« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
fore them, as well during the night as in the day, seems always approaching rather to white than to black, admitting, as the eye rolls, a minute portion of light as through a crevice.
Though from your physician such a portion of hope also may arise, yet, as under an evil that admits no cure, I regulate and tranquilize my mind, often reflecting, that since the days of darkness allotted to each, as the wise man reminds us, are many,
hitherto my darkness, by the singular mercy of God, with the aid of study, , leisure, and the kind conversation of
my friends, is much less oppressive than the deadly darkness to which he alludes. For if, as it is written, man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, why should not a man acquiesce even in this ? not thinking that he can derive light from his eyes alone, but esteeming himself sufficiently enlightened by the conduct or providence of God.
“ As long, therefore, as he looks forward, and provides for me as he does, and
leads me backward and forward by the hand, as it were, through my whole life, shall I not cheerfully bid my eyes keep holiday, since such appears to be his pleasure? But whatever may be the event of your kindness, my dear Philaras, with a mind not less resolute and firm than if I were Lynceus himself, I bid you farewell. “ Westminster, Sept. 28, 1654."
We have no reason to imagine that Milton received any kind of medical benefit from the friendly intention of this amiable foreigner. Strange as the idea may at first appear, perhaps it was better for him as a poet, to remain without a cure; for his devout tenderness and energy of mind had so far converted his calamity into a blessing, that it seems rather to have promoted than obstructed both the happiness of his life and the perfection of his genius. We have seen, in the admirable sonnet on his blindness, how his reflections on the conscientious labour by which he lost his eyes gave a dignified satisfaction to his spirit. In one of his prose works he expresses a sentiment
on the same subject, that shews, in the most striking point of view, the meekness and sublimity of his devotion. He exults in his misfortune, and feels it endeared to him by the persuasion, that to be blind is to be placed more immediately under the providence of God:* when regarded in this manner, it could not fail to quicken and invigo. rate his mental powers. Blindness, indeed, without the aid of religious enthusiasm, has a natural tendency to favor that undisturbed,
* Sed neque ego cæcis, afflictis, mærentibus, imbecillis tametsi vos id miserum ducitis, aggregari me discrucior; quando quidem spes est, eo me propiùs ad misericordiam summi patris atque tutelam pertinere. Est quoddam per imbecillitatem præeunte apostolo ad maximas vires iter : sim ego debilissimus; dummodo in mea debilitate immortalis ille et melior vigor eo se efficacius exerat; dummodo in meis tenebris divini vultus lumen eo clarius eluceat, tum enim infirmissimus ero simul et validissimus cæcus eodem tempore et perspicacissimus ; hac possim ego infirmitate consummari, hac perfici, possim in hac obscuritate sic ego irradiari. Et sanè haud ultima Dei cura cæci sumus; qui nos quo minus quicquam aliud præter ipsum cernere valemus, co clementius atque benignius respicere dignatur, -Prose Works, vol 2.
intense, and continual meditation, which works of magnitude require. Perhaps we sometimes include in the catalogue of disadvantages the very circumstances that have been partly instrumental in leading extraordinary men to distinction. In examining the lives of illustrious scholars we may discover, that many of them arose to glory by the impulse of personal misfortune; Bacon and Pope were deformed; Homer and Milton were blind.
It has been frequently remarked, that the blind are generally cheerful ; it is not therefore marvellous that Milton was very far from being dispirited by the utter extinction of his sight; but his unconquerable vigour of mind was signally displayed in continuing to labor under all the pains and inconveniencies of approaching blindness, a state peculiarly unfavorable to mental exer
From the very eloquent preface to his Defence we learn, that while he was engaged on that composition, and eager to throw into it, all the force of his exalted mind, “ his
infirmity obliged him to work only by starts, and scarce to touch, in short periods of study broken by hourly interruptions, what he wished to pursue with continued application."
In this most uneasy and perilous labor he exerted his failing eyes to the utmost, and, to repeat his own triumphant expression,
Lost them overply'd In liberty's defence. His left eye became utterly blind in 1651, the year in which the book that he alludes to was published, and he lost the use of the other in 1654, the year in which he wrote
* Quod si quis miretur fortè cur ergò) tam diu intactum et ovantem, nostroque omnium silentio inflamatum volitare passi sumus, de aliis sane nescio, de me audacter possum dicere, non mihi verba aut argumenta quibus causam tuerer tam bonam diu quærenda aut investiganda fuisse, si otium et valetudinem (quæ quidem scribendi laborem ferre possit) nactus essem. Quâ cum adhuc etiam tenui admodum utar carptim hæc cogor et intercisis pené singulis horis vix attingere, quæ continenti stylo atque studio persequi debuissem. Prose Works, vol. 2, p. 278.