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philosophical opinions in defending the system of Copernicus, and his last liberation in December 1633, after a confinement of nearly two years, was on the express condition of not departing, for the residue of his life, from the duchy of Tuscany.
Let us now place before our eyes the picture which tradition has left us of this great and muchinjured character, when, at the close of a life of persecution, when "fallen on evil days and evil tongues," the youthful Milton stood before him.Not only was he suffering from the natural pressure of advancing years, but he was infirm from sickness, and had, a very short time before Milton was admitted to his presence, become totally blind, from a too intense application to his telescope, and consequent exposure to the night air. Yet this, the greatest calamity which could have befallen a person thus engaged, he bore with christian fortitude, with the piety, indeed, of a saint, and the resignation of a philosopher. He permitted it not, in fact, either to break the vigour of his spirit, or to interrupt the course of his studies, supplying, in a great measure, the defect by constant meditation, and the use of an amanuensis. Nor, though the first astronomer and mathematician of any age or
country, had he confined himself to these pursuits; his learning was general and extensive; both theoretically and practically he was an architect and designer*; his fondness for poetry was enthusiastic †, and he played upon the lute with the most exquisite skill and taste. To these varied acquisitions in science, literature, and art, were added the blessings of an amiable disposition; for though keenly sensible of the injustice of his enemies, whose malevolence and oppression, indeed, have scarcely had a parallel, he was yet cheerful, affable, and open in his temper, and his aspect, we are told, was singularly venerable, mild, and intelligent.
That such a man, though living in an age of extreme bigotry, should be an object of ardent attachment to those who best knew him, may be readily conceived. We shall not be surprised, therefore, to learn that he was enthusiastically beloved by his
*A manuscript treatise by Galileo on Military Architecture, in twenty-three chapters, is still existing in the library at Milan.
+ Galileo wrote, when young, Considerations on the comparative merits of Tasso and Ariosto; an essay which, not having been printed in any edition of his works, was thought to have been lost, until lately discovered by Serassi.—See Black's Life of Tasso, 4to. vol. i. p. 375.
pupils, and that when visited by Milton, Vincenzo Viviani, his last and favourite disciple, then a youth of seventeen, was attending upon him with all the zeal of the most affectionate son. So great, indeed, was the veneration entertained for him by this young man, who subsequently became his biographer, and a mathematician of great celebrity, that he never during the remainder of his life, and he reached the age of eighty-one, subscribed his name without the addition of the "scholar of Galileo ;" and had constantly before him, in the room in which he studied, a bust of his revered master, with several inscriptions in his praise *.
How must Milton have been interested and affected by the spectacle which opened to his view on entering beneath the roof of Galileo; how deeply must he have felt and penetrated into the feelings of the characters then placed before him; the sublime fortitude and resignation of the aged but persecuted astronomer, and the delighted love and admiration of his youthful companion! It is, indeed, highly probable, that the poet's deep-rooted abhorrence of bigotry and oppression was first im
Fabroni Vitæ Italorum.
bibed on beholding this illustrious martyr of intolerance. There can also be little doubt but that the conference which, on this occasion, took place between the philosopher and the bard, led, as the Italian biographer of Milton has remarked *, to those ideas in the Paradise Lost which approximate to the Newtonian doctrine of the planetary system. It can also admit of less, that, when Milton, old and deprived of sight, was composing his immortal poem, he must often have recalled to memory this interview with the blind and suffering Galileo, under feelings of peculiar sympathy and commiseration; and with the same christian patience and firmness which so remarkably distinguished the great Florentine, he could truly say,
I argue not
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
"In Firenze certamente egli apprese dagli Scritti e dalle Massime del Galileo invalorite gia né di lui Seguaci, quelle Nozioni filosofiche sparse poi nel Poema, che tanto si uniformano al Sistema del cavalier Newton." Rolli, Vita di Milton, 1735.
+ Sonnet to Cyriack Skinner.
Independent of a succinct annunciation, in the eighth book of his poem, of the system of the universe as taught by Galileo, he has twice by name distinctly alluded to him: thus in the first book, when describing the shield of Satan, he says, its
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
And again in his fifth book:
As when by night the glass
Of Galileo, less assured, observes
Imagined lands and regions in the moon.
It is somewhat remarkable that Milton, who appears to have been well acquainted with the Copernican theory of the world as taught, and, I may say, indeed, demonstrated by Galileo, should have hesitated a moment in his choice between the system of his great contemporary and that of Ptolemy; -yet this dubiety, this trimming, as it were, between the ancient and modern doctrines, is but too apparent in his sublime account of the creation, and interrupts in some measure the satisfaction of the