|On the Martyr's Feast Day, Remembering the Protestant Taliban That Slew Him
||[Jan. 30th, 2007|06:22 am]
|[||yet once more
Today is the Anglican Church’s feast of Charles I, King and Martyr—a saint whom Milton helped to murder.
This is what Andrew Marvell wrote about this dreadful historical event:
From “A Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return From Ireland”
And Hampton shows what part
He had of wiser art,
Where, twining subtle fears with hope,
He wove a net of such a scope,
That Charles himself might chase
To Carisbrooke's narrow case:
That then the royal actor born
The tragic scaffold might adorn:
While round the armèd bands
Did clap their bloody hands.
He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene:
But with his keener eye
The axe's edge did try:
Nor called the gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right,
But bowed his comely head,
Down, as upon a bed.
This was that memorable hour
Which first assured the forcèd power.
So when they did design
The Capitol's first line,
A bleeding head where they begun,
Did fright the architects to run;
And yet in that the State
Foresaw its happy fate.
--A poem that is particularly remembered in England on this day by the Society of King Charles the Martyr.
The legal murder of Britain’s rightful monarch was not only criminal; it was also stupid, because the fanatics like Milton who accomplished it also ensured the restoration of the monarchy by its excess:
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Here is the an account of Charles Stuart’s execution, including the noble speech he made from the scaffold:
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And what of John Milton, the apologist for the King’s murder and his most inveterate and envenomed enemy? He seems to have convinced himself, after some contact with Galileo and other foreign dissidents, that the coming Civil War would be “a fight for the greatness of the Renaissance, for curiosity and truth themselves.”
I will let Diane Purkiss, whose recent history of the English Civil War I’ve just quoted on the subject of John Milton, sum up:
The astounding thing is that this fiercely competitive, neurotic, insecure, emotionally constipated man whose prose writings often bore and sometimes hector did truly have the mind of a genius. Milton’s heart was not even as interesting as a foul rag-and-bone shop; it was more like a draper’s store circa 1950, with flannel cloth in neatly wound bolts. Yet somehow the alchemy of war wrought upon this unpromising material and transformed its baseness into an avalanche of pure gold. From the dry wastes of Milton’s egotism and emotional insensitivity somehow sprang skyrockets of bright angels, cascades of light, the mountains of Eden, and the bejeweled and velvet darkness of the most seductive Satan in Western literature. Of course we can catch glimpses of the splendours to come in the fugal sonorities of Areopagitica, in the starry courts of Comus, in the delicate fragile perfection of Lycidas. But Milton’s great epic still takes away the breath, in part because it is astounding that such grandeur comes from such a difficult man, but it could only have been produced by that war acting on that man. Paradise Lost is arguably among the war’s greatest and most enduring consequences.
--Diane Purkiss, The English Civil War (New York: Basic Books, 2006), pp. 321-22
But let no one call him a Christian; he knows not one thing of the love, compassion and mercy of his Saviour’s teaching; and let no one deny that he betrayed and helped to murder his Sovereign.