Imágenes de páginas
PDF

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 swarın 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!
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!
Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight
Annull’d, which might in part my grief have eased,
Inferior to the vilest now become
Of man or worm : the vilest here excel me;
They creep, yet see; I, dark in light, exposed
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong,
Within doors or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my own;
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse
Without all hope of day!
O first-created Beam, and thou great Word,
'Let there be light, and light was over all;'
Why am I thus bereaved thy prime decree?
The sun to me is dark
And silent as the moon,
When she deserts the night,
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
Since light so necessary is to life,
And almost life itself, if it be true
That light is in the soul,
She all in every part ; why was the sight
To such a tender ball as the eye confined,
So obvious and so easy to be quench'd ?
And not as feeling through all parts diffused,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not been thus exiled from light,
As in the land of darkness yet in light,
To live a life half-dead, a living death,
And buried : but, O yet more miserable !
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave,
Buried, yet not exempt
By privilege of death and burial,
From worst of other evils, pains, and wrongs;
But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of life,
Life in captivity
Among inhuman foes.

SPEECHES OF MANOAA THE FATHER OF SAMSON AND THE CHORUS

ON HEARING OF HIS LAST ACHIEVEMENT AND DEATH,

Manoah. Samson hath quit himself
Like Samson, and heroically hath finish'd
A life heroic; on his enemies
Fully revenged, hath left them years of mourning,
And lamentation to the sons of Caphtor
Through all Philistian bounds; to Israel
Honour hath left, and freedom, let but them
Find courage to lay hold on this occasion;
To himself and father's house eternal fame,
And which is best and happiest yet, all this
With God not parted from him, as was fear'd,
But favouring and assisting to the end.
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.
Let us go find the body where it lies
Soak'd in his enemies' blood, and from the stream,
With lavers pure, and cleansing herbs, wash off
The clotted gore. I with what speed the while
(Gaza is not in plight to say us nay)
Will send for all my kindred, all my friends,
To fetch him hence, and solemnly attend
With silent obsequy and funeral train,
Home to his father's house : there will I build him
A monument, and plant it round with shade
Of laurel ever green and branching palm,
With all his trophies hung, and acts inrollid
In copious legend or sweet lyric song.
Thither shall all the valiant youth resort,
And from his memory inflame their breasts
To matchless valour and adventures high :
The virgins also shall on feastful days
Visit his tomb with flowers, only bewailing
His lot unfortunate in nuptial choice,
From whence captivity and loss of eyes.

Chorus. All is best, though we oft doubt
What th' unsearchable dispose
Of highest Wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.
Oft he seems to hide his face,
But unexpectedly returns,
And to his faithful champion hath in place
Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns,

And all that band them to resist
His uncontrollable intent;
His servants he with new acquist
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismiss'd,
And calm of mind all passion spent.

MYTHOLOGY.

[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 vapours 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

« AnteriorContinuar »