Page images



“ Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: methinks I see her as an eagle muing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzl’d eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unscaling her long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of timorous and mocking birds with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amaz’d at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms.”

I now feel that I have occupied your attention long enough. I could continue ; nor do I stop for want of matter to engage your attention; for it is at hand and in rich abundance. I could take you through the Eikonoklastes, published in reply to that pamphlet, the Eikon Basilike, long falsely reputed as the production of the Royal Martyr. I could point out to you many passages rich in eloquence and convincing in argument, which are to be found in the first and second Defence of the People of England, written by Milton in Latin, but translated, more than a century ago,

in no inferior characters. I could tell you how, like Burke's wondrous appeal against the French Revolution, thousands of Milton's Defence were largely bought up in every part of Europe, notwithstanding the burnings at Paris and Toulouse, and afterwards at York and Oxford, and elsewhere in England. I could recount to you in his own language, how, as soon as his Defence appeared, and had begun to excite the public curiosity, “there was no public functionary, or any Prince or State then in London, who did not congratulate him, and desire his company at his house, or visit Milton's abode for cause of honour, for even Royalty itself courteously favoured him who had apparently written against kings, and bore to his integrity and veracity the noblest testimony." I would, if time permitted, have wished to read to you that grand apostrophe to Cromwell and Fairfax—to Fleetwood, who excelled as much in “humanity and gentleness as in military fame”—to Lambert, of whom even Clarendon speaks in terms that now would entitle him to be thought the Murat of the Republican armies. But it is far better that I should leave you to gather for yourselves these sweets and treasures, spread richly through the pages of John Milton. I will not attempt to conceal from you

that there are tracts of his over which I have intentionally drawn the veil, as strangely conflicting with our notions of the married state, of which no one more than he ever sung in strains more holy

" That wedded love, mysterious law,

Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets.” But here I pause; and should a dusky thought cross your

; minds when perusing these or any other parts of his writings, let me bespeak from you “a holy feeling and a sweet regret.” Tread lightly upon hallowed ground -a great man lies beneath. Remember-remember, no man ever yet was able to tarnish the truth, the honour, the abiding virtue of John Milton—no, not even his greatest enemies. Follow him if you can, where early he traced, as on a celestial globe, his bright career :

" Mortals that would follow me,
Love virtue—she alone is free;
She can teach you how to climb
Higher than the sphery chime;
Or if virtue feeble were,

Heaven itself would stoop to her.” Learn from his chequered life the inscrutable power of truth proclaimed with honesty and zeal; and if in that great, almost holy character you discern some few infirmities-call them, if so inclined, extravagant prejudices—let them teach you the lesson of charity, that the ways of the Most High are as varied as mysterious, and believe with me that to no man, to no sect, to no nation, to no colour, to no creed, has an exclusive possession of the divine favour been accorded by the Omnipotent Ruler.




« PreviousContinue »