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how it happened, but her hand moved the pen new promises when he was reminded of his which he yet held in his hand, and with her engagement, or with underhand half-measures assistance he mechanically affixed his royal against the British constitution, which he signature to the treaty. By a stroke of the dared not openly attack. An event, not very pen the fate of England had been decided; important in itself, characterizes most strikand he had become a vassal of Louis XIV., ingly the course he pursued toward Parliafrom whom he henceforth received an annual ment, and betrayed his real intentions. The stipend, which he used in gratifying his expen- Parliament contemplated imposing a tax upon sive passions. The tender embrace and the actors. The court party opposed this measburning kisses of the female diplomatist stifled ure, objecting that the actors were servants the rising misgivings of the king.
of the king, and were kept for his majesty's At such a price Charles bought the love pleasure. On this occasion a highly-respected of Mlle. de Querouaille, whom he afterward member of the House of Commons inquired created Duchess of Portsmouth.
whether they referred to the actors or ac
This was evidently an allusion to two actresses who were favorite mistresses of Charles II. The king was furious at this in
sult, and resolved to revenge himself in a CHAPTER XVI.
manner entirely unworthy of his exalted office.
Some officers of the lifeguards took upon " SAMSON AGONISTES."
themselves the task of chastising the offender. HENCEFORWARD England sạnk deeper and They assailed him in a most cowardly manner, deeper from the lofty position which she had and, notwithstanding his determined resisthitherto occupied. At home, the reactionary ance, mutilated him by slitting his nose. The party put off its hypocritical mask and no long-, Parliament was highly indignant at this cower disguised its despotic intentions; abroad, ardly outrage, and, supported by the violent the government, owing to its humiliating de- exasperation of the whole country, demanded pendence on France, forfeited what little re due satisfaction for it. spect it had enjoyed up to this time. The The people, however, were aroused to still “cabal” continued in power, while Charles greater excitement by their apprehensions regratified his licentiousness the more eagerly, garding the restoration of the Catholic faith. as Louis XIV. furnished him with the neces The king was not unjustly suspected of leansary funds. As a matter of course, general ing toward the Roman Church, The Duke of discontent prevailed among the people, and, York, his brother, had already publicly addespite the demoralization reigning throughout mitted that he had embraced Catholicism. the country, there stirred in the nation a grow- Sir Kenelm Digby, who had meanwhile died ing sense of its humiliating condition, which during a journey to France, had not unguccesswas intensified by the consciousness of having fully worked, both in secret and openly, for forfeited its honor, and by gloomy forebodings the faith of his executed father. Protestantism of dangers menacing the security of England. was seriously menaced, and religious liberty It is true, Charles did not possess sufficient had to fear the worst at the hands of the energy to take a decisive step toward carrying gloomy and bigoted James. out the treaty which he had concluded with The mournful posture to which England was France. He contented himself with making reduced made upon no one a deeper impres
sion than upon Milton. His domestic afflic “And what subject have you chosen, my tions added to his grief at the distress of his venerable friend ? " country. He had witnessed the greatness of “Blind Samson is my hero." bis nation, which was now so deeply humili “Blind Samson,” repeated Marvell, mournated. Liberty, for which he had once entered fully. the lists, was gone, destroyed, and reviled. “Blind like myself, deserted like myself, His political friends had expiated their honest but full of hope in the Eternal. Thus he sits convictions on the scaffold or in prison. Per- under the gate of Gaza, while the Philistines fidy and meanness were triumphant. More are feasting and celebrating orgies in honor over, he had grown old and blind, and his own of their contemptible idols. Listen to his daughters had deserted him. Profound dejec- complaints : tion had seized him, and he longed to die. "Oh, that torment should not be confined
To the body's wounds and sores, Poesy alone had remained faithful to him; but
With maladies innumerable it no longer appeared to him as a divine com In heart, head, breast, and veins;
But must secret passage find forter, but in a mourning-garb, and with tears
To the inmost mind. in the extinct eyes. He exhaled his grief in a There exercise all his fierce accidents,
And on her purest spirits prey, drama which he published a short time previ
As on entrails, joints, and limbs, ous to his death, under the title of “Samson
With answerable pains but more intense, Agonistes." This was an outburst of his deep
Though void of corporal sense.
My griefs not only pain me anguish.
As a lingering disease,
Nor less than wounds immedicable
Rankle, and fester, and gangrene
To black mortification. Milton himself was the blind Samson, derided
Thoughts, my tormentors, armed with deadly by the Philistines and idolaters, betrayed by a stings, perfidious woman, deserted by all, and despair Mangle my apprehensive tenderest parts,
Exasperate, exulcerate, and raise ing of the nighty God of his fathers. Like
Dire inflammation, which no cooling herb this Biblical hero, he had fought and strug
Or med'cinal liquor can assuage,
Nor breath of vernal air from snowy Alp. gled, and now he was prostrate, chained, and
Sleep hath forsook and given me o'er crushed.
To Death's benumbing opiam as my only cure;
Thence faintings, swoonings of despair, While depicting his sufferings in this drama,
And sense of Heaven's desertion. he was cheered from time to time by a visit I was His nursling once, and choice delight,
His destined from the womb, of his faithful friend Marvell. This honest
Promised by heavenly message twice descending. man was one of the few who had remained Under His special eye
Abstemious I grew up, and thrived amain: true to their convictions, and had disdained
He led me on to mightiest deeds, all the offers of Charles, who recognized bis
Above the nerve of mortal arm,
Against the uncircumcised, our enemies; worth, and sought to win him over to his side.
But now hath cast me off as never known, With this friend Milton shared the remainder And to those cruel enemies,
Whom I by His appointment had provoked, of his fortune; with him he recalled the event
Left me all helpless, with the irreparable loss ful past, and he communicated to him his new Of sight, reserved alive to be repeated
The subject of their cruelty or scorn. poem, which was to appear in dramatic form.
Nor am I in the list of them that hope: “ Dryden,” said the poet, “asked me to Hopeless are all my evils, all remediless.
This one prayer yet remains, might I be heard, write a drama, and I have done so; but I am
No long petition : speedy death, afraid it has little prospect of being performed The close of all my miseries, and the balm."" at court."
"Poor Samson !" cried Marvell, seizing the
poet's hand in profound emotion. “Is there But throwest them lower than Thou didst exalt
them bigh; no other consolation left to thee? We must
Unseemly falls in human eye, submit, and bear with patience that which Too grievous for the trespass or omission;
Oft leavest them to the hostile sword cannot be helped.”
Of heathen and profane, their carcasses “I possess such patience, and, above all To dogs and fowls a prey, or else captived;
Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times, things, confidence in the government of Di
And condemnation of the ungrateful multitude."" vine Providence. Nevertheless, I am in pain,
Here Milton paused, profoundly moved by and no one will blame my Samson for crying out under his heavy burden, and praying God his own words. He thought of the fate of
his unfortunate friends. In his mind he saw to end his life."
the scaffold on which the noble Vane had “But will you not continue ?” begged Mar
bled, the dungeon in which his friend Overton " that is, if the recitation does not exhaust or excite you to
was still groaning-all the banished and permuch." “Samson's complaints are replied to by the
secuted men, his political friends. He rememchorus of his Israelite friends, which I ar
bered with great bitterness the fickleness of ranged in accordance with the rules of the the foolish people, who were to-day kneeling Greek tragedy :
again before the idols they had once upset :
who denied and derided the principles to 'Many are the sayings of the wise, In ancient or in modern books enrolled,
which they had adhered only yesterday with Extolling patience as the truest fortitude; And to the bearing well of all calamities,
the ardor of fanaticism, and who heaped the All chances incident to man's frail life,
most poignant contumely and mortification on Consolatories writ
their former favorites and friends. A tear With studied argument, and much persuasion sought,
of indignation and just anger trembled in the Lepient of grief and anxious thought: But with the afflicted in his pangs their sound
eyes of the poet when he continued : Little prevails, or rather seems a tune
" If these they 'scape, perhaps in poverty Harsh, and of dissonant mood from his complaint;
With sickness and disease Thou bowest them Unless he feel within
down, Some source of consolation from above,
Painful diseases and deformed, Secret refreshings, that repair his strength,
In crude old age; And fainting spirits uphold.
Though not disordinate, yet causeless suffering God of our fathers, what is man,
The punishment of dissolute days: in fine, That Thou toward him with hand so various,
Just or unjust, alike seem miserable, Or might I say contrarious,
For oft alike both come to evil end. Temperest Thy providence through his short
So deal not with this once Thy glorious champion, course!
The image of Thy strength and mighty minister. Not evenly, as thou rulest
Wbat do I beg? How hast Thou dealt already ? The angelic orders, and inferior creatures mute,
Behold him in this state calamitous, and turn Irrational and brute?
His labors, for thou canst, to peaceful end.",
While Milton was reciting these lines, which
son, the cold wind moved the leafless trees, With gifts and graces eminently adorned, To some great work, Thy glory,
and accompanied the mournful words with And people's safety, which in part they effect:
its melancholy tones. The summer was at Yet toward these, thus dignified, Thou oft, Amidst their height of noon,
an end; the fields had been mown, the flowChangest Thy countenance, and Thy hand, with no
ers were withered, the joyous notes of the regard Of highest favors past
birds had died away. A profound, gloomy siFrom Thee on them, or them to Thee of service.
lence reigned all around. The parting rays Nor only dost degrade them, or remit To life obscured, which were a fair dismission; of the pale sun illuminated the gray head
and wan face of the poet. He had grown self up to his full height, an intellectual Sam old and feeble; blind and sick he sat there, a son, shaking once more the edifice of despotbroken, crushed hero like his Samson; but in ism, ready to die, and even in death clinging his heart there lived yet the courageous spirit to the faith of his whole life. of poetry, the unexhausted vigor of the soul. Without an effort he recited his poem to the end. In stirring lines he depicted at the conclusion the vengeance which blind Samson wreaked enemies, the terrible
CHAPTER XVII. strength with which the hero shook the pil
MILTON'S DEATH. lars of the house in which his adversaries were feasting, and the fall of the roof, under This was the last flicker of his surpassing which be simultaneously buried them and genius before its utter extinction. Long. himself. He raised his voice on reciting the continued sufferings of the body and soul contriumphant chorus of the Israelites :
fined Milton at last to his bed; he felt that " " But he. though blind of sight,
his life was drawing to a close. His wife Despised, and though extinguished quite,
nursed him with the greatest devotion; his With inward eyes illuminated, His fiery virtue roused
brother, who did not share his political views, From under ashes into sudden flame,
also hastened to him. The brothers met after And as an evening dragon came, Assailant on the perchèd roosts
a prolonged separation, and forgot their poAnd nests in order ranged
litical differences, at least during the first few Of tame villatic fowl; but as an eagle His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
moments. Milton held out his emaciated hand So Virtue, given for lost,
to his faithful brother. Depressed and overthrown, as seemed, Like that self-begotten bird
“Dear Christopher,” he said, in a feeble In the Arabian woods embost,
voice, “I see that you still love me. How That no second knows, nor third, And lay erewhile a holocaust,
glad I am to see you after so many years ; From out her ashy womb now tecmed,
how glad I am that you have come! You Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most When most unactive deemed;
will help me to set my house in order." And, though her body die, her fame survives “I will gladly do so," replied his brother, A secular bird ages of lives.
deeply moved. All is best, though we oft doubt
“My fortune is but small, for poets gather What the unsearchable dispose
no riches. I am sorry that I can leave so Of Highest Wisdom brings about, And ever best found in the close.
little to my wife. I should have liked to free Oft He seems to hide his face,
her from care; she deserves it by the tender But unexpectedly returns, And to His faithful champion hath in place
solicitude with which she has nursed me, and Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns, by the love and patience with which she bas And all that band them to resist His uncontrollable intent:
always treated her poor blind husband; but His servants He, with new acquist
I did not know how to amass large sums of Of true experience from this great event, With peace and consolation hath dismissed,
money.” And calm of mind, all passion spent.'”
“I understand you bave many claims outLike one of those prophets of the Old Tes- standing." tament, the poet poured out in awful words “My debtors are even poorer than 1; his grief, his wrath, and his hopes. His form most of them are political friends of mine, seemed to grow; he had risen and drawn him- / who lost their fortunes at the restoration
at is not in consonance with my wishes that “You have immortal sons and daughters; you should collect these claims."
your works, ‘Comus,' 'Paradise Lost,' 'Para“And your children, your daughters ?” dise Regained,' “Samson Agonistes,' and all asked Christopher, as delicately as possible. those magnificent creations of your genius.”
“I have no children," said Milton, mourn “Oh, they are not sufficient. I would willfully. “They have forsaken me. I am lonely | ingly give all my works for a son, a child and deserted."
of flesh and blood, to whom I might bequeath At these words the door opened noiselessly. my name, my spirit, and my sentiments.” A matron, whose face still bore the traces of “Take my William, then, and bequeath surpassing beauty, entered the room. She your love to him.” was accompanied by a young man with noble The young man, who shared his mother's features. It was Alice, with her son. She attachment to her illustrious friend, bent his had completed the education of the youth at head before the dying poet and asked his her country-seat, far from the pernicious in- blessing. fluence of the court. No sooner had she “I shall not leave this world, then,” said heard that her friend had been taken dan- Milton, “without leaving a son in it. God gerously sick, than she hastened to him; but bless you, God bless the youth of England, she had not thought that his end was so from whom alone I expect the salvation of close at band. The tears of his heart-broken our poor country! I depart with the hope wife told her that such was the case. Al that the seeds which we have scattered will though she had entered as noiselessly as pos- not utterly perish. A later generation will sible, the keen ears of the blind poet had harvest the fruits. It was not vouchsafed to heard her arrival.
us to set foot in the land of promise. Like “Who is there ?” he asked, eagerly. Moses, we were allowed only to see the prom
“A friend - Alice,” replied the matron, ised liberty from afar. The Israelites had to hardly able to repress her tears.
wander through the wilderness for forty years A gentle smile kindled Milton's face; a before reaching the sacred soil of Canaan. touching gleam of joy flushed his pale cheeks. The Lord will not allow us to perish either.
“Welcome,” he cried, profoundly moved, The spirit which He stirred in us cannot die. "spirit of my youth, genius of the poet! I We may compare the present time to a wilknew that you would come, and that I should derness, in which we are wandering about meet you once more before bidding farewell to without knowing the right path. The people this world.”
are still dancing around the golden calf, and “And I am not alone; I bring with me a turning their backs upon the true God, who son, who has come to receive your blessing." veils Himself majestically in his
clouded Approach," said the dying poet to the heavens; but the nation will surely acknowlyoung man.
edge its fault, forsake the false gods, and turn He touched with his hands the noble lin- again toward the Almighty." caments of the youthful face, which seemed The sufferer paused, exhausted by the efto please him. He nodded with an air of fort; language failed him, but his soul, which great satisfaction.
was already beginning to free itself from its “God refused a son to me,” sighed Mil- earthly shell, took a loftier prophetic flight; ton. “I have no children to perpetuate my it soared unfettered above time and space. Dame."
After a long pause, he added :