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To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest He, returning, chide ;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied ? '

I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

Either man's work or his own gifts; who best

Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best ; His state Is kingly : thousands at His bidding speed

And post o'er land and ocean without rest ;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

Next to this we may place another sonnet, addressed to his friend Cyriack Skinner. This, as will be seen, was written on the third anniversary of the day from which he dated his total blindness. The contrast in tone between it and the one just quoted is very striking. In the one case we have the spirit of calm resignation ; in the other, the sustaining consciousness of work well done in a great cause which was indeed worthy of the sacrifice which it had entailed.

TO CYRIACK SKINNER
Cyriack, this three years' day these eyes, though clear,

To outward view, of blemish or of spot,
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot ;

Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Of sun, or moon, or star, throughout the year,

Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not Against Heav'n's Hand or Will, nor bate a jot Of heart or hope ; but still bear up and steer · Perhaps it was a sense of his personal appearance which led Milton to emphasise this fact. He refers to it again in his “ Second Defence,” in which he says that his eyes, "externally uninjured . shine with an unclouded light, just like the eyes of one whose vision is perfect."

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Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?

The conscience, Friend, to have lost them overplied

In Liberty's defence, my noble task,
Of which all Europe rings from side to side.
This thought might lead me through the world's

vain mask
Content though blind, had I no better guide.

One more of the poet's references to his affliction-a later one-must be added to these two sonnets. This is embedded in the magnificent invocation to light which opens the third book of “ Paradise Lost.” The entire passage must be reproduced (11. I-55).

Hail, holy Light, offspring of Heav'n first-born !
Or of th' Eternal coeternal beam
May I express Thee unblamed ? since God is Light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity-dwelt then in Thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate !
Or hear'st Thou rather pure Ethereal stream,
Whose fountain who shall tell ? Before the Sun,
Before the Heavens, thou wert; and, at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising World of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless Infinite.
Thee I revisit now with bolder wing,
Escaped the Stygian Pool, though long detained
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight,
Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
With other notes than to th' Orphean lyre
I sung of Chaos and eternal Night,
Taught by the Heav'nly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to re-ascend,

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Though hard and rare. Thee I revisit safe,
And feel Thy sovran vital Lamp ; but Thou
Revisit’st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn :
So thick a drop serene hath quenched their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veiled. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt-
Clear spring or shady grove or sunny hill —
Smit with the love of sacred song ; but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flow'ry brooks beneath
That wash thy hallowed feet and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit : nor sometimes forget
Those other two equalled with me in fate-
So were I equalled with them in renown ! -
Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides,
And Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old ;
Then feed on thoughts that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers : as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of ev'n or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom or summer's rose
Or flocks or herds or human face divine ;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark,
Surrounds me : from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and, for the book of knowledge fair,
Presented with a universal blank
Of Nature's works, to me expunged and rased,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather Thou, Celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her

pow'rs Ifradiate ; there plant eyes; all mist from thence Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell

Of things invisible to mortal sight.

a

The chief event of Milton's private life during the years which immediately succeeded his loss of sight was his marriage in 1656 with Catharine Woodcock, the daughter of a Captain Woodcock of Hackney. That this second union brought him much quiet happiness seems certain. It was, however, destined to be very brief, for fifteen months later his wife died, leaving behind her a tender memory of the “ love, sweetness, goodness" which“ in her person

• shined." Notwithstanding his blindness, he continued to hold his secretarial position, though necessarily some of its duties had now to be performed by deputy, his principal assistant being the well-known patriot and poet Andrew Marvell. His energy as a controversialist and pamphleteer also remained unabated till the very end of the Protectorate, the last production of his “ left hand "-his Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth”. appearing in March 1660, only two months before the proclamation of Charles II. as king. This was a bold plea for a republican form of government. But whatever influence it might conceivably have exerted in different circumstances, it was, in fact, born out of date. The success of the Royalist cause in England was already assured.

We have now come to the end of the Commonwealth period in English history, and, with this, to the close of Milton's activities as prosewriter and public servant. That this long chapter in his life is full of interest on the biographical side will scarcely be denied ; nor, however small may now seem to be the essential value of his contributions to the political and ecclesiastical discussions of his time, and however regrettable the passion and violence which disfigure so many of his pages, is any sympathetic student likely to blame him for turning aside at what he conceived to be the imperative call of duty, from the broad highways of pure literature into the tortuous byways of noises and hoarse disputes." Yet, as we look back, we are inevitably most impressed by the enormous loss entailed by the course of action which he thus so resolutely pursued. Milton is now universally recognised as one of the supreme poets of all the world ; he had long nourished the ambition of producing some one great work in which his genius and his powers should find full and adequate expression; steadily and patiently, from youth onward, he had been preparing himself by severe study and mental discipline for the accomplishment of his gigantic task. Yet through the twenty years of his middle manhood, while his genius was in its very prime, that task remained untouched. During a period almost as long as that which embraced the whole of Shakespeare's dramatic activity, the greatest of English poets, busy with controversies which have long been dead and with personal quarrels which only served to degrade him to the level of the pettiest of his adversaries and traducers, produced, all told, a score or so of sonnets. Rarely, if ever else

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