« السابقةمتابعة »
to put off a solitary loneliness, by a ready and reviving associate, “whereof who misses by chancing, or a mate and spiritless mate remains more alone than before.” From this dissonance arises hate—“hate, which is of all things the mightiest divider; nay, is division itself. To couple hatred therefore, though Wedlock try all her golden links, and borrow to her aid all the iron manacles of the law, it does but seek to twist a rope of sand, which was a task they say that posed the devil ; and thou, sluggish fiend in hell, Ochus, whom the poems tell of, brought his idle cordage to as good effect, which never served to bind with, but to feed the ass that stood at his elbow.” And when this is the case, shall the parties continue to drag on together this wretched existence, or shall they separate ? " They shall continue together," say both the ecclesiastic and common law : “ They should separate,” said John Milton. This created against him great hostility from all sects, all preachers, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents; and the foolish covered the performances with their licentious ribaldry. Howell speaks of Milton as a noddy that writ a book of wifing. All joined in a wild outcry against the author ; and, in a life of him, published only four years since by
Joseph Ivitny, a highly respectable Baptist minister—a life highly eulogistic to the memory of the poet, this is still put as a serious blot upon his character, that he published the various treatises upon Divorce. The great pivot upon which the discussion in the books turns is, that adultery is not the greatest breach of matrimony ; that there may be other violations as great: but it is in the 12th chapter of the “Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce” that the true reasons are assigned, both why Mrs. Milton left her husband; and why, upon her leaving him, he pursued this method of punishment.
“ It is most sure that some, who are not plainly defective in body, yet are destitute of
all other marriageable gifts, and, consequently, • have not the calling to marry. Yet it is seen
that many such, not of their own desire, but by the persuasion of their friends, or not knowing themselves, do often enter into wedlock, where finding the difference at length between the duties of a married life and the gifts of a single life-what unfitness of mind; what wearisomeness; what scruples and doubts to an incredible offence and displeasure are like to follow between, may soon be imagined ; whom thus to shut up and immure together, the one with a mischosen mate, the other in a mistaken calling, is not a cause which wisdom and tenderness ought to use. As for the custom that some parents and guardians have of forcing marriages, it will be better to say nothing of such savage inhumanity, but only that the law which gives not all freedom of divorce to any creature endued with reason so assassinated is next to cruelty.”
Here, doubtless, was the source of the disagreement between Milton and his wife ; and although he was so far advanced in life, it seems that he was in some measure, probably, compelled to the union by the debt owing by Justice Powell to his father ; and he intimates that it is possible to be even advanced in life, and yet to have no experience or knowledge touching this, the most serious business of life. Upon the whole it must be admitted that Milton's Dissertations do open serious portals for matrimonial licentiousness. Yet the present state of the law of divorce is notoriously unjust and inhuman; nothing can well be worse.Milton, too, was most unfortunately situated. Perhaps it is not too much to presume that these volumes would not have been written, after he had tasted the blessedness which he shared with his second wife, with whom he enjoyed a portion of happiness, apparently, all too brief. His “espoused saint” as he styles her in the fine sonnets to her memory; or Elizabeth Minshall, his third wife, to whom he makes grateful and touching allusion in his Recapitulative Will, who read to him, and soothed the hours of his blindness and his death-bed.
He saw that very worst extreme of marriage life in his first marriage days. Mary Powell herself perhaps became the wife of his affections in a later day. We may safely presume so, although perhaps never in so high a degree as either his second or his third wife. And what might kindness have done, when exercised by such a tongue, and a heart so full as Milton's? She gave him no opportunity to try ; she left him when he had began to care for her, to soothe her irritations, to add to her joys, to deny himself for her, and, by a thousand little attentions, to purchase the best immunities of love. Had there been an opportunity for this, whether they had been successful or not, it would have been a more difficult matter to pen the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.
THE IDEA OF “COMUS.”
The Masque of Comus is one of the most constantly read and referred to of all the poems of Milton; it was written in 1634, when the poet was twenty-six years of age ; and through every line it presents gleam after gleam of extraordinary beauty. As soon as we open the poem, we are introduced to a fairy world, peopled by beings who move across its pages with all the dignity and majesty of humanised philosophy. The poem is affluent in sentiment, images, and diction, yet founded upon a most simple circumstance. It was written for presentation at Ludlow Castle, where the Earl of Bridgewater kept his court as Lord President of Wales.The earl's two sons, and his daughter, Lady Alice, were benighted, and lost their way in Haywood Forest, and the two brothers, to explore their path, left their sister alone in a tract