« AnteriorContinuar »
their diabolical courts, to tear the flesh from our bones, and into our wide wounds, instead of balm, to pour in the oil of tartar, vitriol, and mercury; surely, a right-reasonable, innocent, and soft-hearted petition! O the relenting bowels of the fathers! Can this be granted them, unless God have smitten us with frenzy from above, and with a dazzling giddiness at noonday?"
It is a grand peculiarity of Milton's mind that in its most intense excitement it rises to an elevation from which material and temporal things are invisible; and only regains its calmness after a rapt sojourn among the grandeurs that are
unseen and eternal.” When contemplating from the distance of years the composition of an epic poem which should immortalize his name and illustrate the literature of his country, he placed its scene amidst the romantic traditions of ancient Britain. But when the inspiration came, monarchs, Druids, and bards were forgotten together; and, obeying a higher vocation, “ he passed the flaming bounds of space
and time." It is under a similar influence that, with his imagination kindled and expanded, as he gained ampler views of the glorious possibilities of a state of perfect religious freedom, he closes with the following sublime and perhaps unrivalled invocation :
• Thou, therefore, that sittest in light and glory unapproachable, Parent of angels and men ! next, thee I implore, Omnipotent King, Redeemer of that lost remnant whose nature thou didst assume—ineffable and everlasting love ! and thou, the third subsistence of Divine infinitude, illuming Spirit, the joy and solace of created things!—one Impersonal Godhead ! look upon this thy poor and almost spent and expiring church: leave her not thus a prey to those importunate wolves that wait and think long till they devour thy tender flock; these wild boars that have broke into thy vineyard, and left the print of their polluting hoofs on the souls of thy servants. O let them not bring about their damned designs that stand now at the entrance of the bottomless pit,
expecting the watchword to open and let out those dreadful locusts and scorpions, to re-involve us in that pitchy cloud of infernal darkness, where we shall never more see the sun of thy truth again, never hope for the cheerful dawn, never more hear the bird of morning sing! Be moved with pity at the afflicted state of this our shaken monarchy, that now lies labouring under her throes, and struggling against the grudges of more dreaded calamities.
“O Thou, that, after the impetuous rage of five bloody inundations, and the succeeding sword of intestine war, soaking the land in her own gore, didst pity the sad and ceaseless revolution of our swift and thick-coming sorrows: when we were quite breathless, of thy free grace didst motion peace and terms of covenant with us; and having first well nigh freed us from antichristian thraldom, didst build up this Britannic empire to a glorious and enviable height, with all her daughter islands about her: stay us in this felicity; let not the obstinacy of our half obedience and will-worship bring forth that viper of sedition, that for these fourscore years hath been breeding to eat through the entrails of our peace; but let her cast her abortive spawn without the danger of this travailing and throbbing kingdom; that we may still remember, in our solemn thanksgiving, how for us the northern ocean, even to the frozen Thule, was scattered with the proud shipwrecks of the Spanish Armada ; and the very maw of hell ransacked, and made to give up her concealed destruction, ere she could vent it in that horrible and damned blast.
“O how much more glorious will those former deliverances appear, when we shall know them not only to have saved us from greatest miseries past, but to have reserved us for greatest happiness to come! Hitherto thou hast but freed us, and that not fully, from the unjust and tyrannous claim of thy foes; now unite us entirely, and appropriate us to thyself; tie us everlastingly in willing homage to the prerogative of thy eternal throne.
“ And now we know, 0 Thou our most certain hope and defence, that thy enemies have been consulting all the sorceries of the great whore, and have formed their plots with that sad intelligencing tyrant that mischiefs the world with his mines of Ophir, and lies thirsting to revenge his naval ruins that have larded our seas; but let them all take counsel together, and let it come to nought; let them decree, and do Thou cancel it; let them gather themselves, and be scattered; let them embattle themselves, and be broken; let them embattle, and be broken, for Thou art with us.
“ Then, amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of saints, some one may perhaps be heard offering at high strains in new and lofty measure to sing and celebrate thy divine mercies and marvellous judgments in this land throughout all ages ; whereby this great and warlike nation, instructed and inured to the fervent and continual practice of truth and righteousness, and casting far from her the rags of her whole vices, may press onward to that high and happy emulation to be found the soberest, wisest, and most Christian people at that day when Thou, the eternal and shortly-expected King, shalt open the clouds to judge the several kingdoms of the world; and, distributing national honours and rewards to religious and just commonwealths, shalt put an end to all earthly tyrannies, proclaiming thy universal and mild monarchy through heaven and earth; where they, undoubtedly, that, by their labours, counsels, and prayers, have been earnest for the common good of religion and their country, shall receive, above the inferior orders of the blessed, the regal addition of principalities, legions, and thrones, into their glorious titles, and in supremacy of beatific vision progressing the deathless and irrevoluble circle of eternity, shall clasp inseparable hands with joy and bliss, in overmeasure for ever.
“But they, contrary, that, by the impairing and diminution of the true faith, the distresses and servitude of their country, aspire to high dignity, rule, and promotion here, after a shameful end in this life (which God grant them), shall be
thrown down eternally into the darkest and deepest gulf of hell, where, under the despiteful control, the trample, and spurn of all the other damned, that, in the anguish of their torture, shall have no other ease than to exercise a raving and bestial tyranny over them as their slaves and negroes, they shall remain in that plight for ever, the basest, the lowermost, the most dejected, most underfoot, and downtrodden vassals of perdition!”
MILTON PUBLISHES HIS TREATISES ON PRELATICAL EPISCOPACY,"
AND THE REASON OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT URGED AGAINST PRE-
WHILE the two Books on Reformation in England were hailed by that increasing portion of the British community to whom the Anglican church had become execrable through the frantic ferocity of Laud, and the transfusion of his spirit through the clergy at large, they stimulated some of the wiser and better adherents of that church to the only kind of opposition which had even a remote chance of success. The first result was the production of a treatise entitled “An Humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament,” from the pen of Bishop Hall: and the publication about the same time of Archbishop Usher's work, “The Apostolical Institution of Episcopacy.” These works drew from Milton prompt replies; one being entitled, “ Of Prelatical Episcopacy,” and the other, “ The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy." As literary productions, these tracts are thus characterised by Dr. Symmons: “Like his former controversial productions, they are distinguished by force, acuteness, and erudition; but their language, though bearing a greater appearance of artifice and labour, is still evidently that of a man more conversant with