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nassus. There thou shalt be read amongst the ancient luminous authors of Greece and Rome. Ye then, my labours, no longer vain, though late, now expect a happy home, unmolested by envy; where neither the flippant tongue of the vulgar shall penetrate, nor shall the coarse crowd of readers approach near thee: but distant generations, and a wiser age perhaps, shall form their judgments more fairly and more impartially-then, envy being buried, if our deserts are any, a discreet posterity shall appreciate them.’1


As one who long in populous city pent,
Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air,
Forth issuing on a summer's morn to breathe
Among the pleasant villages and farms
Adjoin'd, from each thing met conceives delight,
The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine,
Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound;
If chance with nymph-like step fair virgin pass,
What pleasing seem'd, for her now pleases more,
She most, and in her look sums all delight.2

Ad JOANNEM ROUSIUM, Oxoniensis Academia Bibliothecarium. 2 Paradise Lost, ix. 445-54. The poet, as he penned these lines, doubtless described his own feelings, when, at the age of


I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known rules of ancient liberty,
When straight a barbarous noise environs me,
Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs;
That bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,

And still revolt when truth would set them free.
License they mean when they cry liberty;1
For who loves that must first be wise and good;
But from that mark how far they rove we see,
For all this waste of wealth and loss of blood.2

When I consider how my light is spent,


Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And that one talent which is death to hide Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest He returning chide : 'Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?' I fondly ask; but Patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies, 'God doth not need Either man's work, or His own gifts; who best Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best: His state

thirty-five, he issued from his dismal lodgings in St. Bride's Churchyard to visit his lady-love Mary Powell at Forest Hill. How bright and enchanting, by contrast, would all around him appear, pleased with everything, with her most, who in the sequel proved so unworthy, and in fact drove him from poetry to politics!

'None can love freedom heartily but good men ; the rest love not freedom but license.'-Tenure of Kings and Magistrates.

Sonnet XII. On the detraction which followed upon my writing certain Treatises.'

Is kingly; thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.1

Cyriac, this three-years-day, these eyes, though clear
To outward view of blemish or of spot,
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot ;
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Of sun, or moon, or star, throughout the year,
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not

Against Heav'n's hand, or will, nor bate one jot
Of heart or hope; but still bear up, and steer
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
The conscience, friend, to have lost them overpli'd
In Liberty's defence,3 my noble task,

Of which all Europe rings from side to side.

This thought might lead me through this world's vain mask,

Content, though blind, had I no better guide.4

1 Sonnet XIX. On his Blindness.' Was this inherited, as Aubrey says that his mother wore spectacles soon after she was thirty?

2 Consciousness.

He alludes here to his Defensio pro Populo Anglicano, before writing which he was warned by his physicians that if he persisted he would lose the sight of his remaining eye, which penalty he willingly incurred.

• Sonnet XXII. To Cyriac Skinner, upon his Blindness. He was the friend and perhaps pupil of Milton. His mother was the daughter of Sir Edward Coke, to whom the poet alludes in his twenty-first sonnet.





A.D. I648–1655.—A.ÆT. 40–48.

'THE beginning of nations is to this day unknown. Perhaps disesteem and contempt of the public affairs then present, as not worth recording, might partly be in cause. Certainly ofttimes we see that wise men, and of best ability, have forborne to write the acts of their own days, while they beheld with a just loathing and disdain, not only how

'It is not clear how long Milton's secretaryship actually lasted. We know that he wrote State-papers up to the time of the Restoration. But he seems to have retired from active service in 1655, having his salary reduced from 2887. to 150l. per annum, which was to be paid to him during his life, as is seen from an order in Council, dated April 17, 1655. This left him, though entirely blind a year before, time at his disposal for four great works which he contemplated, his History of England, Latin Dictionary, A Body of Divinity, and his long-intended Epic Poem.

unworthy, how perverse, how corrupt, but often how ignoble, how petty, how below all history, the persons and their actions were; who, either by fortune or some rude election, had attained, as a sore judgment and ignominy upon the land, to have chief sway in managing the commonwealth.'

'Seeing that ofttimes relations heretofore accounted fabulous have been after found to contain in them many footsteps and reliques of something true, as what we read in poets of the flood, and giants, little believed, till undoubted witnesses. taught us that all was not feigned; I have, therefore, determined to bestow the telling over even of these reputed tales; be it for nothing else but in favour of our English poets and rhetoricians, who by their art will know how to use them judiciously. Which, imploring Divine assistance, that it may redound to His glory, and the good of the British · nation, I now begin.'2

At the commencement of the third book, he digresses to draw a parallel or portrait of the Long

1 Here we learn to qualify our surprise that Milton, with his love

of history, should have never written a history of his own times.

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2 History of Britain,' book i., Works, vol. v. p. 164.

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