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had been able to ascertain; and his fine ear could not be insensible to the harmonious consequence of this apparently capricious association. He was, hence, unwarily induced to imagine that a like arbitrary junction of verses in his own language would be productive of nearly a like effect; and, without, perhaps, reflecting on the rich variety of the Greek metres, or on the genius of the English language and the habits of the English ear, he threw together, in the choral parts of his drama, a disorderly rabble of lines of all lengths, some of which are destitute of rhythm, and the rest modifications only of the iambic. The result, as might be expected, has been far from happy; and the chorus, instead of giving to his piece the charm of varied harmony, has injured and deformed it with jarring and broken numbers.
By the Grecian dramatists the chorus was admitted, not on choice but, from compulsion. It was the root from which the drama incidentally sprang; and, preceding the dialogue, continued for some time, after the sprouting of that engrafted and alien branch, to form the chief part of the piece. When the dialogue was advanced by Eschylus to the prime honours of the scene, the chorus, which could not be wholly expelled from a stage of which it was the first occu
pant and proprietor, was skilfully employed to entertain with variety, to relieve the attention with musical modulation, and to serve as a vehicle of pure poetry on which the Muse might ascend to her loftiest and most adventurous elevation. Though in some respects, therefore, an incumbrance on the dramatist, the chorus was thus compelled to yield him a compensation in the display of his own powers which it admitted; and in that diversity of pleasure with which it enabled him to gratify his audience. The Greek drama was certainly in a state of wide separation from nature; but no poetic reader would wish the intervening distance to be lessened by the abolition of its chorus, from which his fancy and his ear derive so much exquisite delight. That the chorus is capable of effects, almost equally advantageous, upon the English stage, has been fully proved by the Caractacus of Mr. Mason; but in the Samson Agonistes, in consequence of the erroneous taste with which it has been constructed, it must be allowed egregiously to have failed.
The year, succeeding the publication of this grand and solemn poem, witnessed a second instance of the literary condescension of Milton. We have already noticed the
latin accidence which he published for the use of children; and he now, in 1672, supplied the young, but more advanced student with a scheme of logic, digested on the plan of Ramus, or, in its latin title, "Artis logicæ plenior institutio ad Petri Rami methodum concinnata."
In this book, it has been suggested as doubtful whether" he did not intend an act of hostility against the Universities: for Ramus was one of the first oppugners old philosophy, who disturbed with innovations the quiet of the schools." It is probable, indeed, that, as he advanced in life, Milton did not contract more fondness, than he had formerly entertained for the modes of education adopted by these venerable guardians of literature: but the eye which can assume to trace this hostility in the work now before us must be, at least, as presumptuous, as it is malignant.
Without any reference to the rebellion of his philosophy, there was much in the history of Ramus to conciliate the affection of Milton. De la Ramee, or Ramus, had emerged from a low station of life, for his father was a peasant, by the force of intellectual industry and the powerful efficiency
Johnson's Life of Milton.
of character. By the publication of some attacks on the inviolable supremacy of Aristotle, he threw the university of Paris into disorder, and exposed himself, as a kind of confessor in the cause of philosophic freedom, to the persecuting enmity of the old zealots of the school. The consequences of their intolerance compelled him to take refuge among the Huguenots; and he closed, in the memorable massacre at Paris on the fatal eve of St. Bartholomew, a life as remarkable for its learned labour as it was for the vicissitude of its fortunes. If any circumstances, therefore, in the personal history of Ramus can be supposed to have influenced Milton to select him for a guide in any proyince of literature, the probity, the fortitude, the perseverance, and the misfortunes of the man may fairly be admitted as the causes of the partiality, in preference to his resolute, or, as some may style it, his factious opposition to systems made venerable by the hoariness of time.
The ardour of composition in Milton was not extinguished by the damp of age. In 1673 by publishing a short treatise entitled, "Oftrue Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration,
i Institutiones dialecticæ, -Aristotelicæ animadversiones.
&c." he showed that the great interests of man were uniformly the leading objects of his regard. In this piece he strongly incul cates the duty of mutual forbearance and of those Christians, of every deno
union among mination, who appeal to the holy scriptures for the rule of their faith; and he would exclude from his scheme of ample toleration the church of Rome alone, whose idolatry was an offence to the Christian name, and whose tenets were as incompatible with the safety of any government as they were with the existence of any body of dissentient Christians.
"Let us now enquire," he says, "whether popery be tolerable or no. Popery is a double thing to deal with, and claims a twofold power, ecclesiastical and political, both usurped, and the one supporting the other.
But ecclesiastical is ever pretended to political. The pope by this mixt faculty pretends right to kingdoms and states, and especially to this of England, thrones and unthrones kings, and absolves the people from their obedience to them; sometimes interdicts to whole nations the public worship of God, shutting up their churches; and was wont to drein away greatest part of the wealth of this then miserable land, as part of