페이지 이미지

to gigantic dimensions, and veiled in mysteri-| their readers. They have nothing in common ous gloom.

with those modern beggars for fame, who exPerhaps the gods and dæmons of Æschylus torts a pittance from the compassion of the may best bear a comparison with the angels inexperienced by exposing the nakedness and and devils of Milton. The style of the Athe- sores of their minds. Yet it would be difficult nian had, as we have remarked, something of to name two writers whose works have been the Oriental character; and the same peculi- more completely, though undesignedly, colarity may be traced in his mythology. It has ored by their personal feelings. nothing of the amenity and elegance which The character of Milton was peculiarly diswe generally find in the superstitions of tinguished by loftiness of spirit; that of Dante Greece. All is rugged, barbaric, and colossal. by intensity of feeling. In every line of the The legends of Æschylus seem to harmonize Divine Comedy we discern the asperity which less with the fragrant groves and graceful porti- is produced by pride struggling with misery. coes in which his countrymen paid their vows There is perhaps no work in the world so to the God of Light and Goddess of Desire, than deeply and uniformly sorrowful. The melanwith those huge and grotesque labyrinths of choly of Dante was no fantastic caprice. It eternal granite in which Egypt enshrined her was not, as far as at this distance of time can mystic Osiris, or in which Hindostan still bows be judged, the effect of external circumstances. down to her seven-headed idols. His favorite It was from within. Neither love nor glory, gods are those of the elder generation, the sons neither the conflicts of earth nor the hope of of heaven and earth, compared with whom heaven could dispel it. It turned every conJupiter himself was a stripling and an upstart, solation and every pleasure into its own natthe gigantic Titans, and the inexorable Furies. ure. It resembled that noxious Sardinian Foremost among his creations of this class soil of which the intense bitterness is said to stands Prometheus, half fiend, half redeemer, have been perceptible even in its honey. His the friend of man, the sullen and implacable mind was, in the noble language of the Heenemy of heaven. Prometheus bears un- brew poet, “a land of darkness as darkness doubtedly a considerable resemblance to the itself, and where the light was as darkness." Satan of Milton. In both we find the same The gloom of his characters discolors all the impatience of control, the some ferocity, the passions of men, and all the face of nature, and same unconquerable pride. In both charac- tinges with its own livid hue the flowers of ters also are mingled, though in very differ- Paradise and the glories of the eternal throne. ent proportions, some kind and generous feel. All the portraits of him are singularly characings. Prometheus, however, is hardly super- teristic. No person can look on the features, human enough. He talks too much of his noble even to ruggedness, the dark furrows of chains and his uneasy posture: he is rather too the cheek, the haggard and woful stare of the much depressed and agitated. His resolution eye, the sullen and contemptuous curve of seems to depend on the knowledge which he the lip, and doubt that they belong to a man possesses that he holds the fate of his torturer too proud and too sensitive to be happy. in his hands, and that the hour of his release Milton was, like Dante, a statesman and a will surely come. But Satan is a creature of lover; and, like Dante, he had been unfortuanother sphere. The might of his intellectual nate in ambition and in love. He had surnature is victorious over the extremity of vived his health and his sight, the comforts pain. Amidst agonies which cannot be con- of his home, and the prosperity of his party. ceived without horror, he deliberates, resolves, Of the great men by whom he had been disand even exults. Against the sword of Mi-tinguished at his entrance into life, some had chael, against the thunder of Jehovah, against been taken away from the evil to come; some the flaming lake, and the marl burning with had carried into foreign climates their unconsolid fire, against the prospect of an eternity querable hatred of oppression; some were of unintermitted misery, his spirit bears up. pining in dungeons; and some had poured unbroken, resting on its own innate energies, forth their blood on scaffolds. Venal and requiring no support from anything external, licentious scribblers, with just sufficient talnor even from hope itself.

ent to clothe the thoughts of a pandar in To return for a moment to the parallel the style of a bellman, were now the favorite which we have been attempting to draw be- writers of the Sovereign and of the public. tween Milton and Dante, we would add that It was a loathsome herd, which could be comthe poetry of these great men has in a con- pared to nothing so fitly as to the rabble of siderable degree taken its character from Comus, grotesque monsters, half bestial, half their moral qualities. They are not egotists. human, dropping with wine, bloated with They rarely obtrude their idiosyncrasies on gluttony, and reeling in obscene dances. Amidst these that fair Muse was placed, like victory, an expected attack upon the city, a the chaste lady of the Masque, lofty, spotless, momentary fit of depression or exultation, a and serene, to be chattered at, and pointed at, jest thrown out against one of his books, a and grinned at, by the whole rout of Satyrs dream which for a short time restored to and Goblins. If ever despondency and as- him that beautiful face over which the grave perity could be excused in any man, they had closed forever, led him to musings, might have been excused in Milton. But the which, without effort, shaped themselves into strength of his mind overcame every calamity. verse. The unity of sentiment and severity Neither blindness, nor gout, nor age, nor of style which characterize these little pieces penury, nor domestic afflictions, nor political remind us of the Greek Anthology, or perdisappointments, nor abuse, nor proscription, haps still more of the Collects of the English nor neglect, had power to disturb his sedate Liturgy. The noble poem on the Massacres and majestic patience. His spirits do not of Piedmont is strictly a Collect in verse. seem to have been high, but they were singu- The Sonnets are more or less striking ac- , larly equable. His temper was serious, per- cording as the occasions which gave birth haps stern; but it was a temper which no to them are more or less interesting. But sufferings could render sullen or fretful. Such they are, almost without exception, dignified as it was when, on the eve of great events, he by a sobriety and greatness of mind to which returned from his travels, in the prime of we know not where to look for a parallel. It health and manly beauty, loaded with literary would, indeed, be scarcely safe to draw any distinctions, and glowing with patriotic hopes, decided inferences as to the character of such it continued to be when, after having a writer from passages directly egotistical. experienced every calamity which is incident But the qualities which we have ascribed to to our nature, old, poor, sightless and dis- Milton, though perhaps most strongly marked graced, he retired to his hovel to die.

in those parts of his works which treat of his Hence it was that, though he wrote the personal feelings, are distinguishable in every Paradise Lost at a time of life when images page, and impart to all his writings, prose of beauty and tenderness are in general begin- and poetry, English, Latin, and Italian, a ning to fade, even from those minds in which strong family likeness. they have not been effaced by anxiety and His public conduct was such as was to be disappointment, he adorned it with all that is expected from a man of a spirit so high and most lovely and delightful in the physical and of an intellect so powerful. He lived at one in the moral world. Neither Theocritus nor of the most memorable eras in the history of Ariosto had a finer or a more healthful sense mankind, at the very crisis of the great conof the pleasantness of external objects, or flict between Oromasdes and Arimanes, libloved better to luxuriate amidst sunbeams erty and despotism, reason and prejudice. and flowers, the songs of nightingales, the That great battle was fought for no single juice of summer fruits, and the coolness of generation, for no single land. The destishady fountains. His conception of love nies of the human race were staked on unite all the voluptuousness of the Oriental the same cast with the freedom of the Engharem, and all the gallantry of the chivalric lish people. Then were first proclaimed tournament, with all the pure and quiet affec- those mighty principles which have since tion of an English fireside. His poetry re- worked their way into the depths of the minds us of the miracles of Alpine scenery. American forests, which have roused Greece Nooks and dells, beautiful as fairy land, are from the slavery and degradation of two embosomed in its most rugged and gigantic thousand years, and which, from one end of elevations. The roses and myrtles bloom un- Europe to the other, have kindled an unchilled on the verge of the avalanche. : quenchable fire in the hearts of the oppressed,

Traces, indeed, of the peculiar character of and loosed the knees of the oppressors with Milton may be found in all his works; but it an unwonted fear. is most strongly displayed in the Sonnets. Of those principles, then struggling for Those remarkable poems have been under their infant existence, Milton was the most valued by critics who have not understood devoted and eloquent literary champion. their nature. They have no epigrammatic We need not say how much we admire his point. There is none of the ingenuity of Fili- public conduct. But we cannot disguise caja in the thought, none of the hard and bril- from ourselves that a large portion of his liant enamel of Petrarch in the style. They countrymen still think it unjustifiable. The are simple but majestic records of the feel-civil war, indeed, has been more discussed, ings of the poet; as little tricked out for the and is less understood, than any event in public eye as his diary would have been. A English history. The friends of liberty la

bored under the disadvantage of which the He was not, in name and profession, a Papist; lion in the fable complained so bitterly. we say in name and profession, because both Though they were the conquerors, their ene-Charles himself and his creature Laud, while mies were the painters. As a body, the they abjured the innocent badges of Popery, Roundheads had done their utmost to decry retained all its worst vices, a complete subjecand ruin literature; and literature was evention of reason to authority, a weak preferwith them, as, in the long run, it always is ence of form to substance, a childish passion with its enemies. The best book on their for mummeries, an idolatrous veneration for side of the question is the charming narrative the priestly character, and, above all, a merof Mrs. Hutchinson. May's History of the ciless intolerance. This, however, we waive. Parliament is good; but it breaks off at the We will concede that Charles was a good most interesting crisis of the struggle. The Protestant; but we say that his Protestantism performance of Ludlow is foolish and violent: does not make the slightest distinction beand most of the later writers who have es-tween his case and that of James. poused the same cause, Oldmixon for in- The principles of the Revolution have often stance, and Catherine Macaulay, have, to been grossly misrepresented, and never more say the least, been more distinguished by than in the course of the present year. zeal than either by candor or by skill. On There is a certain class of men, who, while the other side are the most authoritative and they profess to hold in reverence the great the most popular historical works in our lan- names and great actions of former times, guage, that of Clarendon, and that of Hume. never look at them for any other purpose The former is not only ably written and full than in order to find in them some excuse for of valuable information, but has also an air existing abuses. In every venerable preceof dignity and sincerity which makes even dent. they pass by what is essential, and take the prejudices and errors with which it only what is accidental: they keep out of sight abounds respectable. Hume, from whose what is beneficial, and hold up to public imifascinating narrative the great mass of the tation all that is defective. If, in any part of reading public are still contented to take their any great example, there be anything unopinions, hated religion so much that he hated sound, these flesh flies detect it with an unerliberty for having been allied with religion. ring instinct, and dart upon it with a ravenand has pleaded the cause of tyranny with ous delight. If some good end has been atthe dexterity of an advocate while affecting tained in spite of them, they feel, with their the impartiality of a judge.

prototype, that The public conduct of Milton must be ap “Their labor must be to pervert that end, proved or condemned according as the resist

And out of good still to find means of evil." ance of the people to Charles the First shall To the blessings which England has derived appear to be justifiable or criminal. We from the Revolution these people are utterly shall therefore make no apology for dedicat- insensible. The expulsion of a tyrant, the ing a few pages to the discussion of that in- solemn recognition of popular rights, liberty, teresting and most important question. We security, toleration, all go for nothing with shall not argue it on general grounds. We them. One sect there was, which, from unshall not recur to those primary principles fortunate temporary causes, it was thought from which the claim of any government to necessary to keep under close restraint. One the obedience of its subjects is to be deduced. part of the empire there was so unhappily We are entitled to that vantage ground; but circumstanced, that at that time its misery we will relinquish it. We are, on this point, was necessary to our happiness, and its slavso confident of superiority, that we are notery to our freedom. These are the parts of unwilling to imitate the ostentatious generos- the Revolution which the politicians of whom ity of those ancient knights, who vowed to we speak, love to contemplate, and, which joust without helmet or shield against all en-seem to them not indeed to vindicate, but in emies, and to give their antagonists the ad-some degree to palliate, the good which it has vantage of sun and wind. We will take the produced. Talk to them of Naples, of Spain, naked constitutional question. We confi- lor of South America. They stand forth zealdently affirm, that every reason which canots for the doctrine of Divine Right which be urged in favor of the Revolution of 1688 has now come back to us, like a thief from may be urged with at least equal force in fa- transportation, under the alias of Legitimacy. vor of what is called the Great Rebellion. But mention the miseries of Ireland. Then

In one respect, only, we think, can the William is a hero. Then Somers and Shrewswarmest admirers of Charles venture to say bury are great men. Then the Revolution that he was a better sovereign than his son. is a glorious era. The very same persons who, in this country, never omit an oppor-| fingers on a single article in the Declaration tunity of reviving every wretched Jacobite of Right, presented by the two Houses to slander respecting the Whigs of that period, William and Mary, which Charles is not achave no sooner crossed St. George's Channel knowledged to have violated. He had, acthan they begin to fill their bumpers to the cording to the testimony of his own friends, glorious and immortal memory. They may usurped the functions of the legislature, truly boast that they look not at men, but at raised taxes without the consent of parliameasures. So that evil be done, they care ment, and quartered troops on the people in not who does it; the arbitrary Charles, or the the most illegal and vexatious manner. Not liberal William, Ferdinand the Catholic, or a single session of parliament had passed Frederic the Protestant. On such occasions without some unconstitutional attack on the their deadliest opponents may reckon upon freedom of debate; the right of petition was their candid construction. The bold asser- grossly violated; arbitrary judgments, exortions of these people have of late impressed bitant fines, and unwarranted imprisonments a large portion of the public with an opinion were grievances of daily occurrence. If these that James the Second was expelled simply things do not justify resistance, the Revolubecause he was a Catholic, and that the Revo- tion was treason; if they do, the Great Rebell- . lution was essentially a Protestant Revolution. ion was laudable.

But this certainly was not the case; nor But, it is said, why not adopt milder meascan any person who has acquired more knowl-| ures? Why, after the King had consented to edge of the history of those times than is to so many reforms, and renounced so many be found in Goldsmith's Abridgment believe oppressive prerogatives, did the parliament that, if James had held his own religious continue to rise in their demands at the risk opinions without wishing to make proselytes, of provoking a civil war? The ship-money or if, wishing even to make proselytes, he had been given up. The Star Chamber had had contented himself with exerting only his been abolished. Provision had been made for constitutional influence for that purpose, the the frequent convocation and secure deliberaPrince of Orange would ever have been in- tion of parliaments. Why not pursue an end vited over. Our ancestors, we suppose, knew confessedly good by peaceable and regular their own meaning; and, if we may believe means? We recur again to the analogy of the them, their hostility was primarily not to Revolution. Why was James driven from popery, but to tyranny. They did not drive the throne? Why was he not retained upon out a tyrant because he was a Catholic; but conditions? He too had offered to call a free they excluded Catholics from the crown, be-parliament and to submit to its decision all cause they thought them likely to be tyrants. the matters in dispute. Yet we are in the The ground on which they, in their famous habit of praising our forefathers, who preresolution, declared the throne vacant, was ferred a revolution, a disputed succession, a this, " that James had broken the fundament-dynasty of strangers, twenty years of foreign al laws of the kingdom." Every man, there- and intestine war, a standing army, and a fore, who approves of the Revolution of 1688 national debt, to the rule, however restricted, must hold that the breach of fundamental of a tried and proved tyrant. The Long Parlaws on the part of the sovereign justifies liament acted on the same principle and is resistance. The question, then, is this: Had entitled to the same praise. They could not Charles the First broken the fundamental trust the King. He had no doubt passed salulaws of England?

tary laws; but what assurance was there that No person can answer in the negative, un- he would not break them? He had renounced less he refuses credit, not merely to all the oppressive prerogatives; but where was the accusations brought against Charles by his security that he would not resume them? opponents, but to the narratives of the warm- The nation had to deal with a man whom no est Royalists, and to the confessions of the tie could bind, a man who made and broke King himself. If there be any truth in any promises with equal facility, a man whose historian of any party who has related the honor had been a hundred times pawned, and events of that reign, the conduct of Charles, never redeemed. from his accession to the meeting of the Long! Here, indeed, the Long Parliament stands Parliament, had been a continued course of on still stronger ground than the Convention oppression and treachery. Let those who of 1688. No action of James can be compared applaud the Revolution, and condemn the to the conduct of Charles with respect to the Rebellion, mention one act of James the Sec- Petition of Right. The Lords and Commons ond to which a parallel is not to be found in present him with a bill in which the constituthe history of his father. Let them lay their tional limits of his power are marked out.

He hesitates; he evades; at last he bargains was accustomed to hear prayers at six o'clock to give his assent for five subsidies. The bill in the morning! It is to such considerations receives his solemn assent; the subsidies are as these, together with his Vandyke dress, his voted; but no sooner is the tyrant relieved, handsome face, and his peaked beard, that he than he returns at once to all the arbitrary owes, we verily believe, most of his popularity measures which he had bound himself to with the present generation. abandon, and violates all the clauses of the For ourselves, we own that we do not unvery Act which he had been paid to pass. derstand the common phrase, a good man,

For more than ten years the people had but a bad king. We can as easily conceive a seen the rights which were theirs by a double good man and an unnatural father, or a good claim, by immemorial inheritance and by re- man and a treacherous friend. We cannot, cent purchase, infringed by the perfidious in estimating the character of an individual. king who had recognized them. At length leave out of our consideration his conduct in circumstances compelled Charles to sum- the most important of all human relations: mon another parliament: another chance was and if in that relation we find him to have given to our fathers: were they to throw it been selfish, cruel, and deceitful, we shall away as they had thrown away the former? take the liberty to call him a bad man, in Were they again to be cozened by le Roi le spite of all his temperance at table, and all veut? Were they again to advance their his regularity at chapel. money on pledges which had been forfeited We cannot refrain from adding a few words over and over again? Were they to lay a respecting a topic on which the defenders of second Petition of Right at the foot of the Charles are fond of dwelling. If, they say, throne, to grant another lavish aid in ex- he governed his people ill, he at least governed change for another unmeaning ceremony, and them after the example of his predecessors. then to take their departure, till, after ten If he violated their privileges, it was because years more of fraud and oppression, their those privileges had not been accurately de. prince should again require a supply, and fined. No act of oppression has ever been again repay it with a perjury? They were imputed to him which has not a parallel in compelled to choose whether they would the annals of the Tudors. This point Hume trust a tyrant or conquer him. We think has labored, with an art which is as discredit that they chose wisely and nobly.

able in a historical work as it would be admir The advocates of Charles, like the advocates able in a forensic address. The answer is of other malefactors against whom over- short, clear, and decisive. Charles had as whelming evidence is produced, generally de- sented to the Petition of Right. He had cline all controversy about the facts, and renounced the oppressive powers said to have content themselves with calling testimony to been exercised by his predecessors, and he character. He had so many private virtues! had renounced them for money. He was not And had James the Second no private virtues? entitled to set up his antiquated claims against Was Oliver Cromwell, his bitterest enemies his own recent release. · themselves being judges, destitute of private. The arguments are so obvious, that it may virtues? And what, after all, are the virtues seem superfluous to dwell upon them. But ascribed to Charles? A religious zeal, not those who have observed how much the events more sincere than that of his son, and fully of that time are misrepresented and misunder as weak and narrow-minded, and a few of the stood will not blame us for stating the case ordinary household decencies which half the simply. It is a case of which the simplest tombstones in England claim for those who statement is the strongest. lie beneath them. A good father! A good. The enemies of the Parliament, indeed, husband! Ample apologies indeed for fifteen rarely choose to take issue on the great points years of persecution, tyranny and falsehood! of the question. They content themselves

We charge him with having broken his with exposing some of the crimes and follies coronation oath; and we are told that he kept to which public commotions necessarily give his marriage vow! We accuse him of having birth. They bewail the unmerited fate of given up his people to the merciless inflictions Strafford. They execrate the lawless violence of the most hot-headed and hard-hearted of of the army. They laugh at the Scriptura prelates; and the defence is, that he took his names of the preachers. Major-generals little son on his knee and kissed him! We fleecing their districts; soldiers revelling or censure him for having violated the articles the spoils of a ruined peasantry; upstarts of the Petition of Right, after having, for enriched by the public plunder taking posses good and valuable consideration, promised to sion of the hospitable firesides and hereditary observe them; and we are informed that he trees of the old gentry; boys smashing the

« 이전계속 »