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unsuited to him in disposition and education, died. Milton was left with three little girls. In 1656 he married Katherine Woodcock, who lived but little more than a year, and to whom he paid a touching tribute in one of his sonnets.
Later Poetic Period (1660-1674). In these later years of Milton's life, during which he suffered blindness, sorrow, and broken health, the cause for which he had sacrificed so much was lost, and England was brought again under the rule of a Stuart king. Milton had been so vehement an advocate of the Parliament that we wonder at his escape; but, from whatever reason, he was not excepted from the general pardon put forth by Charles II after his return (August 29, 1660). In the riotous years that followed, when England, casting off decency and restraint, plunged into "the mad orgy of the Restoration," Milton entered in earnest upon the composition of Paradise Lost, singing with voice
To hoarse or mute, though fallen on evil days;
In darkness, and with dangers compassed round,
In his little house in Bunhill Fields, near the London in which the pleasure-loving King jested at faith and honor, and held his shameless court amid
the barbarous dissonance
Of Bacchus and his revellers,"
the old poet lived his life of high contemplation and undaunted labor. At no time does Milton seem to us more worthy of himself; he is so heroic that we hardly dare to pity him. But wherever the fault lay, his
daughters, whose privilege it should have been to minister to him, greatly increased his burdens. They are said to have sold his books without his knowledge, and two of them counseled his maidservant to cheat him in his marketings."
When we reflect that the oldest daughter was but fourteen at the Restoration, and that the education of all had been neglected, we are inclined to judge less hardly, but we can scarcely wonder that Milton should have sought some means of relief from these intolerable discomforts. This he happily found through his marriage with Elizabeth Minshull in 1663. Yet even when matters were at the worst, Milton seems to have borne them with fortitude, “having a certain serenity of mind not condescending to little things." His one faithful daughter, Deborah, speaks of his cheerfulness under his sufferings from the gout, and describes him as "the soul of conversation." The words of one who visited him at this time help to bring Milton before us, dressed neatly in black, and seated in a large armchair in a room with dark-green hangings, his soft hair falling over his shoulders, his sightless eyes still beautiful and clear.
Paradise Lost was published in 1667, and was followed in 1671 by Paradise Regained. With the latter poem appeared the noble drama of Samson Agonistes (or the Wrestler), and with it Milton's work was ended. died on November 8, 1674.
Milton's Ideal of Life. We are stimulated and thrilled by the thought of Milton's life, as at the sight of some noble and heroic action. In its whole ideal and in its large results, we feel that it moves habitually on the higher levels, and is animated by no vulgar or ordinary aims. It is much that as a great poet Milton
loved beauty, that as a great scholar he sought after truth. It is more that, above the scholar's devotion to knowledge, Milton set the citizen's devotion to country, the patriot's passionate love of liberty; that above even the employment of his great poetic gift, he set the high resolve to make his life "a true poem," and to live
"As ever in my great Taskmaster's eye."
He has accordingly left us an example of solemn self-consecration to a lofty purpose, early undertaken, and steadfastly and consistently pursued. Milton's life was lived at high tension; he not only set an exacting standard for himself, he was also inclined to impose it upon others. He is so sublime that some of us are inclined to be a trifle ill at ease in his presence, or are apt to be repelled by a strain of severity far different from the sweet companionableness of Shakespeare. In Milton's stringent and austere ideal we miss at times the saving grace of Shakespeare's charity, or we are almost moved to exclaim with Sir Toby:
"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"
In Samson Agonistes, when Delilah pleads before her husband that she has sinned through weakness, she is met by an uncompromising reply:
"... If weakness may excuse,
From such a rigorous insistence on condemnation in strict accord with the offense, our minds revert to
Portia's inspired plea for mercy, or to Isabella's searching question:
"How would you be,
If He, which is the top of judgment, should
Paradise Lost. This Puritan severity is especially marked in the three great poems of Milton's later life. As a young man he had chosen a purely romantic subject for his projected epic - the story of Arthur; his maturer interests led him to abandon this for a purely religious and doctrinal one. Paradise Lost, generally considered Milton's greatest work, is the story of Satan's rebellion against God, of his being hurled out of Heaven with his rebel hosts, and falling for nine days through Chaos and darkness into the depths of Hell. It tells of the creation of the world and of man; "of Man's first disobedience," under Satan's temptation, and of his consequent loss of Paradise. Milton's purpose was to explain the existence of sin and death in the world, "and all our woe," and to "justify the ways of God to men." But the poem is great rather in spite of, than because of, this theological interest. What gives it permanence is Milton's tremendous sweep of imagination and the exalted music of his verse. No poet before him, not even Dante, had conceived so large a stage for the action of his drama. We have not only the physical universe, or the World, as Milton called it, with its ten concentric spheres revolving about the earth, but the vast Empyrean beyond; we have Heaven, with its towers and battlements, while from Heaven's floor the "pendent world," the entire orb of creation, hangs suspended by golden chains. In Pandemonium, "high capital" of Satan, "the infernal peers" sit in council. Moreover, Milton's imagination was entirely adequate
in filling in the details of the action of this cosmic drama, and in conceiving fit and appropriate characters. The actors are not lost on the stage. Milton's persons God, Satan, the exalted and fallen angels, Adam and Eve are, like his worlds, conceived and described with an heroic and epic grandeur. And more than this, Milton's poetic utterance is in perfect harmony with the majesty and scope of his imagination. His is the truly epic style. Indeed, Paradise Lost, and its sequel Paradise Regained, constitute the one great contribution of the English genius to the epic poetry of the world. By the incomparable dignity and majesty of the verse, with its prolonged and solemn music, and the curious involution of its slowly unfolding sentences, we are lifted out of the ordinary or the trivial into the incalculable spaces of that region into which it is the poet's object to transport us. The description of Satan's flight from the gates of Hell, upward through old Night and Chaos, in his search for the newly created World, is a good example of Milton's imaginative power and of his style:
"Into this wild Abyss the wary Fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and looked a while,
The steadfast Earth. At last his sail-broad vans