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Their hydra heads, and the false North displays
Her broken league to imp their serpent-wings.
Till truth and right from violence be freed,
Of public fraud.). In vain doth Valour bleed,
TO THE LORD GENERAL CROMWELL.k
Not of war only,' but detractions rude,
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough’d,
Hast rear'd God's trophies, and his work pursued;
And Dunbar field resounds thy praises loud,
To conquer still; Peace hath her victories
h Her broken league. Because the English parliament held, that the Scotch had broken their covenant, by Hamilton's march into England.--HURD.
i To imp their serpent-rings. In falconry, to imp a feather in a hawk's wing, is to add a new piece to a mutilated stump. From the Saxon impan, to ingraft.-— T. Warton.
j Of public fraud. The preshyterian committees and sub-committees. The grievance so much complained of by Milton in his “ History of England.” “Publick fraud” is opposed to
publiek faith," the security given by the parliament to the city contributions for carying on the war.–WARBURTON.
* Written in 1652. The prostitution of Milton's Muse to the celebration of Cromwell, was as inconsistent and unworthy, as that this eneiny to kings, to ancient magnificence, and to all that is venerable and majestic, should have been buried in the chapel of Henry VII. ; but there is great dignity both of sentiment and expression in this Sonnet: and, unfortunately, the close is an anticlimax to both. After a long flow of perspicuous and nervous language, the unexpected pause at “Worcester's laureat wreath,” is very emphatical and has a striking effect.-T. WARTon.
1 Not of war only. A"cloud of war" is a classical expression: “Nubem belli,” Virg. "Æn." x. 809.NEWTON.
m Crowned Fortune. His malignity to kings aided his imagination in the expression of this sublime sentiment.--IIURD.
n While Darwen stream. The Darwen, or Derwen, is a small river near Preston in Lancashire; and there Cromwell routed the Scotch army under Duke Hamilton in August 1648. The battles of Dunbar and Worcester are too well known to be particularized; both fought on the memorable third of September, the one in 1650, and the other in 1651.-Newton.
o And Worcester's laureat wreath. This seems pretty, but is inexact in this place. However, the expression alludes to what Cromwell said of his success at Worcester, that it was his “crowning mercy."HURD.
Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains.P
Help us to save free conscience from the paw
in years, but in sage counsel old,
This hemistich originally stood, " And twenty battles more." Such are often our first thoughts in a fine passage. I take it, that one of the essential beauties of the Sonnet is often to carry the pauses into the middle of the lines. Of this our author has given many striking examples, and here we discern the writer whose ear was tuned to blank verse.-T. WARTON.
p Secular chains. The ministers moved Cromwell to lend the secular arms to suppress sectaries.—WARBURTOX.
9 Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maio. Hence it appears that this Sonnet was written about May 1652. By “hireling wolves," he means the presbyterian clergy, who possessed the revenues of the parochial benefices on the old constitution, and whose conformity he supposes to be founded altogether on motives of emolument. There was now no end of innovation and reformation. In 1649, it was proposed in parliament to abolish tithes, as Jewish and antichristian, and as they were authorized only by the ceremonial law of Moses, which was abrogated by the gospel : but as the proposal tended to endanger lay-impropriations, the notion of their divine right was allowed to have some weight, and the business was postponed. This was an argument in which Selden bad abused his great learning. Milton's party were of opinion, that as every parish should elect, so it should respectively sustain, its own minister by public contribution: others proposed to throw the tithes of the whole kingdom into one common stock, and to distribute them according to the size of the parishes: some of the independents urged, that Christ's ministers should have no settled property at all, but be like the apostles, who were sent out to preach without staff or scrip, without common necessaries ; to whom Christ said, “Lacked ye anything?" A succession of miracles was therefore to be worked, to prevent the saints from starving. Milton's praise of Cromwell may be thought inconsistent with that zeal which he professed for liberty; for Cromwell's assumption of the protectorate, even if we allow the lawfulness of the rebellion, was palpably a violent usurpation of power over the rights of the nation, and was reprobated even by the republican party. Milton, however, in various parts of the “ Defensio Secunda," gives excellent admonitions to Cromwell, and with great spirit, freedom, and eloquence, not to abuse his new authority; yet not without an intermixture of the grossest adulation. --T. WARTON.
Perhaps written about the time of the last, having the same tendency. Sir Henry Vane the younger was the chief of the independents, and therefore Milton's friend: he was the contriver of the solemn league and covenant: he was an eccentric character, in an age of eccentric characters. In religion the most fantastic of all enthusiasts, and a weak writer, he was a judicious and sagacious politician: the warmth of his zeal never misled his public measures : he was a knight-errant in everything but affairs of state. The sagacious bishop Burnet in vain attempted to penetrate the darkness of his creed. He held, that the devils and the damned would be saved: he believed himself the person delegated by God to reign over the saints upon earth for a thousand years. His principles founded a sect called the Vanists. On the whole, no singlo man ever exbibited such a medley of fanaticism and dissimulation, solid abilities and visionary delusions, good sense and madness. In the pamphlets of that age he is called Sir Humorous Vanity. He was beheaded 1662. On the scaffold, he compared Tower Hill to Mount Pisgah, where Moses went to die, in full assurance of being immediately placed at the right hand of Christ. Milton alludes to the execution of Vane and other regicides, after the Restoration, and in general to the sufferings of his friends on that event, in á speech of the Chorus on Samson's degradation, “Sams. Agon.” v. 687. This Sonnet seems to have been written in behalf of the independents against the presbyterian hierarchy.-T. WARTON.
Whether to settle peace or to unfold
The drift of hollow states hard to be spell’d;
Move by her two main nerves, iron and gold,
Both spiritual power and civil, what each means,
What severs each, thou hast learn'd, which few have done :
Therefore on thy firm hand Religion leans
Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold;
When all our fathers worship'd stocks and stones, a
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
s Holloro states.
In 1655, the Duke of Savoy determined to compel his reformed subjects in the val. leys of Piedmont, to embrace popery, or quit their country; all who remained and refused to be converted, with their wives and children, suffered a most barbarous massacre: those who escaped fled into the mountains, from whence they sent agents into England to Cromwell for relief. He instantly commanded a general fast, and promoted a national contribution, in which near £40,000 were collected. The persecution was suspended, the duke recalled his army, and the surviving inhabitants of the Piedmontese valleys were reinstated in their cottages, and the peaceable exercise of their religion. On this business there are several state-letters in Cromwell's name written by Milton. One of them is to the Duke of Savoy, and is published in his “ Prose Works." Milton's mind, busied with this affecting subject, here broke forth in a strain of poetry, where his feelings were not fettered by ceremony or formality. The protestants availed themselves of an opportunity of exposing the horrors of popery, by publishing many sets of prints of this unparalleled scene of religious butchery, which operated like Fox's “ Book of Martyrs." Sir William Moreland, Cromwell's agent for the valleys of Piedmont, at Geneva, published a minute account of this whole transaction, in "The History of the Valleys of Piemont, &c. Lond. 1658," fol., with numerous cuts. Milton, among many other atrocious examples of the papal spirit, appeals to this massacre, in Cromwell's letter to king Charles Gustavus, dat. 1656. “ Testes Alpinæ valles miserorum cæde ac sanguine redundantes," &c.-T. WARTON.
u Ev'n them who kept thy truth 80 pure of old,
When all our fathers worship'd stocks and stones. It is pretended that, when the church of Rome became corrupt, they preserved the primitive apostolical Christianity; and that they have manuscripts against the papal antichrist and purgatory, as old as 1120. See their history by Paul Perrin, Genev, 1619. Their poverty and seclusion from the rest of the world for so many ages, contributed in great measure to this simplicity of worship. In his pamphlet, “The likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of Churches," against endowing churches with tithes, our author frequently refers to the happy poverty and purity of the Waldenses. -T. WARTON.
v That roll'd
Mother with infant down the rocks. There is a print of this piece of cruelty in Moreland. He relates that “a mother was hurled down a mighty rock, with a little infant in her arms; and three days after, was found dead with the little childe alive, but fast clasped between the arms of the
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To Heaven. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
A hundred fold, who, having learn'd thy way,
ON HIS BLINDNESS.
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
My true account, lest He, returning, chide;
I fondly ask: but Patience, to prevent
Either man's work, or his own gifts;a who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best: his state
And post o'er land and ocean without rest :
TO MR. LAWRENCE.
Now that the fields are dank, and ways are mire,
dead mother which were cold and stiffe, insomuch that those who found them had much ado to get the young childe out.” P. 363.-T. Wartox.
w Babylonian woe. Antichrist.--WARBURTON.
x And that one talent which is death to hide. He speaks here with allusion to the parable of the talents, Matt. xxv., and he speaks with great modesty of himself, as if he had not five, or two, but only one talent.Newton.
y Doth God exact day-labour, light denied ? Here is a pun on the doctrine in the gospel, that we are to work only while it is light, and in the night no man can work. There is an ambiguity between the natural light of the day, and the author's blindness.-T. WARTON.
z Man's work, or his own gifts. Free-will or grace.-T. WARTON.
a Stand and wait. My own opinion is that this is the noblest of Milton's Sonnets.
b Larorence, of virtuous father virtuous son, &c. Of the “virtuous son,” nothing has transpired: the “virtuous father," Henry Law. rence, was member for Hertfordshire in the little parliament which began in 1653, and was active in settling the protectorate of Cromwell. In consequence of his services, he was made president of Cromwell's council; where he appears to have signed many severe and arbitrary decrees, not only against the royalists, but the Brownists, fifthmonarchy men, and other sectarists. He continued high in favour with Richard Cromwell. As innovation is progressive, perhaps the son, Milton's friend, was an independent and a still warmer republican. The family appears to have been seated not
Where shall we sometimes meet, and by the fire
Help waste a sullen day, what may be won
On smoother, till Favonius reinspire
far from Milton's neighbourhood in Buckinghamshire : for Henry Lawrence's near relation, William Lawrence, a writer, and appointed a judge in Scotland by Cromwell, and who was in 1631 a gentleman commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, died at Bedfont near Staines in Middlesex, in 1682. Hence, says Milton, v. 2:
Now that the fields are dank, and ways are inire,
Where shall we sometimes meet, &c. Milton, in his first “Reply to More," written 1654, recites among the most respectable of his friends, who contributed to form the commonwealth,-"Montacutium, Laurentium, summo ingenio ambos, optimisque artibus expositas," &c. See Milton's " Proso Works." Where by “Montacutium” we are to understand Edward Montague, Earl of Manchester; who, while Lord Kimbolton, was one of the members of the house of coinmong impeached by the king, and afterwards a leader in the rebellion. I believe they both deserved this panegyric.-T. WARTON.
Mr. Warton is mistaken in saying that of the virtuous son' nothing has transpired." This Henry Lawrence, the “virtuous son," is the author of a work, of which I am in possession, suited to Milton's taste; on the subject of which, I make no doubt, he and the author “ by the fire helped to waste many a sullen day.” It is entitled, “Of our Communion and Warre with Angels, &c." Printed Anno Dom. 1646, 4to. 189 pages. The dedication is “To my Most deare and Most honoured Mother, the Lady Larrence.” I suppose him also to be the same Henry Lawrence, who printed " A Vindication of the Scriptures and Christian Ordivances," 1649, Lond. 4to.--TODD.
See “Gentleman's Magazine," about 1825, for the Lawrence pedigree, furnished by Sir James Lawrence, then resident at Paris. This lineal descendant of the subject of Milton's panegyric has also communicated to the publisher the following important and interesting information on the same subject :
“Henry Lawrence, of whose family and descent a long account is inserted in the Gent. Mag.' for July 1815, was the eldest son of Sir John Lawrence, of St. Ives in Huntingdonshire, by Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Ralph Waller, Esq., of Clerkenwell, of the Beaconsfield family, who took to her second husband Robert Bathurst of Lecklade, and was the mother of Sir Edward Bathurst, created a baronet 1643. He was educated at Emmanuel-college, and represented Westmoreland in the Long Parliament: having retired into Holland, he published at Amsterdam, in 1646, a book,
Of our Communion and Warre with Angels,' and another book of Baptism.' Ho afterwards represented Hertfordshire; was a lord of the other house; and after the abdication of Richard Cromwell, continued president of the council of state. He married Ame, daughter of that inveterate antagonist of the house of Stuart, Sir Edward Peyton, of Iselbam, in Cambridgeshire, Bart., by whom he had seven sons and six daughters. He died in 1664, and was buried at St. Margaret's Hertfordshire.
"Henry, the eldest, was the virtuous son:' for in a political squib, printed 1660, called 'The Receipts and Disbursements of the Committee of Safety,' we find,— Item, reimbursed to the said Lord Lawrence several sums of money, which his eldest son had squandered away on poets and dedications to his ingenuity, to the value of five hundred pounds more. Item, paid for three great saddles for the Lord Lawrence's son, and for provender for his lofty steeds, ever since the Protector's political death, five hundred pounds. Item, paid for a pound of May butter made of a cow's inilk that fed on Hermon Hill, given to the said Lady Lawrence for pious uses, 871. 168.' Henry died 1679. His son, Sir Edward Lawrence of St. Ives, was created a baronet in January, 1749, and died in May following. Martha, one of the president's daughters, married Richard, 1 Earl of Barrymore, and was married to his successor, Lawrence, Earl of Barrymore; John Lawrence, a younger son, left England with James Bradshaw, a nephew of the judge, and settled in Jamaica, where James Bradshaw, after having been president of the Assembly, died in 1699; and John Lawrence, who died 1690, was great-grandfather to the present Sir James Lawrence, Knight of Malta."
c That neither sow'd nor spun. Alluding, as Dr. Newton observes, to Mat. vi. 26, 28: “They sow not, neither de they spin." And compare ver. 30, with the preceding hemistich.-TODD.