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said, these passages are in a sense digressions, they are justified by the facts that King wrote poetry and that he was destined for the ministry.
"L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso." - L'Allegro and Il Penseroso are constructed on exactly the same plan, beginning with the exorcism (in ten lines) of the opposing spirit
"Hence, loathed Melancholy,
in Il Penseroso,
Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born; "
"Hence, vain, deluding Joys,
The brood of Folly without father bred!"
Then follows the invitation to the congenial spirit
"But come, thou Goddess fair and free
In heaven yclept Euphrosyne,
And by men heart-easing Mirth;"
in Il Penseroso,
"But, hail! thou Goddess sage and holy!
Hail, divinest Melancholy!"
A list of characters (mostly personified figures) desired for company is given; and the remainder of each poem outlines an ideal day. The day of L'Allegro, that is, of the mirthful or cheerful man, begins with the lark's song before dawn, proceeds through a series of rural occupations till bedtime, and then removes to "towered cities," where after attending "high triumphs" (elaborate entertainments) for a time:
"Then to the well-trod stage anon,
Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
The day of Il Penseroso, that is, of the thoughtful or contemplative2 man, begins at evening, with the nightingale's song, spends the night in study or quiet recreations; and
when the sun comes up, seeks protection from its beams in groves or the "studious cloister's pale."
Milton's Prose Period. We resume now the account of Milton's life, which we interrupted at the time of his return from the Continent in 1639. The storm of the Civil War did not burst immediately, and Milton set up as schoolmaster
1 The sock stands for comedy.
2 These adjectives express better the idea of Milton than does "melancholy."
primarily to teach two nephews, but taking other pupils in addition. Partly as a result of this experience, he wrote a treatise on education, the first of the works written with his "left hand" (as he himself described his prose works). Other prose works belonging to this period, of which we need not give even the titles, were attacks on the church as it had come to be conducted under Charles's unprincipled assistant, Archbishop Laud; and a series of papers defending divorce.
Papers on Divorce. The occasion of these last was his marriage to Mary Powell, a girl about half his age; and her virtual desertion of him in two months. She went ostensibly for a short visit to her parents; and when she did not return at the appointed time, or yet after several requests by her husband, he wrote his first divorce paper, in which he showed no personal interest. In three following papers, however, he made a vigorous argument for divorce; and in the last intimated that, if his wife did not return, he might marry again, with the sanction of the law or without. Not many months afterward Mary Powell Milton again took up her residence with the poet, after an absence of two years. She lived until 1653, and was survived by three daughters.
Milton's one essay in prose which is still of interest to the general reader is Areopagitica, a plea for the liberty of the press; that is, for the liberty of publishing books without authority of the censor. When Milton said that in writing prose he had the use of only his left hand, he meant that prose was not his proper vehicle of expression; and this fact is apparent even in Areopagitica, great as are its merits. Sentences of more than a hundred words are frequent; and he uses an involved sentence struc
ture that sounds like literal translation from Latin. When we think, however, of what the world would be to-day without freedom of the press, we realize the interest an eloquent plea for that freedom is likely to have for us. This of Milton's has, moreover, many passages so forceful and every way admirable that they have passed into common speech:
"Opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making."
"As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye."
"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely, above all other liberties."
Papers on the Execution of Charles. - The remainder of Milton's prose is occupied with a defence of the Puritans for their execution of Charles. The papers are all controversial, and are marred by undignified and harsh language that one would wish to think not natural to the writer.
In 1656 Milton married Catherine Woodcock, with whom (if we may judge from his twenty-third sonnet) he lived not unhappily until her death, fifteen months afterward. Since 1652 he had been totally blind, a result, doubtless, of excessive use of his eyes. On the subject of his blindness he wrote one of his greatest sonnets, closing with the memorable line,
"They also serve who only stand and wait."
Milton's Sonnets. A word should be said regarding Milton's contribution to the development of the English sonnet. In the words of Mark Pattison: "Milton emancipated the sonnet as to subject-matter." The Elizabethan sonnet, we have seen, was usually concerned with love; and Shakspere, Sidney, Spenser, and the rest wrote sonnet
sequences in praise of their beloveds. Not a single one of Milton's twenty-three sonnets deals with love. Besides On His Blindness, some other titles are: When the Assault was Intended to the City, On the Lord General Fairfax, To the Lord General Cromwell, On the Late Massacre in Piedmont. After him the sonnet fell into disuse for a century and a
quarter; and it is open to question whether Wordsworth, innovator that he was, would have been impelled to so frequent use of the form had not Milton pointed the way to its use in other service than that of love.
Life after the Restoration. While much is to be said of Milton's writings after the Restoration, little need be said of his life. When the change in government came, he, like all others who had been prominent in the Commonwealth, was