Billeder på siden

his own comforts out of himself, or to seek with hope; but here the continual sight of his deluded thoughts, without cure, must needs be to him, if especially his complexion incline him to melancholy, a daily trouble and pain of loss, in some degree like that which reprobates feel.”

32. “ But some are ready to object, that the disposition ought seriously to be considered before. But let them know again, that for all the wariness can be used, it may yet befal a discreet man to be mistaken in his choice, and we have plenty of examples. The soberest and best governed men are least practised in these affairs; and who knows not that the bashful muteness of a virgin may ofttimes hide all the unliveliness and natural sloth which is really unfit for conversation ? Nor is there that freedom of access granted or presumed, as may suffice to a perfect discerning till too late; and where any indisposition is suspected, what more usual than the persuasion of friends, that acquaintance, as it increases, will amend all? And lastly, it is not strange, though many, who have spent their youth chastely, are in some things not so quick-sighted, while they haste too eagerly to light the nuptial torch ; nor is it therefore that for a modest error a man should forfeit so great a happiness, and no charitable means to release him. Since they who have lived most loosely, by reason of their bold accustoming, prove most successful in their matches, because their wild affections unsettling at will, have been as so many divorces to teach them experience; whereas the sober man, honouring the appearance of modesty, and hoping well of every social virtue under that veil, may easily chance to meet with a mind to all due conversation inaccessible, and to all the more estimable and superior purposes of matrimony, useless and almost lifeless. And, what a solace, what a fit help such a consort would be through the whole life of a man, is less pain to conjecture than to have experience."

33. In the “ Apology for his Early Life and Writings,” which forms a part of the present volume, Milton glances at the ideas of love he had gathered out of Plato and Xenophon; and, in my note on the place, I have translated a short

passage of Diotima's speech in the Symposion, where the philosopher discloses his most poetical and elevated fancies on this mysterious subject. Milton himself, however, in his speculations on marriage, has embodied the whole theory of the priestess in a grand dithyrambic digression, which, being brief, I shall here introduce: “Marriage is a covenant, the very being whereof consists not in a forced cohabitation, and counterfeit performance of duties, but in unfeigned love and peace. And of matrimonial love, no doubt but that was chiefly meant, which by the ancient sages was thus parabled; that Love, if he be not twin-born, yet hath a brother wondrous like him called Anteros; whom while he seeks all about, his chance is to meet with many false and feigning desires, that wander singly up and down in his likeness. By them, in their borrowed garb, Love, though not wholly blind, as poets wrong him, yet having but one eye, as being born


an archer aiming, and that eye not the quickest in this dark region here below, which is not Love's proper sphere, partly out of the simplicity and credulity which is native to him, often deceived, embraces and consorts him with these obvious and suborned striplings, as if they were his mother's own sons; for so he thinks them, while they subtlely keep themselves most on his blind side. But after a while, as his manner is, when soaring up into the high tower of his apogeum, above the shadow of the earth, he darts out the direct rays of his then most piercing eyesight upon the impostures and trim disguises that were used with him, and discerns that this is not his genuine brother, as he imagined; he has no longer the power to hold fellowship with such a personated mate. For straight his arrows lose their golden heads, and shed their purple feathers, his silken braids untwine, and slip their knots; and that original and fiery virtue given him by fate all on a sudden goes out, and leaves him undeified and despoiled of all his force; till finding Anteros at last, he kindles and repairs the almost faded ammunition of his deity, by the reflection of a coequal and homogeneal fire. Thus mine author sung it to me; and, by the leave of those who would be counted the only grave ones, this is no mere amatorious novel ;—though to be wise and skilful in these matters, men heretofore of greatest name in virtue have esteemed it one of the highest arcs that human contemplation, circling upward, can make from the globy sea whereon she stands; but this is a deep and serious verity, showing us


that love in marriage cannot live nor subsist, unless it be mutual; and where love cannot be, there can be left of wedlock nothing but the empty husk of an outside matrimony, as undelightful and unpleasing to God as any other kind of hypocrisy.”

34. It is dangerous where conjecture has already been so busy, and to so little purpose, to bring forward any new surmises, which further investigation may, perhaps, prove equally unfounded with those long ago exploded; but it seems not improbable that the close and continuous consideration of love and marriage, to which he was led while composing these treatises on divorce, where so much is said of Adam and Eve, and the happiness of Eden, may have suggested the first hints of Paradise Lost. At all events, it is certain that those immortal syllables, though transposed, are found in the earliest of these works. “ It will best behove our seriousness to follow rather what moral Sinai prescribes equal to our strength, than fondly to think within our strength all that Lost PARADISE relates." (") And many passages, too many to be here introduced, appear to contain the germs of thoughts beheld mature in the poem. For example, his notions of the site of hell:

“ Such place eternal justice had prepared
For those rebellious, here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.” (*)

( ) Ꭰo

ine and Discipline of Divorce, Book i. ch. 11. (2) Paradise Lost, 1. 70–74,

To banish for ever into a local hell, whether in the air or in the centre, or in that uttermost and bottomless gulf of chaos, deeper from holy bliss than the world's diameter multiplied." (*)-“But still they fly back to the primitive institution, and would have us re-enter Paradise against the sword that guards it."()

35. Of his political works, which it is our intention, if the public approve, hereafter to reprint in succession, it will for that reason, be unnecessary to speak at great length. They all breathe the same spirit, and are filled with the same admirable learning; which, instead of damping his fancy, or clouding his views, as in the writings of inferior men is observable, seems in him only to contribute, by its riches and variety, to bear him up in his speculations above the usual pitch even of highest politicians. But this soaring is not into the region of clouds and visions. He never loses sight of the practicable and fit; and seldom advises what, if adopted and acted on, would not tend to better the condition of mankind. Contrary to what is asserted and commonly believed, he was, if one may so speak, too little bigoted in his attachment to democracy ; and suffered, for peace sake, too many concessions to be made to the upper orders, in his plans of government.

36. For these modifications of his theory, however, we must look to the circumstances of the times,

(3) Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, i. 3. (0) Ibid. i. 13.

« ForrigeFortsæt »