« السابقةمتابعة »
bishops to whom he alludes, were, Hall bishop of Norwich, famous as our first satirist, and the learned Usher, primate of Ireland. Hall published, in 1640, “ An humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament in Behalf of Episcopacy”-an answer to this appeared written by six ministers, under the title of Smectymnuus, a word casually formed from the initial letters of their respective names. This little band of religious writers included Thomas Young, the beloved preceptor of Milton ; so that personal attachment conspired with public enthusiasm to make our author vehement in his reply to the two bishops, who failed not to encounter the confederate antagonists of their order. He probably recollected the sufferings of his favorite instructor, when he exclaimed in his treatise of reformation, « What numbers of faithful and free born Englishmen and good christians have been constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends and kindred, whom nothing but the wide ocean, or the savage deserts
of America, could hide and shelter from the fury of the bishops.”
However furious the persecution might be, which excited antipathy and abhorrence in Milton against the order of bishops, it must be confessed that he frequently speaks with that intemperance of zeal, which defeats its own purpose. There are some passages in his controversial writings, that must be read with concern by his most passionate admirers; yet, even the gloom and severity of these are compensated by such occasional flashes of ardent fancy, of sound argument and of sublime devotion, as may extort commendation even from readers who love not the author.
In his first Ecclesiastical Treatise of Reformation, he makes the following very solemn appeal to heaven on his integrity as a writer: “ And here withal I invoke the immortal deity, revealer and judge of secrets that wherever I have in this book plainly and roundly, though worthily and truly, laid open the faults and blemishes of fathers
martyrs, or christian emperors, or haye otherways, inveighed against error and superstition with vehement expressions, I have done it neither out of malice, nor list to speak evil, nor any vain glory, but of mere necessity, to vindicate the spotless truth from an ignominous bondage.”
Towards the close of this performance he gives a distant mysterious hint of his great and unsettled poetical designs, with a very striking mixture of moral, political, and religious enthusiasm.
“ Then, amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of saints, some one may, perhaps, be heard offering at high strains, in new and Lofty measures, to sing and celebrate thy divine. mercies and marvellous judgments in this land throughout all ages.
In his subsequent work, on the reason of Church Government, he gratifies us with a more enlarged view of his literary projects not yet moulded into form, but, like the uņarranged elements of creation, now floating at large in his capacious mind.
I transcribe the long passage alluded to,
because it illustrates the mental character of Milton, with a mild energy, a solemn splendor of sentiment and expression peculiar to himself.
“ Time serves not now, and perhaps, I might seem too profuse to give any certain account of what the mind at home, in the spácious circuits of her musing, hath liberty to propose to herself, though of highest hope and hardest attempting; whether that epic form, whereof the two poems of Homer, and those other two of Virgil and Tasso, are a diffuse, and the book of Job a brief model; or whether the rules of Aristotle herein are strictly to be kept, or nature to be followed; which in them that know art, and use judgment, is no transgression, but an enriching of art : and lastly, what king or knight, before the Conquest, might be chosen, in whom to lay the pattern of a Christian hero. And as Tasso gave to a prince of Italy his choice, whether he would command him to write of Godfrey's expedition against the infidels, Belisarius against the Goths, or Charlemain against the Lom,
bards; if to the instinct of nature, and the emboldening of art aught may be trusted, and that there be nothing adverse in our climate, or the fate of this age, it haply would be no rashness, from an equal diligence and inclination, to present the like offer in our antient stories. Or whether those dramatic constitutions, wherein Sophocles and Euripides reign, shall be found more doctrinal and exemplary to a nationOr, if occasion shall lead, to imitate those magnific odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are in most things worthy. But those frequent songs throughout the law and prophets, beyond all these, not in their divine argument alone, but in the very critical art of composition, may be easily made appear over all the kinds of lyric poesy to be incomparable. These abilities, wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God, rarely bestowed, but yet to some (though most abuse) in every nation ; and are of power, besides the office of a pulpit, to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civility,