finest passages in his prose and not the least fine in his verse are autobiographic, and this is the more striking that they are often unconsciously so. Those fallen angels in utter ruin and combustion hurled, are also cavaliers fighting against the Good Old Cause; Philistia is the Restoration, and what Samson
did, that Milton
would have done if he could.
The ‘Areopagitica’ might seem an exception, but that also is a plea rather than an argument, and his interest in the question is not one of abstract principle, but of personal relation to himself.
He was far more rhetorician than thinker.
The sonorous amplitude of his style was better fitted to persuade the feelings than to convince the reason.
The only passages from his prose that may be said to have survived are emotional, not argumentative, or they have lived in virtue of their figurative beauty, not their weight of thought.
's power lay in dilation.
Touched by him, the simplest image, the most obvious thought,
Like Teneriffe or Atlas . . . .
. . . . nor wanted in his grasp
What seemed both spear and shield.
But the thin stiletto of Macchiavelli is a more effective weapon than these fantastic arms of his. He had not the secret of compression that properly belongs to the political thinker, on whom, as Hazlitt
said of himself, ‘nothing but abstract ideas makes any impression.’
Almost every aphoristic phrase that he has made current is borrowed from some one of the classics, like his famous
License they mean when they cry liberty,
This is no reproach to him so far as his true function, that of poet, is concerned.
It is his peculiar glory that literature was with him so much an