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instance of heights and declensions, of lights and shadows, of misery and folly, of laughter and tears, of groans
I have seen a lark rising from his bed of grass,
and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds; but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest, than it could recover by the vibration and frequent weighing of his wings, till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was uver; and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing, as if it had learned music and motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the air, about his ministries here below. So is the prayer of a good man.
John Milton. Born, 1608 : died, 1674.
to what he thus acquired, he added still more, the result of
foreign travel. His earliest writings were poems; of which L' Allegro and Il
Penseroso, Comus, and Lycidas, were the chief. The middle period of his life was occupied with prose controversy; and the last with his greatest work Paradise Lost, and its sequel
Paradise Regained ; and with the drama of Samson Agonistes. In Paradise Lost and its sequel he has discarded rhyme, and given us the most splendid specimen of blank verse in the language.
1.- FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.
I DENY not, but that it is of greatest concernment in the Church and Commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well as and, thereafter to confine, in prison, 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 not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth; for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.
We should be wary, therefore, what persecution 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 martyrdom : 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 æthereal and fifth essence, the breath of Reason itself; slays an Immortality rather than a life.
II.-A NATION IN ITS STRENGTH. Lords and Commons of England ! Consider what nation it is, whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the governors : a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious, and piercing spirit; acute to invent, subtile and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point, the highest that human capacity can soar to. Therefore, the studies of learning in her deepest science have been so ancient, and so eminent, among us, that writers of good antiquity and able judgement, have been persuaded, that even the school of Pythagoras, and the Persian wisdom, took beginnings from the old philosophy of this Island.
Behold, now, this vast city, a city of refuge, the mansion-house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with God's protection; the shop of war hath not there more anvils and hammers working, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas, wherewith to present as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation; others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement. What could a man require more from a nation so pliant and so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly and pregnant soil, but wise and faithful labourers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies? We reckon more than five months yet to harvest; there need not be five weeks, had we but the eyes to lift up : the fields are white already. Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion, in good men, is but knowledge in the making. Under these fantastic terrors of sect and schism, we wrong the earnest and zealous thirst after knowledge and understanding, which God hath stirred up in this city. What some lament of, we should rather rejoice at, should rather praise this pious forwardness among
men, to re-assume the ill-deputed care of their religion into their own hands again. A little generous prudence, a little forbearance of one another, and some grain of charity, might win all these diligences to join and unito into one general and brotherly search after truth · could we but forego this tradition of crowding free consciences and Christian liberties into canons and precepts of men. doubt not, if some great and worthy stranger should come among us, wise to discern the mould and temper of a people, and how to govern it; observing the high hopes and aims, the diligent alacrity of our extended thoughts and reasoning in the pursuance of truth and freedom: but that he would cry out, as Pyrrhus did, admiring the Roman docility and courage; “ If such were my Epirots, I would not despair the greatest design that could be attempted to make a church or kingdom happy !"
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, mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled 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 flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms. What should ye do then, should ye suppress all this flowery crop of knowledge and new light, sprung up, and yet springing daily in this city?