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pagitica, or Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, 1644, a bold and eloquent attack on the censorship of the press by the Presbyterians. The four pamphlets in which he advocated conditional divorce made him still more the horror of the Presbyterians. When, on the execution of the king, 1649, England became a republic, Milton defended the act in an answer to the Eikon Basilike, a portraiture of the sufferings of the king by Dr. Gauden, and continued to defend it in his famous Latin Defence for the People of England, 1651, in which he inflicted so pitiless a lashing on Salmasius, the great Leyden scholar, that his fame went over the whole of Europe. In the next year he wholly lost his sight. But he continued his work when Cromwell was made Protector, and wrote another Defence for the English People, and a further defence of himself against scurrilous charges. This closed the controversy in 1655.
In the last year of the Protector's life he began the Paradise Lost, about the date of the last of his sonnets. The two years that came before the Restoration were employed in a fruitless effort to prevent it by the publication of six more pamphlets. It was a wonder he was not put to death, and he was in hiding and in custody for a time. At last he settled in a house near Bunhill Fields. It was here that Paradise Lost was finished, before the end of 1665, and then published in 1667."
“One virtue these pamphlets possess—the virtue of style. They are monuments of our language so remarkable that Milton's prose works must always be resorted to by students as long as English remains a medium of ideas. Putting Bacon aside, the condensed force and poig. nant brevity of whose aphoristic wisdom has no parallel in English, there is no other prosaist who possesses anything like Milton's command over the resources of our language. Neither Hooker nor Jeremy Taylor impresses the reader with a sense of unlimited power such as we feel to reside in Milton. Vast as is the wealth of magnificent words which he flings with both hands carelessly upon the page, we feel that there is still much more in reserve.
Yet even on the score of style, Milton's prose is subject to serious deductions. His negligence is such as to amount to an absence of construction. He who in his verse trained the sentence with delicate sensibility to follow his guiding hand into exquisite syntax seems in his prose writing to abandon his meaning to shift for itself. Here Milton compares disadvantageously with Hooker. Hooker's elaborate sentence, like the sentence of Demosthenes, is composed of facts so hinged, of clauses so subordinated to the main thought, that we foresee the end from the beginning, and close the period with a sense of perfect roundness and totality. Milton does not seem to have any notion of what a period means. He begins anywhere and leaves off, not when the sense closes, but when he is out of breath. We might have thought this pellmell huddle of his words was explained, if not excused, by the exigencies of the party pamphlet, which cannot wait. But the same asyntactic disorder is equally found in the History of Britain, which he had in hand for forty years. N is it only the Miltonic sentence which is incoherent, the whole arrangement of his topics is equally loose, disjointed, and desultory.
Many of Milton's pamphlets are certainly party pleadings, choleric, one-sided, personal. But through them all runs the one redeeming char acteristic--they are all written on the side of liberty. He defended religious liberty against the prelates, civil liberty against the crown, the liberty of the press against the executive, liberty of conscience against the Presbyterians, and domestic liberty against the tyranny of canon law.”—Mark Pattison.
PARADISE LOST. “We may perhaps regret that Milton was shut away from his art for twenty years, during which no verse was written but the sonnets. But it may be that the poems he wrote, when the great cause he fought for had closed in seeming defeat but real victory, gained from its solemn issues and from the moral grandeur with which he wrought for its ends their majestic movement, their grand style, and their grave beauty. During the struggle he had never forgotten his art. 'I may one day hope,' he said, speaking of his youthful studies, “to have ye again, in a still time, when there shall be no chiding; not in these Noises,' and the saying strikes the note of calm sublimity which is kept in Paradise Lost.
It opens with the awaking of the rebel anges in hell after
their fall from heaven, the consultation of their chiefs how best to carry on the war with God, and the resolve of Satan to go forth and tempt newly created man to fall. He takes his flight to the earth and finds Eden. Eden is then described, and Adam and Eve in their innocence. The next four books, from the fifth to the eighth, contain the Archangel Raphael's story of the war in heaven, the fall of Satan, and the creation of the world. The last four books describe the temptation and the fall of Man, the vision shown by Michael to Adam of the future and of the redemption of Man by Christ, and the expulsion from Paradise.
The beauty of the poem is rather that of ideal purity, and of sublime thought expressed in language which has the severe loveliness of the best Greek sculpture. The interest collects round the character of Satan at first, but he grows more and more mean as the poem goes on, and seems to fall a second time, to lose all his original brightness, after his temptation of Eve. Indeed this second degradation of Satan after he has not only sinned himself but made innocence sin, and beaten back in himself the last remains of good, is one of the finest motives in the poem. In every part of the poem, in every character in it, as indeed in all his poems, Milton's intense individuality appears. It is a pleasure to find it. The egotism of such a man, said Coleridge, is a revelation of spirit.”
“ The first of Englishmen to whom the designation Men of Letters is appropriate, Milton was also the noblest example of the type. He cultivated not letters but himself, and sought to enter into possession of his own mental kingdom not that he might reign there but that he might royally use its resources in building up a work which should bring honor to his country and his native tongue. The style of Paradise Lost is then only the natural expression of a soul thus exquisitely nourished upon the best thoughts and finest words of all ages. It is the language of one who lives in the companionship of the great and the wise of past time. It is inevitable that when such a one speaks, his tones, his accent, the melodies of his rhythm, the inner harmonies of his linked thoughts, the grace of his allusive touch should escape the common ear. To follow Milton one should at least have tasted the same training through which he put himself. The many cannot see it, and complain that the poet is too learned.
Whatever conclusion may be the true one from the public demand, we cannot be wrong in asserting that from the first, and now as then, Paradise Lost has been more admired than read. The poet's wish and expectation that he should find 'fit audience though few' has been fulfilled. Partly this has been due to his limitation, his unsympathetic disposition, the deficiency of the human element in his imagination, and his presentation of mythical instead of real beings. But it is also, in part, a tribute to his excellence, and it is to be ascribed to the lofty strain which requires more effort to accompany than an average reader is able to make, a majestic demeanor which no parodist has been able to degrade, and a wealth of allusion demanding more literature than is possessed by any but the few whose life is lived with the poets. An appreciation of Milton is the last reward of consummated scholarship.”—Mark Pattison.
MILTON'S LATER POEMS. — “It was followed by Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, published together in 1671. Paradise Regained opens with the journey of Christ into the wilderness after his baptism, and its four books describe the temptation of Christ by Satan, and the answers and victory of the Redeemer. The speeches in it drown the action, and their learned argument is only relieved by a few descriptions; but these, as in that of Athens, are done with Milton's highest power. The same solemn beauty of a quiet mind and a more severe style than that of Paradise Lost make us feel in it that Milton has
older. In Samson Agonistes, the style is still severer, even to the verge of a harshness which the sublimity alone tends to modify. It is a choral drama, after the Greek model. Samson in his blindness is described, is called on to make sport for the Philistines, and overthrows them in the end. Samson represents the fallen Puritan cause, and his victorious death Milton's hopes for its final triumph. The poem has all the grandeur of the last words of a great man in whom there was now calm of mind, all passion spent.' He wrote it blind
and old and fallen on evil days. But in it, as in the others, blindness did not prevent sight. No man saw more vividly and could say more vividly what he saw. Nor did age make him lose strength. The force of thought and verse in his last poem is only less than in Paradise Lost. Nor did evil days touch his imagination with weakness, or make less the dignity of his art. Till the end it was
• An undisturbéd song of pure concent,
To Him that sits thereon.'
It ended in his death, November, 1674.
HIS WORK.—To the greatness of the artist, Milton joined the majesty of a pure and lofty character. His poetic style was as lofty as his character, and proceeded from it. Living at a time when criticism began to purify the verse of England, and being himself well acquainted with the great classical models, his work is free from the false conceits and the intemperance of the Elizabethan writers, and yet is as imaginative as theirs, and as various. He has their grace, naturalness, and intensity, when he chooses, and he adds to it a sublime dignity which they did not possess. All the kinds of poetry which he touched he touched with the ease of great strength, and with so much weight that they became new in his hands. He put a new life into the masque, the sonnet, the elegy, the descriptive lyric, the song, the choral drama; and he created the epic in England. The lighter love poem he never wrote, and he kept satire for prose.
In some points he was untrue to his descent from the Elizabethans, for he had no dramatic faculty and he had no humor. He summed up in himself all the higher influences of the Renaissance, and, when they had died in England, revived and handed them to us. His taste was as severe, his verse as polished, his method and language as strict as those of the school of Dryden and Pope that grew up when he was