Here’s a nice pendant to that bit of de Tocqueville I put up earlier today:
Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks; methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unscaling her long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance.
--John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)
It seems that
Behind Milton’s eagle are many stories of eagles flying in their old age straight into the zenith to singe their wings and burn the mist from their eyes in the sun’s rays before plunging thrice into a fountain where, as T.H. White’s translation of a twelfth century Bestiary in his The Book of Beasts (London 1954), p. 105, has it, they are “renewed with a great vigor of plumage and splendor of vision.”
John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose 745
(Merritt Y. Hughes ed. 1957)
What should ye do then, should ye suppress all this flowery crop of knowledge and new light sprung up and yet springing daily in this city? Should ye set an oligarchy of twenty engrossers over it, to bring a famine upon our minds again, when we shall know nothing but what is measured to us by their bushel? Believe it, Lords and Commons, they who counsel ye to such a suppressing, do as good as bid ye to suppress yourselves.