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breaker, was written in 1649 to counteract the influence of the "Eikon Basilike," or Royal Image, a book that had an immense circulation, and tended to create a reaction in public sentiment in favor of the monarchy. A still more important work was his Latin "Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio," which was written in reply to a treatise by Salmasius, a scholar of Leyden, in which an effort was made to vindicate the memory of Charles I., and to bring reproach upon the Commonwealth. In spite of failing vision and the warning of his physicians, Milton threw himself with great ardor into his task, and in 1651 published his "Defensio," one of the most masterly controversial works ever written. He practically annihilated his opponent. The Commonwealth, it was said, owed its standing in Europe to Cromwell's battles and Milton's books.
During the Protectorate, Milton's life was uneventful. He bore his blindness, which had now become total, with heroic fortitude, upheld by the faith that
At the Restoration, though specially named for punishment, he somehow escaped the scaffold. His life, however, was for some years one of solitude and dejection. His own feelings are put into the mouth of his Samson :
"Now blind, disheartened, shamed, dishonored, quelled,
To what can I be useful? wherein serve
My nation, and the work from heaven imposed?
But to sit idle on the household hearth,
A burdensome drone, to visitants a gaze,
Or pitied object."
To add to his distress, his three daughters, whose rearing had been somewhat neglected, failed to prove a comfort to their father in his sore afflictions. They treated him with disrespect, sold his books by stealth, and rebelled against the drudgery of reading to him. Under these circumstances, it is hardly to be wondered at that he allowed himself to be per
suaded into contracting a third marriage — a union that greatly added to the comfort and happiness of his last years.
But in all this period of trial, Milton had the solace of a noble task. He was slowly elaborating his "Paradise Lost," in which he realized the dream of his youth. Its main theme is indicated in the opening lines:
"Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
But the poem must be read before its grandeur can be appreciated. It is one of the world's great epics; and in majesty of plan and sublimity of treatment, it surpasses them all. The Eternal Spirit, which he invokes, seems to have touched his lips with hallowed fire. The splendors of heaven, the horrors of hell, and the beauties of Paradise are depicted with matchless power. The beings of the unseen world, angels and demons, exercise before us their mighty agency; and in the council chambers of heaven we hear the words of the Almighty. The poem comprehends the universe, sets forth the truth of divine government, and exhibits life in its eternal significance a poem that rises above the petty incidents of earth with monumental splendor. It met with appreciation from the start. With a clear recognition of its worth, Dryden said, "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too." Milton's modest house became a pilgrim's shrine, and men from every rank, not only from his native land, but also from abroad, came to pay him homage.
Milton's literary activity continued to the last, and enriched our literature with two other noble productions, “Paradise Re
gained," and "Samson Agonistes." The former may be regarded as a sequel to " Paradise Lost; the latter is the most powerful drama in our language after the Greek model. poet, unconsciously perhaps, identified himself with his Samson, and gave utterance to the profoundest emotions which had been awakened by the mighty conflicts and sorrows of his own life.
He died Nov. 8, 1674. He was a man of heroic mould. In his solitary grandeur only one man of his age deserves to be placed beside him the great Protector, Oliver Cromwell. His greatness was austere. In his life he had no intimate and tender companionships; and now our feeling toward him is admiration rather than love. His character was without blemish, his aspirations pure and lofty, his courage undaunted, his intellectual vigor and power almost without parallel. But he was conscious of his greatness, and, finding ample resources within himself, he did not seek human sympathy. Wordsworth has spoken truly,
"Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart."
Like his own "Paradise Lost," he appears, with his Titanic proportions and independent loneliness, as the most impressive figure in English literature.
HENCE, loathed Melancholy,
Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,
In Stygian cave forlorn,
'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy! Find out some uncouth cell,
Where brooding Darkness spreads his jealous wings,
There, under ebon shades, and low-brow'd rocks,
As ragged as thy locks,
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
The frolick wind, that breathes the spring,
As he met her once a-Maying;
There on beds of violets blue,
And fresh-blown roses wash'd in dew,
Fill'd her with thee a daughter fair,
So buxom, blithe, and debonair.
Haste thee, nymph, and bring with thee
Jest, and youthful jollity,
Quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles,
Nods, and becks, and wreathèd smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
And in thy right hand lead with thee
The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty;
And, if I give thee honour due,
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
Russet lawns, and fallows gray,
Where the nibbling flocks do stray;