« EdellinenJatka »
And if the State were in this plight, Religion was not in much better. To reform which a certain number of divines were called, neither chosen by any rule or custom ecclesiastical, nor eminent for either piety or knowledge above others left out; only as each member of Parliament in his private fancy thought fit, so elected one by one. The most part of them were such as had preached and cried down with great shew of zeal the avarice and pluralities of bishops and prelates; that one cure of souls was a full employment for one spiritual pastor, how able soever, if not a charge rather above human strength. Yet these conscientious men—ere any part of the work done for which they came together, and that on the public salary, wanted not boldness, to the ignominy and scandal of their pastorlike profession, and especially of their boasted reformation, to seize into their hands or not unwillingly to accept—beside one, sometimes two or more, of the best livings, —collegiate masterships in the universities,” rich lectures in the city, setting sail to all winds that might blow gain into their covetous bosoms: by which means these great rebukers of non-residence were not ashamed to be seen so quickly pluralists and nonresidents themselves, to a fearful condemnation doubtless by their own mouths. And yet the main doctrine for which they took such pay, and insisted upon with more vehemence than gospel, was but to tell us in effect that their doctrine was worth nothing and the spiritual power of their ministry less available than bodily compulsion; persuading the magistrate to use it, as a stronger means to subdue and bring in conscience than evangelical persuasion; distrusting the virtue of their own spiritual weapons, which were given them, if they be rightly called, with full warrant of sufficiency to pull down all thoughts and imaginations that exalt themselves against God. But while they taught compulsion without convincement—which not long before they complained of as executed unchristianly against themselves—their intents are clear to have been no better than antichristian ; setting up a spiritual tyranny by a secular power, to the advancing of their own authority above the magistrate, whom they would have made their executioner, to punish Church-delinquencies, whereof civil laws have no cognizance.
* This very thing appears to have been done by Milton's old master and friend Thomas Young: see above, page 99.
As a general quality of Milton's writings in verse, as well as in prose, we may observe the logical order and sequence in which his thoughts and arguments are arranged. It was this secret love of order and method that led him so often to occupy himself with works apparently so alien from the lofty pursuits and aspirations of a poet; such as his Christian Doctrine, a Latin Dictionary, and treatises on grammar and logic; for a mind so constituted finds an inexpressible pleasure in tracing analogies, bringing together parts which lie scattered and dispersed, and forming out of them one harmonious whole. Dante seems to have had a similar turn of mind; but we doubt if it is to be found in any other great poet.
In his earliest poems the language of Milton, while highly poetic, is simple and idiomatic ; but in those written toward the close of his academic career, we may discern some tendency to that artificial, unnatural style so prevalent among the most polished nations of Europe in the early part of the seventeenth century, the Marinism of Italy, the Cultismo or Gongorism of Spain, the Précieux of France, and the Euphuism of England. From this however he soon emancipated himself, and there is not a trace of it to be found in the poems written at Horton. In those poems also may be discerned the first
traces of the love for long periods which distinguishes his prose writings. Thus in his poem on Time there are only two sentences, one of eight, the other of fourteen lines; in that At a Solemn Music in the same manner there are only two, the first of twenty-four, the second of only four lines.” In all Milton's verses the rimes are as exact as in the French and Italian languages. This however is not peculiar to him; it was the case with perhaps all our poets anterior to Waller and Cowley. Thus in the whole of the Faery Queen there are not so many bad rimes as in Pope. Indeed Spenser went to a most reprehensible length in this respect, making his words always rime to the eye as well as to the ear; and by a strange sort of superstition, that barbarous, repulsive, and capricioust system of orthography has been preserved to the present day by the editors and publishers of his poems. We cannot understand why his orthographic vagaries should be held so sacred, while the text of all other works of the time, the Bible included, has been reduced to the modern form; and we feel quite sure that if the same were done with the Faery Queen, carefully however preserving the rimes, that the number of its readers would be very much augmented. But it should be done with great judgement and caution. Our old poets, to effect this accuracy of rime, employed various forms of the same word. Thus, for example, when s/etc.—which we look on as the original formi– was to rime with grew, view, etc., they retained and pronounced shew, but if with low, grow, etc., they wrote and pronounced show. In like manner, they had strew strow, shrew shrow, grove greave, lose lese, hair hear, etc. Then again, from the commutability of Č and ,-as we pronounce Berkshire, clerk, etc., Barkshire, clark, etc., if desert, for instance, was to rime with art, heart, they pronounced it desart. The same was the case with é and 7 : yet rimed with bit, fit, etc. So also are, riming with care, rare, etc., was pronounced like them;" and have like cave, rave, etc.; its invariable sound, by the way, at the end of a verse. Taste, chaste, waste, when riming with fast, last, etc., were pronounced like them. This however we believe to have been their usual sound at the time.t. We may thus see how our old poets were able to have exact rimes, without being under the necessity of abstaining from the use of a number of important and valuable words. In Waller however and his successors we find not only such words as the elder poets made to rime together in this manner continued as good rimes after the pronuncia
* In one of Horace's Odes (iv. 4), the first sentence is of twentyeight lines, and in Gresset's La Chartreuse there is one of ninety.
t We use this term, for what else but mere caprice could have made him, without any exigence of rime, write joy io9, joint ioint, and such like P
f The common practice at the present day of writing shew, and pro
nouncing show, is to be condemned. To our great surprise, Mr. Dyce has followed it in his valuable edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, even where the rime required show.
* It is very remarkable that Fairfax never uses this rime, so common in all the other poets.
+ In fact, we have hardly a single clear instance of the a in these words being pronounced as in fate. As they all came from the French, the a may have retained its original sound. The French a was also expressed by au, as in chaunge, straunge, raunge, auncient, etc., which we still retain in some words, as haunt, daunt, etc. We doubt if at that time a in a final syllable was ever pronounced as in fate, except when followed by a single consonant and e. Yet, strange enough, they gave this sound to the Latin a, making the final a of Hecuba, Helena, etc., rime with stay, obey, etc.
tion had become fixed, but many words used in accord which those poets had never so employed. Thus Waller makes ear, fear, dear, sea, etc., rime with care, air, fair, hair, prey, obey, etc.; throw, grow, know, throne, etc., with bough, now, down, crown, etc.; do, you, etc., with know, owe, etc. Pope, beside many of these, has face, glass; ./race, brass ; vain, man ; make, back; most, placed; compare, war, etc. This license we hold to be inexcusable, for there should be some similarity of sound. The distinguishing quality of Milton's prose-writing is vigour, to which is to be added earnestness, dignity, and eloquence, joined with sound logical reasoning from his premisses, which however are not always to be admitted. It must certainly be confessed that his sentences are frequently too long,” and too much involved; and that their structure is classical rather than English, and that he is too fond of using words derived from the Latin in their primitive physical sense. But at the same time we venture to assert that his periods are in general harmonious, and fill the ear agreeably, and with the aid of proper punctuation are perfectly clear and intelligible to any attentive reader; but they certainly do require more intension of the mind than most writings of the present or preceding century.f. It may in truth be questioned if too much lucidity may not sometimes be a fault, as it causes the attention to be relaxed. We have ourselves often experienced this disadvantage in reading French works. * He appears to have held short sentences in contempt; for in the Apol. for Smect., when speaking of his opponent, he says, “Instead of well-sized periods, he greets us with a quantity of thumb-ring posies.” + The writings of Milton's contemporary, Baxter, appear to us to offer an excellent model of ease, vigour, and lucidity. The style of
Bishop Hall too is extremely good.