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HIS CONTROVERSIAL CAREER.
upou perverse and fraudulent seducers; with these, the invincible warrior Zeal, shaking loosely the slack reins, drives over the heads of scarlet prelates, and such as are insolent to maintain traditions, bruising their stiff necks under his flaming wheels.”
Nor was it needful that he should defend liberty from its open foes only. On the triumph of the Presbyterians in the severe contest, they sought to hamper and restrict the liberty of the press, following hard after the evil example of despotic king and hierarchic church. He now stands up before the parliament and the world, to utter his immortal oration, the grandest in our own, perhaps in any language, in behalf of the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing. Hear him, as he pleads for the charter of freedom in every land and age.
“I deny not but that it is of greatest concernment in the Church and Commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye, how books demean themselves, as well as men;
, and thereafter to confine in prison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors ; for books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a progeny of life in them, to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are. Nay, they do preserve, as in a vial, the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon's teeth ; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.
“And yet on the other hand, unless wariness be used, 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. Many a man lives a burden to the earth ; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. It is true no age can restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great loss; and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, for want of which whole nations fare worse. We should be wary, therefore, what persecution we raise against the living labors of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man, preserved and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom; and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at the ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of reason itselfı-slays an immortality rather than a life.”
He now, by the assaults of foreign hirelings, is summoned to the “ Defence of the People of England." He is seated in bis little study, carpet of rushes beneath his feet, the walls decorated with green hangings, on one side his much used organ, and in the middle of the room his writing-table, at which he sits
PREMONITIONS OF BLINDNESS.
as if chained. Never did galley-slave ply the oar more constantly than he the pen. But what is this? Is daylight fading in the west, and twilight creeping on For the page is melting away before his eyes.
? Nay, for as he casts his glance through the window, catching sight of vernal green and trees, he beholds bright masses of sunshine lying on the earth. He lays down his pen and betakes him to the organ to refresh himself a while with those strains which seem to bear the human spirit aloft above the darkness and storms of life. As the last chord is struck, he rises like a giant refreshed with new wine, to prosecute his scholastic labors. But the letters are blurred and indistinct. A misty veil seems to have risen between him. self and the lately written page. Can it be that sight is fading? The physicians are summoned. They declare upon examination that the work must be given up. “But the work cannot be given up; for it is the defence of England.” Nevertheless, say the doctors, the public weal must be surrendered to private good. “ The price at which the world will buy that book, John Milton, is thy blindness." "Is it so ? then must the sacrifice be made."
There is a grand temple, wherein have been offered many oblations and sacrifices for the good of mankind; where stalwart men and fragile women, mailed warriors and studious monks,watchers in the dwellings of woe, and sailors upon the stormy main, nurses at the bedside of pestilence and miners for the rich ore of truth, have laid down youth and ease, worldly comfort and the fair speech of their fel. lows, for the lasting good of humanity. In the deepening twilight, up the broad aisle, there walks calmly and without ostentation, a man in the prime of life. His step is slow and solemn, as befits the occasion. He kneels before the altar, that altar upon which so many precious gifts had been placed before; while humbly, reverently, he surrenders for the good of his country and the world, what must have been almost dearer than life itself-his sight. Thus were those eyes which had swept the starry firmament and passed beyond the range of ordinary vision; that had lent almost the sun's glory to the landscape; that had invested nature with a splendor and grandeur, to impart which is rarely conferred upon the sons of men; that had revelled in the stores of art, and searched so widely and so wisely through boundless fields of knowledge ; those eyes which had made him familiar with Plato and Xenophon, as if they had been his schoolmates; that had enabled him to interpret the words of Homer and Dante; that had given him the power to learn, that he might teach his fellow-men; thus were those eyes serenely and without a murmur yielded at the call of duty. A nobler sacrifice I hardly know. Let him tell us of the privation in his own words :
SONNETS ON HIS BLINDNESS.
“ Cyriac, this three years' day, these eyes, though clear
To outward view, of blemish, or of spot,
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot ;
Against Heaven's band or will, nor bate a jot
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou aski ?
In Liberty's defence, my noble task,
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask, Content, though blind, had I no better guide.”
Let us listen to a still loftier strain :
“ When I consider how my life is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide, Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning, chide;
Doth God exact day-labor, light denied ?"
That murmur soon replies, ‘God doth not need
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best; his stato
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
And now, by slow degrees and manifold experi