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not the sweet clamour of the wild-fowl, gathering for one rich pæan ere they sank into rest, seem to him as God's bells chiming him home in triumph, with peals sweeter and bolder than those of Lincoln or Peterborough steeple-house? Did not the very lapwing, as she tumbled softly wailing, before his path, as she did years ago, seem to welcome the wanderer home in the name of heaven?
Fair Patience, too, though she was a Puritan, yet did not her cheek flush, her eye grow dim, like any other girl's, as she saw far off the red-coat, like a sliding spark of fire, coming slowly along the straight fen-bank, and fled up stairs into her chamber to pray, half that it might be, half that it might not be he? Was there no happy storm of human tears and human laughter when he entered the courtyard gate? Did not the old dog lick his Puritan hand as lovingly as if it had been a Cavalier's? Did not lads and lasses run out shouting? Did not the old yeoman father hug him, weep over him, hold him at arm's length, and hug him again, as heartily as any other John Bull, even though the next moment he called all to kneel down and thank Him who had sent his boy home again, after bestowing on him the grace to bind kings in chains and nobles with links of iron, and contend to death for the faith delivered to the saints ? And did not Zeal-for-Truth look about as wistfully for Patience as any other man would have done, longing to see her, yet not daring even to ask for her? And when she came down at last, was she the less lovely in his eyes because she came, not flaunting with bare bosom, in tawdry finery and paint, but shrouded close in coif and pinner, hiding from all the world beauty which was there still, but was meant for one alone, and that only if God willed, in God's good time? And was there no faltering of their voices, no light in their eyes, no trembling pressure of their hands, which said more, and was more, aye, and more beautiful in the sight of Him who made them, than all Herrick's Dianemes, Waller's Saccharissas, flames, darts, posies, love-knots, anagrams, and the rest of the insincere cant of the court? What if Zeal-for-Truth had never strung together two rhymes in his life? Did not his heart go for inspiration to a loftier Helicon, when it whispered to itself, "My love, my dove, my undefiled, is but one,” than if he had filled pages with sonnets about Venuses and Cupids, love-sick shepherds and cruel nymphs ?
And was there no poetry, true idyllic poetry, as of Longfellow's “Evangeline" itself, in that trip round the old farm next morning; when Zeal-for-Truth, after looking over every heifer, and peeping into every sty, would needs canter down by his father's side to the horse-fen, with his arm in a sling; while the partridges whirred up before them, and the lurchers flashed like grey snakes after the hare, and the colts came whinnying round, with staring eyes and streaming manes, and the two chatted on in the same sober businesslike English tone, alternately of “The Lord's great dealings" by General Cromwell, the pride of all honest fen-men, and the price of troop-horses at the next Horncastle fair ?
Poetry in those old Puritans? Why not? They were men of like passions with ourselves. They loved, they married, they brought up children; they feared, they sinned, they sorrowed, they fought-they conquered. There was poetry enough in them, be sure, though they acted it like men, instead of singing it like birds.
A picture more real and hardly less picturesque of Puritan
life is to be seen in the early life of the Puritan poet, John Milton.]
Milton is not only the highest, but the completest type of Puritanism. His life is absolutely contemporary with that of his cause. He was born when it began to exercise a direct power over English politics and English religion; he died when its effort to mould them into its own shape was over, and when it had again sunk into one of many influences to which we owe our English character. His earlier verse, the pamphlets of his riper years, the epics of his age, mark with a singular precision the three great stages in its history. His youth shows us how much of the gaiety, the poetic ease, the intellectual culture of the Renascence 1 lingered in a Puritan home. Scrivener 2 and “precisian” 3 as his father was, he was a skilful musician; and the boy inherited his father's skill on lute and organ. One of the finest outbursts in the scheme of education which he put forth at a later time is a passage, in which he vindicates the province of music as an agent in moral training. His home, his tutor, his school were all rigidly Puritan; but there was nothing narrow or illiberal in his early training. “My father," he says, “ destined me while yet a little boy to the study of
* The age of Elizabeth. 2 A scrivenier was much like a modern attorney.
3 The Purituns were called “precisians”. from their préciseness of speech and avoidance of oaths and untruths.
humane letters; which I seized with such eagerness that from the twelfth year of my age I scarcely ever went from my lessons to bed before midnight.” But to the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew he learnt at school, the scrivener advised him to add Italian and French. Nor were English letters neglected. Spenser gave the earliest turn to his poetic genius. In spite of the war between playwright and precisian, a Puritan youth could still in Milton's days avow his love of the stage, “if Jonson's 4 learned sock be on, or sweetest Shakspere, Fancy's child, warble his native woodnotes wild,” and gather from the “masques and antique pageantry” of the court revel hints for his own “Comus" and “Arcades.” Nor does any shadow of the coming struggle with the Church disturb the young scholar's reverie, as he wanders beneath “the high embowed roof, with antique pillars, massy proof, and storied windows richly dight, casting a dim religious light,” or as he hears “the pealing organ blow to the full-voiced choir below, in service high and anthem clear.”
His enjoyment of the gaiety of life stands in bright contrast with the gloom and sternness of the later Puritanism. In spite of “a certain reservedness of natural disposition," which shrank from “ festivities and jests, in which I acknowledge my faculty to be very slight,” the young singer could still enjoy the “jest and youthful jollity,” of the world around hin, of its “quips and cranks and wanton wiles ;" he could join the crew of Mirth, and look pleasantly on at the village fair, “where the jolly rebecks sound to many a youth and many a maid, dancing in the chequered shade.” But his pleasures were unreproved. There was nothing ascetic in his look, in his slender, vigorous frame, his face full of a delicate yet serious beauty, the rich brown hair which
4 Ben Jonson, the greatest of English dramatists who followed Shakspere.
clustered over his brow; and the words we have quoted show his sensitive enjoyment of all that was beautiful. But from coarse or sensual self-indulgence the young Puritan turned with disgust: “A certain reservedness of nature, an honest haughtiness and self-esteem, kept me still above those low descents of mind.” He drank in an ideal chivalry from Spenser, but his religion and purity disdained the outer pledge on which chivalry built up its fabric of honour. “Every free and gentle spirit," said Milton, “without that oath, ought to be born a knight.” It was with this temper that he passed from his London school, St. Paul's, to Christ's College at Cambridge, and it was this temper that he preserved throughout his University career. He left Cambridge, as he said afterwards, “free from all reproach, and approved by all honest men,” with a purpose of selfdedication to that same lot, however mean or high, towards which time leads me, and the will of Heaven.”
Milton was engaged during the civil war 5 in strife with Presbyterians and with Royalists, pleading for civil and religious freedom, for freedom of social life, and freedom of the press. At a later time he became Latin Secretary to the Protector, 6 in spite of a blindness which had been brought on by the intensity of his study. The Restoration found him of all living men the most hateful to the Royalists; for it was his “ Defence of the English People” which had justified throughout Europe the execution of the King.? Parliament ordered his book to be burnt by the common hangman; he was for a time imprisoned, and even when released he had to live amidst threats of assassination from fanatical Cavaliers. To the ruin of his cause were added personal misfortunes in the bankruptcy of the scrivener who held the bulk of his property, and in the Fire of London, which
5 Between Charles the First and the Parliament.