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What a dewy freshness and fragrance breathe from his lines on May Morning :
Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger,
We are all familiar with Milton's majestic Morning Hymn: how grandly it opens :
These are thy glorious works, Parent of good :
No less beautiful is his description of Evening in Paradise :
Now came still evening on, and twilight gray
Silence accompanied; for beast and bird,
What a rich collection of little gems might be gathered from the brilliant pages of this great poet, had we space for the garnering. Here are two or three, caught at random :
From Comus :
How charming is divine philosophy !
From L'Allegro :
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
From Lycidas :
Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
How much the world is indebted to the “blind old master of English song,” it would be impossible to compute ; for not only has he enriched our literature with the vast resources of a mind pre-eminently endowed, but he was among the foremost of the pioneers of civil and religious liberty. His able and authoritative pen served as efficiently in that noble emprise, as legions of armed soldiers in the field. As the champion of human freedom, he was necessarily obnoxious to the opposing party; accordingly, on the accession of Charles II., Milton became the object of bitter hostility: to such an extent, indeed, that in order to save his valuable
life, his very existence had for a time to be kept secret. It is said that his friends spread a report that he was dead, and, assembling a mournful procession, followed his pretended remains to the grave. The king, some time afterwards discovering the trick, commended his policy “in escaping death by a seasonable show of dying.” It is related of the Duke of York, that when, on one occasion, he visited Milton, and he was asked whether he did not regard the loss of his eyesight as a judgment inflicted on him for what he had written against the late king ? he replied, “ If your highness thinks that the calamities which befall us here are indications of the wrath of Heaven, in what manner are we to account for the fate of the late king, your father? the displeasure of Heaven must, upon this supposition, have been much greater upon him than upon me, for I have only lost my eyes, but he has lost his head !” Despised and persecuted as this illustrious man was for his political faith, he stood calmly and grandly forth, in the majesty and integrity of truth, amidst all; and his posterity has not forgotten his noble service. John Milton's great spirit left the world on Sunday, the eighth of November, 1674 ; and his sacred dust reposes near the chancel of St. Giles's, Cripplegate ;-a shrine, whither tend many pilgrim feet from all parts of the civilized world. It is a note-worthy fact, that while the greatest of English poets (the bard of Avon alone excepted) received only the trifling sum of five pounds for the first edition of his great epic, one of his editors, Newton, received six hundred guineas for his annotations upon it.
The following vigorous and impressive stanzas are by Byrd :
My mind to me a kingdom is ;
Such perfect joy therein I find,
That God or nature hath assigned.
Content I live; this is my stay,
I seek no more than may suffice;
Look, what I lack, my mind supplies.
Some have too much, yet still they crave;
I little have, yet seek no more ;
And I am rich with little store.
My wealth is health and perfect ease ;
My conscience clear, my chief defence ;
Nor by desert to give offence.
CHAMBERLAYNE, a poet but little known, but of evident genius, is the author of this beautiful description of a summer morning :
The morning hath not lost her virgin blush,