網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

Nobody cares much to-day which side Butler made fun of. We value Hudibras for its amusing similes, its real wisdom, and its witty couplets, such as:

The sun had long since in the lap

Of Thetis taken out his nap,

And, like a lobster boiled, the morn
From black to red began to turn.

Great conquerors greater glory gain
By foes in triumph led than slain.

He that complies against his will
Is of his own opinion still.

Butler is said to have expected a reward from the king and to have been disappointed. This was quite in the style of Charles II, whose gratitude was reserved for the favors which he hoped to receive.

89. Milton's later years. The only gratitude that can be felt toward Charles himself is for his negative goodness in not persecuting to the death John Milton, a man who had been so prominent during the Commonwealth and who had written the Defence of the English People. The poet was left to spend his later years in peace; and then it was that his mind turned toward a plan of his youth that had long been laid aside for the time of quiet that he hoped would come. He wished to write some long poem on a subject that was worthy of his ability. Just what that subject should be was not easy to decide. He thought of taking King Arthur for a hero and writing a British epic; but his plan broadened until he determined to write

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat.

These are the first lines of Paradise Lost. The poem is based upon Rev. xii. 7-9, the third chapter of Genesis, and other passages in the Bible. Satan rebels Paradise against God and with his angels is cast out of Lost. 1667. heaven into the flames of hell. While they lie in chains, the world is created, and man is given the Garden of Eden for his home. Satan rouses his angels to revenge themselves by tempting man. He himself makes his way to Eden and persuades Eve to disobey the command of God. Adam joins her in the sin, and both are driven from Eden; but a vision is granted to show that man shall one day find redemption.

To treat so lofty a theme in such manner that the treatment shall not by contrast appear trivial and unworthy is a rare triumph. Milton has succeeded so far as success is possible. His imagination does not fail; his poetic expression is ever suited to his thought; the mere sound of his phrases is a wonderful organ music, for Milton is master of all the beauties and intricacies of poetic harmony. Short extracts give no idea of the majesty of the poem, though there are scores of lines that have become familiar in every-day speech.

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

Not to know me argues yourselves unknown.

The world was all before them, where to choose.

Milton ever suits the word to the thought. To express harshness of sound he says:

On a sudden open fly,

With impetuous recoil and jarring sound,

Th' infernal doors, and on their hinges grate
Harsh thunder.

There is the very hush of evening in the lines,

Then silent night

With this her solemn bird and this fair moon.

Here is gliding smoothness :

Paradise

1671.

Liquid lapse of murmuring streams.

Milton had thought that the vision shown to Adam of the final redemption of man was all-sufficient; but a Quaker friend who had read the manuscript said to him, "Thou hast said much of Paradise lost, but what hast thou to say to Paradise found?" This simple Regained. question inspired Milton's second long poem, Paradise Regained, which he - and he only — preferred to the first. After this he wrote Samson Agonistes, a tragedy which conforms in every Agonistes. way to the rules of the Greek drama. These poems were dictated in his blindness. sonnet, written during those years of darkness, explains the power by which he endured so crushing a misfortune :

Samson

1671.

When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one talent which is death to hide,

Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve there with my Maker, and present

My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask but Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need

Either man's work, or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best: his state

Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,

And post o'er land and ocean without rest;

They also serve who only stand and wait."

One

A child may find pleasure in the musical sound of Paradise Lost, but the fullest enjoyment and appreciation of

the poem require familiarity not only with the Bible, but with classical literature. Four years after Milton's death a book came out which to children is a fascinating story and to the learned a marvellously perfect allegory, while to thousands of humble seekers after the way in which they should walk it has been a guide and an inspiration. This book is The Pilgrim's Progress.

90. John Bunyan, 1628-1688. It was written by John Bunyan, a man whose life was in many ways the opposite of Milton's, for

he was poor and almost without even the simplest beginnings of education. There is small reason for thinking that Milton ever looked upon himself as in any respect a wrongdoer; but the rude village lad suffered for two years agonies of remorse for what he feared was the unpardonable wickedness of his boyhood. At last the light burst upon him. He believed that the sins of his youth had found forgiveness, and he had but one desire, to preach forgiveness to every one whom he could reach. His trade was that of a tinker, and as he went from place to place, he preached wherever any one would listen. There was little trouble in gathering audiences together; for the untaught villager began to show a vividness of speech, a rude eloquence, which held his hearers as if they were spellbound.

[graphic]

JOHN BUNYAN
1628-1688

Those were not days when a man might preach what he would. Charles II looked upon all dissenters as

The Pil

grim's

Progress.

opposed to him. Bunyan had become a dissenter, and Perse- it did not occur to him to conceal his faith or cution. even to preach with less boldness. He was promptly arrested and thrown into jail. "Will you promise to do no more preaching if you are set free?" the king's officers asked. Outside the jail were his wife and two little daughters, one of them especially dear to him because of her blindness; but Bunyan refused to make the promise. For twelve years he was a prisoner in Bedford Jail, doing whatever work he could get to support his family. At the end of that time he was free for a while, then came a second imprisonment. It was within the walls of the jail that he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress, the most perfect allegory 1678. ever produced. In this story, or "dream," Christianno glittering knight, but a plain, every-day citizen flees from the City of Destruction in quest of the Celestial City. He has many troubles; he falls into the Slough of Despond; he has to go by roaring lions; he encounters Apollyon; he passes through the Valley of Humiliation; he is beaten and persecuted at Vanity Fair; he wanders out of the way and falls into the hands of Giant Despair of Doubting Castle; and he goes tremblingly through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But his way is not all gloom. He finds friendly entertainment and counsel at the House of the Interpreter; at the house built by the Lord of the Hill he rests "in a large upper chamber, whose window opened toward the sunrising, the name of the chamber was Peace;" he is shown far away the beauties of the Delectable Mountains, which are in Emmanuel's Land; the key of promise opens the way out of Doubting Castle. At last he and his friends stand beside the River of Death, which alone lies be

« 上一頁繼續 »