Imatges de pÓgina

lighted his fellow-collegians. From the task before him, his "deep transported mind" soared far "above wheeling poles," and "looked in at heaven's door," and listening there longed

"To sing of secret things that come to pass

When beldame Nature in her cradle was.'

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At thirty he writes to a dear friend, "Do you ask what I am meditating? By the help of heaven, an immortality of fame. But what am I doing? Tеpow I am letting my wings grow, and preparing to fly; but my Pegasus has not yet feathers enough to soar aloft in the fields of air." Twenty-seven years after writing this, in the fifty-seventh year of his age, at Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, whither he had retired. when the great plague was raging in London, in 1665, he finished that work which has for ever distanced him from all competitors, and, indeed, conferred upon him an immortality of fame. It was published two years after, in 1667, and sold for an immediate payment of five pounds, with an agreement for fifteen pounds more when a certain number of copies should be sold. Simmonds was the purchaser, who afterwards made over the original copyright to Jacob Tonson. 'Tonson, and all his family, rode in their carriages from the profits of the fivepound Epic.' So long time elapsed before he saw the cherished aspirations of his heart fulfilled, and this must ever be to us a matter of deep regret. Yes,

in spite of the splendid passages which occur in his prose works-in spite of that only readable one in its entirety, the Areopagitica, which we so much admire, we cannot help regretting that Milton should have spent so many years in courting the muse of prose literature,' engaged in controversial and political warfare. What self-denial, what stern and indomitable self-control, these long years must have cost him! How uncongenial for such a man to write nothing but dry despatches, manifestoes, letters of state, treatises and tracts in defence and praise of the present government! We are surprised to find so much genuine gold amongst this dross, when Parliament, not the heavenly muse, inspires him. A mistaken patriotism "damps his intended wing depressed." He is no longer "smit with the love of sacred song." No longer his celestial patroness, Urania (the meaning, not the name), brings nightly to his ear his easy unpremeditated verse. But darker days follow; neglected by his pet party, paid as a hireling to write at the bidding of Parliament, yet no hireling he, thrust aside, uncourted, unpreferred, sick at heart, and broken in body, blind, and afflicted with gout, proscribed and outlawed, he bethinks himself of his long-neglected but still loved lyre; searches for some heroic subject; thinks he has found a fitting hero in King Arthur; abandons him for a more terrible one-we had almost said for a far grander one-and, "long choos

ing and beginning late," at last fixes upon Paradise Lost. Surely he chose wisely and well! He did not wait in vain; he did not wait a moment too long. It was well for him and well for us that he had


"Fall'n on evil days,

On evil days had fall'n, and evil tongues,

In darkness, and with dangers compass'd round,
And solitude,"

or he might have gone on writing prose to the end of
his days. Would this have been a calamity? Yes,
if it had deprived the world of his immortal poem,
which is not the greatest of heroic poems, only be-
cause it was not the first.' But then perhaps his
prose works would have been better appreciated, for,
after all, they are worthier of a deeper study than
they have usually met with. They are full of magni-
ficent passages, such as no one but himself could have
written, resplendent with the magic touch and stamp
of genius, and, in the words of a competent judge,
'written as if an angel had held the pen.'

We will proceed to cull from his prose works, arranged in their chronological order, the most striking of these 'disjecta membra poetæ,' these prose-poems, what he himself so well calls "sentences of a venturous edge, uttered in the height of zeal; and who knows whether they might not be the dictates of a Divine Spirit ?" Our extracts will necessarily be somewhat fragmentary and unconnected, but we trust that they will include all that ordinary readers would

consider as valuable, interesting, and worthy of preservation in the prose works of John Milton, the friend and lover, the champion and martyr of "white-robed truth"-" sincerely good and perfectly divine."

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It only remains to say that we have given entire, and without multilation, his great masterpiece, the Areopagitica: a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing. The glory of this battle is all his own. Thousands among his contemporaries raised their voices against ship-money and the star-chamber. But there were few indeed who discerned the more fearful evils of moral and intellectual slavery, and the benefits which would result from the liberty of the press and the unfettered exercise of private judgment. These were the objects which Milton had in view when he attacked the licensing system, in that sublime treatise which every statesman should wear as a sign upon his hand, and as frontlets between his eyes.'

Much Cowarne, February, 1870.




THERE is great advantage to be derived from reading and studying the works of an author in the order in which they have been written. Editors have long made this discovery, and our best editions of the classics are those in which this chronological order is observed; such as Bentley's such as Bentley's Horace, Scholefield's Æschylus, and Bekker's Aristophanes. To read the ancient tragedies and comedies in the order in which they were acted, as far as it can be ascertained, must add very much to their interest and historical value. And in nothing is the benefit of chronological arrangement more evident than in St. Paul's Epistles, which, as arranged by Bishop Wordsworth in his scholarly and invaluable Greek Testament, are seen to form one connected and consistent whole, setting forth a complete system of Doctrine and Discipline, which they can hardly be said to do in their disjointed and usual order.

These remarks will be found true with regard to Milton's controversial writings, and in some measure with regard to his poetry.

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