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such countless multitudes, it seems to me, that from the columns of Hercules, to the farthest borders of India, that, throughout this vast expanse, I am bringing back, bringing home to every nation liberty, so long driven out, so long an exile; and, as is recorded of Triptolemus of old, that I am importing fruits for the nations from my own city, but of a far nobler kind than those fruits of Ceres. That I am spreading abroad among the cities, the kingdoms, and nations, the restored culture of civility and freedom of life.'
He had been reproached by his adversaries with his blindness; and his answer to the charge can be read by no one without high admiration of the magnanimity of his mind, and the strength of his piety. To be blind, he says, is not miserable, but not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable indeed. He calls God to witness, the searcher of the inmost spirit, and of every thought, that he is unconscious of any thing, (though he has visited all the recesses of his heart) of any crime, the heinousness of which could have justly called down this calamity upon him above others. That he has written nothing which he was not persuaded at the time, and is still persuaded, was right and true and pleasing to God. And this, without being moved by ambition, by lucre, or by glory, but solely by a sense of duty, of grace, and of devotion to his country. Then let the slanderers (he says) of the judgments of God cease their revilings. Let them desist from their dreamy forgeries concerning me. Let them know that I neither repine at, nor repent me of my lot: that I remain fixed, immovable in my opinion : that I neither believe, nor have found that God is angry: nay, that in things of
the greatest moment, I have experienced, and acknowledge his mercy, and his paternal goodness towards me. That above all in regard of this calamity, I acquiesce in his divine will
, for it is he himself who comforts and upholds my spirit, being evermore mindful of what he shall bestow upon me, than of what he shall deny me. Besides how many things are there which I should choose not to see? How many which I might be unwilling to see; and how few remaining things are there which I should desire to see. Neither am I concerned at being classed, though you think this a miserable thing, with the blind, with the afflicted, with the miserable, with the weak. Since there is a hope that, on this account, I have a nearer claim to the mercy and protection of the sovereign Father. There is a way, and the Apostle is my authority, through weakness to the greatest strength. May I be one of the weakest, provided only in my weakness, that immortal and better vigour be put forth with greater effect: provided only in my darkness the light of the divine countenance does but more brightly shine ; for then I shall at once be the weakest and most mighty ; shall be at once blind, and of the most piercing sight. Thus, through this infirmity should I be consummated, perfected. Thus, through this darkness should I be enrobed with light. And, in truth, we who are blind, are not the last regarded by the providence of God; who, as we are incapable to discern any thing but himself, beholds us with the greater clemency and benignity. Woe be to him who makes a mock of us. Woe be to him who injures us; he deserves to be devoted to the public curse. The divine law, the divine favour has made us not merely secure, but, as it were, sacred from the injuries of men; nor would have seemed to have brought the darkness upon us, so much by inducing a dimness of the eyes, as by the overshadowing of heavenly wings. Besides, as I am not grown torpid by indolence, since my eyes have deserted me, but am still active, still ready to advance among the foremost to the most arduous struggles for liberty ; I am not therefore deserted by men even of the first rank in the state. Thus, while I can derive consolation in my blindness both from God and man, let no one be troubled that I have lost my eyes in an honourable cause : and far be it from me to be troubled at it; far be it from me to possess so little spirit as not to be able without difficulty to despise the revilers of my blindness, or so little placability as not to be able with still less difficulty to forgive them. The treatise, after a succession of passages of great eloquence and animation, ends with an earnest and solemn address to the people of England to prove themselves worthy of the victory they have gained, and the position they have secured. He warns them to derive their liberty not from arms, but from piety, justice, temperance; in fine, from real virtue, not to make war alone their virtue, or highest glory, or to neglect the arts of peace. To banish avarice, ambition, luxury, and all excess from their thoughts ; such is the warfare of peace. Victories hard, it is true, but blameless, more glorious far than the warlike or the bloody. “As for myself,' he says (speaking with something of a prophetic sorrow), to whatever state things may return, I have performed, and certainly with good will, I hope not in vain, the service which I thought would be of most use to the commonwealth. It is not before our doors alone that I have borne my arms in defence of liberty. I have wielded them in a field so wide
that the justice and reason of those which are no
Milton was now removed by an order of council from his lodgings at Whitehall,* and took a garden house in Petty France, in Westminster, opening into St. James's Park: in this house he 3 In noticing Milton's mistake in the use of the word Vapulandus, Johnson has observed that Ker, and some one before him had remarked it. This person was Vavassor. de Epig. cxxii. p. 144. See Crenii Animad. Philolog. 12mo, p. 77. • Illud mirum pariter et festivum quod is quo loco et quibus plane verbis attribuit Salmasio solæcismos, iisdem ipse solæcismum, aut solæcismo flagitium non minus admittat.'
4 Previously to his going to live in Scotland Yard, Whitehall, Milton lodged at one Thomson's, next door to the Bull Head Tavern, Charing Cross. See Birch's Life, p. xxxviii. In Scotland Yard his infant son died.
continued till within a few weeks of the Restoration. In 1651 he was suffering under the approach of total blindness. He had lost the entire use of one eye: and his nephew, Edward Philips, was supposed to have greatly assisted him in the affairs of secretary. In 1652 his sight was totally gone. His enemies, as we have seen, considered his blindness as a judgment for writing against the king; and one of the prebendaries of Exeter reproached him, even from the pulpit, with the severe visitation. But he himself more truly accounted for the affliction by the wearisome labours and studious watchings wherein he spent, and almost tired out, a whole youth. His letter to his Athenian friend, Leonard Phileras, gives an account of the gradual approach of the disease; Philips says that Milton was always tampering with physic: to which he attributes the loss of his sight, as well as to his continual studies, and the headaches to which he had been subject from his youth.
It is supposed that in 1653 Milton lost his first wife, who died in childbed, leaving him three daughters. He remained a widower for three years, when he was again united in marriage to a daughter of Captain Woodcock of Hackney. She also died within a year after her marriage, in the same manner; and in one of his sonnets he has paid an affectionate tribute to her memory. Soon
4 His eyesight was decaying about twenty years before his death. His father read without spectacles till eighty-four. His mother had very weak eyes, and used spectacles presently after she was thirty years old. Aubrey Lett. iii. p. 449. He lost the use of his left eye in 1651: and it is supposed, of the other, in 1654. See Todd's Life (1st ed.), p. 85, but the period of the complete affliction is not known with exactness.