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the first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospect, and melodious sounds on every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming. * I doubt not but ye
shall have more ado to drive our dullest and laziest youth, our stocks and stubs, from the infinite desire of such a happy nurture, than we have now to hale and drag our choicest and hopefullest wits to that asinine feast of sowthistles and brambles, which is commonly set before them as all the food and entertainment of their tenderest and most docible age. I call, therefore, a complete and generous education, that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war. And how all this may be done between twelve and one and twenty, less time than is now bestowed in pure trifling at grammar and sophistry, is to be thus ordered.”+
It is not surprising that Milton's plan should have been condemned as too extensive to be practicable, for it embraces nearly every branch of human knowledge. Commencing with grammar, it leads the student through the Latin classics, beginning with those which convey some kind of scientific or economical knowledge; at the same time acquiring the knowledge of the “principles of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and geography, with a general compact of physics, they may descend in mathematics to the instrumental science of trigonometry, and from thence to fortification, architecture, enginery, or navigation. And in natural philosophy they may proceed leisurely from the history of meteors, minerals, plants, and living creatures, as far as anatomy.” He continues his plan through the art of
* He had already, in Comus, described the delight derivable from the study of philosophy:
“How charming is divine philosophy!
Where no crude surfeit reigns.” + Prose Works, vol. iii. p. 467.
medicine, and natural science generally, and those Latin poets who especially treat on similar subjects, and last come the highest departments of study,--ethics, politics, theology, and logic. This he connects throughout with a system of physical and military training, recommending as a principal relaxation, “the solemn and divine harmonies of music.” In concluding his treatise, he himself seems to have been struck, on a retrospect, with the almost presumptuous vastness of his scheme. “I believe,” he says, “that this is not a bow for every man to shoot in, that counts himself a teacher ; but will require sinews almost equal to those which Homer gave Ulysses ; yet I am withal persuaded that it may prove much more easy in the assay, than it now seems at distance, and much more illustrious."
MILTON PUBLISHES HIS SPEECH FOR THE LIPERTY OF UNLICENSED
PRINTING" ANALYSIS OF THE WORK-NOBLE PASSAGES OCCUR
RING IN IT-DISCHARGE OF MABBOT, THE LICENSER, AT HIS OWN REQUEST.
THE intolerance of the presbyterians, armed with the powers of a parliamentary majority, was now mimicking the most despotic acts of the prelacy: they attempted the forcible suppression of all opinions, political and religious, but their own, and even essayed the impossible task of damming up the great channel of mental communication by holding the press in control. Milton's enlightened mind was not slow to perceive that this course involved a fatuity analogous to that of the Eastern despot who lashed the waves, and threw fetters into the rebellious ocean. He further saw that the sufferings which this penal system inflicted on individuals were not to be compared with the evils of intellectual stagnation, political decay, and moral death which it shed on nations. To these sentiments we owe the masterpiece of Milton,—the “ Address to the Parliament in favour of the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing," of which, in accordance with the plan of this volume, an analysis is now to be presented.
He commences with a stately eulogy upon the Parliament; he addresses himself to the recent order for the
regulation of printing : " That no book, pamphlet, or paper shall be henceforth printed, unless the same be first approved and licensed by such, or at least one of such, as shall be thereto appointed.” He proposes first to show them, that this originated from a party with whom they would not willingly be identified ; secondly, that it would be powerless for the suppression of scandalous, seditious, and libellous books; and lastly that it would operate for the discouragement of all learning, and the effectual obstruction of national progress in every department of knowledge both secular and sacred.
But while advocating the liberty of the press, Milton wisely guarded himself from approving an unseemly and dangerous license. “I deny not,” he says,
“ but that it is of greatest concernment in the church and commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors; for books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a progeny of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon's teeth ; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.
And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image ; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth ; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. It is true, no age can restore a life, whereof, perhaps, there is no great loss; and revolutions of ages do
oft recover the loss a rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.
We should be wary,
therefore, what persecutions we raise against the living labours of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man, preserved and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyr
and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at the ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of reason itself; and slays an immortality rather than a life.”
Milton next presents an historical sketch of the restrictions which from the earliest ages of literature had been laid upon books. He shows that in Athens, these were confined to writings of a blasphemous or libellous character; that in Sparta no such control was exercised; that in ancient Rome an almost entire freedom was allowed during the commonwealth. He states, however, that libels were burnt, and the makers punished by Augustus, and adds, “ The like severity, no doubt, was used, if aught were impiously written against their esteemed gods. Except in these two points, how the world went in books, the magistrate kept no reckoning.”+
* Prose Works, vol. ii., p. 55.
+ Milton would appear in this instance to have forgotten the suppression of the licentious chorus in the Greek Drama thus mentioned by Horace:
"Successit vetus his Comedia, non sine multâ
Epist. ad Pis. ver. 281–284. The testimony of Tacitus also, widely differs from Milton's statement touching the restraints on the expression of opinion, whether oral or written, during the earlier period of the Roman empire. In his exquisite biography of Agricola, he says :-" Legimus, cum Aruleno Rustico Paetus Thrasea, Herennio Senecioni Priscus Helvidius laudati essent, capitale fuisse : neque in ipsos modo auctores, sed in libros quoque eorum saevitum, delegato tri ris ministerio, monumenta clarissimorum ingeniorum in comitio ac foro urerentur. Scilicet illo igne vocem Populi Romani et libertatem Senatûs et