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solace, what a fit help such a consort would be through the whole life of a man, is less pain to conjecture than to have experience."
In the Apology for his Early Life and Writings, Milton glances at the ideas of love he had gathered out of Plato and Xenophon; and in my note on the place, I have translated a short passage of Diotima's speech in the Symposion, where the philosopher discloses his most poetical and elevated fancies on this mysterious subject. Milton himself, however, in his speculations on marriage, has embodied the whole theory of the priestess in a grand dithyrambic digression, which, being brief, I shall here introduce : "Marriage is a covenant, the very being whereof consists not in a forced cohabitation, and counterfeit performance of duties; but in unfeigned love and peace. And of matrimonial love, no doubt but that was chiefly meant, which by the ancient sages was thus parabled; that Love, if he be not twin-born, yet hath a brother wondrous like him, called Anteros; whom while he seeks all about, his chance is to meet with many false and feigning desires, that wander singly up and down in his likeness. By them, in their borrowed garb, Love, though not wholly blind, as poets wrong him, yet having but one eye, as being born an archer aiming, and that eye not the quickest in this dark region here below, which is not Love's proper sphere, partly out of the simplicity and credulity which is native to him, often deceived, embraces and consorts him with these obvious and suborned striplings, as if they were his mother's own sons; for so he thinks them, while they subtlely keep themselves most on his blind side. But after a while, as his manner is, when soaring up into the high tower of his apogeum, above the shadow of the earth, he darts out the direct rays of his then most piercing eyesight upon the impostures and trim disguises that were used with him, and discerns that this is not his genuine brother, as he imagined; he has no longer the power to hold fellowship with such a personated mate. For straight his arrows lose their golden heads, and shed their purple feathers, his silken braids untwine, and slip their knots; and that original and fiery virtue given him by fate all on a sudden goes out, and leaves him undeified and despoiled of all his force; till finding Anteros at last, he kindles and repairs the almost-faded ammunition of his deity, by the reflection of a coequal and homogeneal fire. Thus mine author sung it to me; and, by the leave of those who would be counted the only grave ones, this is no mere amatorious novel;-though to be wise and skilful in these matters, men heretofore of greatest name in virtue have esteemed it one of the highest arcs that human contemplation, circling upward, can make from the globy sea whereon she stands; but this is a deep and serious verity, showing us that love in marriage cannot live nor subsist unless it be mutual; and where love cannot be, there can be left of wedlock nothing but the empty husk of an outside matrimony,
as undelightful and unpleasing to God as any other kind of hypocrisy."
It is dangerous where conjecture has already been so busy, and to so little purpose, to bring forward any new surmises, which further investigation may, perhaps, prove equally unfounded with those long ago exploded; but it seems not improbable that the close and continuous consideration of love and marriage, to which he was led while composing these treatises on divorce, where so much is said of Adam and Eve, and the happiness of Eden, may have suggested the first hints of Paradise Lost. At all events, it is certain that those immortal syllables, though transposed, are found in the earliest of these works. "It will best behove our seriousness to follow rather what moral Sinai prescribes equal to our strength, than fondly to think within our strength all that LOST PARADISE relates."* And many passages, too many to be here introduced, appear to contain the germs of thoughts beheld mature in the poem. For example, his notions of the site of hell :
"Such place eternal justice had prepared
For those rebellious, here their prison ordained
As far removed from God and light of heaven
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole." (†)
"To banish for ever into a local hell, whether in the air or in the centre, or in that uttermost and bottomless gulf of chaos, deeper from holy bliss than the world's diameter multiplied."-" But still they fly back to the primitive institution, and would have us reenter Paradise against the sword that guards it."§
Of his political works, it will be unnecessary to speak at great length. They all breathe the same spirit, and are filled with the same admirable learning; which, instead of damping his fancy, or clouding his views, as in the writings of inferior men is observable, seems in him only to contribute, by its riches and variety, to bear him up in his speculations above the usual pitch even of highest politicians. But this soaring is not into the region of clouds and visions. He never loses sight of the practicable and fit; and seldom advises what, if adopted and acted on, would not tend to better the condition of mankind. Contrary to what is asserted and commonly believed, he was, if one may so speak, too little bigoted in his attachment to democracy; and suffered, for peace sake, too many concessions to be made to the upper orders, in his plans of government.
For these modifications of his theory, however, we must look to the circumstances of the times, wherein, if men of learning, reflection, and experience aimed at the establishment of a popular
*Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, book i. ch. 11.
+ Paradise Lost, i. 70-74.
Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, i. 3.
§ Ibid. i. 13.
government, they had to struggle with an invincible phalanx of prejudices, taking shelter among the ruins of the old absolute monarchy, and of a church too similar in character, and issuing every instant from their hiding-places, to interrupt all attempts at reformation. In fact, the events of those times were in many respects the prototypes of what is taking place at present. An overgrown and unpatriotic aristocracy, confounding their own privileges with the constitution, were incessantly labouring to convert the government into an instrument for effecting their own purposes, careless whether they thwarted or advanced the interests of the nation. Every man who honestly advocated the rights of the people was called a demagogue; to hope for a better condition for the poor was to be a visionary; virtue was hypocrisy ; and religion, because it prevailed among the lower orders, was puritanism, fanaticism, dreaming.
But with similar difficulties all who aim at conferring permanent blessings on their race must be content to struggle. For, as the majority have no other foundation for their opinions than custom and tradition, they cling to old abuses as to sacred relics, which though they know neither why nor wherefore, seem to be endued with some miraculous properties infused into them by the state conjurors of former ages. Feeling within themselves no disposition to make great exertions, or great sacrifices for the common good, it is beyond their power to conceive how sweet to him who has been nurtured in noble sentiments are the hardships, labours, dangers endured for his country. They know not that enthusiasm, the inspiration of great spirits, fills his mind with a delight independent of external circumstances. That, even though sure to be defrauded of his fame, he would still, by the spontaneous activity of his nature, be urged to the performance of his highest duties, like that heroic Roman, who argued, at the Forks of Caudium, that even infamy is to be encountered in furtherance of our country's good.
When Milton entered on his political career, monarchy had fallen, and republican government been established in England. He was too wise, however, not to be aware that a new form of polity, not in unison with the established prejudices and inherited sympathies of the people, though approved by their awakened judgment, might easily perish amidst the stormy violence which had accompanied its birth. Had he calculated, therefore, like a selfish worldling, as the example of too many might have been his warrant for doing, he would have espoused the interests of the commonwealth with prudent reserve, and, while clamouring for the democracy, have deluded the royal party, with secret professions of attachment. Kings in distress promise, at least, if they do not pay; and such abilities as his would have purchased from the exiled Stuart the reversion of a dukedom.
With the uprightness and honour of one who had from the cradle
made the good and the beautiful, as he himself somewhere expresses it, the object of his impassioned study, Milton took no counsel of his interests or of his fears; but throwing himself impetuously into the current of the times, maintained with unparalleled ardour and eloquence the cause of the people. The die had already been cast; England was a republic; its late monarch had perished on the scaffold. As there existed two parties in the country, of which one wholly condemned the execution of Charles the First, not grounding their disapprobation on this, that he had suffered unjustly, but on the abstract principle, that the people, whatever may be the character of their ruler,—were he even a Nero or a Domitian,-have not the right to punish him capitally, Milton undertook, in his Tenure of Kings, to maintain the contrary proposition; contending that a prince may be guilty of crimes by the commission of which he forfeits his kingly privilege, degenerates into a tyrant, and justly arms his former subjects against him.
In this, however, he advances no new doctrine; nothing, as it should seem, in the least at variance with the practice and opinions of all nations. The difficulty always is to determine when a king has passed the boundary dividing authority from violence, and stepped out of the domain of royalty into that of tyranny; and therefore, whatever may be contended in considering the abstract question, and which way soever the matter may be decided, men of all parties, even the advocates of absolute monarchy, as history shows, will practically, if not in words, acknowledge the cogency of the arguments. And so far Milton has the suffrage of mankind in general. Perhaps, indeed, were the subject thoroughly examined, his views would be supported by many who, not comprehending the whole scope of his reasoning, now start back with horror at the bare supposition that they agree with him.
He has been called a regicide, and the advocate of regicides. He was certainly a republican; but if he was also a regicide, he knew it not himself, nor were many of his distinguished contemporaries a whit more conscious of the fact than he. To be a regicide in principle, is to contend for the putting to death of lawful kings, as such, merely for being in possession of the first honours of the state, and of an authority which they exercise lawfully. Now, was Milton such a man ? Was he so blind, so lost to all sense of what is just or unjust, so fierce and furious an enemy to the laws of God and man, as to maintain that a magistrate, entrusted with a certain office by the people, and performing the duties of that office blamelessly, is to be seized and put to death? Had such been his doctrine, most thick-sighted and doltish were those sovereign princes, who having witnessed with awful amazement the conduct of the people of England, bringing their late king to trial and punishment, yet received Milton's defence of his countrymen, not merely with cold approval, but with applause. It may be urged that so enkindling, so vast, so
irresistible were the powers of his eloquence, that the whole world was dazzled by them. He no doubt thoroughly understood, and with most exquisite skill put in practice, the arts of persuasion; but it would require something beyond the force of art, and partaking rather of the nature of miracle, to obtain from men, while openly aiming at their lives, praise, countenance, congratulation. To achieve this, the one party must be a magician, or the other party must be fools.
The presumption, therefore, à priori, is, that Milton was not a regicide; in fact, could not be, since princes concurred with him in his political opinions. And well might they concur with him, for, so far as they were lawful monarchs, bent on exercising conscientiously and justly the authority entrusted to them for the people's good, Milton contended strenuously for their rights, proving they were entitled to all just obedience and honour, as holding, by general consent, the sovereign power and awful majesty of the people. This is everywhere his doctrine, both in the First and Second Defence, and indeed, throughout his writings wherever the question comes under consideration.
But what doctrine, then, did he maintain, that his political character should be covered with so much obloquy ?-TYRANNICIDE— the doctrine that justice, like God, whose offspring she is, knows no respect of persons, but visits on all transgressors of the law the penalty which law exacts from all transgressors. He thought that falsehood, perfidy, breach of oaths, violence, rapine, oppression of honest men, persecution to the death for conscience sake, pillaging and wasting the land with fire and sword, were acts unlawful, acts which laid bare their perpetrator to the sword of justice. He maintained the coronation oath to be a covenant between the people and the king, binding the former to all lawful obedience, restraining the authority of the latter within certain limits; and he supposed it possible that either party might break this covenant. While the individual entrusted with supreme authority acted justly, he regarded him as a king; when he overpassed the limits prescribed to his authority by the law, or general reason, he considered him a tyrant, or public enemy. whom it was lawful to deal with accordingly. And for this view of the matter he had the concurring testimony of many good kings, and of some bad ones, among others, of James the First, who had remembered so much of the lessons of Buchanan. Locke, afterwards, with the approbation of King William the Third, put forward the same opinions; and I know not at what subsequent period of our history they came to be accounted unconstitutional.
To prove the truth of the above doctrine, and vindicate his countrymen for having reduced his principles to action, were the prime objects of his Eikonoklastes, and Defence of the People of England. The former treatise, intended to work conviction in those who spoke the English language, which he loved, and for the expres