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in them its solemn warnings, its holy joys. In that on his blindness :—
"When I consider how my light is spent."
the mind revolves upon what it might have performed, had the eyesight only been spared; what might have been done for God, but now it must be left undone. Instead of an active service, the body has to sit still: what then? immediately a clear steady lamp sheds its lustre through the soul. If God can not be glorified and honoured by performance, he can by patience ; and patience is a kind of performance; the soul looks resolutely out through the darkness of the night.
"God doth not need
How touching and deep is the consolation conveyed in the last line! How lovely the resignation of this great spirit! How truly had he learned the lesson which was the great one to be learned by the people of God in that time, when some had to wait in prison, and some in the hopelessness of outcast poverty, and some upon the scaffold. Sometimes the consolation coming to his darkness was of another kind. He had not wasted the hours of his light: he had worked while it was day: the night had come, but it brought out for him the track of splendour: he had not to meditate upon wasted days, or promise amendment if restored to vision. No ! and therefore a cheerful day brightens round the soul, and beneath the lustre of it he indites the sonnet to Cyriac Skinner.
"Cyriac, this three years' day these eyes, though clear
To outward view, of blemish or of spot,
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot,
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not
Against Heav'n's hand or will, nor bate a jot Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer
Right onward. What supports me? dost thou ask?
In Liberty's defence, my noble task,
This thought might lead me through the world's vain masque, Content though blind, had I no better guide."
We will only cite one other illustration from these "Poor Sonnets," and this, the last, is perhaps the most affecting. It is upon his hest-belored wife Catharine, the daughter of Captain Woodcock, of Hackney, a zealous Puritan. She died in child-bed, of a daughter, within a year of their marriage. The reader must not fail to notice the beautiful harmony of every portion of this exquisite piece. The allusion to Euripides, in the opening, is very fine. Milton had been long blind before this marriage. With great beauty, therefore, he represents "her face as veiled." He could have no conception of that face; but to him it appeared the presence of a beauty. His mind made pictures in his sleep, in dreams, and musings; and this was the day-time of his soul. What pathos does this lend to the last line?
"Methought I saw my late-espoused saint
Rescued from death by force, though pale and faint.
Mine, as whom wash'd from spot of child-bed taint
Full sight of her in Heav'n without restraint,
Her face was veil'd, yet to my fancied sight
So clear, as in no face with more delight.
But oh, as to embrace me she inclined,
We have now glanced together through these despised sonnets. They are by no means unworthy even of Milton. Probably most of them were written in the stray intervals of his employment as the secretary of the Protector. They are his occasional visits to Poetry in a period when his time was employed with more serious occupations. Probably not one is the result of methodic study. It may further be said, the sonnet never should be the result of the epic disposition of the mind. Good sonnets can only be written by poets who can achieve greater things; and they should hang upon their works "like dew-drops on a lion's mane."
MILTON AND JOHNSON.
Fob a very long time the life of Milton most referred to, and most frequently reprinted, was that by Dr. Johnson, the most malevolent piece of Biography ever penned. The mis-state
ments and falsehoods, the errors of ignorance and of inference, lie over the pages so very thickly strewn, that in this way it is a perfect literary curiosity. There are trifling errors of judgment, to which some reply might be given: for instance, where he says that the products of Milton's vernal fertility have been surpassed by many, and particularly by his contemporary Cowley. Cowley never wrote so fine a poem as "The Hymn on the Nativity," in all his life. Milton was but about twenty when he penned it; but if the life were crowded with errors of no more moment than this, they would be too contemptible for any extended refutation: but it is the production of some of the basest moments of Johnson's life: he seems to revel in a kind of posthumous slander on this illustrious genius. He misses no opportunity of inuendo or abuse,—and is to Milton dead, what Salmasius was to Milton living. Thus he assails, by inuendo, the poet's College days, those days crowned by industry, and signalised by the products of genius.
"I am ashamed to relate, what I fear is true, that Milton was one of the last of the students in either University, that suffered the public indignity of corporal correction." Todd, in his life of Milton, has sifted this allegation of