« AnteriorContinuar »
COWLEY AND MILTON .*
* Referre sermones Deorum et
I Have thought it good to set down in writing an hour on the river.” To this they both cheer& memorable debate, wherein I was a listener, fully consented, and forth we walked, Mr. Cow. and two men of pregnant parts and great repu- ley and I leading Mr. Milton between us, to the lation discoursers; hoping that my friends will Temple Stairs. There we took a boal, and nct be displeased to have a record both of the thence we rowed up the river. strange times through which I have lived, and The wind was pleasant; the evening fine; of the famous men with whom I have con- the sky, the earth, and the water beautiful 10 versed. It chanced in the warm and beautiful look upon. But Mr. Cowley and I held our spring of the year 1665, a little before the sad- peace, and said nothing of the gay sights around dest summer that ever London saw, that I went us, lest we should too feelingly remind Mr. to the Bowling-Green at Piccadilly, whither at Milton of his calamity; whereof, however, he
that time the best gentry made continual resort. needed no monitor, for soon he said, sadly,
Barnelms. There was then a house preparing would I now give for one more look at the sun,
I see the gate of Whitehall, and the stately pilAfter some talk, which it is not material to lars of the Banqueting House, I cannot choose set down at large, concerning his suit and his but think of what I have seen there in former vexations at the court, where indeed his ho- days, masques, and pageants, and dances, and nesty did him more harm than his parts could smiles, and the waving of graceful heads, and do him good, I entreated him to dine with me the bounding of delicale feet. And then I turn at my lodgings in the Temple, which he most to thoughts of other things, which even to recourteously promised. And that so eminent a member makes me blush and weep:-of the guest might not lack a better entertainment great black scaffold, and thc axe and the block, than cooks or vintners can provide, I sent to which were placed before those very windows; the house of Mr. John Milton, in the Artillery and the voice seems to sound in mine ears, the Walk, to beg that he would also be my guest. lawless and terrible voice which cried out that For, though he had been secretary, first to the the head of a king was the head of a traitor. Council of State, and after that to the Protector, There stands Westminster Hall, which who and Mr. Cowley had held the same post under can look upon and not tremble to think how Lord St. Albans in his banishment, I hoped, time, and change, and death confound the notwithstanding, that they would think them- counsels of the wise, and beat down the wea. selves rather united by their common art than pons of the mighty? How have I seen it sur divided by their different factions. And so in- rounded with tens of thousands of petitioners deed it proved. For while we sale at table crying for justice and privilege! How have I they talked freely of many men and things, as heard it shake with fierce and proud words, well ancient as modern, with much civility. which made the hearts of the people to burn Nay, Mr. Milton, who seldom tasted wine, both within them! Then it is blockaded by drabecause of his singular temperance, and be goons and cleared by pikemen. And they who cause of his gout, did more ihan once pledge have conquered their master go forth trembling Mr. Cowley, who was indeed no hermit in diet. at the word of their servant. And yet a little At last, being heated, Mr. Milion begged that I while, and the usurper comes forth from it, in would open the windows. “Nay,” said I, “if his robe of ermine, with the golden staff in one
desire fresh air and coolness, what should hand and the Bible in the other, amidst the hinder us, as the evening is fair, from sailing roaring of the guns and the shouting of the
people. And yet again a little while, and the A Conversation betroeen Mr. Abraham Cowley and Mr. and the hearse and the plumes come forth, and
doors are thronged with multitudes in black, John Milton, touching the Great Civil Wer.-sel down by the tyrant is borne, in more than royal pomp a Gentleman of the Middle Temple.
to a royal sepulchre. A few days more, and money? Had they not taken from the king his his head is fixed to rot on the pinnacles of that ancient and most lawful power touching the very hall where he sat on a throne in his life, order of knighthood ? Had they not provided and lay in state after his death. When I think that, after their dissolution, triennial parliaon all these things, to look round me makes ments should be holden, and that their own me sad at heart. True it is that God hath re- power should continue till of their great constored to us our old laws, and the rightful line descension they should be pleased to resign it of our kings. Yet, how I know not, but it themselves? What more could they ask? seems to me that something is wanting,—that Was it not enough that they had taken from our court hath not the old gravity, nor our peo- their king all his oppressive powers, and many ple the old loyalty. These evil times, like the that were most salutary? Was it not enough great deluge, have overwhelmed and confused that they had filled his council-board with his all earthly things. And, even as those waters, enemies, and his prisons with his adherents! though at last they abated, yet, as the learned Was it not enough that they had raised a furiwrite, destroyed all trace of the Garden of ous multitude to shout and swagger daily under Eden, so that its place hath never yet been the very windows of his royal palace? Was found, so bath this opening of all the flood- it not enough that they had taken from him gates of political evil effaced all marks of the the most blessed prerogative of princely mercy; ancient political paradise.”
that, complaining of intolerance themselves, “Sir, by your favour,” said Mr. Milton, they had denied all toleration to others; that " though, from many circumstances both of they had urged against forms scruples childish body and fortnne, I might plead fairer excuses as those of any formalist; that they had perfor despondency than yourself, I yet look not secuted the least remnant of the Popish rites so sadly either on the past or on the future. with the fiercest bitterness of the Popish spiThat a deluge hath passed over this our nation rit? Must they besides all this have full power I deny not. But I hold it not to be such a de- to command his armies and to massacre his luge as that of which you speak, but rather a friends? blessed flood, like those of the Nile, which in “For military command, it was never known its overflow doth indeed wash away ancient in any monarchy, nay, in any well ordered landmarks, and confound boundaries, and republic, that it was committed to the debates sweep away dwellings, yea, doth give birth to of a large and unsettled assembly. For their many foul and dangerous reptiles. Yet hence other requisition, that he should give up to is the fulness of the granary, the beauty of the their vengeance all who had defended the garden, the nurture of all living things. rights of his crown, his honour must have
"I remember well, Mr. Cowley, what you been ruined if he had complied. Is it not have said concerning these things in your Dis- therefore plain that they desired these things course of the Government of Oliver Cromwell, only in order that, by refusing, his majesty which my friend Elwood read to me last year. might give them a pretence for war? Truly, for elegance and rhetoric, that essay is “Men have often risen up against fraud, to be compared with the finest tractates of Íso- against cruelty, against rapine. But when becrates and Cicero. But neither that nor any fore was it known that concessions were met other book, nor events which with other men with importunities, graciousness with insults, have, more than any book, weight and autho- the open palm of bounty with the clenched fist rity, have altered my opinion that, of all the of malice? Was it like trusty delegates of the assemblies that ever were in this world, the Commons of England and faithful stewards of best and the most useful was our Long Parlia- their liberty and their wealth, to engage them ment. I speak not this as wishing to provoke for such causes in civil war, which, both to debate, which neither yet do I decline.” liberty and to wealth, is of all things the most
Mr. Cowley was, as I could see, a litile net- hostile. Evil indeed must be the disease which tled. Yet, as he was a man of a kind disposi- is not more tolerable than such a medicine. tion and a most refined courtesy, he put a force Those who, even to save a nation from tyrants, to himself, and answered, with more vehemence excite it to civil war, do in general but minis. and quickness, indeed, than was his wont, yet ter to it the same miserable kind of relief not uncivilly. “Surely, Mr. Milton, you speak wherewith the wizards of Pharaoh mocked the not as you think. I am indeed one of those Egyptian. We read that when Moses had who believe that God hath reserved to himself turned their waters into blood, those impious the censure of kings, and that their crimes and magicians, intending not benefit to the thirsioppressions are not to be resisted by the hands ing people, but vain and emulous ostentation of their subjects. Yet can I easily find excuse of their own art, did themselves also change for the violence of such as are stung to mad- into blood the water which the plague had ness by grievous tyranny. But what shall we spared. Such sad comfort do those who stir say for these men? Which of their just de- up war minister to the oppressed. But here mands was not granted? Which even of their where was the oppression? What was the cruel and unreasonable requisitions, su as it favour which had not been granted? What were not inconsistent with all law and order, was the evil which had not been removed ? was refused? Had they not sent Strafford to What further could they desire ?" the block and Laud to the Tower? Had they "These questions,” said Mr. Milton, austere not destroyed the Courts of the High Commis- ly, “have indeed often deceived the ignorant, sion and the Star-Chamber? Had they not re- but that Mr. Cowley should have been so beversed the proceedings confirmed by the voices guiled, I marvel. You ask what more the of the judges of England in the matter of ship. Parliament could desire ? I will answer ynu
in one word, security. What are votes, and could not be defended. It was because he had statutes, and resolutions ? They have no eyes never yielded the worst abuse without a long 10 see, no hands to strike and avenge. They struggle, and seldom without a large bribe; it must have some safeguard from without was because he had no sooner disentangled Many things, therefore, which in themselves himself from his troubles than he forgot his were peradventure hurtful, was this Parlia- promises; and, more like a villanous huckster ment constrained to ask, lest otherwise good than a great king, kept both the prerogative laws and precious rights should be without and the large price which had been paid to defence. Nor did they want a great and sig. him to forego it; it was because of these things nal example of this danger. I need not remind that it was necessary and just to bind with you that, many years before, the two houses forcible restraints one who could be bound had presented to the king the Petition of Right, neither by law nor honour. Nay, even while wherein were set down all the most valuable he was making those very concessions of privileges of the people of this realm. Did which you speak, he betrayed his deadly not Charles accept it? Did he not declare it hatred against the people and their friends. to be law? Was it not as fully enacted as Not only did he, contrary to all that ever was ever were any of those bills of the Long Par- deemed lawful in England, order that members liament concerning which you spoke? And of the Commons House of Parliament should were those privileges therefore enjoyed more be impeached of high treason at the bar of the fully by the people? No: the king did from Lords; thereby violating both the trial by jury that time redouble his oppressions as if to and the privileges of the House; but, not conavenge himself for the shame of having been tent with breaking the law by his ministers, compelled to renounce them. Then were our he went himself armed to assail it. In the estates laid under shameful impositions, our birth-place and sanctuary of freedom, in the houses ransacked, our bodies imprisoned. House itself, nay, in the very chair of the Then was the steel of the hangman blunted Speaker, placed for the protection of free with mangling the ears of harmless men. speech and privilege, he sat, rolling his eyes Then our very minds were fettered, and the round the benches, searching for those whose iron entered into our souls. Then we were blood he desired, and singling out his opposers compelled to hide our hatred, our sorrow, and to the slaughter. This most foul outrage fails. our scorn, to laugh with hidden faces at the Then again for the old arts. Then come mummery of Laud, to curse under our breath gracious messages. Then come the tyranny of Wentworth. Of old time it was speeches. Then is again mortgaged his own well and nobly said by one of our kings, that forfeited honour. He will never again violate an Englishman ought to be free as his thoughts. the laws. He will respect their rights as if Our prince reversed the maxim; he strove to they were his own. He pledges the dignity of make our thoughts as much slaves as our his crown; that crown which had been comselves. To sneer at a Romish pageant, tomitted to him for the weal of his people, and miscall a lord's crest, were crimes for which which he never named, but that he might the there was no mercy. These were all the fruits more easily delude and oppress them. which we gathered from those excellent laws “The power of the sword, I grant you, was of the former Parliament, from these solemn not one to be permanently possessed by parliapromises of the king. Were we to be deceived ment. Neither did that parliament demand it again? Were we again to give subsidies, and as a permanent possession. They asked it receive nothing but promises ? Were we again only for temporary security. Nor can I see to make wholesome statutes, and then leave on what conditions they could safely make them to be broken daily and hourly, until the peace with that false and wicked king, save oppressor should have squandered another such as would deprive him of all power to insupply, and should be ready for another per- jure. jury? You ask what they could desire which “For civil war, that it is an evil I dispute he had not already granted. Let me ask of not. But that it is the greatest of evils, that you anuther question. What pledge could be I stoutly deny. It doth indeed appear to the given which he had not already violated ? | misjudging to be a worse calamity than bad From the first year of his reign, whenever he government, because its miseries are collected had need of the purses of his Commons to sup- together within a short space and time, and port the revels of Buckingham or the proces. may easily at one view be taken in and persions of Laud, he had assured them, that as he ceived. But the misfortunes of nations ruled was a gentleman and a king, he would sacred by tyrants, being distributed over many centuiy preserve their rights. He had pawned those ries, and many places, as they are of greater solemn pledges, and pawned them again and weight and number, so are they of less dis. again; but when had he redeemed them ? play. When the devil of tyranny hath gone
Upon my faith,'— Upon my sacred word,'- into the body politic he departs not but with • Upon the honour of a prince,'- -came so easi- struggles, and foaming, and great convulsions. ly from his lips and dwelt so short a time on Shall he, therefore, vex it forever, lest, in gohis mind, that they were as little to be trusted ing out, he for a moment tear and rend it? ds the .By these hilts' of an Alsatian dicer. Truly this argument touching the evils of war
“Therefore it is that I praise this Parlia- would better become my friend Elwood, or men, for what else I might have condemned. some other of the people called Quakers, than If what he had granted had been granted a courtier and a cavalier. It applies no more graciously and readily, if what he had before to this war than to all others, as well foreign promised had been fajthfully observed, they as domestic, and, in this war, no more to the houses than to the king; nay not so much, stain from those rigours ? Had they, like him, since he by a little sincerity and moderation for good and valuable considerations, aliened might have rendered that needless which their hurtful prerogatives? Surely not: for their duty to God and man then enforced them whatever excuse you can plead for him, he had to do."
wholly excluded himself. The borders of “Pardon me, Mr. Milton," said Mr. Cowley, countries, we know, are mostly the seats of " I grieve to hear you speak thus of that good perpetual wars and tumults. It was the same king. Most unhappy indeed he was, in that he with the undefined frontiers, which of old sereigned at a time when the spirit of the then parated privilege and prerogative. They were living generation was for freedom, and the pre- the debatable land of our polity. It was no cedents of former ages for prerogative. His marvel if, both on the one side and on the case was like to that of Christopher Columbus, other, inroads were often made. But when when he sailed forth on an unknown ocean, treaties have been concluded, spaces meaand found that the compass whereby he shaped sured, lines drawn, landmarks set up, that his course had shifted from the north pole which before might pass for innocent error or whereto before it had constantly pointed. So just reprisal, becomes robbery, perjury, deadly it was with Charles. His compass varied, sin. He knew not, you say, which of his and therefore he could not tack aright. If he powers were founded on ancient law, and had been an absolute king he would, doubtless, which only on vicious example. But had he like Titus Vespasian, have been called the de- not read the Petition of Right? Had not prolight of the human race. If he had been a clamation been made from his throne; Soit Doge of Venice, or a Stadtholder of Holland, fait comme il est desiré? he would never have outstepped the laws. But “For his private virtues they are beside the he lived when our government had neither question. Remember you not," and Mr. Milton clear definitions nor strong sanctions. Let, smiled, but somewhat sternly, “what Dr. Caius therefore, his faults be ascribed to the time. saith in the Merry Wives of Shakspeare ? Of his virtues the praise is his own.
What shall the honest man do in my closet? “ Never was there a more gracious prince, There is no honest man that shall come in my or a more proper gentleman. In every plea- closet.' Even so say I. There is no good sure he was temperate, in conversation mild man who shall make us his slaves. If he break and grave, in friendship constant, to his ser- his word to his people, is it a sufficient defence vants liberal, to his queen faithful and loving, that he keeps it to his companions? If he in battle brave, in sorrow and captivity re- oppress and extort all day, shall he be held solved, in death most Christian and forgiving. blameless because he prayeth at night and
"For his oppressions, let us look at the for. morning? If he be insatiable in plunder and mer history of this realm. James was never revenge, shall we pass it by because in meat accounted a tyrant. Elizabeth is esteemed to and drink he is temperate ? If he have lived have been the mother of her people. Were like a tyrant, shall he be forgotten because he they less arbitrary? Did they never lay hands hath died like a martyr? on the purses of their subjects but by Act of “He was a man, as I think, who had such Parliament? Did they never confine insolenta semblance of virtues as might make his vices and disobedient men but in due course of law? most dangerous. He was not a tyrant after our Was the court of Star-Chamber less active ? wonted English model. The second Richard, Were the ears of libellers more safe? I pray and the second and fourth Edwards, and the you, let not King Charles be thus dealt with. eighth Harry, were men profuse, gay, boisterIt was enough that in his life he was tried for ous; lovers of women and of wine, of no outan alleged breach of laws which none had ward sanctity or gravity. Charles was a ruler ever heard named till they were discovered for after the Italian fashion; grave, demure, of a his destruction. Let not his fame be treated as solemn carriage, and sober diet; as constant was his sacred and anointed body. Let not at prayers as a priest, as heedless of oaths as his memory be tried by principles found out an atheist.” er post facto. Let us not judge by the spirit of Mr. Cowley answered somewhat sharply: one generation a man whose disposition had "I am sorry, sir, to hear you speak thus. I been formed by the temper and fashion of an. had hoped that the vehemence of spirit which other.”
was caused by these violent times had now “Nay, but conceive me, Mr. Cowley,” said abated. Yet, sure, Mr. Milton, whatever you Mr. Milton,“ inasmuch as, at the beginning of may think of the character of King Charles, his reign, he imitated those who had governed you will not still justify his murder." before him, I blame him not. To expect that “Sir," said Mr. Milion, “I must have been kings will, of their own free choice, abridge of a hard and strange nature, if the vehemence their prerogative, were argument of but slender which was imputed to me in my younger days wisdom. Whatever, therefore, lawless, unjust, had not been diminished by the afflictions or cruel, he either did or permitted during the wherewith it has pleased Almighty God 10 first cars of his reign, I pass by. But for chasten mine age. I will not now defend all wha. was done after that he had solemnly that I may herctofore have written. But this given his consent to the Petition of Right, I say, that I perceive not wherefore a king where shall we find defence ? Let it be sup- should be exempted from all punishment. Is posed, which yet I concede not, that the tyranny it just that where most is given least should be of his father and of Queen Elizabeth had been required ? or politic, that where there is the no less rigorous than was his. But had his greatest power to injure there should no dan father, had that queen sworn, like him, to ab Iger to restrain ? But, you will say, there is no such law. Such a law there is. There is the work of evil to perform, they would turn their law of self-preservation written by God him- claws against himself. Such a fiend is an self on our hearts. There is the primal com- army. They who evoke it cannot dismiss it. pact and bond of society, not graven on stone, They are at once its masters and its slaves. nor sealed with wax, por put down on parch- Let them not fail to find for it task after task ment, nor set forth in any express form of of blood and rapine. Let them not leave it for words by men when of old they came together; a moment in repose, lest it tear them in pieces. but implied in the very act that they came “ Thus was it with this famous assembly. together, presupposed in all subsequent law, They formed a force which they could neither not to be repealed by any authority, not invali- govern nor resist. They made it powerful. dated by being omitted in any code; inasmuch They made it fanatical. As if military insoas from thence are all codes and all authority. lence were not of itself sufficiently dangerous,
“Neither do I well see wherefore you cava- they heightened it with spiritual pride,-they liers, and, indeed, many of us whom you mer- encouraged their soldiers to rave from the rily call Roundheads, distinguish between those tops of tubs against the men of Belial, till who fought against King Charles, and special every trooper thought himself a prophet. They ly after the second commission given to Sir taught them to abuse popery, till every drumThomas Fairfax, and those who condemned mer fancied that he was as infallible as a him to death. Sure, if his person were invio- pope. lable, it was as wicked to lift the sword against á Then it was that religion changed her nait at Naseby as the axe at Whitehall. If his ture. She was no longer the parent of arts life might justly be taken, why not in course and letters, of wholesome knowledge, of innoof trial as well as by right of war?
cent pleasures, of blessed household smiles. “ Thus much in general as touching the In their place came sour faces, whining voices, right. But for the execution of King Charles the chattering of fools, the yells of madmen. in particular, I will not now undertake to de- Then men fasted from meat and drink, who fend it. Death is inflicted, not that the culprit fasted not from bribes and blood. Then men may die, but that the state may be thereby ad-frowned at stage-plays, who smiled at massavantaged. And, from all that I know, I think cres. Then men preached against painted that the death of King Charles hath more hin- faces, who felt no remorse for their own most dered than advanced the liberties of England. painted lives. Religion had been a pole-star
First, he left an heir. He was in captivity. to light and to guide. It was now more like to The heir was in freedom. He was odious to that ominous star in the book of the Apocalypse, the Scots. The heir was favoured by them. which fell from heaven upon the fountains and To kill the captive, therefore, whereby the rivers, and changed them into wormwood; for heir, in the apprehension of all royalists, be even so did it descend from its high and cecame forthwith king; what was it in truth but lestial dwelling-place to plague this earth and to set their captive free, and to give him besides to turn into bitterness all that was sweet, and other great advantages ?
into poison all that was nourishing. “ Next, it was a deed most odious to the peo- “Therefore it was not strange that such ple, and not only to your party, but to many things should follow. They who had closed among ourselves; and as it is perilous for any the barriers of London against the king could government to outrage the public opinion, so not defend them against their own creatures. most was it perilous for a government which They who had so stoutly cried for privilege, had from that opinion alone its birth, its nur when that prince, most unadvisedly no doubt, ture, and its defence.
came among them to demand their members, “ Yet, doth not this properly belong to our durst not wag their fingers when Oliver filled dispute ; nor can these faults be justly charged their hall with soldiers, gave their mace to a upon that most renowned Parliament. For, as corporal, put their keys in his pocket, and you know, the high court of justice was not drove them forth with base terms, borrowed established until the House had been purged half from the conventicle and half from the of such members as were adverse to the army, ale-house. Then were we, like the trees of the and brought wholly under the control of the forest in holy writ, given over to the rule of chief officers.”
the bramble; then from the basest of the shrubs “ And who,” said Mr. Cowley, “ levied the came forth the fire which devoured the Cedars
Who commissioned those officers ? of Lebanon. We bowed down before a man of Was not the fate of the Commons as justly mean birth, of ungraceful demeanour, of stamdeserved as was that of Diomedes, who was mering and most vulgar utterance, of scandadevoured by those horses whom he had him- lous and notorious hypocrisy. Our laws were self taught to feed on the flesh and blood of made and unmade at his pleasure; the consti. men? How could they hope that others would tution of our Parliaments changed by his writ respect laws which they themselves insulted; and proclamation; our persons imprisoned; that swords which had been drawn against the our property plundered; our lands and houses prerogatives of the king would be put up at an overrun with soldiers ; and the great charter ordinance of the Commons? It was believed itself was but argument for a scurrilous jest; of old, inat there were some devils easily and for all this we may thank that Parliament; raised, but never to be laid ; insomuch, that if for never, unless they had so violently shaken a magician called them up, he should be forced the vessel, could such foul dregs have risen to to find them always some employment; for, the top." though they would do all his bidding, yet, if he Then answered Mr. Milton:
* What you them but for one moment without some have now said comprehends so great a number