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ECAUSE you have thrown off
From them whose fin ye envied, not abhorr'd;
To force our consciences that Christ set free,
1. Because you have thrown of your prelate lord, &c.] In railing at establishments, Milton not only condemned episcopacy. He thought even the simple institutions of the new reformation too rigid and arbitrary for the natural freedom of conscience. He contended for that fort of individual or personal religion, by which every man is to be his own priest. When these verses were written, which form an irregular sonnet, presbyterianism was triumphant: and the independents and the church men joined in one common complaint against a want of toleration. The church of Calvin had now its heretics. Milton's haughty temper brooked no human controul. Even the parliamentary hierarchy was too coercive for one who acknowledged only King Jesus. His froward and refining philosophy was contented with no species of carnal policy. Conformity of all sorts was slavery. He was persuaded, that the modern presbyter was as much calculated for persecution and oppresfion as the antient bishop.
2. And with Aiff vows renounc'd his liturgy.) The Directory was enforced under levere penalties in 1644. The legislature prohibited the use of the Book of Common Prayer, not only in places of public worship, but in private families.
7. And ride us with a clasic hierarchy.] In the presbyterian church now established by law, there were, among others, classical assemblies. The kingdom of England, instead of so many dioceses, was now divided into a certain number of Provinces, made up of representatives from the several Classes within their respective boundaries. Every parish had a congregational or parochial prefbytery for the affairs of its own circle ; these parochial presbyteries
Taught ye by mere A. S. and Rotherford ? Men whose life, learning, faith and pure intent
were combined into Classes, which chose representatives for the provincial assembly, as did the provincial for the national. Thus, the city of London being distributed into twelve classes, each class chose two ministers and four lay-elders, to represent them in a Provincial Assembly, which received appeals from the parochial and classical presbyteries, &c. These ordinances, which ascertain the age of the piece before us, took place in 1646, and 1647. See Scobell, COLL. P. 1. p. 99. 150.
8. Taught ye by mere A. S. and Rotherford.] Doctor Newton says, “I know not who is meant by A. S. Some book might have “ have been published, figned by these letters, and perhaps an “ equivoque might also be intended.” The independents were now contending for toleration. In 1643, their principal leaders published a pamphlet with this title, “ An APOLOGETICALL NAR“RATION of some Ministers formerly exiles in the Netherlands,
now members of the Assembly of Divines. Humbly submitted « to the honourable Houses of Parliament. By Thomas Goodwyn, “ Sydrack Sympson, Philip Nye, Jer. Burroughs, and William
Bridge, the authors thereof. Lond. 1643." In quarto. Their system is a middle way, between Brownism and prelbytery. This piece was answered by one A. S. the person intended by Milton. 66 Some Observations and Annotations upon the APOLOGETICALL “ NARRATION, humbly submitted to the honourable Houses of “ Parliament, the most reverend and learned divines of the Assem
bly, and all the protestant churches here in this island and abroad. “ Lond. 1644.” In quarto. The Dedication is subscribed A. S. The independents then retorted upon A. S. in a pamphlet called “ A Reply of the two Brothers to A. S. Wherein you have Obser“ vations, Annotations, &c, upon the ApologeticalL NARRA“TION. Wish a plea for liberty of conscience for the apologists
church-way : againit the cavils of the said A. S. formerly called « M. S. to A. S. &c. &c. Lond. 1644.” In quarto. I quote from the second edition enlarged. There is another piece by A. S. It is called a Reply to the second Return.” This I have never seen. His name was never known.
Samuel Rutherford, or Rutherfoord, was one of the chief commissioners of the church of Scotland, who fate with the Assembly at Westminster, and who concurred in settling the grand points of presbyterian discipline. He was professor of divinity in the university of Saint Andrew's, and has left a great variety of Calvinistic tracts. He was an avowed enemy to the independents, as appears from his Disputation on pretended liberty, of conscience, 1649. This was answered by John Cotton a Separatist of New England.
Would have been held in high esteem with Paul, 10
Must now be nam’d and printed Heretics
It is hence easy to see, why Rotherford was án obnoxious character to Milton. Rutherford's Letters, called JOSHUA REDIVIVUS, are the most genuine specimen I remember to have seen of the enthusiastic cant of the old Scotch divines : more particularly of the eloquence of those preachers, who opposed the hierarchy in Scotland about 1637. Their ninth edition, and what is more wonderful in an elightened age, with a laboured Preface high in their commendation, appeared at Glasgow fo late as the year 1765. 8vo. The editor says, that his author's “ praise is already in the “ churches.” In what church, professing any degree of rational religion?
12. By shallow Edwards.] It is not the GANGRENA of Tho. mas Edwards that is here the object of Milton's resentment, as Doctor Newton and Mr. Thyer have supposed. Edward had attacked Milton's favourite plan of independency, in a pamphet full of miserable invectives, immediately and professedly levelled against the APOLOGETICALL NARRATION abovementioned, and entitled, “ ANTAPOLOGIA, or a full answer to the Apolo, GETICALL NARRATION, &c. Wherein is handled
many " Controversies of these times, by T. Edwards minister of the gos
pel, Lond. 1644.” In quarto. Bụt Edwards had some time before published his opinions against congregational churches, “ Rea“ fons againft the independent government of particular congrega" tions : as also against the toleration of such churches to be erected 6 in this kingdome. Together with an answer to such reasons as
are commonly alledged for a toleration. Presented in all humi
lity to the honourable house of Commons, &c. &c. By Thomas “ Edwards, &c. Lond. 1641.” In quarto. However, in the GanGRENA, not less than in these two tracts, it had been his business to blacken the opponents of presbyterian uniformity, that the parliament might check their growth by penal statutes. Against such enemies, Milton's chief hope of enjoying a liberty of conscience, and a permission to be of any religion but popery, was 'in Crom. well, who for political reasons allowed all profeflions; and who is thus addressed as the great guardian of religious independence, SONN. xvi. II.
-New foes arife,
Your plots and packing worse than those of Trent,
That fo the Parlament May with their wholesome and preventive shears 16 Clip your phylacteries, though bauk your ears,
And succour our juft fears, When they shall read this clearly in your charge, New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large.
12. And Scotch what d'ye call.] Perhaps Henderson, or George Galaspie, another Scotch minister with a harder name, and one of the ecclefiaftical commissioners at Westminster. John Henderson appears as a loving friend in Rutherford's JOSHUA RediVIVUS. B. iii. Epist. 50. p. 482. And Hugh Henderson, B. i. EPIST. 127. p. 186. See also, Ibid. p. 152. And Alexander Henderson, B. i. EPIST. 16. p. 33. But I wish not to bewilder myself or my readers any farther in the library of fanaticism. Happily the books, as well as the names of the enthusiasts on both fides of the question, are almost consigned to oblivion.
14. Your plots and packing worse than those of Trent.] The famous council of Trent.
17. Clip your phyla&teries, though bauk your ears.] That is, although your ears cry out that they need clipping, yet the mild and gentle Parliament will content itself, with only clipping away your Jewish and persecuting principles. W.
Tickell, I think, is the first who gives baulk, or bauk, from the errata of edition 1673, which has bank. 'Fenton retains the errour from Tonson's text. It is wonderful that Tonson, in edit. 1695, should have retained bank, without consulting the Errata of an edition which is his model. The line ftands thus in the manu. script,
Crop ye as close as marginal P's ears. That is, Prynne, whose ears were cropped close in the pillory, and who was fond of oftentatiously loading the margin of his volumi. nous books with a parade of authorities. But why was the line altered when this piece was first printed in 1673, as Prynne had been then dead four years ? Perhaps he was unwilling to revive, and to expose to the triumph of the royalists now restored, this disgrace of one of the leading heroes of the late faction. Notwithstanding Prynne's apoftacy. The meaning of the present context is,“ Check “ your infolence, without proceeding to cruel punishments.” To balk, is to spare.
-Writ large.] That is, more domineering and tyrannical. W.
Nightingale, that on yon bloomy spray
* Petrarch, says doctor Newton, has gained the reputation of being the first author and inventor of this species of poetry. This is a great mistake: for Guitone d'Arezzo, who flourished about the year 1250, many years before Petrarch was born, firft used the measure observed in the Sonnet; a measure, which the great number of fimilar terminations renders easy in the Italian, but difficult in language. Dr. J. Warton.
Dr. Johnson remarks that, for this reason, the fabric of the regular Sonnet has never succeeded in English. But surely Milton and others have shewn, that this inconvenience may be surmounted, and excellence results from difficulty,
To the Nightingale.] No poet has more frequently celebrated the nightingale than Milton. Where he says in PARAD. Lost, B. iv. 603
-The wakeful nightingale,
El’rofignuol, che dolcemente a l'ombra