed Cromwell, in a play- bravely acquired, from the establishment of ful tone.
“Has our esteemed secretary for that new government which has begun to shed the foreign tongues also a sweetheart ? For its splendor over the world, and which, if it be aught I know, you are married, and I have suffered to vanish like a dream, would involve always heard you spoken of as a strictly moral us in the deepest abyss of shame." man."
“I am only an instrument in the hand of “I do not speak of a mortal woman, but of the Lord,” interrupted Cromwell, as if to erdivine liberty and this republic. The general cuse himself to Milton, and to himself. impression is that both are endangered.”
Therefore, respect yourself. After having “And by whom?" asked the protector, who endured so many sufferings and encountered was suddenly all ear.
so many perils for the sake of liberty, do not
suffer it, now it is obtained, either to be vi- to penetrate into the remotest parts of the olated by yourself, or in any one instance im- country, to bave the mind present and operapaired by others. Indeed, you cannot be tive in every quarter, to watch against surtruly free unless we are free also; for such is prise, to provide against danger, to reject the the nature of things, that he who trenches blandishments of pleasure and the pomp of on the liberty of others is the first to lose his power—these are exertions compared with own, and become a slave. But if you, who which the labor of war is a mere pastime; have bitherto been the patron and tutelary which will require all the energy, and employ genius of liberty—if you, who are exceeded by every faculty that you possess; which demand, no one in justice, in piety, and goodness, a man supported from above, and almost inshould hereafter invade that liberty which you structed by immediate inspiration." have defended, your conduct must be fatally “What you say is true, very true," replied operative, not only against the cause of lib- Cromwell. “ The Lord Himself will.illumierty, but the general interests of piety and nate me." virtue. Your integrity and virtue will appear “I have no doubt that He is with you. But to have evaporated, your faith in religion to you will bear my feeble words in mind, and have been small; your character with posterity consider especially how you may discharge all will dwindle into insignificance, and thus a these important duties in such a manner as most destructive blow will be levelled against not only to secure our liberties, but to add to the happiness of mankind."
Was Cromwell really moved? At all events When Milton ceased, the protector rose he heaved a deep sigh. Milton continued, from his chair and strode, as was his habit, up without taking any notice of his real or feigned and down the room. emotion :
"Go, go,” he said, laying his hand on Mil“I know full well that the work which you ton's shoulder. “ You are an honest, excellent have undertaken is of incalculable moment; man, and I would I possessed your genius and that it will thoroughly sift and expose every virtue; but the Lord has endowed us all with principle and sensation of your heart; that it different gifts. To you He has vouchsafed will fully display the vigor and genius of your learning and eloquence; but to me" character; and that it will determine whether Cromwell did not finish his sentence. With you really possess those great qualities of a kind gesture he dismissed the poet, who left piety, fidelity, justice, and self-denial, which the great man with renewed hope and confimade us believe that you were raised by the dence. After he was gone, the protector be special direction of the Deity to the highest came again absorbed in his reflections. In his pinnacle of power."
mind arose once more that long struggle be“I am only a weak man, an instrument in tween his ambition and his sense of duty. His hands,” murmured the protector. “In The temptation was too strong, and the old truth, the Lord speaks out of your mouth; demon soon seized him again. An old augury therefore, speak out fearlessly."
came into his mind. In his boyhood, in a “At once wisely and discreetly to hold the Latin play performed by the pupils of Camsceptre over three powerful nations,” added bridge, and representing the struggle of the Milton, thus encouraged, “ to persuade people human limbs, he had played “the Tongue," to relinquish inveterate and corrupt for new and finally been crowned as victor, all his and more beneficial maxims and institutions, schoolmates kneeling down and paying homage