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"The Scripture also affords us a divine pastoral drama in the 'Song of Solomon, consisting of two persons, and a double chorus, as Origen rightly judges: and the 'Apocalypse' of St. John is the majestic image of a high and stately tragedy, shutting up and intermingling her solemn scenes and acts with a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies; and this, my opinion, the grave authority of Paræus, commenting that book, is sufficient to confirm.
"Or, if occasion shall lead to imitate those magnific odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are, in most things, worthy, some others in their frame judicious, in their matter most and end faulty.
"But those frequent songs throughout the law and prophets, beyond all these, not in their divine arguments alone, but in the very critical art of composition, may be easily made appear over all kinds of lyric poesy to be incomparable.
"These abilities, wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God, rarely bestowed, but yet to some, though most abused, in every nation; and are of power, beside the office of a pulpit, to imbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civility; to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and equipage of God's almightiness, and what he works, and what he suffers to be wrought with high providence in his church; to sing victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations, doing valiantly through faith against the enemies of Christ; to deplore the general relapses of kingdoms and states from justice and God's true worship.
"Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime; in virtue amiable or grave; whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that which is called fortune from without, or the wily subtleties and refluxes of man's thoughts from within; all these things with a solid and treatable smoothness to paint out and describe: tracking over the whole book of sanctity and virtue, through all the instances of example, with such delight to those especially of soft and delicious temper, who will not so much as look upon truth herself, unless they see her elegantly dressed; that, whereas the paths of honesty and good life appear now rugged and difficult, though they be indeed easy and pleasant, they will then appear to all men both easy and pleasant, though they were rugged and difficult indeed.
"And what a benefit this would be to our youth and gentry, may be soon guessed by what we know of the corruption and bane, which they suck in daily from the writings and interludes of libidinous and ignorant poetasters, who having scarce ever heard of that which is the main consistence of a true poem, the choice of such persons as they ought to introduce, and what is moral and decent to each one; do for the most part lay up vicious principles in sweet pills to be swallowed down, and make the taste of virtuous documents harsh and sour.
"But, because the spirit of man cannot demean itself lively in this body without rome recreating intermission of labour and serious things, it were happy for the commonwealth, if our magistrates, as in those famous governments of old, would take into their case, not only the deciding of our contentious law cases and brawls, but the managing of our public sports and festival pastimes; that they might be, not such as were authorised a while since, the provocations of drunkenness and lust, but such as may inure and harden our bodies by martial exercises to all warlike skill and performance; and may civilise, adorn, and make discreet our minds by the learned and affable meeting of frequent academies, and the procurement of wise and artful recitations, sweetened with eloquent and graceful inticements to the love and practice of justice, temperance, and fortitude, instructing and bettering the nation at all opportunities, that the call of wisdom and virtue may be heard everywhere, as Solomon saith, she crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets, on the top of high places, in the chief concourse, and in the openings of the gates.'
"Whether this may not be, not only in pulpits, but after another persuasive method at set and solemn panegyrics, in theatres, porches, or what other place or way may win most upon the people, to receive at once both recreation and instruction, let them in authority consult.
"The thing which I had to say, and those intentions which have lived within my
ever since I could conceive myself anything worth to my country, I return to crave excuse that urgent reason hath plucked from me, by an abortive and foredated discovery; and the accomplishment of these lies not but in a power above man's to promise; but that none hath by more studious ways endeavoured, and with more unwearied spirit that none shall, that I dare almost aver of myself, as far as life and free leisure will extend; and that the land had once enfranchised herself from this impertinent yoke of prelates, under whose inquisitorious and tyrannical duncery, no free and splendid wit can flourish.
"Neither do I think it shame to covenant with my knowing 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, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite; nor to be obtained from the invocation of dame Memory and her syren 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 my own peril and cost, I refuse not to sustain this expectation from as many as aro not loth to hazard so much credulity upon the best pledges that I can give them.
"Although it nothing content me to have disclosed thus much beforehand, but that I trust hereby to make it manifest with what small willingness I endure to interrupt the pursuit of no less hopes than these, and leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to 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, to come into the dim reflection of hollow antiquities sold by the seeming bulk, and there be fain to club quotations with men whose learning and belief lies in marginal stuffings, who, when they have, like good sumpters, laid ye down their horse-loads of citations and fathers at your door, with a rhapsody of who and who were bishops here or there, ye may take off their pack-saddles, their day's work is done, and episcopacy, as they think, stoutly vindicated. Let any gentle apprehension, that can distinguish learned pains from unlearned drudgery, imagine what pleasure or profoundness can be in this, or what honour to deal against such adversaries.
"But were it the meanest under-service, if God by his secretary conscience enjoin it, it were sad for me if I should draw back; for me especially now when all men offer their aid to help, ease, and lighten the difficult labours of the church, to whose service, by the intentions of my parents and friends, I was destined of a child, and in my own resolutions; till coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the church, that he who would take orders must subscribe slave, and take an oath withal, which, unless he took with a conscience that would retch, he must either straight perjure himself or split his faith; I thought it better to prefer a blameless silence before the learned office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing. "However thus church-outed by the prelates, hence may appear the right I have to meddle in these matters, as before the necessity and constraint appeared."
OF MILTON'S MARRIAGE.
MILTON was now thirty-four years old, when he seems to have taken upon himself suddenly the resolution to marry: his choice fell on Mary, daughter of Richard Powell, Esq., of Forest Hill, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire, an active royalist, who lived gayly and expensively. The match was ill-suited, and did not turn out happily. He was caught by the lady's beauty, but found neither her mind nor her disposition accordant: she was soon tired of his studious habits and quiet unvisited house, after the company to which she had been accustomed at her father's mansion. In a few weeks she requested permission to revisit her father, where she stayed, in defiance of his remon strance, the whole summer: she would not even answer his letters. This so provoked him,
that he resolved to divorce her; and to justify his resolution, published, in 1644, his "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, restored to the good of both sexes." "He declares," says Fletcher, "his object to be to prove, first, that other reasons of divorce besides adultery, were, by the law of Moses, and are yet to be, allowed by the Christian magistrate, as a piece of justice, and that the words of Christ are not hereby contraried: next, that to prohibit absolutely any divorce whatever, except those which Moses excepted, is against the reason of law. The grand position is this:-that indisposition, unfitness, or contrariety of mind, arising from a cause in nature, unchangeable, hindering, and ever likely to hinder, the main benefits of conjugal society, which are solace and peace, is a greater reason of divorce than adultery, provided there be a mutual consent for separation."
He next published the "Tetrachordon, or Exposition of the four chief places in Scripture which treat of Nullities in Marriage." Thirdly, "The Judgment of the famous Martin Bucer, touching Divorce." Fourthly, "Colasterion," a reply to a nameless answer to his first work.
These tracts raised a great clamour against the author. It seems to me probable, that the lady married Milton against her will, at the instigation of her parents. Todd has discovered documents, which show that an acquaintance had subsisted between Powell and Milton's father, a native of Oxfordshire, and that Powell had borrowed money of him, which was not paid at the former's death. Powell was a distressed and ruined man, expensive and reckless: it is probable, therefore, that he may have sacrificed his daughter, who soon was willing to escape from one not suited to her habits of life. This conjecture is in concurrence with some ingenious surmises of Mitford, founded on certain passages which he has extracted from Milton's tracts. Mrs. Milton seems to have been a dull, unintellectual, insensate woman, though possessed of outward personal beauty.
She was alarmed at last, when she found Milton in earnest to take another wife, and contrived an interview, at which she begged his pardon, and was restored to her home, where she died in a few years: but I doubt, from certain passages in Milton's poetry, if he did not think that he had yielded to her tears with too much softness.
The whole of the documents relative to Milton's claim on Powell's property, which are set forth at length by Todd, who recovered them from the public archives, are very curious. It appears that it was as early as 1627, when Milton was a student at Cambridge, that his father advanced 500l. to Powell on mortgage, to his son's use. I take this to have been a settlement made as a provision for the poet.
When Powell died, loaded with debt, in Jan. 1646-7, Milton took possession of the mortgaged property, and the widow with eight children, was left penniless: she claimed her thirds for dower, but could not obtain them.
Upon Mrs. Powell's petition, 19th April, 1651, the following notes are made:
"By the law Mrs. Powell might recover her thirds, without doubt: but she is so extremely poor, she hath not wherewithal to prosecute; and besides, Mr. Milton is a harsh and choleric man, and married Mr. Powell's daughter, who would be undone if any such course were taken against him by Mrs. Powell; he having turned away his wife heretofore for a long space, upon some other occasion."
The date of the death of this first wife of Milton is said to have been 1653. His father died in 1647, in the poet's house, who had also received under his hospitable roof the ruined family of Powell, till their father died; but he seems to have been upon no terms with the widow.
HIS VARIOUS LITERARY OCCUPATIONS.
IN 1645 the collection of Milton's early poems was published by Humphrey Mosely, the fashionable publisher of poetry of that age.
In 1641 came out "Animadversions upon the Remonstrants' Defence against Smectymnuus."
Next year, "An Apology for Smectymnuus," in reply to Bishop Hall's or his son's "Modest Confutation against a scandalous and seditious Libel." This is Milton's last work on the puritan side of the controversy.
In 1644 he published his "Tractate of Education: to Master Samuel Hartlib."
The month of November of this year produced the "Areopagitica: a Speech for the liberty of Unlicensed Printing. To the Parliament of England." Mitford pronounces this to be the finest production in prose from Milton's pen. "For vigour and eloquence of style, unconquerable force of argument, majesty and richness of language, it is not to be surpassed."
In 1648-9 he published "The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through all ages, for any, who have the power, to call to account a tyrant or wicked king, and after due conviction, to depose and put him to death, if the ordinary magistrate have neglected or denied to do it; and that they, who of late so much blame deposing, are the men that did it themselves."
This tract was a defence of the execution of King Charles, against the objections of the Presbyterians.
The very title of this treatise is surely in the highest degree objectionable, and does not in these days require any refutation. To say the truth, this is a part of Milton's character which puzzles me-and no other. This bloodthirstiness does not agree with his sanctity, and other mental and moral qualities. I will not say that kings may not be deposed: but Charles I. ought not to have been deposed, much less put to death. In the poet, however, posterity has forgotten the regicide.
In 1648-9 came out his "Observations on the Articles of Peace between James Earl of Ormond for King Charles the First on the one hand, and the Irish Rebels and Papists on the other hand: and on a letter sent by Ormond to Colonel Jones, Governor of Dublin: and a Representation of the Scots Presbytery at Belfast in Ireland," &c. "Such," says Milton, "were the fruits of my private studies, which I gratuitously presented to the church and to the state, and for which I was recompensed by nothing but impunity, though the actions themselves procured me peace of conscience and the approbation of the good: while I exercised that freedom of discussion, which I loved. Others, without labour or desert, got the possession of honours and emoluments; but no one ever knew me, either soliciting anything myself, or through the medium of my friends; ever beheld me in a supplicating posture at the doors of the senate or the levees of the great. I usually kept myself secluded at home, where my own property, part of which had been withheld during the civil commotions, and part of which had been absorbed in the oppressive contributions which I had to sustain, afforded me a scanty subsistence. When I was released from these engagements, and thought that I was about to enjoy an interval of uninterrupted ease, I turned my thoughts to a history of my country, from the earliest times to the present period."
In 1649, Milton says, "I had already finished four books of the history, when after the subversion of the monarchy, and the establishment of a republic, I was surprised by an invitation from the council of state, who desired my services in the office of foreign affairs. A book appeared soon after, which was ascribed to the king, and contained the most insidious charges against the Parliament. I was ordered to answer it, and opposed the Iconoclast to the Icon."
The title is “ ΕΙΚΟΝΟΚΛΑΣΤΗΣ : in answer to a book entitled ΕΙΚΩΝ BAZIAIKH, the portraiture of his majesty in his solitudes and sufferings."
A question has been raised, and fiercely battled of late, as to the genuineness of the "Icon Basilike." The circumstantial evidence seems strong that it was composed by Bishop Gauden.*
Besides that every reader must be curious about this exordium, it would be doing great injustice to Milton's prose works to omit the following extract from the preface to this extraordinary production:
"To descant on the misfortunes of a person fallen from so high a dignity, who hath also paid his final debt both to nature and his faults, is neither of itself a thing commendable, nor the intention of this discourse. Neither was it fond ambition, nor the vanity to get a name, present or with posterity, by writing against a king. I never was so thirsty after fame, nor so destitute of other hopes and means, better and more certain to attain it: for kings have gained glorious titles from their favourers by writing against private men, as Henry VIII. did against Luther; but no man ever *See Todd's Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1825.
gained much honour by writing against a king, as not usually meeting with that force of argument in such courtly antagonists, which to convince might add to his reputation. Kings most commonly, though strong in legions, are but weak in arguments; as they who ever have accustomed from the cradle to use their will only as their right hand, their reason always as their left. Whence unexpectedly constrained to that kind of combat, they prove but weak and puny adversaries; nevertheless, for their sakes, who through custom, simplicity, or want of better teaching, have no more seriously considered kings, than in the gaudy name of majesty, and admire them and their doings as if they breathed not the same breath with other mortal men, I shall make no scruple to take up (for it seems to be the challenge both of him and all his party) to take up this gauntlet, though a king's, in the behalf of liberty and the commonwealth. "First, then, that some men (whether this were by him intended, or by his friends) have by policy accomplished after death that revenge upon their enemies, which in life they were not able, hath been oft related: and among other examples we find, that the last will of Cæsar being read to the people, and what bounteous legacies he hath bequeathed them, wrought more on that vulgar audience to the avenging of his death, than all the art he could ever use to win their favour in his lifetime. And how much their intent, who published these overlate apologies and meditations of the dead king, drives to the same end of stirring up the people to bring him that honour, that affection, and by consequence that revenge, to his dead corpse, which he himself living 1 could never gain to his person, it appears both by the conceited portraiture before his book, drawn out to the full measure of a masking scene, and set there to catch fools and silly gazers; and by those Latin words after the end, 'Vota dabunt quæ bella negarunt;' intimating, that what he could not compass by war, he should achieve by his meditations: for in words which admit of various sense, the liberty is ours, to choose that interpretation, which may best mind us of what our restless enemies endeavour and what we are timely to prevent. And here may be well observed the loose and negligent curiosity of those, who took upon them to adorn the setting out of this book; for though the picture set in front would martyr him and saint him to befool the people, yet the Latin motto in the end, which they understand not, leaves him, as it were, a political contriver to bring about that interest, by fair and plausible words, which the force of arms denied him. But quaint emblems and devices, begged from the whole pageantry of some twelfth night's entertainment at Whitehall, will do but ill to make a saint or martyr: and if the people resolve to take him sainted at the rate of such a canonising, I shall suspect their calendar more than the Gregorian. In one thing I must commend his openness, who gave the title to this book, Eikov Baoiλikń, that is to say the King's Image; and by the shrine he dresses out for him, certainly would have the people come and worship him. For which reason this answer also is entitled Iconoclastes, the famous surname of many Greek emperors, who in their zeal to the command of God, after long tradition of idolatry in the church, took courage, and broke all superstitious images to pieces. But the people, exorbitant and excessive in all their motions, are prone ofttimes not to a religious only, but to a civil kind of idolatry, in idolising their Kings: though never more mistaken in the object of their worship; heretofore being wont to repute for saints those faithful and courageous barons, who lost their lives in the field, making glorious war against tyrants for the common liberty; as Simon de Montford, Earl of Leicester, against Henry III.; Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, against Edward II. But now with a besotted and degenerate baseness of spirit, except some few who yet retain in them the old English fortitude and love of freedom, and have testified it by their matchless deeds, the rest, imbastardised from the ancient nobleness of their ancestors, are ready to fall flat and give adoration to the image and memory of this man, who hath offered at more cunning fetches to undermine our liberties, and put tyranny into an art, than any British king before him: which low dejection and debasement of mind in the people, I must confess, I cannot willingly ascribe to the natural disposition of an Englishman, but rather to two other causes; first, to the prelates and their fellow-teachers, though of another name and sect,* whose pulpit-stuff, both first and last, hath been the doctrine and perpetual infusion of servility and wretchedness to all their hearers, and whose lives he *The Presbyterians.