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to be a matter of less skill and less labour to keep a garden handsome, than it is to plant it, or contrive it; and that he had already performed himself. No, said the stranger, this is neither for you nor your fellows to meddle with, but for me only, that am for this purpose in dignity far above you ; and the provision which the lord of the soil allows me in this office is, and that with good reason, tenfold your wages. The gardener smiled, and shook his head; but what was determined, I cannot tell you till the end of this Parliament.”
Early in the year 1642 appeared an anonymous reply to the “Animadversions,” supposed to have been written by the son of the prelate (Bishop Hall) with whom Milton had dealt so unsparingly. It bore the title of “a Modest Confutation against a Slanderous and Scurrilous Libel,” and was evidently written under the strongest impulse of resentment. The writer heaped upon Milton the most atrocious and unfounded calumnies, and the degree of malignity he displayed may be estimated by a single passage, in which he called upon all Christians to stone his opponent “as a miscreant whose impunity would be their crime.” This drew from Milton his “ Apology for Smectymnuus ;" which was published in the year 1642, and, in accordance with the nature of the attacks which occasioned it, was to a considerable extent a vindication of himself. Still it must ever occupy a high rank among the prose works of Milton. “We may well wonder,” says Mr. St. John, " that out of a gladiatorial controversy of this sanguinary kind, anything should have arisen so richly teeming with beautiful thoughts, so full of youthful and cheering reminiscencesso varied, so polished, so vehemently eloquent, as the "Apology for Smectymnuus,' which, as a noble and justifiable burst of egotism, has never, perhaps, in any language been excelled.”
Milton commences by vindicating his right to take the part he had adopted in the great controversy of the day, notwithstanding his youthful age, and the fact that the object of his hostility was a system which the State had been wont to cherish and honour. He next justifies the warmth with which he had defended religious liberty, by quoting the words of Gregory Nyssen, justifying his asperity in the defence of his brother Basil. “It was not for himself," he said, “ but in the cause of his brother; and in such cases, perhaps, it is worthier pardon to be angry than to be cooler.” Then having cleared himself from the charges of immorality brought against his university life, he thus alludes to his subsequent studies :
* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 78–80.
“ Thus, from the laureat fraternity of poets, riper years and the ceaseless round of study and reading led me to the shady spaces of philosophy; but chiefly to the divine volumes of Plato, and his equal, Xenophon: where, if I should tell ye what I learnt of chastity and love, I mean that which is truly so, whose charming cup is only virtue, which she bears in her hand to those who are worthy (the rest are cheated with a thick intoxicating potion, which a certain sorceress, the abuser of love's name, carries about); and how the first and chiefest office of love begins and ends in the soul, producing those happy twins of her divine generation, knowledge and virtue. With such abstracted sublimities as these, it might be worth your listening, readers, as I may one day hope to have ye in a still time, when there shall be no chiding.”
His opponents had further reproached him for his satirical vein, and for those severities against the prelates which he designates “libels.” In a passing notice of the first charge, he shelters himself under the authority of Horace, alluding to two passages, one of which occurs in the tenth satire of the first book :
Quanquam ridentem dicere verum
Doctores, elementa velint ut discere prima.” The charge of libelling he thus retorts :—“Neither can religion receive any wound by disgrace thrown upon the prelates, since religion and they surely were never in such amity. They rather are the men who have wounded religion, and their stripes must heal her. I might also tell them what Electra, in Sophocles, a wise virgin, answered her wicked mother, who thought herself too violently reproved by her the daughter :
“ 'T is you that say it, not I; you do the deeds,
And your ungodly deeds find me the words." If, therefore, the Remonstrant complains of libels, it is because he feels them to be right aimed. For I ask again, as before in the 'Animadversions, how long is it since he disrelished libels? We never heard the least mutter of his voice against them while they flew abroad without control or check, defaming the Scots and Puritans." *
From justifying himself, he next turns to the Defence of the Parliament, whom his opponent had similarly slandered. This body he vindicates in the following stately passage:
“Now although it be a digression from the ensuing matter, yet because it shall not be said I am apter to blame others than to make trial myself, and that I may, after this harsh discord, touch upon a smoother string, awhile to entertain myself and him that list, with some more pleasing fit, and not the least to testify the gratitude which I owe to those public benefactors of their country, for the share I enjoy in the common peace and good by their incessant labours ; I shall be so troublesome to this disclaimer for once, as to show him what he might have better said in their praise; wherein I must mention only some few things of many, for more than that to a digression may not be granted. Although certainly their actions are worthy not thus to be spoken of by the way, yet if hereafter it befall me to attempt something more answerable to their great merits, I perceive how hopeless it will be to reach the height of their praises at the accomplishment of that expectation that waits upon their noble deeds, the unfinishing whereof already surpasses what others before
* Prose Works, vol. iii. p. 133.
them have left enacted with their utmost performance through many ages. And to the end we may be confident that what they do proceeds neither from uncertain opinion nor sudden counsels, but from mature wisdom, deliberate virtue, and dear affection to the public good, I shall begin at that which made them likeliest in the eyes of good men to effect those things for the recovery of decayed religion and the commonwealth, which they who were best minded had long wished for, but few, as the times were then desperate, had the courage to hope for.
First, therefore, the most of them being either of ancient and high nobility, or at least of known and well-reputed ancestry, which is a great advantage towards virtue one way, but in respect of wealth, ease, and flattery, which accompany a nice and tender education, is as much a hindrance another way; the good which lay before them they took, in imitating the worthiest of their progenitors : and the evils which assaulted their younger years by the temptation of riches, high birth, and that usual bringing up, perhaps too favourable and too remiss, through the strength of an inbred goodness, and with the help of divine grace, that had marked them out for no mean purposes, they nobly overcame, Yet had they a greater danger to cope with ; for being trained up in the knowledge of learning, and sent to those places which were intended to be the seed-plots of piety and the liberal arts, but were become the nurseries of superstition and empty speculation, as they were prosperous against those vices which grow upon youth out of idleness and superfluity, so were they happy in working off the harms of their abused studies and labours ; correcting, by the clearness of their own judgment, the errors of their misinstruction, and were, as David was, wiser than their teachers. And although their lot fell into such times, and to be bred in such places, where if they chanced to be taught anything good, or of their own accord had learnt it, they might see that presently untaught them by the custom and ill example
of their elders ; so far in all probability was their youth from being misled by the single power of example, as their riper years were known to be unmoved with the baits of preferment, and undaunted for any discouragement and terror, which appeared often to those that loved religion and their native liberty; which two things God hath inseparably knit together, and hath disclosed to us, that they who seek to corrupt our religion, are the same that would enthral our civil liberty.
Thus, in the midst of all disadvantages and disrespects, (some also at last not without imprisonment and open disgraces in the cause of their country,) having given proof of themselves to be better made and framed by nature to the love and practice of virtue, than others under the holiest precepts and best examples have been headstrong and prone to vice; and having, in all the trials of a firm ingrafted honesty, not oftener buckled in the conflict than given every opposition the foil: this, moreover, was added by favour from Heaven, as an ornament and happiness to their virtue, that it should be neither obscure in the opinion of men, nor eclipsed for want of matter equal to illustrate itself; God and man consenting in joint approbation to choose them out as worthiest above others to be both the great reformers of the Church and the restorers of the commonwealth. Nor did they deceive that expectation which with the eyes and desires of their country was fixed upon them: for no sooner did the force of so much united excellence meet in one globe of brightness and efficacy, but, encountering the dazzled resistance of tyranny, they gave not over, though their enemies were strong and subtle, till they had laid her grovelling upon the fatal block; with one stroke winning again our lost liberties and charters, which our forefathers, after so many battles, could scarce maintain.
“And meeting next, as I may so resemble, with the second life of tyranny, (for she was grown an ambiguous monster, and to be slain in two shapes,) guarded with superstition, which hath no small power to captivate the minds of