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and so to free the world. The Areopagitica and On Education are two hymns of certainty, of faith in the final triumph of liberty, in the divine mission of England, in the powers of the human mind. Then Milton grew calmer. His home life was established on a compromise; he lived through the civil wars. Then again he rushed into battle; Cromwell and the Saints had come; the Kingdom was coming. Milton struggled against political evil, and realized, with disgust and indignation, that passion and self-interest rule in the world, and that the corrupt individual could not but corrupt society. His conception of universal evil, the triumph of passion, settled in his mind. Soon he saw that evil was in his own party. Cromwell himself was not satisfactory, and at Cromwell's death, the small number of the Saints was all too insufficient against the upheaval of blind popular passion. All of his hopes had failed. The problem of evil had appeared to him in all the bitterness and despair of personal failure and of vain suffering and vain sacrifice.


In January, 1641, Bishop Hall published his Humble Remonstrance against the revolutionary projects of the Parliament in the matter of ecclesiastical discipline. The famous pamphlet against the Bishops signed "Smectymnuus," came out in March of the same year. Thomas Young, who had been preceptor to Milton, was the chief author. Milton was still in connection with him, and Masson thinks that the poet even collaborated on the pamphlet. However this may be, in June, 1641, Milton

9 II, 219, 221, 238, 260. Masson's unruly imagination, however, frequently makes him an untrustworthy guide.

published anonymously his first contribution to the struggle: Of Reformation in England and the Causes that hitherto have hindered it.

The interest of this work is but small if the subjectmatter alone is considered. The general idea, which is endlessly repeated in Milton's pamplets, is that any sort of true reformation has been made impossible in England by the ambition and the caste-selfishness of the Bishops. Milton goes through the history of the Church in a very unmethodical fashion-from the time of Henry VIII and, in a way, from early Christian times, looking for proofs. No properly equipped historian seems to have tackled the enormous quantity of historical matter in Milton's pamphlets, and I dare say the work is not worth doing. But from our point of view the study of Milton's ideas in 1641-Of Reformation in England is interesting.

Milton attaches himself from the first to the religious aspects of the quarrels of the time. Politics proper interest him less. This will be a permanent trait: even when he comes to pass judgment on his hero Cromwell, he will consider first his religious undertakings, and though approving of his general policy, will condemn him because of his religious measures.

Sir, Amidst those deep and retired thoughts, which, with every man Christianly instructed, ought to be most frequent of God, and of his miraculous ways and works amongst men, and of our religion and works, to be performed to him; after the story of our Saviour Christ, suffering to the lowest bent of weakness in the flesh, and presently triumphing to the highest pitch of glory in the spirit, which drew up his body also; till we in both be united to him in the revelation of his kingdom, I do not know of anything more worthy to take up the whole passion of pity on the one side, and joy on

the other, than to consider first the foul and sudden corruption, and then, after many a tedious age, the long deferred, but much more wonderful and happy reformation of the church in these latter days.10

This is a starting-point of Milton's thought; we shall see that at his latter end he did not think the Reformation worth mentioning in Paradise Lost." In his stand against the clergy, Milton is the champion of a very exalted conception of God. We find here already one of the chief tendencies of his philosophy, one that will lead him to Arianism, and further: the notion that God is boundless, without form, and incomprehensible. He charges the Church with having desired too precise a God; in this he sees the origin of all superstition:

. . . as if they could make God earthly and fleshly, because they could not make themselves heavenly and spiritual; they began to draw down all the divine intercourse betwixt God and the soul, yea, the very shape of God himself, into an exterior and bodily form, urgently pretending a necessity and obligement of joining the body in a formal reverence and worship circumscribed; they hallowed it, they fumed up, they sprinkled it, they bedecked it, not in robes of pure innocency, but of pure linen, with other deformed and fantastic dresses, in palls and mitres, gold, and gewgaws fetched from Aaron's old wardrobe or the flamins vestry. . . .12

The idea also appears for the first time that England is a nation specially chosen of God, and that England must prove worthy of that choice:

The pleasing pursuit of these thoughts hath oftimes led me into a serious question and debatement with myself, how it should come to pass that England (having had this grace and honour from God, to be the first that should set up a standard for the recovery of lost truth, and blow the first evangelic trumpet to the nations, holding up, as from a hill, the new lamp of saving light to all Christendom) should now be last and most unsettled in the enjoy10 Prose Works, II, 364. 11 See below, p. 196. 12 Prose Works, II, 365.

ment of that peace, whereof she taught the way to others; although indeed our Wickliffe's preaching, at which all the succeeding reformers more effectually lighted their tapers, was to his countrymen but a short blaze, soon damped and stifled by the pope and prelates for six or seven kings' reigns; yet methinks the precedency which God gave this island, to be first restorer of buried truth, should have been followed with more happy success, and sooner attained perfection. . . 13

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Already, too, Milton feels scant respect for the early Christians and the Fathers:

How little therefore those ancient times make for modern bishops hath been plainly discoursed; but let them make for them as much as they will, yet why we ought not to stand to their arbitrament, shall now appear by a threefold corruption which will be found upon them. I. The best times were spreadingly infected. 2. The best men of those times foully tainted. 3. The best writings of those men dangerously adulterated. These positions are to be made good out of those times witnessing of themselves.1


The part played in the State by the clergy is compared to that of a wen on a man's head:

Upon a time the body summoned all the members to meet in the guild, for the common good: (as Esop's chronicles aver many stranger accidents:) the head by right takes the first seat, and next to it a huge and monstrous wen, little less than the head itself, growing to it by a narrower excrescency. The members, amazed, began to ask one another what he was that took place next their chief? None could resolve. Whereat the wen, though unwieldy, with much ado gets up, and bespeaks the assembly to this purpose: "That as in place he was second to the head, so by due of merit; that he was to it an ornament, and strength, and of special near relation; and that if the head should fail, none were fitter than himself to step into his place: therefore he thought it for the honour of the body, that such dignities and rich endowments should be decreed him, as did adorn and set out the noblest members." To 13 Ibid., II, 368.

14 Ibid., II, 378. See below, pp. 264 ff. I shall no longer point out in this Part I the innumerable proofs of Milton's contempt for the early church.

this was answered, that it should be consulted. Then was a wise and learned philosopher sent for, that knew all the charters, laws, and tenures of the body. On him it is imposed by all, as chief committee, to examine, and discuss the claim and petition of right put in by the wen; who soon perceiving the matter, and wondering at the boldness of such a swoln tumour, "Wilt thou," quoth he, that art but a bottle of vicious and hardened excrements, contend with the lawful and freeborn members, whose certain number is set by ancient and unrepealable statute? Head thou art none, though thou receive this huge substance from it. What office bearest thou? what good canst thou shew by thee done to the commonweal? " The wen, not easily dashed, replies that his office was his glory; for so oft as the soul would retire out of the head from over the steaming vapours of the lower parts to divine contemplation, with him she found the purest and quietest retreat, as being most remote from soil and disturbance. "Lourdan," quoth the philosopher, "thy folly is as great as thy filth: know that all the faculties of the soul are confined of old to their several vessels and ventricles, from which they cannot part without dissolution of the whole body; and that thou containest no good thing in thee, but a heap of hard and loathsome uncleanness, and art to the head a foul disfigurement and burden, when I have cut thee off, and opened thee, as by the help of these implements I will do, all men shall see." 15

Violent as he is against the Bishops, Milton as yet finds nothing wrong with the monarchic constitution of England:

There is no civil government that hath been known, no, not the Spartan, not the Roman, though both for this respect so much praised by the wise Polybius, more divinely and harmoniously tuned, more equally balanced as it were by the hand and scale of justice, than is the commonwealth of England; where, under a free and untutored monarch, the noblest, worthiest, and most prudent men, with full approbation and suffrage of the people, have in their power the supreme and final determination of highest affairs.16

The pamphlet ends with a prayer and a curse in the grandest Miltonic style. In the final triumph of the

15 Ibid., II, 398.

16 Ibid., II, 408.

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