« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
thetic scene in Paradise Lost,* in which Eve addresseth herself to Adam for pardon and peace. At the intercession of his friends, who were present, after a short reluctance, he generously sacrificed all his resentment to her tears:
Soon his heart relented
Now at his feet submissive in distress. And after this re-union, so far was he from retaining any unkind memory of the provocations which he bad received from her ill conduct, that wben the king's cause was entirely suppressed, and her father had been active in his loyalty, was exposed to sequestration, Milion received both him and his family to protection, and free entertainment, in his own house, till their affairs were accommodated by his interest in the victorious faction.
A commission to constitute him Adjutant General to Sir Wiliam Waller was promised, but soon superseded, by Waller's being iaid aside, when his masters thought it proper to new-model their army. However, the keenness of his pen bad so effectually recommended him to Cromwe:)P's esteem, that when he took the reins of government into his own hand, he advanced him to be Latin Secretary, both to himself and the Parliament; the former of these preferments he enjoyed both under the usurper and his son, the other until King Charles II. was restored. For some time he had an apartment for his family at Whiteliall: but his health requiring a freer accession to air, he was obliged to remove from thence to lodgings whieh opened into St. James's Park. Not long after his settlement there bis wise died in child-bed, and much about the time of her death, a gutta serena, which had for several years been gradually increasing, totally extinguished his sight. In this melancholy condition, he was easily prevailed with to think of taking adother wife, who was Catharine the daughter of Captain Woodcock of
* Book X.
Hackney; and she too, in less than a year after their marriage, died in the same unfortunate spanner as the former had done ; and in his lwenty-third sonnet he does honour to her memory.
Being a second time a widow, he employed his friend Dr. Pavet to make choice of a third consort, on whose recommendation he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Mr. Minshul, a Cheshire gentleman, by whom he had no issue. Three daughters, by his first wife, were then living : the two elder of whom are said to have been very serviceable to him in his studies : for having been instructed to pronounce not only the modern, but also the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, they read in their respecto jve originals, whatever authoss he wanted to consult, though they understood none but their mother-tongue.
We come now to take a survey of him in that point of view, in which he will be looked upon by all sticceeding ages with equal delight and admiration. An interval of about twenty years had elapsed since he wrote the mask of Comis, l'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas, all in such an exquisite strain, that though he had left no other monuments of his genius behind him, his name had been immortal; but neither the infirmities of age and constitution, nor the vicissitudes of fortune, could depress the rigour of his mind, or divert it from executing a design he had long conceived of writing an heroic poem.* The fall of man was a subject that he had some years before fixed on for a tragedy, which he intended to form by the mod. cls of antiquity; and some, not without probability, say, the play opened with that speech in the fourth book of Paradise Lost, I. 32, which is addressed by Satan to the fun. It'ere it material, I believe I could produce other passages, which more plainly appear to have been originally intended for the scene : but, whatever truíh there way be in this report, it is certain that he did not begin to mould his subject, in the form which it bears now, before he had concluded his controversy with Salmasius,
Paradise Lost, IX. line 26.
and More, when he had wholly lost the use of his eyes, and was forced to employ, in the office of an amannensis, any friend who accidentally paid him a visit. Yet, under all these discouragements, and various interruptions, in the year 1669 he published his Parallise Losi, the noblest poem (next to those of Homer and Virgil) that ever the wit of man produced in any age or nation. Need I mention any other evidence of its inestimable worth, than that the finest geniuses who have succeeded bim, have ever esteemed it a merit to relish and illustrate its beauties?
And now perhaps it may pass for a fiction, what with great veracity I afirm to be fact, that Milton, after having with much difficulty prevailed to have this divine poem licensed for the press, could sell the copy for no more than bfteen pounds; the payment of which valuable consideration drpended upon the sale of three numerous impressions. So unreasonable may personal prejudice affect ihe ruost excellent performances !
About two years after, he published Paradise Regaind; bat, Oh! what a falling off was there !-of which I will say no more, than that there is scarcely a a more remarkable instance of the frailty of human reason than our author gave, in preferring this poem to Paradise Lost.
And thus having attended him to the sixty-sixth year of his age, as closely as such imperfect lights as men of letters and retirement usually leave to guide our enquiry would allow, it now only remains to be recorded, that, in the year 1674, the gout put a period to his life, at Bunbill, near London; from whence his body was conveyed to St. Gile's church, by Cripplegate, where it lies interred in the chancel ; and a neat monument has lately been erected to perpetuate his memory.
In his youth he is said to have been extremely hand. some; the colour of his hair was a light brown, the sym, metry of his features exact, enlivened with an agreeable air, and a beautiful mixture of fair and ruddy. His stat. ure (as we find it measured by himself) did not exceed the middle-size neither too lean nor corpulent; his limbs well proportioned, nervous, and active, serviceable in all respects to his exercising the sword, in which he inuch delighted; and wanted neither skill nor courage to resent an affront from men of the most athletic constitutions. In his diet he was abstemious; not delicate in the choice of his dishes; and strong liquors of all kinds were his aversion. His deportment was erect, open, affable ; his conversation easy, cheerful, instructive ; his wit on all occasions at command, facetious, grave, or satirical, as the subject required. His judgment, when disengaged from religious and political speculations, was just and penetrating, his apprehension quick, his memory tenacious of what he read, his reading only not so extensive as his genius, for that was universai. And having treasured up such immense sture of science, perhaps the faculties of bis soul grew more vigorous after he was deprived of sight; and his imagination (naturally sublime and enlarged by reading roinances, of which he was much enamoured in his youth,) when it was wholly abstracted from material objects, was more at liberty to make such amazing ex. cursions into the ideal world, when in composing his divine work he was tempted to range
Beyond the visible diurnal sphere. With so many accomplishments, not to have had some faults and misfortunes to be laid in the balance with the fame and felicity of writing Paradise Lost, would have heen too great a portion for humanity.
WAEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
Yet, as I read, soon growing less severe,
Or, if a works so ipfinite be spaon'd,
Pardon me, inighty Poet, nor dispise