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tious, and tyrannical designs, for the enslaving and destruction both of the bodies and souls of all the free people of this nation. III. Because licensing is as great a monopoly as ever was in this nation, in that all men's judgments, reasons, &c., are to be bound up in the licenser's (as to licensing); for if the author of any sheet, book, or treatise, write not to please the fancy, and come within the compass of the licenser's judgment, then he is not to receive any stamp of authority for publishing thereof. IV. Because it is lawful (in his judgment) to print any book, sheet, &c., without licensing, so as the author and printers do subscribe their true names thereunto, that so they may be liable to answer the contents thereof; and if they offend therein, then to be punished by such laws as are or shall be for those cases provided. A committee of the council of state being satisfied with these and other reasons of Mr. Mabbot concerning licensing, the council of state reports to the house: upon which the house ordered this day that the said Mr. Mabbot be discharged of licensing books for the future.”
MILTON's sonNETS-DOMESTIC INCIDENTS-CONDUCT OF THE PRESByTERIANs—PUBLICATION OF “THE TENURE OF KINGS AND MAGIsTRATEs”—EULOGIES ON FAIRFAx, VANE, AND BRADshAw—ANALYSIs of THE TREATIsł, on “THE TENURE OF KING's AND MAGISTRATES.”
THE year 1645 constitutes an interval in which we find Milton refreshing his mind after a campaign of controversy with the more congenial pursuits of imaginative literature. He now published, with his name, an edition of all his English, Latin, and Italian poems. Of the twenty-three sonnets which Milton has left us, only ten were published in this volume, the rest having been produced subsequently. Dr. Johnson says, that “they do not deserve any particular criticism, for of the best it can only be said, that they are not bad; and perhaps only the eighth and the twenty-first are truly entitled to this slender commendation. The fabric of a sonnet, however adapted to the Italian language, has never succeeded in ours, which having greater variety of termination requires the rhymes to be often changed.” Alluding once in conversation to the inferiority of Milton's sonnets to the other efforts of his muse, Dr. Johnson characteristically observed, “Milton was a genius that could carve a Colossus from a rock, but could not cut heads upon cherry stones;” and there can be no doubt that such a mind as his moved with unwonted constraint under the fetters imposed by the frequent rhymes essential to the construction of the sonnet. It is, indeed, best adapted to the language of Italy, in which it is indigenous, and does not arrive at perfection when cultivated in any other soil. Mr. Macaulay takes a different and somewhat novel view of these publications. “Traces,” he says, “of the peculiar character of Milton may be found in all his works, but it is most strongly displayed in the sonnets. Those remarkable poems have been underrated by critics who have not understood their nature. They have no epigrammatic point. There is none of the ingenuity of Filicaga in the thought—none of the hard and brilliant enamel of Petrarch in the style. They are simple but majestic records of the feelings of the poet; as little tricked out for the public eye as his diary would have been. A victory, an unexpected attack upon the city, amomentary fit of depression or exultation, a jest thrown out against one of his books, a dream which for a short time restored to him that beautiful face over which the grave had closed for ever, led him to musings which, without effort, shaped themselves into verse. The unity of sentiment and severity of style which characterise these little pieces remind us of the Greek Anthology, or, perhaps, still more, of the Collects of the English Liturgy. The noble poem on the Massacres of Piedmont, is strictly a collect in verse. “The sonnets are more or less striking according as the occasions which gave birth to them are more or less interesting. But they are almost without exception dignified by a sobriety and greatness of mind to which we know not where to look for a parallel. It would, indeed, be scarcely safe to draw any decided inferences as to the character of a writer, from passages directly egotistical. But the qualities which we have ascribed to Milton, though, perhaps, most strongly marked in those parts of his works which treat of his personal feelings, are distinguishable in every page, and impart to all his writings, prose and poetry, English, Latin, and Italian, a strong family likeness.” Of the sonnets thus specially referred to by these critics, the two following must suffice as specimens. The former was written when an assault on the city was anticipated, the royal forces having advanced as near to it as Brentford.
“Captain, or Colonel, or Knight in arms,
The second is addressed to the Lord General Cromwell, and is as follows:— “Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud, Not of war only, but detractions rude, Guided by faith and matchless fortitude, To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough'd, And on the neck of crowned Fortune proud Hast rear'd God's trophies, and his work pursued; While Darwen stream, with blood of Scots imbued, And Dunbar field resounds thy praises loud, And Worcester's laureat wreath. Yet much remains To conquer still; Peace hath her victories No less renown'd than War: ; new foes arise Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains. Help us to save free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw.”
In the year 1646, the wife of Milton gave birth to her * Edinburgh Review, vol. xlii. pp. 324, 325. + Milton evidently had in his mind Horace's Ode to Censorinus.
Carminum. Lib. iv., od. 8.
first daughter, Anne, who, from some cause unknown, was lame either from her birth or from very early childhood. In the following year occurred the death of his aged and only surviving parent. About the same time his wife's family were restored to the possession of their patrimonial estates, and finally quitted the roof beneath which they had been so generously sheltered. While detailing the few particulars which we possess of Milton's private life at this time, it may be added, that in 1647 his family was increased by the birth of his second daughter, Mary; and that, in the same year, for what reason is not known, he removed from his house in Barbican to one in Holborn, the back part of which opened into Lincoln’s-inn-fields. Meanwhile, public events were occurring of sufficient magnitude to influence the complexion of this country's constitution and destiny, even to the days in which we live, but in which the privacy of Milton's position did not allow of his taking an active part. The civil war had been virtually terminated by the battle of Naseby, and the misguided monarch was from this time a captive; his condition being only varied by the different degrees of liberty which the caution of his victors, justified by a life of faithlessness and falsehood, inclined them to concede. “They had to deal with a man whom no tie could bind; a man who made and broke promises with equal facility; a man whose honour had been a hundred times pawned, and never redeemed.” The essential duplicity of his character marked every act of that brief period of probation which intervened between the final defeat of his arms and the termination of his career. The leaders of the Parliament and the army, alike wearied out and disgusted with his violation of every agreement which the public safety required him to enter into, arraigned him before the Parliament, and convicted and sentenced him to the death of a traitor. The presbyterians, now removed from power, in a spirit worthy of their recent history, endangered the public