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HE general impression concerning Shakespeare is, that he was a man
little influenced by the love of fame; and little interested in the struggle relating to civil and religious liberty which was becoming daily stronger in his time, and was soon to bring on a civil war.
In these respects Milton was another man. His reverence for humanity in its h‘gher forms, made him desire to have a place in its memory, and in its great heart in the time to come. In this sense he was ambitious, and made no secret of being so; while in regard to freedom generally, such was his estimate of its tendency to develop and ennoble manhood, that to secure its influence to his country he may be said to have placed his master passion-his love of poetry—in abeyance for half a lifetime, and during that interval, not only to have brought himself to blindness in its cause, but to have exposed himself to the utmost hazard. His convictions, as a Christian and a patrict, were enlightened, serious, and deeply seated. Men of his order must live to great moral and religious ends. Shakespeare, in his vocation, was always a man of comparative purity, more so in his later years; but he could make vice furnish amusement as Milton never could. The forbidden, whether in the shape of levity or malignity, is always presented by our epic poet in its true colors, and never fails of its reward. It is something to be able to say of the greatest of our bards, that he was one of the best of men. The fruits of his genius, accordingly, may well find their home in the purest households.
. What the genius of Milton was the intelligence of his country has at length fairly recognized. In his day the Bible was regarded as a treasure which had been lost and found. Not more than three generations had passed since it had been rescued from the most guarded secrecy, and made to be a home possession with our people. Great was the value attached to it: simple, earnest, and unshaken was the faith reposed in it.
Statesmen like Burleigh, soldiers like Raleigh, scholars like Bacon, and patriots like Elliot and Hampden, knelt before this oracle in the spirit of little children Its utterances were to them unerring, authoritative, final. Milton came in