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is the essential fact in the history his heart, are brought under the of man's felicity, as it is the very sanctifying control-the sacred do gate to the celestial country, an- minion of the Divine Spirit! So gels may feel a peculiar delight in entirely are his ruling principles an event so singular, and connected and passions changed, that he may with infinite results. Although it be said to have participated the is more blessed for the saints of divine nature ; thus “old things God to be confirmed in their faith, are passed away, and behold all and perfected in their character, things are become new !" Is it than that they should continue in wonderful, then, that angels should the infancy of their nature, still joyfully sympathize in such a puritthere is a uniformity in their expe- cation of character, in such a trans. rience, and they are daily produ- formation of the will, in such a cing the same natural fruits of holi. splendid instance of the divine ness, and enjoying the same fruits grace and goodness? How intense of happiness and glory.
mu.t be their pleasure, how glow. It is probable that, like our ing their joy, when they see those selves, angels are affected by con- who were “in the wicked one," trast ; and what contrast can be changed into the image of Christ, more striking than that exhibited assimilating to their own celestial by the impenitent and the penitent? nature, and destined ultimately to Heretofore man's face was direct- rival themselves in the ardor of ed toward the regions of perdition: their love and devotion. The same now he is earnestly struggling-he is equally true of the ministers of is agonizing to enter at the strait Jesus Christ-their joy is augment. gate. Heretofore sin was his ele- ed in proportion as their spirituality ment, and his whole soul was bent is increased ; and the nearer they to work wickedness : now the in- approach to heaven, the more their varying bias of his thoughts and his minds approximate to the celestial feelings, the constant tendency of character—the more they know and his actions, and the operations of feel the value of repentance.the general system of his mind and Hall.
The Prose Works of John Milton, lier periods of modern literature,
containing his principal Politic- and not always disposed to appreal, and Evangelical Picces, with ciate their excellence. Numerous new Translations, and an Intro- as are the prosaic and poetic works duction. By GEORGE BURNET, of the present day, there is reason late of Baliol College, Oxford to believe, that they can scarcely In two Volumes. London, 1809. be more abundant, than those of pp. 449 and 623.
several former ages. We are told A Selection from the English Prose on good authority, that the longest
Works of John Milton. In two life would not suffice to peruse Volumes. Boston, 1826. pp. 296 only the histories that were compoand 347.
sed in Europe, detailing the events
of the seventeenth century. And We are perhaps little aware of with respect to merit, it is quite the quantity of writings in the ear- doubtful whether more authors of
our own times will be known to so often transfused from book to posterity, than there are of authors, book, would not have lost much of whose fame has reached us from a their spirit and raciness. In regard distant ancestry. The student of to the new in contrast with the anantiquity discovers, that the great tique, our sight, to use a similitude, mass of writings in every past age might oftener be entertained with are perished or forgotten ; and that a light, trim, strait-laced dress of only a few in coinparison—the Indian cotton, than with a rich. works of masters-stand out in bold loose, embroidered robe of damask relief, and wear in their aspect the silk. Or to speak in allusion to a vigour and freshness of perpetual still more thought of and palpable youth. Books, in scores of thou- sense, (for we would make the opsands, have been given to the moles position as strong as truth might and the bats, or repose undisturbed warrant,) we should oftener be treaon the shelves of immense libraries. ted with sips of sherbet, than with And thus it will be in regard to the potations of nectar. We are not productions of the present time, condemning, or lightly estimating and very probably in regard to many all modern writings. That would that are quite popular. Yet the be mere affectation and folly. But feeling of readers is apt to be oth we would give antiquity its due. erwise; and with multitudes the Indeed a portion of it will exact latest authors are ever considered the homage of all coming time, as the best. From their proximity to it has done in respect to the past. us, and from the interest which As early English literature is conthey excite by means of local and cerned, respecting which our retemporary circumstances, connect- marks are principally intended, a ed with occasional improvements, quaint style, a latinized construcwe think too much of them as com- tion, and long sentences, with some pared with their predecessors. We other faults, would be lost sight of do not often scan their merits with in rich thoughts, strong sense, impartiality. In the eagerness to acute reasoning, and masculine elseize every thing new, or newly oquence. vamped, and to learn passing inci. We have never before been so dents, most readers do injustice to fully convinced of the correctness that which is ancient. They would of the views above expressed, as in in general be more profited, were reading the prose works of John they to peruse the early standard Milton. Nor ever before have we works, than to be perpetually de- felt, how greatly inferior to those vouring all the productions, wheth- works, is much of that which we er good or bad, which now issue have been accustomed to peruse in from the press. The older works approved later authors. Our aswhich they would be apt to meet tonishment has been equal to our with, would have received the delight, in knowing that English sanction of Time ; and thus only literature nearly two centuries ago the most valuable would be read. can boast such productions. A Works of recent date remain to be partial reading of Milton's prose, or proved and established by that im- an occasional acquaintance with an partial dispenser of fame. Besides, extract by no means gave us that the thoughts of the earlier writers impression respecting its character, would be found in their "ori- which a full and leisurely attention ginal brightness,” and unimpaired has now imparted. Not that our strength; whereas, it would be a delight over his pages has been un. chance, in many instances, wheth- mingled with regret, or that we er those of the later, having been have not at times witnessed a spirit, and detected a sentiment, opposed themselves to be transcendently to propriety and to truth. He had great in both. Yet such is the fact his errors and some of them no with Milton ; and it is well known light ones. But we have been sur- that he showed an equal capacity prised and gratified to observe so for the most opposite studies and much general excellence of matter pursuits-excelling in the knowl. and manner, at a period in which edge of mathematics, as well as in our notions respecting English the composition of poetry-as reprose and English principles are, markable for the solidity of his to say the least, not very exalted, judgment "as for the loftiness of his though it may be, too often errone- fancy-no less disposed to engage ous. It is no small praise that his in active and self-denying efforts, prose is often equal to his poetry in than fond of calm and studious conpower and sweetness, in majesty templation-as prompt, when duty and grace; and that he has excell- called him, to mingle in the din and ed perhaps the greatest of mankind bustle of political dispute, as in two departments of intellectual charmed with bis “Lydean airs," exertion so different as poetry and and “the melting voice through prose. It is the remark of a mod- mazes running.” ern critic, that his prose writings of another thing we have been abound with passages, coinpared convinced by reading the prose of with which the finest declamations Milton, and that is, we are not to of Burke sink into insignificance. look to poetry alone, in the exSo we think and feel. It is an im- pectation of finding all the features mortal honor that he advanced far of true greatness-of learning in beyond the knowledge or the views fact the full and real character even of the age in which he lived, and of a renowned poet. Prose in genthat he has even anticipated, on eral affords us an ampler and some subjects, the light of a dist- more varied exhibition of talents. ant futurity-a fact which his prose It speaks with less disguise and works incontrovertibly establish. more directness as to the man himIf readers in general have been de- self, his character and ordinary terred from an intimate acquaint- feelings, the general reach of his ance with those works, by the anti- understanding, and the extent of quated cast which they possess, the his knowledge. The power of prounusual terms often employed, and ducing poetry is incident to a cer. by similar causes, it only shows. tain temperament, situation of mind, that mankind are not apt to seek or association of feelings that betray that gratification, which costs them but part of the man-or the man as some trouble or effort at first though be is only at particular periods ; they would be amply compensated not in his wonted state, not in the afterwards. Or should it be thought soberness of reason, but in a sort of that the comparative ignorance, on frenzy, deluded himself, and deluthe part of readers, respecting these ding others. It is an art for which writings, casts a suspicion over there is a natural aptitude in some their sterling worth, it is as natural men whether their genius be of the to believe that mankind have been highest order or not, though if it be too greatly satisfied with his poetry not high in them we think very little to look for entertainment from his of its results. It shows not, thereprose--that having been absorbed fore, the whole range of the mindin the beauties of the former, they of a truly great mind. For such a have neglected the latter-perhaps manifestation, we need that form of that they have never supposed nor writing which can express simple wished it possible, for a mortal like truth of every kind, in the premises,
as well as in the reasonings. In here to dwell, decisively appear real poetry, it has been affirmed, from the prose of the great bard. that the premises are necessarily His opinions on many subjects, false, while the reasonings are de- particularly on politics, education, signed to be just. The generality and human duties were new, and of men certainly, and even of poets opposed to the spirit and principles most probably, must, we think, un of his day ; but with a few exceplike Pope, more easily and freely tions, they are such as mankind express their thoughts, and of with larger experience and increascourse stamp a more exact likeness ed light have generally approved, of their intellect as to its entire and such as have contributed espower, in prose than in poetry; sentially, though seldom ascribed while at the same time the poet, if to this source, to the enviable dishe is one, will be better known by tinction of modern times in regard means of his prose. There are, both to a theoretical and practical moreover, some subjects that never knowledge of those subjects. Whatengage the poetic art. They were ever may be said of the generality not made for poetry, nor poetry for of readers, there are a select few them. Controversy, for instance, is who believe and feel, that the world . one of those proscribed and irreduci- is not more indebted to Milton for ble subjects justly so considered by the Paradise Lost, than for his inthe Muses. Controversy, not to imitable Areopagitica. If the latespeak of its power in eliciting the ly discovered work on Christian truth, both manifests and strength Doctrine, said to be Milton's, be ens the capacities of genius. really his, it would form indeed a
The sentiment on which we have melancholy addition to the excepinsisted above is certainly true in tions, in regard to the correctness the case of Milton. We may al- of his opinions on certain subjects, most say with a contemporaneous and those of high importance. But journal,* that we never knew him, we here speak only of such protill we were acquainted with his ductions as are undeniably bis and prose writings—either the man in have long been known to the pubreality, or the poet in his complete. lic. ness. The directness, the ample It will appear from the extracts illustrations, and the incidental au- we shall soon introduce, as his histo-biography of his prose, have more tory also proves, that the poet than identified the man, and shed was deeply engaged in controversy. some additional rays of light and Controversy was indeed the burglory even on the poet. We must den of most of his prosaic producbe permitted more than ever not tions. On Ecclesiastical Law, the only to admire his genius, but to Matrimonial Law, on the Tenure contemplate with awe, if not with of the Magistrate, and on some affection his moral qualities and his other topics, he came in collision life. A more vigorous, dignified, with most of the learning and genbold, and independent writer and ius not only of his countrymen, but thinker never existed. And what of Europe. Except on the quesis better, he was “ all incorrupti. tion of Divorce, and a few untenable," and invincible, as an asserter ble positions in some other of his of human rights and defender of treatises, he conducted himself mancivil and religious liberty. These fully and with singular success. His and many other traits in his charac. cause was a noble one-the cause ter, on which it is not our design of the English nation--of mankind
-of human rights of the human *N. American Review,
intelleet of the enfranchisement Vol. I. No. X.
of that intelleet. No man was ever wont “ to open her contracted palm more sincere in any cause. No into a graceful and ornate rhetoric man more heartily detested igno- taught out of the rule of Plato." rance, bigotry, baseness, tyranny, “Milton,” says Symmons, his and slavery. No man ever laid a celebrated biographer, “was a stuheavier hand on these enormities, dent and a poet, by the strong and or more completely stript them of almost irresistible impulse of his iratheir disguises. And we add, no ture : he was a polemic only on the man ever brought a greater share rigid requisition of duty, and in of erudition and eloquence to bear violation of all his more benign and on the noble objects he had in view, refined propensities. He plunged or for the sake of them ever sacri- into controversy with the desperate ficed more of personal present qui resolution of a man who is settled et, hope, and happiness, and more and has bent up magnanimously submitted to the delay of lofty and favorite purposes.
* Each corporal agent to the terrible feat:* The truth, on many points before but he returns to his own proper little understood or believed, he inclination with the elasticity of a made as clear as the bright sky. bow on the rupture of its string. It must be owned, however, that His descent, if descent it may be the value of his thoughts was some called, was with compulsion and times debased by an alloy of rude- laborious flight;' but we behold ness and acrimony in the manner. him, after a long immersion in the Controversy was then conducted in pool of discord, springing up like its bitterest style, and Milton was a pyramid of fire,' and showing us not free from the fault of the age. that in his proper motion he asHe offered an apology indeed for cends.” It may seem strange that the employment of sarcasm and in the greatest of poets could ever vective, and his provocations we appropriate his powers to controknow were great, but intemperate versy, or that he should have pow. and abusive language was unwor- ers for such an appropriation—that thy of his exalted mind. He did the votary and the favorite of the not, however, imitate all the gross- Muses could be the eager politician, ness of his adversaries. He was the cunning diplomatist, the caustic more decent, though not the less disputant, and the stern theologian severe. It was a cause of lament- --that the hand which could deliation with him that he had fallen cately twine a chaplet of roses on such times; and that his duty around the brow of the Graces, obliged him to enter into “hoarse could lash a tyrant or tyrannical disputes," and the violence of the- priesthood, with a whip of scorpiological and political collision. It ons. We do not easily associate opposed his love of ease, and inter- the smoothness of verse with the rupted his studies and the great roughness of controversy, and are works he was resolving to execute apt to think that the spirit which is But he was devoted to freedom, congenial to the one, is abhorrent his courage was unquestioned, his from the other. Still the union physical tone was high, his tem- exists in the wonderful Milton, and perament was ardent, the cause was few readers of the Paradise Lost that of political and moral truth, of can have failed to remark, how Englishmen and mankind, and he much the qualities and the skill of hastened to the combat. He was, the disputant-how much the pow. moreover, a master of the contro- erful reasoner,-the dextrous man. versial pen, and a complete dialec- ager, and the knotty metaphysical tician, though his “logic” was theologian, are displayed in many