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confident that no immorality could be the cause of his punishment. Religion, as we know, took early possession of his bosom; and he, who, with weak eyes and an aching head, could consecrate one half of the night to study, cannot be suspected of stealing the other half from repose for the purpose of confounding it with excess, or of polluting it with debauch. A mind, indeed, like his, exulting in the exercise of its higher powers, and intent on the pursuit of knowledge, could not, without a violation of its nature, submit to licentious indulgencies. The cultivation of intellect not only diverts the attention from sensual pleasure, but inspires ' a pride which subdues its fascination; and while the spectacle of the world exhibits innumerable instances of men of genius hurrying into excessive gratification, it scarcely presents us with one, under the influence of the same
y Milton talks in the same strain: be from feeling and I from observation. “ These reasonings, together with a certain nice“ness of nature, an honest haughtiness and self-esteem either of “ what I was, or what I might be (which let envy call pride), “ and lastly, a becoming modesty, all uniting the supply of their “ natural aid together, kept me still above those low descents “ of mind, beneath which he must deject and plunge himself, " that can agree to saleable and unlawful prostitutions."
Apol. for Smect. P.W. v. 1. 224.
unfortunate error, among the assiduous votaries of knowledge.
But if Milton, the religious and the studious Milton, were not censurable for his immoral irregularities, by what means, it may be asked, could he become obnoxious to the governours of his college? We may answer without difficulty, that he might offend their prejudices by the bold avowal of his puritan opinions: or he might wound their pride by his exposure of their negligent or injudicious discharge of duty: or, lastly, he might excite their displeasure by his haughty inattention to their rules, and by his refusing, perhaps, to quit the banquet of his intellect or his imagination on the page of Plato or of Homer, for the barren fatigue of translating a sermon, or of throwing on his memory some cumbrous pages of scholastic divinity. He had already, as we may fairly infer, imbibed from his presbyterian tutor, Young, a dislike to the discipline of our church; and we are assured, by more than one passage in his own works, that he looked with no friendly eye either on the plan of education ? observed in the University, or on the learning and the conduct of its meinbers. We may con
2 Treatise on Ed. to Hurtlib. * Epist. Alex. Gallio, Jul. 2, 1628.
b Apology for Smectymnuus.
ceive therefore that he might be excluded from the favour of his superiors in the college, and even be exposed to their censures, without incurring the slightest loss of character, or sustaining the most trifling diminution of our esteem.
In his “ Second Defence," published twelve years after the “ Apology for Smectymnuus,” he again asserts the purity of his college life: and affirms, in opposition to his adversary's calumnies, that he passed seven years at the University pure from every blemish, and in possession of the esteem of the good, till he took with applause his degree of master of arts; that he then retired to his father's house, and left behind him a memory, which was cherished with affection and respect by the greater part of the fellows of his college, who had always been assiduous in cultivating his regard.
Here, therefore, we must finally rest; and, throwing from our fancies every idea which
c « fllic (Cantabrigiâ) disciplinis atq; artibus tradi solitis septennium studui; procul omni flagitio, bonis omnibus probatus usquedum magistri, quem vocant, gradum cum laude etium adeptus, non Italiam, quod impurus ille comminiscitur, profugi, sed sponte meâ domum me contuli, meiq; etiam desiderium apud collegii plerosq; socios, a quibus eram haud mediocriter cultus, reliqui." Defen. secun. P.W.. v. 230.
can suggest our author as the object of positive punishment, (of any thing more,we mean, than of those impositions, perhaps, which are injoined for trivial omissions, and trespasses against the college forms,) we must decide that his morals at the University conciliated the general esteem, while his learning and his talents excited the general applause. Of his learning and his talents, indeed, he had exhibited, during this period, such decisive and brilliant proofs, as to place above question his uncommon acquisitions and powers, and, undoubtedly, to make him the centre of an extended circle of admiration.
In the seven years of his academical life, however he might complain of “ the rushy marshes and the naked banks of the Cam,” as unfriendly to the Muses, he discovered that neither “ soft shades," nor a retirement from “ the murmur of the hoarse schools,” were essentially necessary to his inspiration. In this space of time, his vigorous and ardent genius broke out in frequent flashes, and evidently disclosed the future author of Comus and of Paradise Lost. We have already noticed, on the testimony of Aubrey, which may be received as to the fact in question, that Milton was a poet when he was only
ten years old; and his translation of the 136th psalm, which we still possess, sufficiently evinces his progress in poetic expression at the early age of fifteen. When we read in this small work of “ the golden-tressed sun,” of the moon shining among “ her spangled sisters of the night;" of the Almighty smiting the first-born of Egypt with “ his thunder-clasping hand, we are forced to acknowledge the buddings of the rising poet, the first shootings of the infant oak, which in later times was to overshadow the forest.
At the age, to which we have now followed him, or from the commencement of his academic career, his genius rushed rapidly to its maturity; and, like the Neptune of his favourite Homer, he may be considered as having made only three majestic strides to the summit, on which he stands and beholds no superior. If we plant his first step at the beautiful little poem on the death of his sister's child, his second may be regarded as fixed on his sublime, though unequal ode “ On the Morning of Christ's Nativity;" and his third as reaching to his Comus. These compositions seem to be separated by nearly equal intervals, as well with respect to the time, as with reference to the power of their