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Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unscaling her long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in her envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms.8
Milton's former violence against the prelates has turned against the pastors of Presbyterianism; he has scented hypocrisy and greed, and he hits straight out:
There be, who knows not that there be? of protestants and professors, who live and die in as errant and implicit faith, as any lay papist of Loretto.
A wealthy man, addicted to his pleasure and to his profits, finds religion to be a traffic so entangled, and of so many piddling accounts, that of all mysteries he cannot skill to keep a stock going upon that trade. What should he do? Fain he would have the name to be religious, fain he would bear up with his neighbours in that. What does he therefore, but resolves to give over toiling, and to find himself out some factor, to whose care and credit he may commit the whole managing of his religious affairs; some divine of note and estimation that must be. To him he adheres, resigns the whole warehouse of his religion, with all the locks and keys, into his custody; and indeed makes the very person of that man his religion: esteems his associating with him a sufficient evidence and commendatory of his own piety. So that a man may say his religion is now no more within himself, but is become a dividual movable, and goes and comes near him according as that good man frequents the house. He entertains him, gives him gifts, feasts him, lodges him; his religion comes home at night, prays, is liberally supped, and sumptuously laid to sleep; rises, is saluted, and after the malmsey, or some well-spiced bruage, and better breakfasted, than He whose morning appetite would have gladly fed on green figs between Bethany and Jerusalem, his religion walks abroad at eight, and leaves his kind entertainer in the shop trading all day without his religion.86
Henceforth the very idea of a priesthood will be repugnant to Milton. Priests will be to him the enemies of intellectual liberty." Kings will soon go the same way; Milton will soon come to a point of view best expressed by Diderot, in the following century, in his vulgar but forcible lines (Milton was afraid neither of vulgarity nor of forcibleness):
Des boyaux du dernier des prêtres
Priest and king alike will be enemies to Milton.
In June, 1644, Milton dedicated to Hartlib his treatise On Education. Little need be said of this production, so easily accessible to all. The most remarkable thing about it- and that which has been oftenest remarked upon is that Milton is setting their task to colleges of Miltons. He puts upon youths much too heavy a burden, because he himself had carried it lightly. We find here again, therefore, a striking example of that tendency of Milton's, made up of pride, of naïveté, and of a sort of monstrous modesty, to take himself as a normal specimen of human beings, to set down as the rule what fits his case.
Besides, in this whole evolution of his thought, from 1641 to 1645, we must needs notice how complete and absolutely dominant is Milton's egotism. He always follows the most advanced minds of his time; occasionally he precedes them. But it is always for personal motives, on private occasions, in safeguard of his own rights. He attacks the prelates from love of liberty, no doubt, but most of all from love of his own liberty, for he has been church-outed by the prelates"; "hence may appear the right I have to meddle in these matters," as he puts it." 87 See below, p. 182 i. 88 Prose Works, II, 482.
He discovers the necessity of new laws on divorce his own marriage goes wrong. He finds out how narrowminded the Presbyterians are — when they won't allow him to settle his private affairs as he likes; and the necessity of the freedom of the press — when they want to prevent him from publishing his tracts. And he writes On Education because, owing to entirely fortuitous circumstances, he has been brought to act as preceptor to a few friends' children. All this might be thought petty? But we may as well think, on the contrary, what a powerful personality was here, a personality which, in the exercise of its normal needs, was brought up against everything that was arbitrary in the laws and customs of his time! This man was under no necessity to think in order to discover the abuses of the social order; all he had to do was to live, and he naturally came to stumble against every prejudice and to trip against every error. He was naïvely surprised, and wondered why everyone did not feel as he did. His egotism and his pride were so deep that they acted as hardly conscious natural forces, as though human nature, trammelled, bound, and imprisoned in all other men, had held to its free course in Milton alone.
For the most remarkable thing of all is that, in our eyes, Milton was each time in the right — against bishops, against Presbyters, against censors, against royalists. It is true that he did represent human nature; he was essentially "representative "; he was a specimen of humanity as it ought to be - if only it were up to sample.
V. THE POLITICAL STRUGGLE AND THE CONCEPTION OF EVIL
From 1645 to 1649, Milton remained a silent witness to the Civil War. Probably none of the contending parties satisfied him any longer. Probably also there was then taking place in his thought that revolution which made him give up religious orthodoxy, and embrace practically every heresy man ever went in for.
Milton ever retained an extremely intense religious feeling, exemplified chiefly by an active and constant faith in God. But he went farther and farther away from all religious formulas. His idea of God himself became vaguer and larger than that of the orthodox. The one deep feeling he never lost was the certainty of the inevitable justice of God. There was nothing of the mystic about Milton, and very little sentimentality. His was a cold, reasonable, precise mind- I mean, of course, when his own immediate personal concerns were not at stake. The work of his thought under the obscure influence of his character, brought him, by ways we have pointed out, to believe in the unity of God and man, of God and the world. Therefore, he saw in history and in the doings of man the motions of God: an incomprehensible and allpowerful God, of whom men- free beings were infinitely small parts; a God of whom Milton knew only one thing precisely, that he was just, and that destiny was only his will and the manifestation of his justice. This was the postulate on which Milton lived. With that God of Justice he had identified his own self, so deeply did he feel that his own essence was that spirit of eternal justice.
From this point of view Milton was to watch the Rev
olution, then the Commonwealth and the Restoration. His conception of God was but a deep conviction of the justice of destiny; justice that does not work from the outside, however, that is not put upon man by an external God, but which works inside man himself, comes out of his deeds. For God works in man. He is in man, and as man- a free being accepts or rejects that presence in his actions and his will, he succeeds or fails. Milton saw that a country given over to passions and private greed, with no care for justice and right, inevitably rushes to perdition. Thus he judged first the King, then the Protector, then the people. Whatever course events may take, Milton will never doubt the justice of God; he will be more and more convinced that man's greed and perversity is the sufficient cause of man's misfortunes. Man is ever responsible for his fate.
Milton reentered the lists in January, 1649, at the time of the execution of the King, probably because he did not see till then what could be the use of pamphleteering. But now there was in power a group of men of whom he approved, whom he admired, and by whom the Kingdom might after all be established. For the same reasons as in 1641, a maturer Milton took up his weapons again. From before the King's trial, he was at work on a treatise to prove that the people had the right to judge and condemn kings; a few days before the execution, in the midst of the terror of the majority, his voice rose-it was the first to rise to proclaim what seemed to him the justice of God, and he published The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates in January, 1649.
This is one of the most important and most interesting of Milton's pamphlets. His political doctrine is now