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run into that stupidity which we now seek all means so warily to avoid, the worst of superstitions, and the heaviest of all God's judgments-Popery.'1


A little onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little further on;

For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade :
There I am wont to sit :-

The breath of Heav'n fresh blowing, pure and sweet,
With day-spring born; here leave me to respire.2

The last words of his last prose work, Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, and Toleration, published in 1673, a year before his death. 2 Samson Agonistes, I-II. Richardson says in his Remarks on Milton, 1734:-' I have heard many years since, that he used to sit in a grey coarse cloth coat at the door of his house, near Bunhill Fields, in warm sunny weather, to enjoy the fresh air, and so, as well as in his room, received the visits of people of distinguished parts, as well as quality. And very lately I had the good fortune to have another picture of him from an ancient clergyman in Dorsetshire, Dr. Wright; he found him in a small house, he thinks but one room on a floor, in that, up one pair of stairs, which was hung with a rusty green, he found John Milton, sitting in an elbow-chair, black cloaths, and neat enough, pale, but not cadaverous, his hands and fingers gouty, and with chalk-stones. Among other discourse he expressed himself to this purpose, that was he free from the pain this gave him, his blindness would be tolerable.' Samson Agonistes, his last poem, published in 1671, together with Paradise Regained, is throughout painfully autobiographical. In it he gives vent to his long pent-up feelings of sorrow, indignation, and resignation.

But chief of all,

O loss of sight, of thee I most complain !

Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!

Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight

Annull'd, which might in part my grief have eas'd,
Inferior to the vilest now become

Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me,
They creep, yet see; I dark in light, expos'd
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong,
Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my own;

Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.1
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse

Without all hope of day!

O first created beam, and thou great Word,
'Let there be light,' and light was over all;
Why am I thus bereav'd thy prime decree?
The sun to me is dark,

And silent as the moon,

When she deserts the night

Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.

Since light so necessary is to life,

1 There is evidence that his children were undutiful and unkind to him, and combined with his maid-servant to cheat him in marketings, and sold his books, and even wished his death.


And almost life itself, if it be true

That light is in the soul,

She all in every part; why was the sight
To such a tender ball as th' eye confin'd,
So obvious and so easy to be quench'd?
And not, as feeling, through all parts diffus'd,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not been thus exil'd from light;
As in the land of darkness, yet in light
To live a life half dead, a living death
And buried; but, O yet more miserable!
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave.1

I was His nursling once and choice delight,
His destin'd from the womb.

Under His special eye

Abstemious I grew up and thriv'd amain ;

He led me on to mightiest deeds,

But now hath cast me off as never known.2

God of our fathers, what is man !

That Thou towards him with hand so various,

(Or might I say contrarious?)

Temper❜st Thy providence through his short course,

Not evenly, as Thou rul'st

The angelic orders, and inferior creatures mute,

Irrational and brute.

Nor do I name of men the common rout,

1 Samson Agonistes, 66–102.

2 Ibid. 633-640.


That wand'ring loose about,

Grow up and perish, as the summer-fly;
Heads without name, no more remember'd;
But such as Thou hast solemnly elected,
With gifts and graces eminently adorn'd
To some great work, Thy glory,

And people's safety, which in part they effect :
Yet towards these thus dignifi'd, Thou oft

Amidst their height of noon,

Changest Thy countenance and Thy hand, with no regard

Of highest favours past

From Thee on them, or them to Thee of service.

Nor only dost degrade them, or remit

To life obscur'd, which were a fair dismission,

But throw'st them lower than Thou didst exalt them high;

Unseemly falls in human eye,

Too grievous for the trespass or omission;

Oft leav'st them to the hostile sword

Of heathen and profane, their carcases

To dogs and fowls a prey, or else captiv'd;

Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times,
And condemnation of the ingrateful multitude.
If these they 'scape, perhaps in poverty

With sickness and disease Thou bow'st them down,
In crude old age;

Though not disordinate, yet causeless suff'ring

The punishment of dissolute days; in fine,
Just or unjust, alike seem miserable,

For oft alike both come to evil end.


So deal not with this once Thy glorious champion,
The image of Thy strength, and mighty minister.
What do I beg? how hast Thou dealt already?
Behold him in this state calamitous, and turn
His labours, for Thou canst, to peaceful end.'1

My wife! my traitress! let her not come near me.

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Out, out hyæna! these are thy wonted arts,
And arts of every woman false like thee,
To break all faith, all vows, deceive, betray;
Then as repentant to submit, beseech,
And reconcilement move with feign'd remorse,
Confess, and promise wonders in her change;
Not truly penitent, but chief to try

Her husband, how far urg'd his patience bears,
His virtue or weakness which way to assail :
Then with more cautious and instructed skill
Again transgresses, and again submits;
That wisest and best men, full oft beguil❜d,
With goodness principled not to reject
The penitent, but ever to forgive,
Are drawn to wear out miserable days,
Entangl'd with a pois'nous bosom snake,

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'Samson Agonistes, 667-709. The prayer of the last two lines was signally answered both in Milton's own case, and in that of Samson's, as we shall presently see.

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