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the conclusion, dictated by J. M. Mr. Todd withholds his decision as to their authenticity, chiefly on account of the rhyme; but Doctor Symmons, a less cautious critic, has no doubt of their being the production of Milton. The subject is Daybreak,' and a short extract will be sufficient to enable the admirers of Milton to form their opinion.
‹ Whose pale-faced Regent, Cynthia, paler grows,
The feather'd train, which soon their concert makes,' &c.27 Three years after Paradise Lost was given to the world, Milton published the History of England,28 comprising the fable of Geoffrey of Monmouth, continued only as far as the Norman invasion. The first copies were mutilated by the licenser, who expunged all the passages that reflected on the conduct of the long parliament, and
27 See Todd's Life, first ed. p. 91, for some lines called Lavinia walking in a frosty morning, p. 104; for a sonnet written at Chalfont, which the critics are willing to attribute to Milton. The epigram in Fenton's collection must have come from a very different inkstand. (Extempore on a Faggot, p. 286.)
28 Milton, in his History of England, seems to have used Spenser's Chronicle of the British Kings, as a kind of clue to direct him through so dark and perplexed a subject. He plainly copies Spenser's order and disposition, whom he quotes; and almost transcribes from him the story of Lear, of much however as the difference between prose and verse will admit. Milton's history is an admirable comment on this part of Spenser, which is taken from the first part of Hardyng's Chronicle. v. Warton on Spenser, ii. p. 242.
of the new church government. Toland has egregiously misrepresented the facts connected with this suppression. He called it an exposure of the superstition, pride, and cunning of the Popish monks in the Saxon times, and stated that it was suppressed by the licensers, because they thought what was said of the monks was meant to apply to Charles the Second's bishops, though it related solely to the republican assembly of divines; but, as the Bishop of Salisbury 29 observes, Toland 'very ill digested such an account of the liberty and religion of his favourite republic.' Milton gave a copy of these remarks to the Earl of Anglesea, which were published in 1661, with a preface, and have since been inserted in their proper place. The six books which Milton executed appeared in 1670, of the passages then suppressed, but since 1738 always accompanying the History, it appears that some learned persons have doubted the authenticity.30 This work has received, as is well known, the praise of Warburton, who said It is written with great simplicity, contrary to his custom in his prose writings, and is the better for it. But he sometimes rises into a surprising grandeur in the sentiments and expressions, as at the conclusion of the second book; I never saw any thing equal to this, but the conclusion of Sir
29 See Protestant Union,' by T. Burgess, Bishop of Salisbury, P xlii. Richardson says, 'the castrated part was a sort of digression, and was expunged to avoid giving offence to a party quite subdued, and whose faults the government was then willing to have forgotten.' See Life, p. xlvi. Mr. Hollis's biographer (Archd. Blackburne) is as unwilling as Toland to admit this passage in its real sense; and most absurdly turns it against the Popish clergy, v. Mem. p. 494. 30 See Todd's Life of Milton, p. 210; and Dibdin's Library Companion, p. 201 (1824).
Walter Raleigh's History of the World.'31 The third book opens with a comparison drawn between the unsettled state of the Britons, after the desertion of the Romans, and the condition of the country under Cromwell and the Presbyterian government. The parallel is forced into its place by the indignation of the writer; and severely has he chastised the hypocrisy, the selfishness, the rapacity, the ignorance of the leaders, and the injustice and weakness of the government. He follows up his first blow at the 'statists,' by an equally powerful attack on the unprincipled greediness and baseness of the Presbyterian clergy, who execute their places like children of the devil, unfaithfully, unjustly, unmercifully, and where not corruptly, stupidly.' The whole passage is written with eloquence, facit indignatio versum.
one part, he evidently alludes to himself,― They who were ever faithfullest to their cause, and freely aided them in person and with their substance, when they durst not compel either, slighted and bereaved after their just debts, by greedy sequestrations, were tossed up and down after miserable attendance from one committee to another, with petitions in their hands, yet either missed the obtaining of their suit, or though it were at length granted (more shame and reason ofttimes extorting from them at least a show of justice), yet, by their sequestrators and subcommittees abroad, men for the most part of insatiable bounds and noted disloyalty, these orders were commonly disobeyed,' &c. This is part of the passage that was suppressed by the licenser in 1670, and was first separately printed in 1681. In 1671, Milton published Paradise Regained
31 See Birch's Life, p. lxviii.
and Samson Agonistes.32 The former poem he showed to his friend Elwood. This,' said he, 'is owing to you, for you put it into my head, by the questions you put to me at Chalfont, which otherwise, I had not thought of.' When it was accounted inferior to the Paradise Lost, Philips says, 'he could not hear with patience any such thing when related to him.' It appears to me, that these poems are so dissimilar in their structure and purpose, that no comparison can be usefully or justly instituted between them. That the Paradise Lost excels in variety of invention, in splendour of imagery, in magnificent thoughts and delineations, and in grandeur and sublimity of description, no doubt can be entertained; but the latter poem is finished with equal care, and as perfect in another style. The reasoning clear, the argument close and weighty, the expression most select and chosen, the versification harmonious, differing in structure from that of the former poem, but admirably in unison with the subject. The language, as in the poetry of Lucretius, always moves closely with the argument, and waits attentively upon it; plain and simple, where plain sense and simple sentiments only were required; while there are not wanting passages that, rising into the greatest beauty, and adorned with the richest fancy, it would be difficult to surpass even in Paradise Lost. There is a severe and noble beauty in the structure and expression of the dialogue, that has always appeared to me to have imbibed the spirit of the Grecian stage, as felt in the most perfect and finished of its productions; where the boldest conceptions, and the most re
32 Langbaine observes, that Dryden has transferred several thoughts from Samson Agonistes to his Aurengzebe, see Dram. Poets, p. 157. 346.
fined beauties, are all seen in strict harmony with the progressive developement of the plan, all contributing to the necessary uniformity of impression, and all obedient to the control of the poetic mind that created them. That the name of this poem should differ so widely from its argument, and that Paradise should be regained by the temptation in the wilderness alone, I do not know, except from the peculiarity of Milton's religious opinions, how satisfactorily to explain.33 It is supposed that it was written while he was at Chalfont, though not published till five years after. Of the Samson Agonistes it must be observed, that the plot is not skilfully arranged, and that many of the lyrical measures are totally destitute of any intelligible rhythm, but it must ever be considered as one of the noblest dramas in our language. Its moral sentiment, its pathetic feeling, its noble and dignified thoughts, its wise and weighty maxims, its severe religious contemplations clothed in rich and select language, and adorned with metaphor and figure, give a surprising elevation to the whole. Warburton considered it as a perfect piece, and as an imitation of the antients, having, as it were, a certain gloominess intermixed with the sublime (the subject not very different, the fall of two heroes by a woman) which shows more serenely in his Paradise Lost.' It is creditable to the taste and judgment of Pope, that he did not adopt Attersury's suggestion of reviewing and polishing this. piece. Samson would have been twice shorn of
33 See Niceron Mém. des Hommes Ill. tom. x. p. ii. p. 110. It was the doctrine of Peter Lombard, and the old divines, that the immediate consequence of Christ's victory over the temptation in the wilderness, was the diminution of the spiritual power, and the previously allowed dominion of Satan on the earth,