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MILTON'S BLINDNESS.-HIS DESPATCHES.
HUME was, I believe, the first who noticed Whitelocke's expression relative to Milton in his office of secretary to the council of state. "One Milton, a blind man, employed to translate into Latin a treaty between Sweden and England." "These forms of expression," adds the historian, "are amusing to posterity, who consider how obscure Whitelocke himself, though lord-keeper and ambassador, and indeed a man of great abilities and merits, has become in comparison of Milton."
An ambassador having complained to Cromwell of the delay of a diplomatic answer, the Protector replied: "The secretary has not yet prepared it, because, being blind, he proceeds slowly." "What!" rejoined the ambassador, " have ye not been able to find in all England any but a blind man capable of writing Latin properly?" Cromwell, from an instinct of glory, discovered the latent glory of Milton, and bound the renown of the hero to that
of the poet. Cromwell having Milton for secretary is a remarkable trait in the history of the world.
Milton wrote the eight well-known lines, which Cromwell sent with his portrait to Christina of Sweden, concluding with the verse :—
Nec sunt hi vultus regibus usque truces.*
The notes of the cabinet of St. James's had been hitherto written in French; Milton drew them up in Latin, and wished to make that the universal language of diplomacy: in this design he failed. The French has generally recovered the ascendency, on account of its clearness; but the national pride of the cabinet of London now causes its official correspondence to be carried on in English, which renders it perplexed, as I know from experience.
Cromwell died. Death is fond of glory. The shackles which the Protector had imposed upon opinion were broken. If it be possible to kill
Cowper gives the following version of those lines:
"Christina, maiden of heroic mien,
Star of the North, of northern stars the queen,
The iron casque still chafes my veteran brow,
But, softened in thy sight, my looks appear
liberty for a few days she revives. Christ burst the chains of death, in spite of the Roman guard which kept watch at his sepulchre. The nominal accession of Richard to his father's power was communicated to the foreign sovereigns. In the collection of Milton's letters are found those which he addressed to the court of France. Such despatches are a monument, from the nature of the facts, and from the nature of the persons. The author of "Paradise Lost" thus writes, in the name of Cromwell's son, to Louis XIV. and Cardinal Mazarine.
"RICHARD, Protector of the Commonwealth
of England, &c. to the Most Serene and Potent Prince, LEWIS, King of France.
"Most Serene and Potent King, our Friend and Confederate, So soon as our most serene father, Oliver, Protector of the Commonwealth of England, by the will of God so ordaining, departed this life upon the third of September, we, being lawfully declared his successor in the supreme magistracy, though in the extremity of tears and sadness, could do no less than, with the first opportunity, by these our letters, make known a matter of this concernment to your Majesty, by whom, as you have been a most cordial friend to our father and this Republic, we are confident the mournful and
unexpected tidings will be as sorrowfully received. Our business now is to request your Majesty, that you would have such an opinion of us, as of one who has determined nothing more religiously and constantly than to observe the friendship and confederacy contracted between your Majesty and our renowned father, and with the same zeal and goodwill to confirm and establish the leagues by him concluded, and to carry on the same counsels and interests with your Majesty. To which intent it is our pleasure that our ambassador residing at your court be empowered by the same commission as formerly; and that you will give the same credit to what he transacts in our name as if it had been done by ourselves. In the mean time we wish your Majesty all prosperity.
"From our Court at Whitehall,
"To the Most Eminent Lord, Cardinal Mazarine.
"Tho' nothing could fall out more bitter and grievous to us than to write the mournful news of our most serene and most renowned father's death; nevertheless, in regard we cannot be ignorant of the high esteem which he had for your eminency, and the great value which you had for
him; nor have any reason to doubt but that your eminency, upon whose care the prosperity of France depends, will no less bewail the loss of your constant friend and most united confederate; we thought it of great moment, by these our letters, to make known this accident so deeply to be lamented, as well to your eminency as to the king; and to assure your eminency, which is but reason, that we shall most religiously observe all those things which our father, of most serene memory, was bound by the league to see confirmed and ratified: and shall make it our business that, in the midst of your mourning for a friend so faithful and flourishing in all virtuous applause, there may be nothing wanting to preserve the faith of our confederacy. For the conservation of which, on your part also, to the good of both nations, may God Almighty long preserve your eminency.
"Westminster, Sept. 1658."
Milton is here a great historian of the history of France and England! It is curious to see Richard make, like one who had long been heir to the three crowns, his preparations for reigning. Milton wrote, in the name of a man invested with power for a few hours, to a young sovereign, who was destined to lead his great-grandson, by uncontrolled monarchy, to the scaffold of the first Charles.