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well was becoming the recognised head, and who were called by the general name of the Independents. It was the leading principle of this party, or combination of parties, to oppose the too rigorous establishment of that system of Presbyterian Church Government and Discipline, after the Scottish model, which had been decreed in England by the Long Parliament, and in part carried into effect, after the abolition of Episcopacy. It was their effort, at all events, to secure that, if this system were permanently established by the majority as the national English system, there should be room under it for freedom of conscience and worship for the dissenting minority, Gradually the notion of a toleration of Independents and other Sects within certain limits under the established Presbyterianism was gaining ground in Parliament, chiefly in consequence of the power of the Parliamentarian Army, which was composed largely of Independents, Baptists, and more extreme Sectaries; but the rigid Presbyterians, and especially the Presbyterian Divines of the Westminster Assembly, and most especially the small group of Scottish Divines who sat in that Assembly as assessors to their English brethren, were loud in their denunciations of the arch-heresy of Toleration, as they called it, and their calls for a suppression of all Sects and the enforcement of an absolute Presbyterian uniformity by the civil power. It is against these claims of strict Presbyterian supremacy that Milton speaks out in the present piece of verse. He intended it to be what may be called an Anti-Presbyterian and Pro-Toleration Sonnet; and the first fourteen lines, it may be observed, really do make a Sonnet. But, when he had reached the fourteenth line, Milton had not packed in all he meant to say; and so he adds six lines more of jagged verse, converting the piece into a kind of Sonnet with a scorpion's tail to it. There were precedents for such “sonnets with tails” in Italian poetry. Although not published till 1673, the piece was probably in private circulation, and doing service for Independency and Liberty of Conscience, from 1646 onwards. The allusions in it, and especially the personalities, need explanation. It will be given in the Notes.
SONNET XIII : “ To MR. H. LAWES, ON HIS Airs."
One of the Cambridge drafts of this Sonnet fixes its date as Feb. 9, 1645-6. That draft is headed “To my Friend, Mr. Henry Lawes : Feb. 9, 1645," and signed “J. M."; the other draft, though also in Milton's hand, bears this heading in another, “To Mr. Hen. Lawes, on the publishing of his Aires.” Actually, the Sonnet first appeared in print, with Milton's name attached, as one of a few pieces of eulogistic verse prefixed to a volume published by Moseley in 1648 and entitled Choice Psalmes put into Musick for three voices: composed by Henry and William Lawes, Brothers, and Servants to His Majestie.
Milton's friendship from his boyhood with the musician Henry Lawes, and the main facts of that interesting person's life till his co-operation with Milton in the production of the Arcades at Harefield, and of Comus at Ludlow, have been recorded in the Introductions to those two poems. We have now to add that, in the intervening years, the reputation of Lawes in his art had been steadily growing, till there was perhaps no musical composer of his time more generally known and liked. Still retaining, in association with his brother William, his position as one of the King's musicians and gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, and still connected by special professional engagements with the Bridgewater family, he had done much work in the way of setting to music songs by Carew, Herrick, Waller, Cartwright, and other popular poets. These songs of Lawes were favourites in English households, and the poets whose words were thus recommended by his airs could not thank him enough. There are verses by Herrick and others in which affectionate mention is made of “Harry” and his musical skill. And so the publisher Moseley, or perhaps Milton himself, in bringing out the first edition of Milton's Poems in 1645, did not forget that Lawes's name might be an advantage to the volume. * The Songs were set in Musick by Mr. Henry Lawes, Gentleman of the King's Chappel, and one of His Majesties private Musick,” was the announcement on the title-page, referring to the songs in Arcades and Comus, and perhaps to others in the volume; and in the body of the volume was reprinted Lawes's Dedication of Comus to Lord Brackley. Clearly, therefore, Milton's intimacy with Lawes had not been interrupted even by the Civil War and the division of all Englishmen into Royalists and Parliamentarians. By his position, if not from his artistic temperament, Lawes was a Royalist; and indeed his brother William had been slain
in the King's cause at the siege of Chester (1645), greatly to the King's grief, who is said to have put on private mourning for him. Not the less had Henry Lawes, who remained in London, his meetings with his old friend Milton, when they would lay politics aside and agree in Music. SONNET XIV. : “ON THE RELIGIOUS MEMORY OF MRS.
CATHERINE THOMSON, MY CHRISTIAN FRIEND, DE
CEASED 16 DECEMB. 1646.” The Sonnet itself, with its heading, which does not occur in the printed volume, but is taken from the Cambridge MS., supplies all the information we have respecting the person addressed. Phillips, indeed, mentions that, some time in 1649, Milton “ lodged at one Thomson's, next door to the Bull Head Tavern at Charing Cross, opening into the Spring Garden”; and it has been supposed that the Mrs. Catherine Thomson who died in 1646 may have been one of the Charing Cross family with whom Milton thus afterwards lodged. This is mere guess. Thomson, then, as now, was a very common name in London. SONNET XV. : “ ON THE LORD GENERAL FAIRFAX AT
THE SIEGE OF COLCHESTER.” The Siege of Colchester in Essex lasted from the 15th of June to the 28th of August 1648, and was one of the most memorable incidents of what is called “the Second Civil War,” i.e. of that spasmodic new rising of the English and Scottish Royalists on behalf of Charles I., then a prisoner in the Isle of Wight, which it required all the energy of Fairfax, the Parliamentarian commander-in-chief, and of Cromwell, his lieutenant-general, to put down, and which led very speedily to the King's trial and doom. While Cromwell managed the northern department of the war, meeting and beating the Duke of Hamilton and the Royalist Scots and English at Preston, Fairfax in person superintended the siege of Colchester ; which town had been seized for the King, and was defended by the Earl of Norwich, Lord Capel, Sir Charles Lucas, Sir George Lisle, and other Royalist chiefs. As Fairfax offered quarter only to the soldiers, but required the leaders to surrender at discretion, the defence was desperate, and both the garrison and the townspeople were reduced to the last straits of starvation, having to eat grass and the flesh of horses, cats, and dogs. When the surrender did take place, Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle were tried by court-martial, and immediately shot, as released prisoners of war who had broken their parole to the Parliament in again taking arms for the King. The Earl of Norwich and Lord Capel were left to the mercy of Parliament ; and Lord Capel was afterwards executed. The taking of Colchester was heard of with triumph by the Parliamentarians throughout England, and went as an addition to the renown of Fairfax acquired by his many actions since he had been made Parliamentary commander-in-chief in December 1644. Milton, in this Sonnet, expresses the general feeling of the hour, not only about the particular victory, but also about the character of Fairfax and England's further hopes from him. Although Fairfax afterwards retired from his connexion with the Commonwealth, and even cooperated at last in the Restoration, this Sonnet to him savoured too much of pre-Restoration politics to be allowable in Milton's edition of his Minor Poems in 1673. It was first published by Phillips in 1694, at the end of his memoir of Milton.
SONNET XVI. : “ TO THE LORD GENERAL CROMWELL,
MAY 1652 : ON THE PROPOSALS OF CERTAIN
Milton's admiration of Cromwell is attested by many proofs, and, amongst them, by a long and impassioned outburst of Latin eulogium in the Defensio Secunda. No two men, I believe, were more essentially like-minded, more one at heart in their thoughts about the great problems of the English nation at that time, than the two whom fate had drawn together in such different capacities,-Cromwell, the supreme soldier and man of action, raised at length to be the ruler ; Milton, the poet and idealist, brought beside this ruler as a scholarly official. The Sonnet under notice, however, is not, as the mere title “ To Cromwell” sometimes given to it might lead one to imagine, Milton's estimate of Cromwell from the whole of his career, or even after Milton's Secretaryship to him singly had begun. It is an address by Milton to Cromwell at a particular moment of Cromwell's career and
on a particular occasion. The date was May 1652. Cromwell was not yet Protector, though he was the first man in the Republic, and they were proposing to make him its head. Since the execution of the King, and the establishment of the Commonwealth under the government of the Parliament with a Council of State, he had been away in Ireland, as LordLieutenant of that country, trampling down its long Rebellion and reducing it to order (1649-50); he had also been in Scotland, and had fought the Battle of Dunbar (Sept. 3, 1650) there, and taken other measures which, when followed up by the crowning victory of Worcester (Sept. 3, 1651), utterly ruined the cause of Charles II. in Scotland, as well as in England, and united both parts of the island in one Commonwealth. These were the acts of Cromwell freshest in men's minds, and he had been again in London through the winter of 1651-2, when the Sonnet was written. The Sonnet breathes the feeling of many at that hour with respect to him. Now that he was at home again, would not things be better managed than they had been in his absence by the persistent Rump of the Long Parliament and the Council of State ? Especially in matters of Religion was not fresh zeal necessary ? Throughout England and Wales, or in many parts of them, Church matters were in chaos,— Presbyterian ministers here and Independents there, mixed with the wrecks of the old parish clergy ; no regular arrangement for the provision of ministers ; disputes as to the method of such provision, whether by a common fund out of the tithes, or by voluntary contribution without tithes at all ; many districts meanwhile in spiritual destitution for want of fit pastors and preachers. For the consideration of such questions and the remedying of such evils there had been appointed a Parliamentary “ Committee for the Propagation of the Gospel”; and this Committee seems to have been in unusual activity after Cromwell's return. There was then some new form of the controversy respecting a State Church and endowments for the clergy, and the Presbyterian ministers more especially seemed to their enemies to be trying to get for themselves all the property that had belonged to the abolished Prelatic Church. It was expected that Cromwell, whose sympathies had been with the Independents and Sectaries, would have something to say to this; and Milton's Sonnet expresses that expectation. It hints even Milton's hope that Cromwell