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This quantity attracts at the services of either historians and literary critics to check the classical assets of Milton's republicanism, the genesis of that republicanism within the 1640s, its unhappiness within the 1650s and its presence in his paintings (particularly in Paradise misplaced) after the recovery. Milton's prose works and his poetry are given equivalent assurance, making this the 1st collaborative quantity to try a accomplished thematic evaluate of his political and literary profession.
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But the image Milton uses is profoundly reductive. The king, a semi-divine figure in the rhetoric of royalist panegyrists and apologists, is compared to a Tutbury stallion (the Staffordshire town was renowned for the quality of its draught horses), and found wanting. Then comes the sustained argument that, experientially, kings may be judged alongside other men; they are not by their kind off the scale of human virtue, and indeed their wisdom may be compared with that of ordinary citizens, whereupon it is found most certainly no better than most and worse than some.
There is no doubt, however, that one of the decisive advantages of a republic for Milton was that political changes were easier to effect. 93 Much therefore rested on what might be called the moral economy of the commonwealth. This topic tended not to be discussed in any depth by writers in the neoscholastic or contractarian tradition, irrespective of whether they were proponents or opponents of absolutism. For example, John Locke, it has been argued, regarded 'political participation' as 'a burden, not a pleasure or a privilege: something to be abandoned gratefully when one's community is 90 93 See CPW, in, 455, 516; ivi, 427.
Nevertheless, the message, about the superiority of merit over hereditary status, is clear. Cromwell's service for the commonwealth far outranks the service of Ormond and the Butler family to the English interest in Ireland. 25 A free commonwealth chooses its servants, not for their blood, but for their godliness and their merit. Besides engaging the simple realities of the relative achievements of Cromwell and the marquis, Milton's language unmistakably is the idiom of the new man. The passage exemplifies in miniature what is to be the informing subversive posture of Eikonoklastes.