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The Training
by [?]

Yet I am not conscious of having lost in any degree my early admiration of heroic achievement. The feeling remains; but it has found new and better objects. I have learned to appreciate what Milton calls the martyr’s “unresistible might of meekness,”–the calm, uncomplaining endurance of those who can bear up against persecution uncheered by sympathy or applause, and, with a full and keen appreciation of the value of all which they are called to sacrifice, confront danger and death in unselfish devotion to duty. Fox, preaching through his prison- gates or rebuking Oliver Cromwell in the midst of his soldier-court Henry Vane beneath the axe of the headsman; Mary Dyer on the scaffold at Boston; Luther closing his speech at Worms with the sublime emphasis of his “Here stand I; I cannot otherwise; God help me;” William Penn defending the rights of Englishmen from the baledock of the Fleet prison; Clarkson climbing the decks of Liverpool slaveships; Howard penetrating to infected dungeons; meek Sisters of Charity breathing contagion in thronged hospitals,–all these, and such as these, now help me to form the loftier ideal of Christian heroism.

Blind Milton approaches nearly to my conception of a true hero. What a picture have we of that sublime old man, as sick, poor, blind, and abandoned of friends, he still held fast his heroic integrity, rebuking with his unbending republicanism the treachery, cowardice, and servility of his old associates! He had outlived the hopes and beatific visions of his youth; he had seen the loudmouthed advocates of liberty throwing down a nation’s freedom at the feet of the shameless, debauched, and perjured Charles II., crouching to the harlot-thronged court of the tyrant, and forswearing at once their religion and their republicanism. The executioner’s axe had been busy among his friends. Vane and Hampden slept in their bloody graves. Cromwell’s ashes had been dragged from their resting-place; for even in death the effeminate monarch hated and feared the conquerer of Naseby and Marston Moor. He was left alone, in age, and penury, and blindness, oppressed with the knowledge that all which his free soul abhorred had returned upon his beloved country. Yet the spirit of the stern old republican remained to the last unbroken, realizing the truth of the language of his own Samson Agonistes:–

“But patience is more oft the exercise
Of saints, the trial of their fortitude,
Making them each his own deliverer
And victor over all
That tyranny or fortune can inflict.”

The curse of religious and political apostasy lay heavy on the land. Harlotry and atheism sat in the high places; and the “caresses of wantons and the jests of buffoons regulated the measures of a government which had just ability enough to deceive, just religion enough to persecute.” But, while Milton mourned over this disastrous change, no self-reproach mingled with his sorrow. To the last he had striven against the oppressor; and when confined to his narrow alley, a prisoner in his own mean dwelling, like another Prometheus on his rock, he still turned upon him an eye of unsubdued defiance. Who, that has read his powerful appeal to his countrymen when they were on the eve of welcoming back the tyranny and misrule which, at the expense of so much blood and treasure had been thrown off, can ever forget it? How nobly does Liberty speak through him! “If,” said he, “ye welcome back a monarchy, it will be the triumph of all tyrants hereafter over any people who shall resist oppression; and their song shall then be to others, ‘How sped the rebellious English?’ but to our posterity, ‘How sped the rebels, your fathers?'” How solemn and awful is his closing paragraph! “What I have spoken is the language of that which is not called amiss ‘the good old cause.’ If it seem strange to any, it will not, I hope, seem more strange than convincing to backsliders. This much I should have said though I were sure I should have spoken only to trees and stones, and had none to cry to but with the prophet, ‘O earth, earth, earth!’ to tell the very soil itself what its perverse inhabitants are deaf to; nay, though what I have spoken should prove (which Thou suffer not, who didst make mankind free; nor Thou next, who didst redeem us from being servants of sin) to be the last words of our expiring liberties.”