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labours for God and his country during these twenty years of strife.
Through all these years the word which is most frequent and most sacred in his writings is Liberty. He consoles himself for his blindness by the consciousness that his eyes have failed,
In Liberty's defence, my noble task,
Whereof all Europe rings from side to side."
In another place he speaks of himself as vindicating the rights of the English nation, and consequently, those of Liberty.
In a passage which reveals at once the beauty and the breadth of his patriotism, he identifies his cause with that of the free in every nation. "Here I behold the stout and manly prowess of the German disdaining servitude; there the generous and lively impetuosity of the French; on this side the calm and stately valour of the Spaniard ; on that, the composed and wary magnanimity of the Italian. Of all lovers of liberty and virtue, the magnanimous and the wise, in whatever quarter they may be found, some secretly favour, others openly approve. . . Surrounded by congregated multitudes, I now imagine that from the columns of Hercules to the Indian Ocean, I behold the nations of the earth recovering that liberty which they so long had lost; and the people of this island are transporting to other countries a plant of more beneficial qualities, a more noble growth, than that which Triptolemus is reported to have carried from region to region; that they are disseminating the blessings of freedom and civilization among citizens, kingdoms and nations." Though Milton and Cromwell were aiming at substantially the same objects, the first idea before the poet's mind was figured as liberty, that before the Protector's was to forward the work of Reformation.
But liberty to Milton meant something different from
In his last effort to
the ideal of the modern democrat. avert the ruin of all his hopes and the restoration of monarchy, he displays a nervous distrust of the multitude, and his Free Commonwealth is under the control of a close and permanent oligarchy. Venice and not Athens is his model. He has no sympathy with what is in fact the wholly illogical assumption, that democracy and liberty have necessarily any connection, or that the tyranny of a majority is likely to be milder than that of a despot. He writes in one of his sonnets, with deep political insight :
They bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
For who loves that, must first be wise and good."
On the whole, he thinks his oligarchy is likely to be wiser and better than an uneducated multitude, swept along by every gust of passion, and that his Free Commonwealth is the fittest to maintain freedom, liberty of conscience, and the chance for every man to rise in the State according to his merits. Cassandra did not plead more earnestly, nor to a deafer audience, than he who had foregone the light of day in a ruined cause.
It was to England as a Protestant republic that Milton's devotion had been given, and he could not serve the ends of an England given up to the Devil. His letter to General Monk is a desperate appeal, that the good work be not abandoned at the last hour. He might as well have pleaded with a stone. Moloch in the form of Rupert, Belial in that of the King himself, came back to lord it over England. All was over; every sacrifice, even that of light itself, seemed to have been squandered in vain. The glad morning hopes were scattered for ever; the solemn thanksgivings and hallelujahs of saints were drowned in songs of mirth and ribaldry, the triumph of fiends. All thoughts of an Arthuriad were banished, and
the blind poet turned in his agony to an epic of the universe. Throughout "Paradise Lost" there is little, except the language, to tell us that Milton was an Englishman at all, or that such a thing as patriotism existed. He had fallen on evil days and evil tongues, and perhaps he felt less desolate on the burning marl of hell than in the green fields of England.
In "Paradise Regained," however, when the first bitterness has, as we may surmise, grown dull, something of the old spirit reappears, for our Saviour is depicted as a patriot, Who could proudly maintain His country's claim to stand for an intellectual and artistic eminence higher than that of Greece. In "Samson Agonistes," the sunset of Milton's genius, there can be no doubt that to some extent, at any rate, he had himself in mind in depicting the hero's character. How otherwise can we explain that almost unendurable cry:
“O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon!"
But it may be affirmed with equal certainty, that he could not have had himself in mind all the time. It is inconceivable that the reproaches with which Samson overwhelms himself could have been applied by Milton to his own conduct. A different interpretation suggests itself, and it may not, perhaps, be too fanciful to surmise that Milton was recurring to his image of a strong man arousing himself out of sleep. Samson was the English nation, or rather the elect remnant of it, the chosen of God, who had beaten down their enemies through His grace at Naseby, at Dunbar, at Santa Cruz, but who had allowed themselves to be betrayed into casting away their strength, and who were being vexed in their captivity more and more every day. Was he cheered, on the brink of the grave, by a vision of the day when the saints of God, purified seven times in the fire, should cast off their chains and resume their power, and involve the whole
realm, priest and Cavalier and Puritan alike, in one common ruin? Certain it is that to Milton, Charles II and his Government were not fellow-countrymen, but Philistines, wicked men whom God had devoted to everlasting torments-no conception of patriotism could include them. Of Milton's final attitude we may judge from the lines:
“Happen what may, from me expect to hear
Milton's point of view has much in common with that of another patriot, the republican, Algernon Sidney. His book on Government is a plea for liberty. Patriotism and the prosperity of nations are bound up with it. The glory of Rome was in direct proportion to the amount of liberty she enjoyed, her decline dates from the time of the usurper Augustus Cæsar. Freedom is a gift of God and nature, and the revolt of a whole nation cannot be called rebellion. The best government is that which provides for the good, not of the governors, but of the people, in order that "the people, being pleased with their present position, may be filled with love for their country, and encouraged boldly to fight for the public cause, which is their own." Sidney, in fact, takes a militant view of the state, and declares that the best Government is the one best prepared for war.
This brings us to a characteristic which colours the doctrines of even the most fervent Puritans, with the exception of the Quakers. This is the admiration for strength, for the strong man. This instinct, which has been hailed as an original discovery, and nicknamed natural selection, is, in fact, as old as thought. Sidney's argument about the Romans was that of Dante's "De Monarchia," as it was to be that of Nietzsche. In the seventeenth century it had a wide vogue. The belief in a strong central power had by no means perished with the
Tudor system, nor was it inconsistent with the idea of a more spiritual discipline, and a community of the elect. It is by an easy transition that we arrive at the idea that might carries its own justification. "The Lord hath delivered them into our hands," was the cry of Oliver, and the very fact that the Lord had done so was the best proof that He was fighting on the Puritan side.
Such a doctrine, though based upon a Pantheist philosophy, is that of Benedict Spinoza's "Tractatus theologico-politicus," and in most of the English writers of the time we find it developed to a greater or less degree. It is almost a necessary product of civil war. In Cromwell, the strong man of the age, this sheer masculine will-power is accountable for much that puzzles the formal or anæmic student. "There will be nine in ten against you," was told him of one of his schemes. "Very well," he said, "but what if I should disarm the nine and put a sword into the tenth man's hand?"
Milton had, if possible, even less regard for abstract constitutional rights. His argument for a permanent council of states was one of might. He eulogized Oliver alike in prose and verse, and he looked to him as his country's saviour. Equally significant is his treatment of Satan in " Paradise Lost." Milton, the moralist, sets out to justify God's ways to man; Milton, the artist, nearly succeeds in justifying Satan's ways to God.
In Harrington, the republican Utopist, the same tendency is pronounced. He proposes to describe what England might become, if she were reformed on ideal lines by Oliver himself. All through the book he is appealing to Machiavelli, whose doctrines he seems to regard as the quintessence of political wisdom. He takes no pains to hide his scorn for the Scots and Irish, whom he treats as inferior races; for England he forecasts a glorious future, not only in the domestic, but in the international sphere. He sees, what most of his con