« НазадПродовжити »
his time, he completed his education by foreign travel; and was admitted to the intimacy of many of the most eminent scholars in Italy; where he conversed with Galileo, then blind, and must have seen the works of Raffaelle and Michael Angelo, though he nowhere alludes to them. On his return to England he precipitated himself upon the controversies of the time; and with an impassioned eloquence advocated the side of the Puritans against the bishops, and of the republicans against the court. In one of his most celebrated Latin tracts he vindicated the execution of Charles; and during the time of the
Commonwealth he acted as Latin secretary to Cromwell. After the Restoration he retired to the country, where, blind and poor, he lived in obscurity ; but in the composition of poetry which has rendered his name illustrious for ever. He died A.D. 1674.
Milton's poetry possesses beyond any other the attributes of sublimity and majesty. Throughout it there is a magnanimous spirit and a sustained solemnity; and the structure is ever massive and strong. Its austerity, in which it is unapproached, does not prevent it from possessing also an occasional sweetness of a fine quality, and, though rarely, a deep pathos. In harmony, as in stateliness, it cannot be exceeded. Its special characteristic is its union of a Hebraic spirit with a classical form, - a union which, in spite of its elevation, does not escape the drawback of incongruity. The defects of Milton's poetry are not less obvious than its merits are transcendent. To say that he has not the universality of Shakespeare, the spirituality of Dante, or the variety of either, would constitute no charge against it, since no poetry can unite every species of excellence. It is, however, impossible to defend the mechanical details included in Milton's description of the war in Heaven. Still less can we excuse conceptions of the Supreme Being which represent Him “as a school divine,” or rather as a Calvinistic disputant.
The Arianism of Milton's religious creed is patent in the Paradise Lost. It is, indeed, a circumstance both remarkable and sig. nificant, that that wonderful work should so long have taken rank as a Christian poem. His Paradise Regained betrays Milton's Arianism not less plainly; and in the great restoration of humanity no place is found for the Atonement. Milton's obligations to Italian and classical writers, as well as to the Sacred Scriptures, are so large as, without exposing him to the charge of plagiarism, to diminish, notwithstanding, his originality, and to constitute him a poet of the composite order. Milton was a man of gigantic intellect, heroic strength, and the severest morals; but the spirit of selfwill domineered in him, and he had fallen upon evil times. As in the hero of his Hebraic lyrical drama, there was a blindness mixed with his strength; his greatness was of that nature which pulls down rather than of that which builds up; and in his works, which include the defence of Regicide, Polygamy, and Arianism, if we must ever admire his genius, there is too often cause to deplore his use of it.
SAMSON BEWAILING HIS BLINDNESS AND CAPTIVITY.
[From Samson Agonistes.]
Attendant leading him. A little onward lend thy guiding hand To these dark steps, a little further on; For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade : There I am wont to sit, when any chance Relieves me from my task of servile toil, Daily in the common prison else enjoin'd me; Where I, a prisoner chain’d, scarce freely draw The air imprison'd also, close and damp, Unwholesome draught: but here I feel amends, The breath of Heaven fresh blowing, pure and sweet, With day-spring born : here leave me to respire.This day a solemn feast the people hold To Dagon their sea-idol, and forbid Laborious works; unwillingly this rest Their superstition yields me; hence with leave Retiring from the popular noise, I seek This unfrequented place to find some ease, Ease to the body some, none to the mind, From restless thoughts, that like a deadly swarm Of hornets arm’d, no sooner found alone, But rush upon me thronging, and present Times past, what once I was, and what am now. 0, wherefore was my birth from Heaven foretold Twice by an angel, who at last in sight Of both my parents all in flames ascended From off the altar, where an offering burn'd, As in a fiery column, charioting His godlike presence, and from some great act Or benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race? Why was my breeding order'd and prescribed As of a person separate to God, Design'd for great exploits ; if I must die Betray'd, captived, and both my eyes put out, Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze; To grind in brazen fetters under task With this heaven-gifted strength ? O glorious strength, Put to the labour of a beast, debased Lower than bond-slave! Promise was that I Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver; Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds, under Philistian yoke.
O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
to me is extinct,
SPEECHES OF MANOAH THE FATHER OF SAMSON AND THE CHORUS
ON HEARING OF HIS LAST ACHIEVEMENT AND DEATH,
Manoah. Samson hath quit himself
Chorus. All is best, though we oft doubt
And all that band them to resist
[From Comus.] The first scene discovers a wild wood. The Attendant Spirit ascends or enters. Before the starry threshold of Jove's court My mansion is, where those immortal shapes Of bright aerial spirits live insphered In regions mild of calm and serene air, Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot Which men call Earth, and with low-thoughted care Confined, and pester'd in this pin-fold here, Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being, Unmindful of the crown that Virtue gives, After this mortal change, to her true servants, Amongst the enthroned gods, on sainted seats. Yet some there be that by due steps aspire To lay their just hands on that golden key That opes the palace of Eternity : To such my errand is; and but for such, I would not soil these pure ambroisal weeds With the rank
of this sin-worn mould. But to my task. Neptune, besides the sway Of every salt-flood and each ebbing stream, Took in by lot 'twixt high and nether Jove Imperial rule of all the sea-girt isles, That like to rich and various gems inlay The unadorned bosom of the deep, Which he to grace his tributary gods By course commits to several government, And gives them leave to wear their sapphire crowns, And wield their little tridents : but this isle, The greatest and the best of all the main, He quarters to his blue-hair'd deities; And all this tract that fronts the falling sun, A noble peer of mickle trust and power Has in his charge, with temper'd awe to guide An old and haughty nation proud in arms : Where his fair offspring, nursed in princely lore, Are coming to attend their father's state, And new-intrusted sceptre ; but their way.