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concocting the surfeits of an irregular feast, but up and stirring in winter, often ere the sound of any bell awaken men to labour or devotion ; in summer, as oft with the bird that first rouses, or not much tardier, to read good authors, or cause them to be read, till the attention be weary, or the memory have its full fraught. Then, with useful and generous labours, preserving the body's health and hardiness, to render lightsome, clear, and not lumpish obedience to the mind, to the cause of religion and our country's liberty, when it shall require firm hearts in sound bodies, to stand and cover their stations, rather than see the ruin of our protestantism, and the enforcement of a slavish life."
On the choice of modern authors in his youth, preferring the moral and the highest principled, he celebrates, “ above them all, the two famous renowners of Beatrice and Laura (Dante and Petrarch), who never write but to the honour of those to whom they devote their verse, displaying sublime and pure thoughts without trangression. And long it was not after, when I was confirmed in this opinion, that he who would not frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter, in things laudable, ought himself to be a true poem ; that is, a composition and pattern of the best and honourablest things ; not presuming to sing high praises of heroic men, or famous cities, unless he have himself experience and practice of all that is praiseworthy."
In the next paragraph he proceeds—“That I may tell ye whither my younger feet wandered, I betook me among those lofty fables and romances which recount, in solemn cantos, the deeds of knighthood, founded by our victorious kings, and from hence had in renown over all christendom. . . . From the laureate fraternity of poets, riper years, and the ceaseless round of studying and reading, led me to the shady spaces of philosophy, but chiefly to the divine volumes of Plato and his equal, Xenophon, where, if I should tell ye what I learnt of chastity and love-I mean that which is truly so, whose charming cup is only virtue, which she bears in her hand to those that are worthy,—the rest are cheated with a thick, intoxicating potion (which a certain sorceress, the abuser of love's name, carries about), and how the first and chiefest of love begins and ends in the soul, producing those happy twins of her divine generation, knowledge and virtue :—with such abstracted sublimities as these, it might be worth your listening, readers, as I may one day hope to have ye in a still time, where there shall be no chiding."
On his studies in religion, and their result, he next expatiates; and then, in a strain of admirable eloquence, lays down the qualifications of a true preacher of the gospel. Take one glowing image :—“ In times of opposition, when, either against new heresies arising, or old corruptions to be reformed, the cool, unpassionate mildness of positive wisdom is not sufficient to damp and astonish the proud resistance of carnal and false doctors ; then—that I may have leave to soar awhile, as the poets use-Zeal, whose substance is ethereal, arming in complete diamond, ascends his fiery chariot, drawn with two blazing meteors, figured like beasts, but of a higher breed than any the zodiac yields, resembling two of those four which Ezekiel and St. John saw
-the one visaged like a lion, to express power, high authority, and indignation ; the other of countenance like a man, to cast derision and scorn upon perverse and fraudulent seducers :-with these, the invincible warrior, Zeal, shaking loosely the slack reins, drives over the heads of scarlet prelates, and such as are insolent to maintain tra
ditions, bruising their stiff necks under his flaming wheels.” This is poetry of the highest proof; and the passage is manifestly a first study of more than one of the scenes and actors in the war of angels, and the model of that “chariot of Paternal Deity” which bore Messiah to the battle, when
“ under his burning wheels The steadfast empyréan shook throughout, All but the throne itself of God.
O'er shields, and helms, and helmed heads he rode
PARADISE Lost, Book VI.
The most readable, and the least antiquated in subject and handling, of Milton's prose works, is entitled“ Areopagitica : a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, to the Parliament of England." The occasion was this : the presbyterian party in the commonwealth having planted themselves in that power from which they had uprooted both the monarch and the nobles, became as tenacious of continuing the bondage of the press, as they had been indignant against the yoke when it was found galling and intolerable to themselves. This is probably the most complete and perfect oration in our language, a few only of Burke's masterpieces being so successfully elaborated as to stand in competition with it. Between the eloquence of Milton and that of the “old man eloquent," whom the French Revolution did not indeed destroy, but converted into a prophet as inspired as Cassandra, and by the multitude as little regarded when he gave note of evil tidings, there is considerable resemblance. The characteristics of both are intel
lectual strength, exuberant imagination, and impassioned utterance ; while the style of each is marked by implicated sentences, with frequent parenthetic clauses breaking out, as through safety-valves of over-pressed thought, into additional illustration, or matter unexpected by the reader, and apparently unpremeditated by the writer himself.
This specimen of Milton's rhetorical power as an advocate presents a galaxy of current thought, thick sown with stars, clustered or single, of every lustre, hue, and magnitude. Argument, illustration, fancy, wit, sarcasm, and noble sentiment, are here so closely arrayed, arranged, and concatenated, as are not often found in Milton himself; while the temper of the whole-except in a few passing strokes at the prelates—is not only blameless, but commendable. The theme is magnificent- the vindication of man's prerogative on earth above the brutes that perish—his realm of reason, and his sovereignty of speech. No brief quotations can give a just idea of the force and authority of plain truths, with which the undaunted republican addresses the rulers of his own party, when they were meditating to impose on the people whom their prowess in the field had set free, the most hateful of all tyrannies, the enslavement of the press. “ Give me," he exclaims, “ the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely, above all liberties."
This treatise exemplifies all the excellences of Milton's manner, with fewer of its perplexities of syntax, and encumbrances of phrase ; whereas, on other occasions, his sentences, in verse as well as in prose, too often resemble trees so loaded with fruit, that their branches are bent down to the ground, and sometimes even trail along it; while the symmetry and grace of his finest periods are disfigured by lumbering parentheses. In many passages of his polemics, there is an intensity of eloquence that seems to fuse the multitude of his thoughts, and send them, glowing white, from the crucible of his mind into the mind of the reader, scarcely able to contain them in the mould of his narrower conception. We find also an impetuosity and impatience in Milton's
which never occurs in his verse. The vehemence of his argument, whether as an advocate or an accuser, carries him out of himself, in acrimonious invective or rapturous panegyric. There are poets and orators who have power so to possess the faculties of their audiences, that, while under the spell, the voice of no other charmer can affect them, charm he never so wisely. Milton was one of these, but he must be deeply studied at first, and then the larger the draughts, the more inspiring they become, from the inexhaustible fountain of his soul-a soul that transfuses itself for a while through our own, as the oracle of old is said to have inspired the Pythoness. In poetry, his genius never flares out into excess, though often, as already intimated, it does so in prose.
Yet how far more commanding is the splendour, fixed in a star, than that which vanishes in a meteor, though the latter may strike with more startling amaze at the moment. And how much more glorious is the wonder-working power of a sovereign intelligence, when under control, and doing without violence whatever it will, than when, rabid with rage, it falls, though in thunderbolts, from “ the highest heaven of invention,” to the gross regions of earthly passion.
One paragraph from this brave defence of that which is itself the defence of all other liberties, the liberty of
press, shall be offered in proof of the marvellous excellence here ascribed to that treatise : “I deny not but that it is of greatest concernment in the church and