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A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing.

THEY, who to states and governors of the Commonwealth direct their speech, High Court of Parliament! or wanting such access in a private condition, write that which they foresee may advance the public good-I suppose them as

Areopagitica. Milton copied his title from Isokrates, a Greek orator, who addressed an oration to the" Areopagus" or Athenian Council about the year 400 B.C. The object of the oration of Isokrates, the "old man eloquent," as Milton calls him in the Sonnet to Lady Margaret Ley, was to awaken in the minds of the Areopagus a greater sense of their own dignity, and to re-construct the democratic institutions which Solon, the great Greck lawgiver, had introduced, and which had been allowed to decay. The Areopagus was SO named because the Council held its meetings on the hill of Mars (Areios of Mars, pagos = the hill). Isokrates called his speech the Areiopagitikos logos.


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Although the subjects of the two speeches are dissimilar, they are alike in form, as Milton has adopted the classic divisions of his matter:Exordium or opening, Statement, Argument, Peroration; and they are alike also in that each is addressed to the great

Council of the Red Im

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at the beginning of no mean endeavour, not a little altered and moved inwardly in their minds: some with doubt of what will be the success, others with fear of what will be the censure; some with hope, others with confidence of what they have to speak. And me perhaps each of these dis10 positions, as the subject was whereon I entered, may have at other times variously affected; and likely might in these foremost expressions now also disclose which of them swayed most, but that the very attempt of this address thus made, and the thought of whom it hath recourse to, hath got the power within me to a passion, far more welcome than incidental to a preface. Which though I stay not to confess ere any ask, I shall be blameless, if it be no other, than the joy and gratulation which it brings to all who wish and

5. altered, disturbed in mind.

7. success, result, whether good or bad. Not as used only of good results.


8. censure (L. censura an assessing), like success, meant opinion, whether good or bad, but has undergone an inverse change in meaning, success having limited itself to its good meaning, while censure has followed the more general degradation in meaning, like the words knave, churl, etc.

8. confidence of. The preposition here has a peculiar use. The meaning is, that others have confidence because of what they have to speak, i.e., because they know that their subject is good.

of Milton's

9. me, one favourite inversions.



10. as the subject Milton's principal previous works in prose were: Reformation in England," 1641; "Prelatical Episcopacy," 1641;

"Reasons of Church Government," 1641; "Tractate on Education," 1644;" Tractate on Discipline and Divorce," 1644. 11. likely, possibly.

12. disclose, apparently has no grammatical subject, but "I" is understood. "I might possibly disclose in these opening sentences which of these dispositions most affected me, but the very attempt at making this speech, and the knowledge of the persons it addresses, have brought me into a state of enthusiasm more welcome to me, than is natural in a preface." Milton means that the thoughts of his subject make impossible any cold analysis of his reasons for writing.

13. address thus made. Latinised form. See Chapter on Language.

16, 17. stay not to confess, evc. Do not delay my confession till I am asked. Confess at once. છે

18. it, helping in the cause.

was not strict Puritan

Milton was very human and liberal. Was close Great individual force. Seff

to life.

centered man. Thought that "Paradise Lost was inspired by God.

Poetic style. Description of Hell

in BR. II.


Acheron- sorrow

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Igates of

Despeniteness of geography, but unreal in descriptions, impossible to visualize Gives vivedness, nealness.. Style is. not subject matter, Satan- powerful, resourceful, pride, courage, considerale - only


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promote their country's liberty; whereof this whole discourse proposed will be a certain testimony, if not a trophy. For 20 this is not the liberty which we can hope, that no grievance ever should arise in the Commonwealth-that let no man in this world expect; but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained that wise men look for. To which if I now manifest by the very sound of this which I shall utter, that we are already in good part arrived, and yet from such a steep disadvantage of tyranny and superstition grounded into our principles as was beyond the manhood of a Roman recovery, it will be attributed first, as is most due, to the strong assistance of God our deliverer, next, to your faithful guidance and undaunted wisdom, Lords and Commons of England! Neither is it in God's esteem the diminution of His glory, when honourable things are spoken of good men and worthy magistrates; which if I now first should begin to do, after so fair a progress of your laudable


19. discourse proposed, a Latinism; cf. l. 13 above.


20. testimony, if not trophy. A "trophy" was a pile of captured arms fixed on the trunk of a tree to mark the

place where an enemy had
turned in flight (Gr. tropé:
turn), and hence was a sign of
victory. Milton's book re-
mained a testimony of his
fight for liberty until 1694,
when the withdrawal of the
restrictions on printing made it
a trophy."


26. which, i.e., "the utmost bound of civil liberty mentioned above.

27. are... arrived. Milton uses the verb "to be" instead of to have" with verbs of motion; a usage similar to the French; cf., ils sont arrivés.

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The Presbyterians were then in
power, and Milton was only
just beginning to learn that a
Presbyter in power was very
like a Priest.

28. tyranny
and super-
stition; i.e., the sway of the
Papist and the Prelate.

29, 30. beyond the manhood
of a Roman recovery. The
Romans under their Emperors
sank into a depth of luxury,
vice, and indolence from which
they were unable to recover.
The English manhood was able
to shake off its shackles of
tyranny and superstition.

36. so fair a progress. Refers to the various acts of the Long Parliament, particularly to the destruction of the Prelates. See Historical


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