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In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!—
Kent. Good my lord, enter here.
Lear. Pr'ythee, go in thyself; seek thine own ease; This tempest will not give me leave to ponder On things would hurt me more.-But I'll go in: In, boy; go first.-[To the FooL.] You houseless poverty,Nay, get thee in. I'll pray, and then I'll sleep.
Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are,
SCENE FROM LEAR ON DOVER HILL.
The country near Dover. Enter GLOSTER, and EDGAR, dressed like a Peasant.
Edg. Horrible steep:
Hark, do you hear the sea?
Glo. When shall we come to the top of that same hill?
Glo. No, truly.
Edg. Why, then your other senses grow imperfect By your eyes' anguish.
Glo. So may it be, indeed:
Methinks, thy voice is alter'd; and thou
In better phrase, and matter, than thou didst.
Edg. You are much deceiv'd; in nothing am I chang'd, But in my garments.
Glo. Methinks, you are better spoken.
Edg. Come on, sir; here's the place:-stand still-how fearful
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!
The crows, and choughs, that wing the midway air,
Almost too small for sight: the murmuring surge,
Glo. Set me where you stand.
Edg. Give me your hand: You are now within a foot
Glo. Let go my hand.
Here, friend, is another purse: in it a jewel
Edg. Why I do trifle thus with his despair,
Glo. O, you mighty gods!
This world I do renounce; and in your sights,
Edg. Gone, sir? farewell.
[Seems to go.
[He leaps, and falls along.
And yet I know not how conceit may rob
Glo. Away, and let me die.
Edg. Hadst thou been aught but gossomer, feathers, air, So many fathom down precipitating,
Thou hadst shivered like an egg: but thou dost breathe
Thy life's a miracle: Speak yet again.
Edg. From the dread summit of this chalky bourn : Look up a-height;-the shrill-gorg'd lark so far Cannot be seen or heard: do but look up.
Glo. Alack, I have no eyes.
Is wretchedness depriv'd that benefit,
To end itself by death?'Twas yet some comfort,
FROM his sixteenth year Milton was educated at the university of Cambridge. At the age of twentyfour he returned to the beautiful residence of his father, at Horton in Buckinghamshire, where he spent five years in the study of the Greek and Latin classics, and in the composition of his most beautiful minor poetry-the Allegro and Penseroso, Comus and Lycidas. In 1638 he travelled in France and Italy, and after an absence of more than a year, returned to his native country, then agitated by the differences between the king and parliament, and on the eve of the most violent civil commotions. Milton took part with the Puritans and the people of England, and applied his mind to the contest in his controversial writings with a power and vigour that have seldom been equalled.
He was Latin Secretary to Cromwell till the death of the Protector in 1658. At the restoration of Charles II. in 1660, he was obliged to conceal himself, till the ication of the act of oblivion released him from danger. After this period, being retired from all public stations, he devoted himself exclusively to study, and especially to the composition of Paradise Lost, the idea of which he had conceived as early as 1642. It was finished in 1665.
The foundation of Milton's blindness was laid by his imprudent and incessant devotion to study in his earlier years; but this misfortune was immediately occasioned in 1651 by too great intensity of application in the performance of his Defensio Populi Anglicani, or Defence of the People of England.
Milton's life, in connexion with the age in which he lived, for one of the very finest subjects of biographical and historical study. In the unjust and defective representation of Dr Johnson, his character appears exceedingly unamiable; in reality it was noble and delightful; obscured, indeed, by blemishes, but these not in themselves great, and rather reflected upon him by the circumstances in which he was placed, than growing out of the natural temper and constitution of his mind. His disposition was generous, equable, and cheerful, into whatever occasional harshness it might have been betrayed in the midst of external tumult and discord. And there was an habitual loftiness, a dignity, a virtuous severity in his spirit, and a grandeur in all his conceptions, which invests his general character with the attribute most peculiar to his poetry—that of the sublime.
Milton has diffused the spirit of piety over his writings, and he seems himself to have lived,
'As ever in his great Taskmaster's eye.'
To what degree of eminence or perfection he cultivated the in
fluence of religion in his own bosom it is not in the power of human ignorance to decide. Dr Johnson observes that 'Milton, who appears to have had full conviction of the truth of Christianity, and to have regarded the Holy Scriptures with the profoundest veneration, and to have been untainted with any heretical peculiarity of opinion, and to have lived in a confirmed belief of the immediate and occasional agency of Providence, yet grew old without any visible worship. In the distribution of his hours there was no hour of prayer either solitary or with his household; omitting public prayers, he omitted all.' Who, but Omniscience, can speak thus? A more humble and charitable judgment would certainly hesitate an assent to this sweeping conclusion in regard to so excellent a man. Indeed, the rash critic himself afterwards adds, 'That he lived without prayer can hardly be affirmed; his studies and meditations were a continual prayer.'
To remark upon Milton's poetical excellence seems almost needless. Yet it is undoubtedly true that the great masterpiece of his genius is praised where it is not read; and by many, perhaps by most readers, he is even now known and admired only in some of his exquisite minor productions. Paradise Lost must be studied, before its sublimity and beauty can be truly relished. Whatever delightful qualities can be found in his shorter productions, their exceeding richness and melody of language, their sweetness of fancy, their picturesque epithets, their elegance, their paintings of natural scenery, are here combined in an equal or superior degree; while we meet also with a vivid grandeur of description which is sometimes almost terrific, magnificent imagery, intense energy both in thought and expression, perfect conception and delineation of character, genuine pathos, learning, stateliness, moral sublimity, and all in a style elaborate and powerful, a blank verse, though occasionally harsh and inverted, yet superior in harmony and variety to that of every other poet.
If the shorter poetry of Milton be often perused with attention till the mind is imbued with its spirit, the pupil may then come to the study of Paradise Lost, with the greatest benefit and delight.
SATAN'S APPROACH TO THE GARDEN of Eden.
THUS while he spake, each passion dimm'd his face
For heavenly minds from such distempers foul
That practis'd falsehood under saintly show,
Uriel once warn'd; whose eye pursued him down The way he went, and on the' Assyrian mount Saw him disfigur'd, more than could befall Spirit of happy sort: his gestures fierce He mark'd and mad demeanour, then alone, As he suppos'd, all unobserv'd, unseen. So on he fares, and to the border comes Of Eden, where delicious Paradise, Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green, As with a rural mound, the champaign head Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild, Access denied; and over-head up grew Insuperable heighth of loftiest shade, Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm, A sylvan scene; and, as the ranks ascend Shade above shade, a woody theatre Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops The verdurous wall of Paradise up sprung; Which to our general sire gave prospect large Into his nether empire neighbouring round: And higher than that wall a circling row Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit, Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue, Appear'd, with gay enamell'd colors mixt; On which the sun more glad impress'd his beams Than in fair evening cloud, or humid bow, When God hath shower'd the earth; so lovely seem'd That landskip: and of pure now purer air Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires Vernal delight and joy, able to drive All sadness but despair; now gentle gales, Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole Those balmy spoils. As when to them who sail Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the blest; with such delay
Well pleas'd they slack their course, and many a league