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his enemies reproached him with his blindness as a judgment from heaven, nothing perhaps in mere human composition can surpass the moral grandeur of his defence.* "When," says he,
*Cum datum mihi publicé esset illud in defensionem regiam negotium, eodemque tempore et adversâ simul valetudine, et oculo jam pené altero amisso, conflictarer, prædicerentque diserté medici, si hunc laborem suscepissem, fore ut utrumque brevì amitterem, nihil istâ præmonitione deterritus, non medici, nè Esculapii quidem Epidaurii ex adyto vocem, sed divinioris cujusdam intus monitoris viderer mihi audire; duasque sortes, fatali quodem natu, jam mihi propositas, hinc cœcitatem inde officium; aut oculorum jactaram necessariò faciendam, aut summum officium deserendum: occurrebantque animo bina illa fata, quæ retulisse Delphis consulentem de se matrem narrat Thetidis filius.
Διχθαδίας κῆρας φερεμεν θανάτοιο τελοσδε.
"Unde sic mecum rebutabam, multos graviore malo minus bonum, morte gloriam, redemisse; mihi contrà majus bonum minore cum malo proponi: ut possem cum cœcitate solâ vel honestissimum officii munus implere; quod ut ipsa gloria per se est solidius, ita cuique optatius atque antiquius debet esse. Hac igitur tam brevi luminum usurâ, quantâ maximâ quivi cum utilitate publicâ, quoad liceret, fruendum esse statui. Videtis quid prætulerim, quid amisserim, quâ inductus ratione : desinant ergò judiciorum Dei calumniatores maledicere, deque
"the office of replying to the Royal Defence' was publicly assigned to me, though I had to struggle with ill health, and having already lost nearly one of my eyes, was expressly forewarned by my physicians that, if I undertook the laborious work in question, I should soon be deprived of both; undeterred by the warning, I seemed to hear the voice, not of a physician, or from the shrine of Esculapius at Epidaurus, but of an internal and more divine monitor: and conceiving that by some decree of the fates, the alternative of two lots was proposed to me, either to lose my sight or to desert a high duty, I remembered the twin destinies, which the son of Thetis informs us his mother brought back to him from the oracle of Delphi :
me somnia sibi fingere: sic deneque habento; me sortis meæ neque pigere neque pœnitere; immotum atque fixum in sententiâ perstare; Deum iratum neque sentire, neque habere, immò maximis in rebus clementiam ejus et benignitatem erga me paternam experiri atque agnoscere; in hoc præsertim, quod solante ipso atque animum confirmante in ejus divina voluntate acquiescam; quid is largitus mihi sit quàm quid negaverit sæpius cogitans; postremo nolle me cum suo quovis rectissime facto, facti mei conscientiam permutare, aut recordationem ejus gratam mihi semper atque tranquillam deponere." Prose Works, Symmons' Edition, vol. v. p. 216.
"As the goddess spake, who gave me birth, Two fates attend me whilst I live on earth.
If fix'd I combat by the Trojan wall,
My days shall flourish long, my glory die."
"Reflecting therefore with myself, that many had purchased less good with greater evil, and had even paid life as the price of glory, while to me, the greater good was offered at the expense of the less evil, and an opportunity furnished, simply by incurring blindness, of satisfying the demand of the most honourable duty; a result more substantial, and therefore what ought to be by every one considered as more satisfactory and more eligible than glory itself. I determined to dedicate the brief enjoyment of my eye-sight, so long as it might be spared me, with as much effect as I could to the public service. You see then what I preferred, what I sacrificed, and what were my motives. Let these slanderers of the divine judgments, therefore, desist from their calumnies, nor any longer make me the subject of their visionary fantasies; let them learn, in fine,
that I neither regret my lot nor repent my choice; that my opinions continue inflexibly the same, and that I neither feel nor fear for them the anger of God; but, on the contrary, experience and acknowledge, in the most momentous events of my life, his mercy and paternal kindness; in nothing more particularly, however, than in his having soothed and strengthened me into an acquiescence in his divine will; led me to reflect rather upon what he has bestowed than what he has withheld; and determined me to prefer the consciousness of my own achievements to the best deeds of my adversaries, and constantly to cherish the cheering and silent. remembrance of them in my breast.” *
The result was as had been predicted; in 1651, the year in which he published his Defensio pro Populo Anglicano, he entirely lost the use of his left eye, and the total privation of his sight, by the failure of the other, took place, it would appear, early in 1652; for when Philaras, his Athenian friend, visited him in
* Wrangham's Version of the Defensio Secunda, a noble translation of a noble original. Vide Wrangham's Works, vol. iii.
London, not many months after the publication of his celebrated work, he was completely blind, though but in his forty-fourth year.
With what fortitude and resignation he met and endured his misfortune, the preceding quotation has sufficiently proved; and that his sufferings during the composition of his "noble task," as he has termed it, were only exceeded by the patience and perseverance which they called forth, appears evident from what he has apologetically stated concerning himself in the very impressive preface to his Defence, where, speaking of his delicate health and failing eyes, he tells us, that he was obliged, on account of his infirmities, to work only by starts, and that what required, and which he wished to prosecute with unbroken application, he was only able to attend to for very short periods of time, and those frequently and painfully interrupted.
We can scarcely conceive, indeed, a situation more unpropitious to intellectual pursuits, or more likely to induce a state of deep despondency, than that in which Milton was placed, during the period occupied in the production of