OF THE COMMONWEALTH AND THE RESTORATION
James I., who succeeded Elizabeth and his son Charles
I, believed that the power of the king was God-given, and should not be
controlled by the people. Charles refused to call Parliament
together, raised money without the consent of the people, and did many
illegal acts. Civil war, however, soon broke out between him and the
people, who were led in military matters by Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan.
The fortune of war went against Charles. Eh was taken prisoner, and
was beheaded in 1649. The form of government was then changed to a
commonwealth, or republic, and Cromwell became Protector in 1653. He
continued in power until his death in 1659, and then, in 1660, the people
called back to England the son of Charles I. Who had been in exile on the
Continent. His coming restored the old kingly line of rulers, and is
spoken of in history as the Restoration.
The Puritans believed
in simplicity of life. They disapproved of the sonnets and the love
poetry written in the previous period. In 1642 the theatres were
closed. The Bible became now the one book of the people. The
Puritan influence in general tended to suppress literary art, yet this
hard, stern sect produced a great poet, John Milton, and a great prose
writer, John Bunyan.
as a poet ranks next to Shakespeare. Some critics call him the last
of the Elizabethans, because his writings shoe many of the qualities which
Milton's life extends
from 1608 to 1674. He was born in London, attended several private
schools, and at the age of sixteen entered Christˇ¦s College, Cambridge.
While at college he showed marked ability as a poet, by composing On
the death of the Fair Infant,
and On the Morning of Christˇ¦s Nativity.
Milton's father, who
was a Puritan, owned a country seat at Horton, not far from London.
To this country seat young Milton went after leaving college, and there
her spent nearly six years reading Greek and Latin authors, leading a
quiet, peaceful life, experimenting with poetry. Even thus early he
had resolved to write at some time a grand poem, but he had not decided
what his subject should be.
The poems of Milton's
Youth.ˇXDuring the time which he spent at Horton, Milton wrote the poems
L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Comus, and Lycidas.
The first two, the
titles of which mean ˇ§the cheerful manˇ¨ and ˇ§the thoughtful man, ˇ§ show
Milton's observation and appreciation of nature, as well as his attitude
toward life. In
L'Allegro he tells the pleasures which would delight him if his mood
were mirthful, and in Il Penseroso those that would please him if
his mood were sad. The verse of these poems is musical and the
thought is sublime.
which is a masque touches upon the beauty of the temperance and chastity
and the ugliness of riotous indulgence. It shows Milton to be a true
poet, grave and grand, able to write good blank verse and good lyrics.
In fact, the poetry in this masque is finer than that in any other masque
in the English language.
Milton mourns for a learned friend who was drowned at sea. He
imitates in some measure the old Greek poems, but he also improves on the
lines of the old Greek and produces exquisite poetry.
Trip on the Continent.
ˇXIn 1638 Milton set out for a trip on the Continent. He visited
Paris, and than went on to Italy, spending many delightful hours with men
of learning. The news of political troubles in England, however,
reached his ear, and in 1639 he returned to aid his countrymen in the
struggle against the King.
Period.ˇXAfter Charles I. was beheaded, Milton served the state as Latin
Secretary, and continued in that capacity until Charles II's return in
1660. With the exception of a few sonnets, during this period Milton
which they had taken in resisting the tyranny of Charles I.; he wrote on
education, and in favor of doing away with the license required for
Last Years.ˇXFrom 1660 until his death, Milton
lived quietly in London, and turned his attention again to poetry.
From overuse of his eyes, in 1652 he became totally blind, and was obliged
to ask the assistance of his daughters in writing his thoughts. The
writing of the grand poem which he had in mind in his youth was the task
which he now attempted. Taking his first theme ˇ§manˇ¦s first
disobedience,ˇ¨ he wrote the epic, Paradise Lost. This was
published in 1667, and was followed in 1671 by Paradise Regained.
is Milton's greatest work. It tells of the revolt of the angels
under Satan, of their expulsion from Heave, and of their plans for revenge
by coming to earth and tempting man to disobey God.
In telling this story,
strong imagination is needed to picture the scenes in heaven and hell and
elsewhere. A lofty conception of the characters is also necessary,
for God and the angels, as well as Satan and his followers, have parts to
play. Exalted sentiments, too, must be expressed by characters
raised so high above mortals, and dignified, stately expression must voice
their sentiments. That Paradise Lost is grand in imagination
and poetic expression, no one will deny.
(1628-1688) was the author of the most imaginative
prose which this period produced. His talent lay in writing
allegoriesˇXstories with a double meaning, where characters are named
according to certain properties which they possess. In Pilgrimˇ¦s
Progress, which is Bunyanˇ¦s greatest book, abstract qualities, as
wisdom and flattery, are made to act as persons. Pilgrim, the hero,
stands for the true Christian, and the story is the record of his journey
from the ˇ§City of Destructionˇ¨ to the Celestial City.ˇ¨
imagination, Bunyan shows strong dramatic power. His language is
earnest and simple, and was formed from reading the Bible, which he knew
almost by heart. He wrote several other books besides Pilgrimˇ¦s
Progress; namely, The Life and Death of Mr. Badman and The
Holy War, but his fame rests on
Pilgrimˇ¦s Progress, which is the greatest prose allegory in the
Bunyanˇ¦s writings are
the result of genius, for Bunyan had no literary training, and hardly any
education whatever. He was the son of the traveling tinker, and grew
up amid most uncouth surroundings. When he was about twenty, he
became deeply concerned for the welfare of his soul, and when he thought
his own salvation had been attained, he became a preacher to others.
Many of his talks were given out of doors, and as he preached without the
sanction of the English Church, he was arrested and thrown into jail,
where he was kept for nearly twelve years. While in jail he wrote
the first part of
(1631-1700) was the son of a clergyman, had a university education, and
made up his mind to earn his livelihood by writing. He forms the
connecting link between the age of Puritan influence and the age of the
Restoration. He knew Milton, and sometimes visited him; but he
lacked Milton's firmness of Character. Having made up his mind to
support himself by his pen, he was careful to keep in favor with the
ruling powers. When Charles II. was king, Dryden was an
Episcopalian; when James II. took the throne, he became a Catholic, and he
did his best in writing for each religious sect in turn. He devoted
his whole life to literature, and became the acknowledged literary leader
of the time.
greatest poem is a satire called Absalom and Achitophel. Under these
names from the Bible tow prominent political leaders of the day, the Earl
of Shaftesbury and the Duke of Monmouth, are satirized. Their
friends and associates also come in for a share of ridicule. For
skilful drawing of character and situation, and for keenness of attack on
individuals, this poem ranks first among English political satires.
and the Hind and the Panther are two other poems
by Dryden. The former is a defense of the Church of Englandˇ¦ in the
latter Dryden gives his reasons for becoming a Catholic.
An ode called
Alexanderˇ¦s Feast is the most popular of Drydenˇ¦s poems, and comes
nearer to true poetry than anything else that he wrote.
Dryden has been called
ˇ§the greatest poet that ever was or could be made wholly out of prose.ˇ¨
He delighted to argue in verse. Dryden was Poet Laureate from 1670
Work.ˇXDryden wrote many plays, including both tragedy an comedy.
Among his best plays are the
Indian Emperor and the Conquest of
His Prose.ˇXDryden is
another ˇ§Father of English Prose;ˇ¨ this time, however, it is as the father
of modern English prose that we wish to distinguish him. He set the
example of clear, direct expression which modern prose follows, and broke
away from the scholarly language of the age which preceded him. In
An Essay on
Dramatic Poesy he uses simple, forceful, and natural language.