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himself in the most positive and solemn manner denied? He saw the abuses of the existing government, he deluded himself with the hope that by a grand change his own ideal views of perfection might be accomplished. If we believe him,—and he must have a most ungenerous and corrupt mind who can doubt, his heart was the seat of all earthly integrity, and exalted by the most purified and spiritual aspirations. Of all mean passions, envy could least enter a bosom which had so lofty and calm a confidence in the superiority of its own intellectual gifts: no man envies what he scorns and estimates at nothing.
MILTON'S BLINDNESS, AND
MILTON's enemies had had the baseness to charge his blindness as a judgment upon him : he repels this charge with a just indignation, at the opening of his 'Second Defence for the People of England.'
"I wish," commences this magnificent passage, "that I could with equal facility refute what this barbarous opponent has said of my blindness; but I cannot do it, and I must submit to the affliction. It is not so wretched to be blind, as it is not to be capable of enduring blindness. But why should I not endure a misfortune, which it behoves every one to be prepared to endure if it should happen ; which may, in the common course of things, happen to any man, and which has been known to have happened to the most distinguished and virtuous persons in history? What is reported of the Augur Tiresias is well known; of whom Apollonius sung thus in his 'Argonautics:'
To men he dared the will divine disclose,
Nor fear'd what Jove might in his wrath impose.
But snatch'd the blessing of his sight away.
But God himself is truth; in propagating which, as men display a greater integrity and zeal, they approach nearer to the similitude of God, and possess a greater portion of his love. We cannot suppose the Deity envious of truth, or unwilling that it should be freely communicated to mankind: the loss of sight, therefore, which this inspired sage, who was so eager in promoting knowledge among men, sustained, cannot be considered as a judicial punishment: and did not our Saviour himself declare that that poor man whom he had restored to sight had not been born blind, either on account of his own sins, or those of his progenitors?
"And with respect to myself, though I have accurately examined my conduct, and scrutinized my soul, I call thee, O God, the searcher of hearts, to witness, that I am not conscious, either in the more early or in the later periods of my life, of > having committed any enormity which might deservedly have marked me out as a fit object for such a calamitous visitation: but since my enemies boast that this affliction is only a retribution for the transgressions of my pen, I again invoke the Almighty to witness that I never at any time wrote any thing which I did not think agreeable to truth, to justice, and to piety. This was my persuasion then, and I feel the same persuasion now. Thus, therefore, when I was publicly solicited to write a reply to the defence of the royal cause, when I had to contend with the pressure of sickness, and with the apprehension of soon
losing the sight of my remaining eye, and when my medical attendants clearly announced, that if I did engage in this work it would be irreparably lost, their premonitions caused no hesitation and inspired no dismay: I would not have listened to the voice even of Esculapius himself from the shrine of Epidauris, in preference to the suggestions of the heavenly monitor within my breast my resolution was unshaken, though the alternative was either the loss of my sight or the desertion of my duty; and I called to mind those two destinies which the oracle of Delphi announced to the son of Thetis.
"I considered that many had purchased a less good by a greater evil, the meed of glory by the loss of life; but that I might procure great good by little suffering; that, though I am blind, I might still discharge the most honourable duties, the performance of which, as it is something more durable than glory, ought to be an object of superior admiration and esteem; I resolved, therefore, to make the short interval of sight which was left me to enjoy as beneficial as possible to the public interest.
"But, if the choice were necessary, I would, sir, prefer my blindness to yours; yours is a cloud spread over the mind, which darkens both the light of reason and of conscience; mine keeps from my view only the coloured surfaces of things, while it leaves me at liberty to contemplate the beauty and stability of virtue and of truth. How many things are there besides which I would not
willingly see; how many which I must see against my will; and how few which I feel any anxiety to see! There is, as the Apostle has remarked, a way to strength through weakness. Let me then be the most feeble creature alive, as long as that feebleness serves to invigorate the energies of my rational and immortal spirit; as long as in that obscurity, in which I am enveloped, the light of the Divine presence more clearly shines! And, indeed, in my blindness, I enjoy in no inconsiderable degree the favour of the Deity; who regards me with more tenderness and compassion in proportion as I am able to behold nothing but himself. Alas! for him who insults me, who maligns and merits public execration! For the Divine law not only shields me from injury, but almost renders me too sacred to attack; not indeed so much from the privation of my sight, as from the overshadowing of those heavenly wings, which seem to have occasioned this obscurity. To this I ascribe the more tender assiduities of my friends, their soothing attentions, their kind visits, their reverential observances."*
Every one is familiar with the poet's twentysecond sonnet on this subject.
Cyriac, this three-years-day these eyes, though clear,-
What supports me, dost thou ask?
The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied
One is a little surprised that he could so long endure this laborious and tedious office of secre