SIR WALTER RALEIGH
Author of 'Style,' 'Wordsworth,' &c.
London Edward Arnold 41 & 43 Maddox Street, Bond Street, W. 1915
TO R. A. M. STEVENSON WHOSE RADIANT AND SOARING INTELLIGENCE ENLIGHTENED AND GUIDED ME DURING THE YEARS OF OUR LOST COMPANIONSHIP THIS UNAVAILING TRIBUTE OF MEMORY AND LOVE
"Sciences of conceit"; the difficulties and imperfections of literary criticism; illustrated in the case of Shakespeare; and of Milton; the character and temper of Milton; intensity, simplicity, egotism; his estimate of himself 1
CHAPTER I John Milton
His birth, and death; his education; early life in London; ships and shipping; adventurers and players; Milton and the Elizabethan drama; the poetic masters of his youth; state of the Church of England; Baxter's testimony; growing unrest; Milton's early poems; the intrusion of politics; the farewell to mirth; the Restoration, and Milton's attitude; the lost paradise of the early poems; Milton's Puritanism; his melancholy; the political and public preoccupations of the later poems; the drama of Milton's life; his egotism explained; an illustration from Lycidas; the lost cause; the ultimate triumph 12
CHAPTER II The Prose Works
Poets and politics; practical aim of Milton's prose writings; the reforms advocated by him, with one exception, unachieved; critical mourners over Milton's political writings; the mourners comforted; Milton's classification of his prose tracts; the occasional nature of these tracts; allusions in the early prose works to the story of Samson, and to the theme of Paradise Lost; Milton's personal and public motives; his persuasive vein; his political idealism; Johnson's account of his political opinions; the citizen of an antique city; Milton's attitude towards mediaeval romance, and towards the mediaeval Church; his worship of liberty; and of greatness; his belief in human capacity and virtue; Milton and Cromwell; Milton's clear logic; his tenacity; his scurrility, and its excuse; his fierce and fantastic wit; reappearance of these qualities in Paradise Lost; the style of his prose works analysed and illustrated; his rich vocabulary; his use of Saxon; the making of an epic poet 39
CHAPTER III Paradise Lost: The Scheme
Vastness of the theme; scenical opportunities; the poetry independent of the creed; Milton's choice of subject; King Arthur; Paradise Lost; attractions of the theme: primitive religion, natural beauty, dramatic interest; difficulties of the theme, and forbidden topics; how Milton overcomes these difficulties by his episodes, his similes, and the tradition that he adopts concerning the fallen angels; the cosmography of Paradise Lost; its chronology; some difficulties and inconsistencies; Milton's spiritual beings, their physical embodiment; the poem no treasury of wisdom, but a world-drama; its inhumanity, and artificial elevation; the effect of Milton's simpler figures drawn from rural life; De Quincey's explanation of this effect; another explanation; the homelessness of Eden; the enchanted palace and its engineer; the tyranny of Milton's imagination; its effect on his diction 81
CHAPTER IV Paradise Lost: The Actors. The Later Poems
Milton's argumentative end; its bearing on the scenes in Heaven; his political bias, and materialism; Milton's Deity; his Satan; the minor devils; Adam; Eve; personal memories; Adam's eulogy of Eve, criticised by Raphael; Milton's philosophy of love and beauty; the opinions of Raphael, of Satan, and of Mrs. Millamant; the comparative merits of Adam and Eve; Milton's great epic effects; his unity and large decorum; morning and evening; architectural effects; the close of Paradise Lost; Addison and Bentley; Paradise Regained; the choice of subject; Milton's favourite theme—temptation; other possible subjects; the Harrying of Hell; Samson Agonistes; the riddle of life. 126
CHAPTER V The Style of Milton: Metre and Diction
Difficulties of literary genealogy; the ledger school of criticism; Milton's strength and originality; his choice of a sacred subject; earlier attempts in England and France; Boileau's opinion; Milton's choice of metre an innovation; the little influence on Milton of Spenser, and of Donne; Milton a pupil of the dramatists; the history of dramatic blank verse; Milton's handling of the measure; the "elements of musical delight"; Tennyson's blank verse; Milton's metrical licenses; the Choruses of Samson Agonistes; Milton's diction a close-wrought mosaic; compared with the diffuser diction of Spenser; conciseness of Virgil, Dryden, Pope, Milton; Homer's repetitions; repetitions and "turns of words and thoughts" rare in Milton; double meanings of words; Milton's puns; extenuating circumstances; his mixed metaphors and violent syntax, due to compression; Milton's poetical style a dangerous model; the spontaneity and license of his prose 170
CHAPTER VI The Style of Milton; and its Influence on English Poetry
The relation of Milton's work to the 17th-century "reforms" of verse and prose; the Classicism of Milton, and of the Augustans; Classic and Romantic schools contrasted in their descriptions; Milton's Chaos, Shakespeare's Dover Cliff; Johnson's comments; the besetting sins of the two schools; Milton's physical machinery justified; his use of abstract terms; the splendid use of mean associations by Shakespeare; Milton's wise avoidance of mean associations, and of realism; nature of his similes and figures; his use of proper names; his epic catalogues; his personifications; loftiness of his perfected style; the popularity of Paradise Last; imitations, adaptations, and echoes of Milton's style during the 18th century; his enormous influence; the origin of "poetic diction"; Milton's phraseology stolen by Pope, Thomson, and Gray; the degradation of Milton's style by his pupils and parodists 218
Milton's contemporaries; the poetry of Religion, and of Love; Henry Vaughan; the Court lyrists; Milton's contempt for them; how they surpass him; Sedley; Rochester; the prophet of the Lord and the sons of Belial; unique position of Milton in the history of our literature 256
Francis Bacon, in one of his prose fragments, draws a memorable distinction between "arts mechanical" and "sciences of conceit." "In arts mechanical," he says, "the first device comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth. But in sciences of conceit the first author goeth farthest, and time leeseth and corrupteth.... In the former, many wits and industries contributed in one. In the latter, many men's wits spent to deprave the wit of one."
I fear that literary criticism of the kind that I propose to myself in these chapters on Milton must be classified with the "sciences of conceit." Indeed, Bacon puts it out of question that he himself would so have regarded it, for he goes on to explain how, after the deliverances of a master, "then begin men to aspire to the second prizes, to be a profound interpreter and commentor, to be a sharp champion and defender, to be a methodical compounder and abridger. And this is the unfortunate succession of wits which the world hath yet had, whereby the patrimony of all knowledge goeth not on husbanded and improved, but wasted and decayed."
The blow is aimed at the scholastic philosophers, but it falls heavy on the critics of literature, on all who "aspire to the second prizes," or who think "that a borrowed light can increase the original light from whom it is taken." It is a searching arraignment of all who set themselves to expound in words the meaning and purpose of a master of verbal expression. Yet the very breadth of the indictment brings comfort and a means of escape. For the chief difficulties of an attempt to understand and judge Milton are difficulties inherent in the nature, not only of all criticism in the large sense, but also of all reading. In this association with great spirits which we call reading we receive but what we give, and take away only what we are fit to carry. Milton himself has stated the doctrine in its most absolute form, and has sought an enhanced authority for it by attributing it to the Christ—
Who reads Incessantly, and to his reading brings not A spirit and judgment equal or superior (And what he brings what needs he elsewhere seek?) Uncertain and unsettled still remains, Deep versed in books and shallow in himself, Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys And trifles for choice matters, worth a spunge, As children gathering pebbles on the shore.
Literally taken, this is the negation of all the higher functions of criticism, and the paralysis of all learning. Only his peers, it is argued, can read Shakespeare intelligently; and, as if that did not give him few enough readers, they are further told that they will be wasting their time! But love, unlike this proud Stoicism, is humble, and contented with a little. I would put my apology in the language of love rather than of philosophy. I know that in Shakespeare, or in Milton, or in any rare nature, as in Faire Virtue, the mistress of Philarete—
There is some concealed thing So each gazer limiting, He can see no more of merit Than beseems his worth and spirit.
The appreciation of a great author asks knowledge and industry before it may be attempted, but in the end it is the critic, not the author, who is judged by it, and, where his sympathies have been too narrow, or his sight too dim, condemned without reprieve, and buried without a tombstone.
Imperfect sympathy, that eternal vice of criticism, is sometimes irremediable, sometimes caused by imperfect knowledge. It takes forms as various as the authors whom it misjudges. In the case of Shakespeare, when we attempt to estimate him, to gauge him, to see him from all sides, we become almost painfully conscious of his immensity. We can build no watch-tower high enough to give us a bird's-eye view of that "globe of miraculous continents." We are out of breath when we attempt to accompany him on his excursions, where he,
through strait, rough, dense, or rare, With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way, And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies.
He moves so easily and so familiarly among human passions and human emotions, is so completely at home in all societies and all companies, that he makes us feel hide-bound, prejudiced and ill-bred, by the side of him. We have to widen our conception of human nature in order to think of him as a man. How hard a thing it is to conceive of Shakespeare as of a human spirit, embodied and conditioned, whose affections, though higher mounted than ours, yet, when they stooped, stooped with the like wing, is witnessed by all biographies of Shakespeare, and by many thousands of the volumes of criticism and commentary that have been written on his works. One writer is content to botanise with him—to study plant-lore, that is, with a theatrical manager, in his hard-earned leisure, for teacher. Another must needs read the Bible with him, although, when all is said, Shakespeare's study was but little on the Bible. Others elect to keep him to music, astronomy, law, hunting, hawking, fishing. He is a good companion out of doors, and some would fain keep him there, to make a country gentleman of him. His incorrigible preoccupation with humanity, the ruling passion and employment of his life, is beyond the range of their complete sympathy; they like to catch him out of hours, to draw him aside and bespeak his interest, for a few careless minutes, in the trades and pastimes that bulk so largely and so seriously in their own perspective of life. They hardly know what to make of his "unvalued book"; but they know that he was a great man, and to have bought a wool-fell or a quarter of mutton from him, that would have been something! Only the poet-critics attempt to see life, however brokenly, through Shakespeare's eyes, to let their enjoyment keep attendance upon his. And from their grasp, too, he escapes by sheer excess.
In the case of Milton the imperfection of our sympathy is due to other causes. In the first place, we know him as we do not know Shakespeare. The history of his life can be, and has been, minutely written. The affairs of his time, political and religious, have been recorded with enormous wealth of detail; and this wealth, falling into fit hands, has given us those learned modern historians to whom the seventeenth century means a period of five thousand two hundred and eighteen weeks. Milton's own attitude towards these affairs is in no way obscure; he has explained it with great fulness and candour in numerous publications, so that it would be easy to draw up a declaration of his chief tenets in politics and religion. The slanders of his adversaries he met again and again with lofty passages of self-revelation. "With me it fares now," he remarks in one of these, "as with him whose outward garment hath been injured and ill-bedighted; for having no other shift, what help but to turn the inside outwards, especially if the lining be of the same, or, as it is sometimes, much better." In his poetry, too, he delights to reveal himself, to take the knowing reader into his confidence, to honour the fit audience with a confession.
But the difficulty is there none the less. Few critics have found Milton too wide or too large for them; many have found him too narrow, which is another form of imperfect sympathy. His lack of humour has alienated the interest of thousands. His ardent advocacy of toleration in the noblest of his prose treatises has been belittled by a generation which prides itself on that flaccid form of benevolence, and finds the mere repeal of the Licensing Act the smallest part of it. His pamphlets on divorce and on government have earned him the reputation of a theorist and dreamer. The shrewd practical man finds it easy to despise him. The genial tolerant man, whose geniality of demeanour towards others is a kind of quit-rent paid for his own moral laxity, regards him as a Pharisee. The ready humourist devises a pleasant and cheap entertainment by dressing Adam and Eve in modern garments and discussing their relations in the jargon of modish frivolity. Even the personal history of the poet has been made to contribute to the gaiety of nations, and the flight of Mary Powell, the first Mrs. Milton, from the house in Aldersgate Street, has become something of a stock comic episode in the history of English literature. So heavy is the tax paid, even by a poet, for deficiency in breadth and humour. Almost all men are less humorous than Shakespeare; but most men are more humorous than Milton, and these, it is to be feared, having suffered themselves to be dragooned by the critics into professing a distant admiration for Paradise Lost, have paid their last and utmost tribute to the genius of its author.
It may be admitted without hesitation that his lonely greatness rather forces admiration on us than attracts us. That unrelenting intensity; that lucidity, as clear as air and as hard as agate; that passion which burns with a consuming heat or with a blinding light in all his writings, have endeared him to none. It is impossible to take one's ease with Milton, to induce him to forget his principles for a moment in the name of social pleasure. The most genial of his personal sonnets is addressed to Henry Lawrence, the son of the President of Cromwell's Council, and is an invitation to dinner. The repast promised is "light and choice"; the guest is apostrophised, somewhat formidably, as "Lawrence, of virtuous father, virtuous son," and is reminded, before he has dined, that
He who of these delights can judge, and spare To interpose them oft, is not unwise.
But the qualities that make Milton a poor boon-companion are precisely those which combine to raise his style to an unexampled loftiness, a dignity that bears itself easily in society greater than human. To attain to this height it was needful that there should be no aimless expatiation of the intellect, no facile diffusion of the sympathies over the wide field of human activity and human character. All the strength of mind and heart and will that was in Milton went into the process of raising himself. He is like some giant palm-tree; the foliage that sprang from it as it grew has long since withered, the stem rises gaunt and bare; but high up above, outlined against the sky, is a crown of perennial verdure.
It is essential for the understanding of Milton that we should take account of the rare simplicity of his character. No subtleties; no tricks of the dramatic intellect, which dresses itself in a hundred masquerading costumes and peeps out of a thousand spy-holes; no development, one might almost say, only training, and that self-imposed. There is but one Milton, and he is throughout one and the same, in his life, in his prose, and in his verse; from those early days, when we find him, an uncouth swain,
With eager thought warbling his Doric lay,
to the last days when, amid a swarm of disasters, he approved himself like Samson, and earned for himself the loftiest epitaph in the language, his own—
Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail Or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt, Dispraise, or blame; nothing but well and fair, And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
The world has not wholly misunderstood or failed to appreciate this extraordinary character, as one curious piece of evidence will serve to show. Milton is one of the most egotistic of poets. He makes no secret of the high value he sets upon his gifts—"gifts of God's imparting," as he calls them, "which I boast not, but thankfully acknowledge, and fear also lest at my certain account they be reckoned to me many rather than few." Before he has so much as begun his great poem he covenants with his reader "that for some few years yet I may go on trust with him toward the payment of what I am now indebted, as being a work not to be raised from the heat of youth or the vapours of wine; ... nor to be obtained by the invocation of dame Memory and her siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit, who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases; to this must be added industrious and select reading, steady observation, insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs; till which in some measure be compassed, at mine own peril and cost, I refuse not to sustain this expectation from as many as are not loth to hazard so much credulity upon the best pledges that I can give them." And when he came to redeem his pledge, in the very opening lines of his epic, trusting to the same inspiration, he challenges the supremacy of the ancients by his
adventrous song That with no middle flight intends to soar Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
"This man cuts us all out, and the Ancients too," Dryden is reported to have said. But this man intended to do no less, and formally announced his intention. It is impossible to outface Milton, or to abash him with praise. His most enthusiastic eulogists are compelled merely to echo the remarks of his earliest and greatest critic, himself. Yet with all this, none of the later critics, not the most cavalier nor the dullest, has dared to call him vain. His estimate of himself, offered as simple fact, has been accepted in the same spirit, and one abyss of ineptitude still yawns for the heroic folly, or the clownish courage, of the New Criticism.
CHAPTER I JOHN MILTON
John Milton, the son of a middle-aged scrivener, was born on Friday, December the 9th, 1608, at his father's house in Bread Street, Cheapside; and died on Sunday, November the 8th, 1674, in a small house, with but one room on a floor, in Artillery Walk, Bunhill Fields, London. Of his father the records that remain show him to have been a convinced member of the Puritan party in the Church, a man of liberal culture and intelligence, a lover of music (which taste Milton inherited), a wise and generous friend to the son who became a poet. We owe it to his wisdom rather than to his prosperity that Milton was allowed to live at home without any ostensible profession until he was thirty years of age and more.
For the first sixteen years of his life Milton was educated partly at home, by a Presbyterian tutor called Thomas Young, partly at St. Paul's School, which he attended for some years as a day-scholar. From his twelfth year onward he was an omnivorous reader, and before he left school had written some boyish verses, void of merit. The next fourteen years of his life, after leaving school, were spent at Cambridge, in Buckinghamshire, and in foreign travel, so that he was thirty years old before he lived continuously in London again.
We know pretty well how he spent his time at Cambridge and at Horton, sedulously turning over the Greek and Latin classics, dreaming of immortality. We know less about his early years in London, where there were wider and better opportunities of gaining an insight into "all seemly and generous arts and affairs." London was a great centre of traffic, a motley crowd of adventurers and traders even in those days, and the boy Milton must often have wandered down to the river below London Bridge to see the ships come in. His poems are singularly full of figures drawn from ships and shipping, some of them bookish in their origin, others which may have been suggested by the sight of ships. Now it is Satan, who, after his fateful journey through chaos, nears the world,
And like a weather-beaten vessel holds Gladly the port, though shrouds and tackle torn.
Now it is Dalila, whom the Chorus behold approaching.
Like a stately ship Of Tarsus, bound for the isles Of Javan or Gadire, With all her bravery on, and tackle trim, Sails filled, and streamers waving, Courted by all the winds that hold them play.
Or, again, it is Samson reproaching himself,
Who, like a foolish pilot, have shipwracked My vessel trusted to me from above, Gloriously rigged.
The bulk of Satan is compared to the great sea-beast Leviathan, beheld off the coast of Norway by
The pilot of some small night-founder'd skiff.
In his approach to the happy garden the Adversary is likened to
them who sail Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow Sabaean odours from the spicy shore Of Araby the Blest, with such delay Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles; So entertained those odorous sweets the Fiend.
And when he draws near to Eve in the rose-thicket,
sidelong he works his way, As when a ship, by skilful steersman wrought, Nigh river's mouth, or foreland, where the wind Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her sail.
There is nothing here that is not within the reach of any inland reader, but Milton's choice of nautical similitudes may serve to remind us how much of the interest of Old London centred round its port. Here were to be heard those tales of far-sought adventure and peril which gave even to the boisterous life of Elizabethan London an air of triviality and security. Hereby came in "the variety of fashions and foreign stuffs," which Fynes Moryson, writing in Milton's childhood, compares to the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea for number. All sorts of characters, nationalities, and costumes were daily to be seen in Paul's Walk, adjoining Milton's school. One sort interests us pre-eminently. "In the general pride of England," says Fynes Moryson, "there is no fit difference made of degrees; for very Bankrupts, Players, and Cutpurses go apparelled like gentlemen." Shakespeare was alive during the first seven years of Milton's life, and was no doubt sometimes a visitor to the Mermaid, a stone's throw from the scrivener's house. Perhaps his cloak brushed the child Milton in the street. Milton was born in the golden age of the drama, and a score of masterpieces were put upon the London stage while he was in his cradle. But the golden age passed rapidly; the quality of the drama degenerated and the opposition to it grew strong before he was of years to attend a play. Perhaps he never saw a play by the masters during his boyhood, and his visits
to the well-trod stage anon, If Jonson's learned sock be on, Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child, Warble his native woodnotes wild,
were either excursions of the imagination or belong to his later occasional sojourns in London. In his Eikonoklastes he quotes certain lines from Richard III., and here and there in his prose, as well as in his verse, there are possibly some faint reminiscences of Shakespearian phrases. So, for instance, in The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, he seems to echo a famous speech of Macbeth, while he claims that his remedy of free divorce "hath the virtue to soften and dispel rooted and knotty sorrows, and without enchantment." But these are doubtless the memories of reading. In the Apology for Smectymnuus, when he has to reply to the charge that he "haunted playhouses" during his college days, he retorts the charge, it is true, rather than denies it. Yet the retort bespeaks a certain severity and preciseness in judging of plays and their actors, which can hardly have found gratification in the licenses and exuberances of the contemporary drama. It was not difficult, he remarks, to see plays, "when in the Colleges so many of the young divines, and those in next aptitude to divinity, have been seen so often upon the stage, writhing and unboning their clergy limbs to all the antic and dishonest gestures of Trinculoes, buffoons, and bawds." "If it be unlawful," he continues, "to sit and behold a mercenary comedian personating that which is least unseemly for a hireling to do, how much more blameful is it to endure the sight of as vile things acted by persons either entered, or presently to enter into the ministry; and how much more foul and ignominious for them to be the actors!"
It was, at least, a happy chance that the first of Milton's verses to appear in print should have been An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatick Poet, W. Shakespeare, contributed to the Second Folio in 1632. The main interests of the household at the Spread Eagle in Bread Street must have been far enough remote from the doings of the companies of players. John Milton the elder would probably have agreed with Sir Thomas Bodley, who called plays "riffe-raffes," and declared that they should never come into his library. The Hampton Court Conference, the Synod of Dort, the ever-widening divisions in the Church, between Arminian and Calvinist, between Prelatist and Puritan, were probably subjects of a nearer interest, even to the poet in his youth, than the production of new or old plays upon the stage. Milton's childhood was spent in the very twilight of the Elizabethan age; it was greatly fortunate for him, and for us, that he caught the after-glow of the sunset upon his face. He read Spenser while Spenser was still the dominant influence in English poetry. "He hath confessed to me," said Dryden, "that Spenser was his original,"—an incredible statement unless we understand "original" in the sense of his earliest admiration, his poetic godfather who first won him to poetry. He read Shakespeare and Jonson in the first editions. He read Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas, His Divine Weekes and Workes; and perhaps thence conceived the first vague idea of a poem on a kindred subject. It is necessary to insist on his English masters, because, although the greater part of his time and study was devoted to the classics, the instrument that he was to use was learned in a native school. His metre, his magnificent vocabulary, his unerring phraseology, took learning and practice. He attached a high value to his study of English poetry. When he spoke of "our sage and serious Spenser (whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas)," he was conscious that he was maintaining what seemed a bold paradox in an age when scholasticism still controlled education. It is pleasant to think of Milton during these early years, whether in London or at Christ's College, in his "calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts," before ever he had a hint that he must perforce "embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes, put from beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies." From the first, we may be sure, he read the poets as one poet reads another, and apprenticed himself to them for their craft. He was never drawn out of the highroad of art by the minuter and more entangling allurements of scholarship. In one of his Divorce pamphlets he tells, with the inevitable touch of pride, how he never could delight in long citations, much less in whole traductions, "whether it be natural disposition or education in me, or that my mother bore me a speaker of what God made mine own, and not a translator."
Milton was intended by his family, and by his own early resolves, for the service of the Church. The growing unrest, therefore, in matters ecclesiastical during the early part of the seventeenth century could not but affect him. The various parties and tendencies in the Church of England had never, since the Reformation, attained to a condition of stable equilibrium. But the settlement under Elizabeth was strengthened, and the parties bound together for thirty years, by the ever-present fear of Rome. When that fear was allayed, and the menace that hung over the very existence of the nation removed by the defeat of the Armada, the differences within the Church broke out afresh, and waxed fiercer every year. Shakespeare grew to manhood during the halcyon years between the Marian persecutions and the Marprelate pamphlets—a kind of magic oasis, which gave us our English Renaissance. Milton's youth breathed a very different air. The Church, as it was, pleased hardly any party. Much of the old temple had been hastily pulled down; the new government offices that were to replace it had as yet been but partially built, and commanded no general approval. Considered as a social organisation, moreover, the Church throughout large parts of the country had fallen into a state not unlike decay. Richard Baxter, whose testimony there is no sufficient reason to reject, tells of its state in Shropshire during the years of his youth, from 1615 onwards:—"We lived in a country that had but little preaching at all: In the Village where I was born there was four Readers successively in Six years time, ignorant Men, and two of them immoral in their lives; who were all my School-masters. In the Village where my Father lived, there was a Reader of about Eighty years of Age that never preached, and had two Churches about Twenty miles distant: His Eyesight failing him, he said Common-Prayer without Book; but for the Reading of the Psalms and Chapters he got a Common Thresher and Day-Labourer one year, and a Taylor another year: (for the Clerk could not read well): And at last he had a Kinsman of his own (the excellentest Stage-player in all the Country, and a good Gamester and good Fellow) that got Orders and supplied one of his Places.... After him another Neighbour's Son took Orders, when he had been a while an Attorney's Clerk, and a common Drunkard, and tipled himself into so great Poverty that he had no other way to live.... These were the School-masters of my Youth ... who read Common Prayer on Sundays and Holy Days, and taught School and tipled on the Weekdays, and whipt the Boys when they were drunk, so that we changed them very oft. Within a few miles about us were near a dozen more Ministers that were near Eighty years old apiece, and never preached; poor ignorant Readers, and most of them of Scandalous Lives." Some few there were, Baxter admits, who preached in the neighbourhood, but any one who went to hear them "was made the Derision of the Vulgar Rabble under the odious Name of a Puritane."
In one of his Latin letters written from Cambridge, Milton himself speaks of the ignorance of those designed for the profession of divinity, how they knew little or nothing of literature and philosophy. The high prelacy and ritualism of Laud on the one hand, the Puritan movement on the other, each in some measure a protest against this state of things, were at fierce variance with each other, and Milton's ear, from his youth upward, was "pealed with noises loud and ruinous." The age of Shakespeare was irrecoverably past, and it was impossible for any but a few imperturbable Cyrenaics, like Herrick, to "fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world." The large indifference of Shakespeare to current politics was impossible for Milton. "I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician," said the folly of Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the wisdom of Shakespeare. But now the Brownists and the politicians had it their own way; and Milton was something of both.
His notable early poems, written at College and during his retreat in Buckinghamshire, have therefore a singular interest and pathos. He was not long for the world in which these poems move with so ineffable a native grace. They are the poems of his youth, instinct with the sensibility of youth, and of a delicate and richly nurtured imagination. But they are also the poems of an age that was closing, and they have a touch of the sadness of evening. "I know not," says Dr. Johnson, speaking of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, "whether the characters are kept sufficiently apart. No mirth can indeed be found in his melancholy, but I am afraid that I always meet some melancholy in his mirth." It is true; for both characters are Milton himself, who embodies in separate poems the cheerful and pensive elements of his own nature—and already his choice is made. There is something disinterested and detached about his sketches of the merriment which he takes part in only as a silent onlooker, compared with the profound sincerity of the lines—
And may at last my weary age Find out the peaceful hermitage, The hairy gown and mossy cell, Where I may sit and rightly spell Of every star that heaven doth shew, And every herb that sips the dew, Till old experience do attain To something like prophetic strain.
The rising tide of political passion submerged the solemn Arcadia of his early fancies. Like Lycidas, he was carried far from the flowers and the shepherds to visit "the bottom of the monstrous world." Hence there may be made a whole index of themes, touched on by Milton in his early poems, as if in promise, of which no fulfilment is to be found in the greater poems of his maturity. His political career under the Commonwealth is often treated, both by those who applaud and by those who lament it, as if it were the merest interlude between two poetic periods. It was not so; political passion dominates and informs all his later poems, dictating even their subjects. How was it possible for him to choose King Arthur and his Round Table for the subject of his epic, as he had intended in his youthful days; when chivalry and the spirit of chivalry had fought its last fight on English soil, full in the sight of all men, round the forlorn banner of King Charles? The policy of Laud and Stratford kept Milton out of the Church, and sent him into retirement at Horton; the same policy, it may be plausibly conjectured, had something to do with the change in the subject of his long-meditated epic. From the very beginning of the civil troubles contemporary events leave their mark on all his writings. The topical bias (so to call it) is very noticeable in many of the subjects tentatively jotted down by him on the paper that is now in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. The corrupted clergy, who make so splendid and, as some think, so irrelevant an appearance in Lycidas, figure frequently, either directly or by implication, in the long list of themes.
Without misgiving or regret, when the time came, Milton shut the gate on the sequestered paradise of his youth, and hastened downward to join the fighters in the plain. Before we follow him we may well "interpose a little ease" by looking at some of the beauties proper to the earlier poems, and listening to some of the simple pastoral melodies that were drowned when the organ began to blow. L'Allegro is full of them—
Sometimes, with secure delight, The upland hamlets will invite, When the merry bells ring round, And the jocund rebecks sound To many a youth and many a maid Dancing in the chequered shade, And young and old come forth to play On a sunshine holiday.
That is Merry England of Shakespeare's time. But already the controversy concerning the Book of Sports had begun to darken the air. Already the Maypole, that "great stinking idol," as an Elizabethan Puritan called it, had been doomed to destruction. Some years before L'Allegro was written, a bard, who hailed from Leeds, had lamented its downfall in the country of his nativity—
Happy the age, and harmelesse were the dayes, (For then true love and amity was found) When every village did a May-pole raise, And Whitson Ales and May games did abound; And all the lusty Yonkers in a rout With merry Lasses danced the rod about; Then friendship to their banquets bid the guests, And poor men far'd the better for their feasts.
The next verse recalls that scene in The Winter's Tale where Shakespeare draws a vivid picture of Elizabethan country merrymaking—
The Lords of Castles, Manners, Townes, and Towers Rejoyc'd when they beheld the Farmers flourish, And would come down unto the Summer-Bowers To see the Country gallants dance the Morrice, And sometimes with his tenant's handsome daughter Would fall in liking, and espouse her after Unto his Serving-man, and for her portion Bestow on him some farme, without extortion.
Alas poore Maypoles, what should be the cause That you were almost banish't from the earth? You never were rebellious to the lawes, Your greatest crime was harmelesse honest mirth; What fell malignant spirit was there found To cast your tall Piramides to ground? * * * * *
And you my native towne, which was of old, (When as thy Bon-fires burn'd and May-poles stood, And when thy Wassell-cups were uncontrol'd) The Summer Bower of Peace and neighbourhood, Although since these went down, thou ly'st forlorn, By factious schismes and humours over-borne, Some able hand I hope thy rod will raise, That thou maist see once more thy happy daies.
The hopes of the bard of Leeds were fulfilled at the Restoration. Merriment, of a sort, came back to England; but it found no congenial acceptance from Milton. The Court roysterers, the Hectors, Nickers, Scourers, and Mohocks, among whom were numbered Sedley and Rochester, and others of the best poets of the day, are celebrated by him incidentally in those lines, unsurpassable for sombre magnificence, which he appends to his account of Belial—
In courts and palaces he also reigns, And in luxurious cities, where the noise Of riot ascends above their loftiest towers, And injury and outrage; and, when night Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
The public festivals of these later days are glanced at in Samson Agonistes—
Lords are lordliest in their wine; And the well-feasted priest then soonest fired With zeal, if aught religion seem concerned; No less the people on their holy-days Impetuous, insolent, unquenchable.
There is no relaxation, no trace of innocent lightheartedness, in any of the later poems. Even the garden of Paradise, where some gentle mirth might perhaps be permissible, is tenanted by grave livers, majestic, but not sprightly. In L' Allegro the morning song of the milk-maid is "blithe," and the music of the village dance is "jocund." But Eve is described as "jocund" and "blithe" only when she is intoxicated by the mortal fruit of the tree; and the note of gaiety that is heard faintly, like a distant echo, in the earlier poems, is never sounded again by Milton.
So it is also with other things. The flowers scattered on the laureate hearse of Lycidas make a brighter, more various, and withal a homelier display than ever meets the eye in the Hesperian wildernesses of Eden. Or take the world of fairy lore that Milton inherited from the Elizabethans—a world to which not only Shakespeare, but also laborious and arrogant poet-scholars like Jonson and Drayton had free right of entry. Milton, too, could write of the fairies—in his youth—
With stories told of many a feat, How Faery Mab the junkets eat.
But even in Comus the most exquisite passage of fairy description is put into the mouth of Comus himself, chief of the band of ugly-headed monsters in glistering apparel—
The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove, Now to the moon in wavering morrice move; And on the tawny sands and shelves Trip the pert fairies and the dapper elves. By dimpled brook and fountain-brim, The wood-nymphs decked with daisies trim, Their merry wakes and pastimes keep: What hath night to do with sleep?
The song and the dance are broken off, never to be resumed, when the staid footfall of the lady is heard approaching. Milton cannot draw ugliness; it turns into beauty or majesty on his hands. Satan has a large and enthusiastic party among readers of Paradise Lost. Comus, we are told, stands for a whole array of ugly vices—riot, intemperance, gluttony, and luxury. But what a delicate monster he is, and what a ravishing lyric strain he is master of! The pleasure that Milton forswore was a young god, the companion of Love and Youth, not an aged Silenus among the wine-skins. He viewed and described one whole realm of pagan loveliness, and then he turned his face the other way, and never looked back. Love is of the valley, and he lifted his eyes to the hills. His guiding star was not Christianity, which in its most characteristic and beautiful aspects had no fascination for him, but rather that severe and self-centred ideal of life and character which is called Puritanism. It is not a creed for weak natures; so that as the nominal religion of a whole populace it has inevitably fallen into some well-merited disrepute. Puritanism for him was not a body of law to be imposed outwardly on a gross and timid people, but an inspiration and a grace that falls from Heaven upon choice and rare natures—
Nor do I name of men the common rout, That, wandering loose about, Grow up and perish as the summer fly, Heads without name, no more remember'd;
so sings the Chorus in Samson Agonistes—
But such as thou hast solemnly elected, With gifts and graces eminently adorned, To some great work, thy glory, And people's safety, which in part they effect.
Under one form or another Puritanism is to be found in almost all religions, and in many systems of philosophy. Milton's Puritanism enabled him to combine his classical and Biblical studies, to reconcile his pagan and Christian admirations, Stoicism, and the Quakers. It was with no sense of incongruity that he gave to the Christ a speech in praise of—
Quintus, Fabricius, Curius, Regulus,... Who could do mighty things, and could contemn Riches, though offered from the hand of Kings.
To reject common ambitions, to refuse common enticements, to rule passions, desires, and fears, "neither to change, nor falter, nor repent,"—this was the wisdom and this the virtue that he set before himself. There is no beatific vision to keep his eyes from wandering among the shows of earth. Milton's heaven is colder than his earth, the home of Titans, whose employ is political and martial. When his imagination deals with earthly realities, the noble melancholy of the Greeks lies upon it. His last word on human life might be translated into Greek with no straining and no loss of meaning—
His servants He, with new acquist Of true experience from this great event, With peace and consolation hath dismissed, And calm of mind, all passion spent.
He is therefore one of the few English poets (alone in this respect among the greatest) who have not sung of Love. His only English love-poem, the sonnet To the Nightingale, is his earliest and poorest sonnet. He elected in his later poems to sing of Marriage, its foundation in reason, its utility, its respectability and antiquity as an institution, and, above all, its amazing dangers. He has thus lost the devotion of the young, who, while they read poetry by the ear and eye for its sonorous suggestions, and its processions of vague shapes, love Milton; but when they come to read it for its matter and sentiment, leave him—in most cases never to return. The atmosphere of his later poems is that of some great public institution. Heaven is an Oriental despotism. Hell is a Secession parliament. In the happy garden itself there is no privacy, no individualism; it is the focus of the action, the central point of the attack and the defence; and a great part of the conversation of its inhabitants turns on the regulations under which they live. They never forget that they are all mankind, and when their psalm goes up in grateful adoration to their Creator, it is like the unanimous voice of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues.
"The plan of Paradise Lost" says Johnson, "has this inconvenience, that it comprises neither human actions nor human manners. The man and woman who act and suffer are in a state which no other man and woman can ever know. The reader finds no transaction in which he can be engaged; beholds no condition in which he can by any effort of imagination place himself; he has, therefore, little natural curiosity and sympathy." Milton, he goes on to explain, "knew human nature only in the gross, and had never studied the shades of character, nor the combinations of concurring or the perplexity of contending passions."
He knew human nature only in the gross. He treated nothing less momentous than the fortunes of the race. It is precisely from this cause that the incomparable grandeur of Milton's characters and situations springs. The conversations that he records are like international parleyings. Eve is the official Mother of mankind. Adam walks forth to meet the angel, in ambassadorial dignity, the accredited representative of the human race—
Without more train Accompanied than with his own complete Perfections; in himself was all his state, More solemn than the tedious pomp that waits On princes, when their rich retinue long Of horses led and grooms besmeared with gold Dazzles the crowd and sets them all agape.
And if the other characters of Paradise Lost have this generic stamp, it is because the chief character of all has it—the character of the poet himself. It lends a strange dignity to the story of Milton's life that in all his doings he felt himself to be a "cause," an agent of mighty purposes. This it is that more than excuses, it glorifies, his repeated magniloquent allusions to himself throughout the prose works. Holding himself on trust or on commission, he must needs report himself, not only to his great Taskmaster, but also from time to time to men, his expectant and impatient beneficiaries. Even in Lycidas he is thinking of himself as much as of his dead companion—
So may some gentle Muse With lucky words favour my destined urn, And as he passes turn, And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.
What if he die young himself? Are his dreams and hopes for his own future an illusion? He agonises with the question in the famous digression on poetry and poetic fame. But he consoles himself by appeal to a Court where the success and the fame of this world are as straw in the furnace; and then, having duly performed the obsequies of his friend, with reinvigorated heart he turns once more to the future—"To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new." A singular ending, no doubt, to an elegy! But it is blind and hasty to conclude that therefore the precedent laments are "not to be considered as the effusion of real passion." A soldier's burial is not the less honoured because his comrades must turn from his grave to give their thought and strength and courage to the cause which was also his. The maimed rites, interrupted by the trumpet calling to action, are a loftier commemoration than the desolating laments of those who "weep the more because they weep in vain." And in this way Milton's fierce tirade against the Church hirelings, and his preoccupation with his own ambitions support and explain each other, and find a fit place in the poem. He is looking to his equipment, if perchance he may live to do that in poetry and politics, which Edward King had died leaving unaccomplished. When his own time came he desired to be lamented in no other way—
Come, come; no time for lamentation now, Nor much more cause. Samson hath quit himself Like Samson, and heroicly hath finished A life heroic, on his enemies Fully revenged.
This overmastering sense of the cause breathes through all his numerous references to himself. He stands in the Forum,
Disturbed, yet comely, and in act Raised, as of some great matter to begin;
and addresses himself, as he boasts in The Second Defence of the People of England, to "the whole collective body of people, cities, states, and councils of the wise and eminent, through the wide expanse of anxious and listening Europe." Having sacrificed the use of his eyes to the service of the commonweal, he bates not a jot of heart or hope—
What supports me, dost thou ask? The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied In Liberty's defence, my noble task, Of which all Europe talks from side to side.
And while thus his fighting years are filled with the exaltation of battle, as he plumes and lifts himself upon the cause that is going forward, the story of his closing years has in it much of the pathos of a lost cause. It was remarked by Johnson that there is in the Paradise Lost little opportunity for the pathetic; only one passage, indeed, is allowed by him to be truly deserving of that name. But the description of the remorse and reconcilement of Adam and Eve, which Johnson doubtless intended, will not compare, for moving quality, with the matchless invocation to the Seventh Book—
More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchanged To hoarse or mute, though fallen on evil days, On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues, In darkness, and with dangers compassed round, And solitude; yet not alone, while thou Visit'st my slumbers nightly, or when Morn Purples the East. Still govern thou my song, Urania, and fit audience find, though few.
Then the noise that he had heard, in imagination only, thirty years earlier, assails his bodily ears; as evening sets in, the wonted roar is up, not in the wild woods of fancy inhabited by the sensual magician and his crew, but in the unlighted streets of Restoration London, as a chorus of cup-shotten brawlers goes roaring by. The king is enjoying his own again; and the poet, hunted and harassed in his last retreat, raises his petition again to the Muse whom he had invoked at the beginning of his task,—not Clio nor her sisters, but the spirit of heavenly power and heavenly wisdom; his mind reverts to that story of Orpheus which had always had so singular and personal a fascination for him; of Orpheus, who, holding himself aloof from the mad amorists of Thrace, was by them torn to pieces during the orgy of the Dionysia, and sent rolling down the torrent of the Hebrus; and he prays to his goddess and guardian—
But drive far off the barbarous dissonance Of Bacchus and his revellers, the race Of that wild rout that tore the Thracian bard In Rhodope, where woods and rocks had ears To rapture, till the savage clamour drowned Both harp and voice; nor could the Muse defend Her son. So fail not thou, who thee implores; For thou art heavenly, she an empty dream.
Disappointed of all his political hopes, living on neglected and poor for fourteen years after the Restoration, and dying a private citizen, passably obscure, Milton yet found and took a magnanimous revenge upon his enemies. They had crippled only his left hand in silencing the politician, but his right hand, which had hung useless by his side for so many years while he served the State, was his own still, and wielded a more Olympian weapon. In prose and politics he was a baffled man, but in poetry and vision he found his triumph. His ideas, which had gone a-begging among the politicians of his time, were stripped by him of the rags of circumstance, and cleansed of its dust, to be enthroned where they might secure a hearing for all time. The surprise that he prepared for the courtiers of the Restoration world was like Samson's revenge, in that it fell on them from above; and, as elsewhere in the poem of Samson Agonistes, Milton was thinking not very remotely of his own case when he wrote that jubilant semi-chorus, with the marvellous fugal succession of figures, wherein Samson, and by inference Milton himself, is compared to a smouldering fire revived, to a serpent attacking a hen-roost, to an eagle swooping on his helpless prey, and last, his enemies now silent for ever, to the phoenix, self-begotten and self-perpetuating. The Philistian nobility (or the Restoration notables) are described, with huge scorn, as ranged along the tiers of their theatre, like barnyard fowl blinking on their perch, watching, not without a flutter of apprehension, the vain attempts made on their safety by the reptile grovelling in the dust below—
But he, though blind of sight, Despised, and thought extinguished quite, With inward eyes illuminated, His fiery virtue roused From under ashes into sudden flame, And as an evening dragon came, Assailant on the perched roosts And nests in order ranged Of tame villatic fowl, but as an eagle His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads. So Virtue, given for lost, Depressed and overthrown, as seemed, Like that self-begotten bird In the Arabian woods embost, That no second knows nor third, And lay erewhile a holocaust, From out her ashy womb now teemed, Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most When most unactive deemed; And, though her body die, her fame survives. A secular bird, ages of lives.
CHAPTER II THE PROSE WORKS
It is customary for the friends of Milton to approach his prose works with a sigh of apology. There is a deep-rooted prejudice among the English people against a poet who concerns himself intimately with politics. Whether this feeling has its origin in solicitude for the poet or for the politics is hard to determine; indeed it is pretty generally maintained that each is detrimental to the other. But seeing that for one man in the modern world who cares for poets there are at least ten who care for politics, it is safe to assume that the poets, when they are deprived of the franchise, are deprived rather to maintain the purity and efficiency of politics than for the good of their own souls. They have been compared to birds of Paradise, which were long believed to have no feet; and the common sense of the English people, with a touch of the municipal logic of Dogberry, has enacted that whereas they have no feet, and have moreover been proved to have no feet, it shall be forbidden them, under the strictest pains and penalties, to alight and walk. Their function is to beautify the distant landscape with the flash of wings.
For most men common-sense is the standard, and immediate utility the end, whereby they judge political questions, great and small. Now common-sense judges only the questions that are brought home to it by instant example; and utility is appealed to for a verdict only amid the dense crowd of actual conflicting interests. Neither the one nor the other is far-sighted or imaginative. So it comes about that the political system, in England, at least, is built up piecemeal; it is founded on appetites and compromises, and mortared by immemorial habit. To explain this process, and to transfigure it in the pure light of imagination, was the work of the great poet-politician, Edmund Burke. But the poet usually goes a hastier way to work. Looking at the whole domiciliary structure from outside, he finds it shapeless and ugly, like an ant-heap; and volunteers to play the architect. His design treats the details of individual habit and happiness in strict subordination to the desired whole. What he wants is consistency, symmetry, dignity; and to achieve these he is willing to make a holocaust of human selfishnesses. He may be a deep scholar and thinker, but he is apt to forget one point of ancient wisdom,—that it is the wearer of the shoe, and not the cobbler, who best knows where the shoe wrings him.
The speculations of the poet awaken no hostile resentment so long as they are admittedly abstract. He is at liberty to build his Republic, his City of the Sun, his Utopia, or his New Atlantis, amid the indifferent applause of mankind. But when his aim becomes practical and immediate, when he seeks to stir the heap by introducing into it the ruthless discomfort of an idea, a million littlenesses assail him with deadly enmity, and he is found sorrowfully protesting his amazement:—
I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs By the known rules of ancient liberty, When straight a barbarous noise environs me Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs.
So he is brought, with great reluctance, to the estimate of men which is expressed by Milton in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates; "being slaves within doors, no wonder that they strive so much to have the public state conformably governed to the inward vicious rule whereby they govern themselves. For indeed none can love freedom heartily but good men."
Milton cannot claim the exemption from censure which is allowed to the theorists, the builders of ideal states somewhere in the clouds. On his own behalf he expressly disclaims any such intention. "To sequester out of the world," he says, "into Atlantic and Utopian politics, which never can be drawn into use, will not mend our condition; but to ordain wisely as in this world of evil, in the midst whereof God has placed us unavoidably." Poetry might well have served him, if his object had been to add another to imaginary commonwealths. He took up with politics because he believed that in the disorder of the times his ideas might be made a "programme," and carried into effect.
It was in 1641, when already "the vigour of the Parliament had begun to humble the pride of the bishops," that he first intervened. "I saw," he says, "that a way was opening for the establishment of real liberty; that the foundation was laying for the deliverance of mankind from the yoke of slavery and superstition.... I perceived that if I ever wished to be of use, I ought at least not to be wanting to my country, to the church, and to so many of my fellow-Christians, in a crisis of so much danger; I therefore determined to relinquish the other pursuits in which I was engaged, and to transfer the whole force of my talents and my industry to this one important object." So he wrote the treatise in two books, Of Reformation in England, and the causes that hitherto have hindered it. His later pamphlets are all similarly occasional in nature, written with a particular and definite object in view. In these he advocates as practicable and much-needed reforms, among other things, the establishment of a perpetual republic on the lines of an oligarchy; the abolition of bishops, religious ceremonials, liturgies, tithes, and, indeed, of all regular payment or salary given to ministers of religion; the supersession of universities and public schools by the erection of new academic institutions, combining the functions of both, "in every City throughout this Land"; the legalisation of free divorce; and the repeal of the ordinances compelling all books to be licensed. If he did not advocate, in any of the works put forth during his lifetime, the legal toleration of polygamy, it was probably only because he perceived that that, at least, did not fall within the scope of practical politics. He defends it in his posthumous treatise, De Doctrina Christiana.
It will readily be seen that on almost all these questions Milton was not only—to use the foolish modern phrase—"in advance of his time," but also considerably in advance of ours. Twenty years after his death the Licensing Acts were abolished; for the rest, his reforms are yet to accomplish. It is an odd remark of one of his learned biographers that the Areopagitica is the only one of all Milton's prose writings "whose topic is not obsolete." It is the only one of his prose writings whose thesis commands the general assent of modern readers, and is, therefore, from his own practical point of view, obsolete.
The mere enumeration of his opinions suffices to show that Milton's is a sad case of the poet in politics. The labours of the twenty prime years of his manhood have been copiously bewailed. To have Pegasus in harness is bad enough; but when the waggon that he draws is immovably stuck in the mud, and he himself bespattered by his efforts, the spectacle is yet more pitiable. Many of his critics have expressed regret that he did not make for himself an artificial seclusion, and continue his purely poetical labours, with the classics for companions. The questions that drew him into politics were burning questions, it is true; but were there not others to deal with them, good, earnest, sensible, homely people? Samuel Butler has enumerated some of those who were dedicating their time and thought to politics at this important crisis:—
The oyster-women locked their fish up, And trudged away to cry "No Bishop": The mouse-trap men laid save-alls by, And 'gainst ev'l counsellors did cry; Botchers left old cloaths in the lurch, And fell to turn and patch the Church; Some cried the Covenant, instead Of pudding-pies and ginger-bread, And some for brooms, old boots and shoes, Bawled out to purge the Common-house: Instead of kitchen-stuff, some cry A gospel-preaching ministry; And some for old shirts, coats or cloak, No surplices nor service-book; A strange harmonious inclination Of all degrees to reformation.
But what was Milton doing in this malodorous and noisy assembly? Might he not with all confidence have left the Church to the oyster-women, and the State to the mouse-trap men? The company that he kept with them ruined his manners; he had to speak loud in order to be heard, to speak broad in order to be respected; and so (bitterest thought of all!) he lost something of that sweet reasonableness which is a poet's proper grace.
The answer to this strain of criticism is to be found in the study of Milton's works, poetry and prose—and perhaps best in the poetry. We could not have had anything at all like Paradise Lost from a dainty, shy poet-scholar; nor anything half so great. The greatest men hold their power on this tenure, that they shall not husband it because the occasion that presents itself, although worthy of high effort, is not answerable to the refinement of their tastes. Milton, it is too often forgotten, was an Englishman. He held the privilege and the trust not cheap. When God intends some new and great epoch in human history, "what does he then," this poet exultantly asks, "but reveal himself to his servants, and, as his manner is, first to his Englishmen?" To his chief work in poetry he was instigated by patriotic motives. "I applied myself," he says, "to that resolution which Ariosto followed against the persuasions of Bembo, to fix all the industry and art I could unite to the adorning of my native tongue, not to make verbal curiosity the end (that were a toilsome vanity), but to be an interpreter and relater of the best and sagest things among mine own citizens throughout this island in the mother dialect."
There is plenty of "verbal curiosity" in Milton's poetry; he is in some respects the finest craftsman who ever handled the English speech: so that this declaration is the more timely to remind us by how wide a chasm he is separated from those modern greenhouse poets who move contentedly in an atmosphere of art ideals and art theories. He had his breeding from the ancient world, where AEschylus fought at Marathon, and he could not think of politics as of a separable part of human life.
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade, Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair,
is a lyric ideal that may quite well consist with political indifference, but how should an epic inspiration be nourished where the prosperity of the State is lightly esteemed? Even had poetry lost by his political adventures, he would have been content that politics should gain. And politics did gain; for Milton's prose works raise every question they touch, even where they cannot truly be said to advance it. It is as unseemly for the politicians to complain of his choice, as it would be for the herdsmen of King Admetus to complain of the presence among them of a god. The large considerations and high passions imported into the treatment of practical questions by a Milton, or a Burke, have done much to keep even party politics at a high level in England, so that civil servants and journalists may join in the hymn of the herdsmen—
He has been our fellow, the morning of our days, Us he chose for house-mates, and this way went. God, of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure!
In a long autobiographic passage in the Second Defence of the People of England Milton makes a formal classification of his prose works written before that date. All of them, he says, were designed to promote Liberty. By the accidents of the time he was induced to treat first, in his anti-episcopal pamphlets, of religious liberty. Once that controversy was fairly ablaze, in the name of the same goddess he applied his incendiary torch to humbler piles. "I perceived," he says, "that there were three species of liberty which are essential to the happiness of social life—religious, domestic, and civil; and as I had already written concerning the first, and the magistrates were strenuously active in obtaining the third, I determined to turn my attention to the second, or the domestic species." He includes in this division of his work the Divorce pamphlets, the tractate Of Education, and the Areopagitica, as dealing with the "three material questions" (so he calls them) of domestic liberty, namely, "the conditions of the conjugal tie, the education of the children, and the free publication of the thoughts."
It seems a strange conception of domestic liberty which makes it rest on a threefold support—divorce at will, an unrestrained printing-press, and the encyclopaedic education of polyglot children. But the truth is that Milton's classification is an after-thought. The pamphlets that he names were all written by him much about the same time, between 1643 and 1645; but the true history of their origin is more interesting and less symmetrical than the later invented scheme of classification. The Divorce pamphlets were written because Milton was unhappily married. The Areopagitica was written because his heterodox views concerning marriage had brought him into collision with the Presbyterian censors of the press. His treatise on education was written because he had undertaken the education of his own nephews, and had become deeply interested in that question. In all three his own experience is the first motive; in all three that experience is concealed beneath a formidable array of general considerations, dogmatically propounded.
The case is the same with regard to the pamphlets that treat of religious and civil liberty; they are not only occasional, but intensely personal, even in their origins. The earliest of them, the five ecclesiastical pamphlets of the year 1641, deal with a question which had been of intimate concern to Milton ever since the beginning of his Cambridge days. The celebrated controversy with Salmasius and his abettors, concerning the death of King Charles, is a gladiatorial combat from which every element save the personal is often absent. In these bouts offensive biography and defensive autobiography serve for sword and shield. This personal character of the prose writings, while it has repelled some readers interested mainly in the questions discussed, has attracted others who are interested chiefly in the writer. A rich harvest of personal allusion has been gathered from the controversial treatises, and perhaps, even now, the field has not been gleaned to the last ear. It is worthy of remark, for instance, how Milton's pre-occupation with the themes which he had already pondered, and turned this way and that in his mind, to test their fitness for a monumental work, shows itself in his choice of figure and allusion. Attention has often been called to the elaborate comparison, founded on the history of Samson, in The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty:—
"I cannot better liken the state and person of a king than to that mighty Nazarite Samson; who being disciplined from his birth in the precepts and the practice of temperance and sobriety, without the strong drink of injurious and excessive desires, grows up to a noble strength and perfection with those his illustrious and sunny locks, the laws, waving and curling about his god-like shoulders. And while he keeps them about him undiminished and unshorn, he may with the jawbone of an ass, that is, with the word of his meanest officer, suppress and put to confusion thousands of those that rise against his just power. But laying down his head among the strumpet flatteries of prelates, while he sleeps and thinks no harm, they, wickedly shaving off all those bright and weighty tresses of his law, and just prerogatives, which were his ornament and strength, deliver him over to indirect and violent counsels, which, as those Philistines, put out the fair and far-sighted eyes of his natural discerning, and make him grind in the prison-house of their sinister ends and practices upon him: till he, knowing this prelatical rasor to have bereft him of his wonted might, nourish again his puissant hair, the golden beams of law and right; and they, sternly shook, thunder with ruin upon the heads of those his evil counsellors, but not without great affliction to himself."
This ingenious allegorical application naturally finds no place in the grave poem of Milton's latest years. And yet, in one passage at least, his earlier love for the high-figured style took him captive again. The strong drink from which the Samson of the play abstains is strong drink, not "injurious and excessive desires." There is no hint of prelatical conspiracy in the enticements of Dalila. But perhaps some faint reminiscence of his earlier fable concerning Samson's hair recurred to Milton's mind when he gave to Manoa a speech comparing the locks of the hero to the strength, not of the law, but of a nation in arms:—
And I persuade me God had not permitted His strength again to grow up with his hair, Garrisoned round about him like a camp Of faithful soldiery, were not his purpose To use him further yet in some great service.
The theme of Samson Agonistes had thus already taken possession of Milton's imagination when he wrote his first prose tractates. But the same writings furnish even stronger evidence of his early dallyings with the theme of Paradise Lost. "It was from out the rind of one apple tasted," he says in the Areopagitica, "that the knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth into the world." And again, in The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce:—"The academics and stoics ... knew not what a consummate and most adorned Pandora was bestowed upon Adam, to be the nurse and guide of his arbitrary happiness and perseverance, I mean, his native innocence and perfection, which might have kept him from being our true Epimetheus." Some of these references show the imaginative scheme of the Paradise Lost in the process of building. In one passage, for instance, of the last quoted treatise, Milton expounds the pagan belief that God punishes his enemies most when he throws them furthest from him:—"Which then they held he did, when he blinded, hardened, and stirred up his offenders, to finish and pile up their desperate work since they had undertaken it. To banish for ever into a local hell, whether in the air or in the centre, or in that uttermost and bottomless gulf of chaos, deeper from holy bliss than the world's diameter multiplied, they thought not a punishing so proper and proportionate for God to inflict as to punish sin with sin." It would seem as if the poet had not as yet fixed the situation of his local hell, but remained suspended between rival theories. The other idea, of the Divine permission and impulse given to hardened sinners, finds a conspicuous place in the poem. In one instance, at least, a figure drawn from the story of the Creation is violently handled to serve strange uses. The evolution of the four elements from the chaotic welter of hot, cold, moist, and dry, is adduced as a proof that the laws of God and of nature approve free divorce:—"By his divorcing command the world first rose out of chaos, nor can be renewed again out of confusion, but by the separating of unmeet consorts."
Allusions of this kind occur most frequently in the earlier prose writings, while the studies that had been interrupted by controversy were yet fresh in Milton's memory. They would hardly be worth the quotation, were it not that they are another evidence of the transparency of his mind. In looking through his prose works you see traces of all that was engaging his imagination and thought at the time. Poetry is the highest of expressive arts; and poets are the worst dissemblers or economisers of truth in the world. Their knowledge, like their feeling, possesses them, and must find expression as argument, or illustration, or figure, whatever the immediate matter in hand. The prose works of Milton are thus, from first to last, an exposition of himself. The divorce pamphlets, especially, are hot with smothered personal feeling. Long years afterwards, when time and change had softened and blurred it in memory, his early misadventure was reflected in more than one passage of the later poems. The humble plaint of Eve, and the description of her reunion with her alienated lord, in the Tenth Book of Paradise Lost, doubtless contains, as has often been said, some reflection of what took place at a similar interview in 1645, when Mistress Mary Milton returned to her offended husband. That one principal cause of the rupture has been rightly divined, by Mr. Mark Pattison and others, is probable from certain remarkable lines in the Eighth Book, where Adam describes how he was presented with his bride:—
On she came, Led by her Heavenly Maker, though unseen, And guided by his voice, nor uninformed Of nuptial sanctity, and marriage rites.
Even at so wide a remove of time, the poet's wounded pride finds expression in this singular theory—or, rather, in this more than dubious piece of self-justification.
But although the hurt he had suffered, in his most susceptible feelings, gives eloquence and plangency to his divorce pamphlets, it was not merely to voice his sufferings that he wrote those pamphlets. Most men in Milton's position, married to "a nothing, a desertrice, an adversary," would have recognised that theirs was one of those exceptional cases for which the law cannot provide, and would have sat down under their unhappy chance, to bear it or mitigate it as best they might. Some poets of the time of the Romantic Revival would have claimed the privilege of genius to be a law unto itself; the law of the State being designed for the common rout, whose lesser sensibilities and weaker individuality make them amenable to its discipline. Milton did neither the one thing nor the other. The modern idolatry of genius was as yet uninvented; he was a citizen first, a poet and an unhappy man afterwards. He directed his energies to proving, not that he should be exempted from the operation of the law, but that the law itself should be changed. He had entered into marriage, with full ceremonial ushering, by the main door; he would go out the same way, or not at all. Thus even in this most personal matter he pleads, not for himself, but for the commonweal. He cannot conceive of happiness as of a private possession, to be secretly enjoyed; it stands rooted, like justice, in the wise and equal ordinances of the State; and the only freedom that he values is freedom under the law.
Like the citizen of some antique state, he discourses of marriage in the market-place. In his efforts to be persuasive, both here and in the Areopagitica, he humbles himself to management and the seasonings of flattery. It is a new trade for him, and suits oddly with his pride. But he hoped much, at this time, from the Parliament, that "select assembly," containing so many "worthy senators" and "Christian reformers," "judges and lawgivers." In the enthusiasm of his hopes, he credits them with a desire "to imitate the old and elegant humanity of Greece," with a wisdom greater than that of the Athenian Parliament, with a magnanimous willingness to repeal their own acts at the dictate of the voice of reason. And all this at a time when the Presbyterians were in the ascendant, intent upon establishing a discipline neither old, nor elegant, nor humane, so little acquainted with Greece, that it was one of Selden's amusements to confute their divines by citing a reading from the Greek Testament. Milton was destined to grievous disappointment, and his rage against the Presbyterians, in some of his later pamphlets, was the fiercer.
But although his pamphlets are both occasional and personal, and even address themselves at times to conciliation and persuasion, the views that they advocate and the system of thought that underlies them were not the products of time and accident. Milton was an idealist, pure and simple, in politics. Had he lived under the Tudor sovereigns, he would have been reduced, with Sir Thomas More, Montaigne, and John Barclay, the author of Argenis, to express himself by way of romance and allegory. It was his fortune to live at a time when the Tudor state system was breaking up with appalling suddenness, and along with it the Tudor compromise in the affairs of the Church, imposed from above upon an unawakened people, was falling into wreckage. Here was an opportunity that has not often, in the world's history, come to a poet, of realising the dream that he had dreamed in his study, of setting up again, for the admiration and comfort of posterity, the model of an ancient Republic.
The best of all Milton's critics has left us the worst account of his political opinions. Johnson's censure of Lycidas, much as it has been ridiculed and decried, is judicious and discerning compared with his explanation of Milton's political creed:—"Milton's republicanism was, I am afraid, founded in an envious hatred of greatness, and a sullen desire of independence, in petulance impatient of control, and pride disdainful of superiority. He hated monarchs in the State, and prelates in the Church; for he hated all whom he was required to obey. It is to be suspected that his predominant desire was to destroy, rather than establish, and that he felt not so much the love of liberty as repugnance to authority." It may, at least, be credited to Johnson for moderation, that he requires only four of the Seven Deadly Sins, to wit, Pride, Envy, Anger, and Sloth, to explain Milton's political tenets. Had he permitted himself another sentence, an easy place might surely have been made for Gluttony, Luxury, and Covetousness, the three whose absence cannot fail to be remarked by any lover of thorough and detailed treatment in these intricate problems of human character.
If, in our more modern fashion, we seek for the origin of Milton's ideas in his education, his habits of thought, and his admirations, we shall be obliged to admit that they are all rooted in his conception of the ancient City State. It was the wish of Thomas Hobbes to abolish the study of Greek and Latin in our schools and colleges, because this study fosters a love of freedom, and unfits men to be the subjects of an absolute monarch. His happiest illustration would have been the case of his contemporary, Milton. Yet in all Milton's writings there is no trace of the modern democratic doctrine of equality. A hearing is all that he claims. So far from hating greatness, he carries his admiration for it, for personal virtue and prowess, almost to excess. The poet who described the infernal conclave in the Second Book of Paradise Lost was not likely to be insensible to the part played in politics by men of eminent and dominating personality. To think of free government as of an engine for depressing unusual merit was impossible for Milton. He lived in an age that had found in Plutarch's men its highest ideals of political character. Never, since their own day, had the "noble Grecians and Romans" exercised so irresistible a fascination on the minds of men, or so real an influence on the affairs of the State, as was theirs at the time of the Renaissance. The mist in which they had long been enveloped was swept away, and these colossal figures of soldiers, patriots, and counsellors loomed large and clear across the ages, their majesty enhanced by distance and by art, which conspire to efface all that is accidental, petty, and distracting. We cannot see these figures as they appeared to the Renaissance world. One of the chief results of modern historical labour and research has been that it has peopled the Middle Ages for us, and interposed a whole society of living men, our ancestors, between us and ancient Rome. But in Milton's time this process was only beginning; the collections and researches that made it possible were largely the work of his contemporaries,—and were despised by him. When he looked back on the world's history, from his own standpoint, he saw, near at hand and stretching away into the distance, a desert, from which a black mass of cloud had just been lifted; and, across the desert, lying fair under the broad sunshine, a city—
With gilded battlements, conspicuous far, Turrets and terrasses, and glittering spires.
It was towards this ancient civic life, with its arts and arms and long renown, that he reached forth passionate hands of yearning. The intervening tract, whither his younger feet had wandered, almost ceased to exist for him; the paladins and ladies of mediaeval story were the deceitful mirage of the desert; the true life of antiquity lay beyond. In all his allusions to the great themes of romance two things are noticeable: first, how deeply his imagination had been stirred by them, so that they are used as a last crown of decoration in some of the most exalted passages of his great poems; and next, how careful he is to stamp them as fiction. His studies for the early History of Britain had cloyed him with legends conveyed from book to book. Once convinced that no certain historical ground could be found for the feet among the whole mass of these traditions, Milton ceased to regard them as eligible subjects for his greatest poem. But their beauty dwelt with him; the memory of the embattled chivalry of Arthur and Charlemagne recurs to him when he is seeking for the topmost reach of human power and splendour that he may belittle it by the side of Satan's rebel host; and the specious handmaidens who served the Tempter's phantom banquet in the desert are described as lovely beyond what has been
Fabled since Of fairy damsels met in forest wide By Knights of Logres, or of Lyones, Lancelot, or Pelleas, or Pellenore.
If Milton's attitude to mediaeval romance is one of regretful suspicion, his attitude to the greatest of mediaeval institutions is one of bitter contempt. He inveighs even against the "antiquitarians," such as Camden, who, he says, "cannot but love bishops as well as old coins and his much lamented monasteries, for antiquity's sake." For near twelve hundred years these same bishops "have been in England to our souls a sad and doleful succession of illiterate and blind guides." It is needless to multiply extracts illustrative of Milton's opinions on the Church; behind the enormous wealth of rhetoric and invective poured forth in his pamphlets, the opinions that he holds are few and simple. When he had been disappointed by the Presbyterians, and had finally turned from them, his beliefs inclined more and more, in two points at least, to the tenets of the newly arisen sect of Quakers—to a pure spiritualism in religion, and the complete separation of Church and State. Their horror of war he never shared. The model of the Church he sought in the earliest records of Christianity, and less and less even there; the model of the State in the ancient republics. All subsequent experience and precedent was to him a hindrance and a mischief. So rapidly and easily does his mind leap from the ancient to the modern world, that even when he speaks of his love for the drama, as in his first Latin elegy or in Il Penseroso, it is sometimes difficult to say whether he is thinking of the Elizabethan or of the Attic dramatists.
The lodestar of his hopes is liberty, his main end the establishment of "a free commonwealth." He knows as well as Montesquieu that democracy in its pristine dignity can be erected only on a wide foundation of public virtue. "To govern well," he declares in the treatise Of Reformation in England, "is to train up a nation in true wisdom and virtue, and that which springs from thence, magnanimity (take heed of that), and that which is our beginning, regeneration, and happiest end, likeness to God, which in one word we call godliness;... other things follow as the shadow does the substance." In the same pamphlet this envious hater of greatness remarks that "to govern a nation piously and justly, which only is to say happily, is for a spirit of the greatest size, and divinest mettle." And men worthy of this description had, as it seemed to him, arisen in his own time. His praise of Cromwell and the leaders associated with him is almost extravagant in its enthusiasm. "While you, O Cromwell, are left among us, he hardly shows a proper confidence in the Supreme, who distrusts the security of England, when he sees that you are in so special a manner the favoured object of the Divine regard." His mind is full of the achievements of Cyrus, Epaminondas, and Scipio; he denies to the Protector no honour that may be drawn from these high comparisons. And then, as in Lycidas, so also in The Second Defence of the People of England, Milton concludes his celebration of another by a return to himself and his pride in a duty fulfilled. Opportunity, he declares, is offered for great achievements; if it be not seized, posterity will judge "that men only were wanting for the execution; while they were not wanting who could rightly counsel, exhort, inspire, and bind an unfading wreath of praise round the brows of the illustrious actors in so glorious a scene."
In the measures that he recommends to Cromwell as necessary for the public welfare, his mistakes are the generous errors of an idealist. He writes as if all were either Cromwells or Miltons, and worthy of the fullest measure of liberty. "Now the time seems come," he exclaims, "wherein Moses, the great prophet, may sit in heaven rejoicing to see that memorable and glorious wish of his fulfilled, when not only our seventy elders, but all the Lord's people, are become prophets." His general propositions on the function of law are unimpeachable. "He who wisely would restrain the reasonable soul of man within due bounds, must first himself know perfectly how far the territory and dominion extends of just and honest liberty. As little must he offer to bind that which God hath loosened as to loosen that which He hath bound. The ignorance and mistake of this high point hath heaped up one huge half of all the misery that hath been since Adam." But with the application to issues of the day it appears that the mistake has been all one way. "Laws are usually worse in proportion as they are more numerous." The free spirit of man can govern him without "a garrison upon his neck of empty and over-dignified precepts."
Whether he treat of religion, of education, of divorce, or of civil government, the error is always the same, a confidence too absolute in the capacity and integrity of the reasonable soul of man. A liturgy, for example, is intolerable, because it is a slur upon the extemporary effusions of ministers of the Gospel. "Well may men of eminent gifts set forth as many forms and helps to prayer as they please; but to impose them on ministers lawfully called and sufficiently tried ... is a supercilious tyranny, impropriating the Spirit of God to themselves." Milton, we know, did not habitually attend public worship at any of the conventicles of the sectaries, or perhaps he might have found reason to modify this censure.
Some of his impassioned pleadings were possibly not wholly without effect on the politics of the time. It is interesting, at any rate, to find Cromwell, in his letter written in 1650 to the Governor of Edinburgh Castle, adopting one of the main arguments of the Areopagitica, and enforcing it against the Presbyterians by a figure which may have been borrowed from that tract. "Your pretended fear," he writes, "lest error should step in, is like the man who would keep all wine out of the country lest men should be drunk. It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon a supposition that he may abuse it. When he doth abuse it, judge." But Cromwell never applied his logic to the removal of the restraint upon printing, which by this same argument Milton had judged to be "the greatest displeasure and indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put upon him." He was too practical a statesman to be frightened into logic by a little paper shot.
Logical Milton always was. He learned little or nothing from the political events of his time. He was throughout consistent with himself; prepared to take any risks that his advocacy might bring upon him, not prepared to forego or modify his opinions because of human incompetence or human imbecility. Between the consistent and unflinching Royalists on the one hand, and the consistent and unflinching Republicans on the other, the most of the population of England wavered and hung. But half-measures and half-heartedness were alike unintelligible to Milton. He fell upon the Presbyterians when they showed a disposition to palter with the logical consequences of their own action, and scourged them unmercifully. They had "banded and borne arms against their king, divested him, disanointed him, nay, cursed him all over in their pulpits, and their pamphlets." But when once the king was brought to trial, then "he who but erewhile in the pulpits was a cursed tyrant, an enemy to God and saints, laden with all the innocent blood spilt in three kingdoms, and so to be fought against, is now, though nothing penitent or altered from his first principles, a lawful magistrate, a sovereign lord, the Lord's anointed, not to be touched, though by themselves imprisoned." He prepares for them a similar dilemma, between the horns of which they have since been content to dwell, in his treatment of the question of divorce: "They dare not affirm that marriage is either a sacrament or a mystery ... and yet they invest it with such an awful sanctity, and give it such adamantine chains to bind with, as if it were to be worshipped like some Indian deity, when it can confer no blessing upon us, but works more and more to our misery."
Milton's astonishment and indignation in cases like these are a convincing evidence of his inability to understand average politics, and that world of convenience, precaution, and compromise which is their native place. His own tenacity and constancy have something grim about them. Andrew Marvell, in his tract called The Rehearsal Transposed, speaking of the intolerance of his adversary, Samuel Parker, says: "If you have a mind to die, or to be of his party (there are but these two conditions), you may perhaps be rendered capable of his charity." Neither of these two conditions was a certain title to the charity of Milton. In the Eikonoklastes he pursues the dead king with jibe and taunt, and exults over the smallest advantage gained. The opening words of the tract show him conscious of the difficulty and delicacy of the part he acted in making war on one who had "paid his final debt to nature and his faults." But what then? If the king, being dead, could speak, the dead king must be answered, and his gauntlet taken up "in the behalf of liberty and the commonwealth."
The manner in which he conducts this and other controversies has brought upon Milton's head universal reproach. He is intemperate and violent, he heaps up personal scurrilities against his adversaries, and triumphs in their misfortunes. There is nothing wherein our age more differs from his than in the accepted rules governing controversy, and he has lost estimation accordingly. Yet not a few critics, it may be suspected, have allowed their dislike of the thing he says to hurry them into an exaggerated censure on his manner of saying it. It is important, in the first place, to remember that his violences are not the violences of the hired rhetorician. He was prepared to stand by what he wrote, and he knew the risks that he ran in those shifting and uncertain times. His life was in danger at the Restoration, and was saved by some unknown piece of good fortune or clemency. He was not a coward reviler, a "tongue-doughty giant," whose ears are the most delicate part about him, but an open fighter, who got as good as he gave. And then it is sometimes forgotten that the most scurrilous of Milton's pamphlets were written in Latin, a language which has always enjoyed an excellent liberty in the matter of personal abuse; while even his English pamphlets, wherein at times he shows almost as pretty a talent in reviling, were written for an audience inured to the habitual amenities of Latin controversy. Sir Thomas More was famous for his knack of calling bad names in good Latin, yet his posterity rise up and call him blessed. Milton, like More, observed the rules of the game, which allowed practices condemned in the modern literary prize-ring. He calls Salmasius a poor grammarian, a pragmatical coxcomb, a silly little scholar, a mercenary advocate, a loggerhead, a hare-brained blunderbuss, a witless brawler, a mongrel cur; he reproaches him with the domestic tyranny put upon him by that barking she-wolf, his wife, and winds up with an elaborate comparison (not wholly unfamiliar to modern methods of controversy) between Salmasius and Judas. With his nameless opponent in the Divorce quarrel he deals—this time in English—no less contemptuously: "I mean not to dispute philosophy with this pork, who never read any." The creature is a conspicuous gull, an odious fool, a dolt, an idiot, a groom, a rank pettifogger, a presumptuous losel, a clown, a vice, a huckster-at-law, whose "jabberment is the flashiest and the fustiest that ever corrupted in such an unswilled hogshead." "What should a man say more to a snout in this pickle? What language can be low and degenerate enough?" In the Apology for Smectymnuus, Milton sets forth his own defence of his acrimony and violence: "There may be a sanctified bitterness," he remarks, "against the enemies of the truth;" and he dares to quote the casuistry of Electra in Sophocles:—