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Pardon me, mighty Poet, nor despise My causeless, yet not impious, surmise. But I am now convinc'd, and none will dare Within thy labors to pretend a share. Thou hast not miss’d one thought that could be fit, And all that was improper dost omit: So that no room is here for writers left, But to detect their ignorance or theft.
That majesty which through thy work dothreign, Draws the devout, deterring the profane. And things divine thou treat'st of in such state As them preserves, and thee, inviolate. At once delight and horror on us feise, Thou sing'st with so much gravity and ease i And above human flight dost foar aloft With plume so strong, so equal, and fo foft. The bird nam'd from that Paradise you sing So never flags, but always keeps on wing.
Where could'st thou words of such a compass find? Whence furnish such a vast expense of mind ? Just Heav’n thee like Tiresias to requite Rewards with prophecy thy loss of fight.
Well might'st thou scorn thy readers to allure With tinkling rime, of thy own sense secure;
While the Town-Bays writes all the while and spells,
poets tag them, we for fashion wear.
HE measure is English heroic verse without
rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin ; rime being no necessary adjunct of true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame meter ; grac'd indeed since by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away by custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse than else they would have express'd them. Not without cause therefore some both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rime both in longer and shorter works, as have also long since our best English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true musical delight ; which consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned Ancients both in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then of rime so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be esteemed an example fet, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem,
from the troublesome and modern bondage of riming.
CRITIQUE upon the PARADISE LOST.
By Mr. A D DISO N.
Cedite Romani Scriptores, Cedite Graii.
HERE is nothing in nature lights. Homer to preserve the
more irksome than general unity of his action haitens into the discourses, especially when they midit of things, as Horace has obturn chiefly upon words. For this served : Had he çone up to Leda's reason I fall wave the discussion of egg, or begun much later, even at that point which was started some the rape of Helen, or the investing years fince, Whether Milton's Pa- of Troy, it is manifest that the radise Lost may be called an Heroic Atory of the poem would have been poem? Those who will not give it a series of several actions. He that title, may call it (if they therefore opens his poem with the please) a Divire poem. It will be discord of his princes, and artfully lufficient to its perfection, if it has interweaves, in the several succeedin it all the beauties of the highetting parts of it, an account of every kind of poetry; and as for thole thing material which relates to who alledge it is not an heroic them, and had pafled before this fapoem, they advance no more to tal diffenfion. After the same the diminution of it, than if they manner, Æneas makes his first apfhould say Adam is not Æneas, nor pearance in the Tyrrhene seas, and Eve Helen.
within fight of Italy, because the I shall therefore examine it by action proposed to be celebrated the rules of epic poetry, and see was that of his settling himself in whether it falls short of the Iliad Latiuin. But because it was neceíor Æneid, in the bi auties which sary for the reader to know what are essential to that kind of writing. had happened to him in the taking The first thing to be consider’d in of Troy, and in the preceding an epic poem, is the fable, which parts of his voyage, Virgil makes is perfect or imperfect, according his hero relate it by way of episode as the action, which it relates is in the second and third books of more or less so. This action thould the Æneid: the contents of both have three qualifications in it. First, which books come before those of It should be but One Action. Se- the firit book in the thred of the fondly, It should be an Entire ac- story, tho' for preserving of this tion;' and 'Thirdly, It Tould be a unity of action, they follow it in the Great action. To consider the ac- disposition of the poem. Milton ţion of the Iliad, Æneid, and Para- in imitation of these two great dise Loft, in these three several poets, opens his Paradise Lost with
an infernal council plotting the fall mies. Besides the many ocher of Man, which is the action he beauties in such an episode, its proposed to celebrate ; and as for running parallel with the great acthoie great actions, the battle of tion of the poem, hinders it from the Angels, and the creation of the breaking the unity so much as anworld, (which preceded in point other episode would have done, of time, and which, in my opinion, that had not fo great an affinity would have entirely destroyed the with the principal subject. In short, unity of his principal action, had this is the same kind of beauty he related them in the same order which the critics admire in the that they happened) he cast them Spanish Fryar, or the Double Dirinto the fifth, fixth and seventh covery, where the two different books, by way of episode to this plots look like counterparts and co
pies of one another. Aristotle himself allows, that The second qualification required Homer has nothing to boaft of as in the action of an epic poem is, to the unity of his fable, thor at that it should be an entire action : the same time that great critic and An action is entire when it is comphilofopherendevors to palliate this plete in all its parts ; or as Aristotle imperfection in the Greek poét by defcribes it, when it confifts of a imputing it in fome mcafure to beginning, a middle, and an end: the very nature of an epic poem. Nothing (hould go before it, beinSome have been of opinion, that termix'd with it, or follow after it, the Æneid also labors in this parti- that is not related to it. As on the cular, and has episodes which may contrary, no fingle flép should be be looked upon as excrescencies ra omitted in that just and regular ther than as parts of the action. progress which it must be supposed On the contrary, the poem, which to take from its original to its conwe have now under our confidera- summation. Thus we see the antion, hath no other episodes than ger of Achilles in its birth; its consuch as naturally arise from the tinuance, and effects, and Æneas's subject, and yet is filled with such settlement in Italy, carried on a multitude of astonishing inci- through all the oppositions in his dents, that it gives us at the same way to it both by sea and land. time a pleasure of the greatest va The action in Milton excels (I riety, and of the greatest fimpli. think) both the former in this parcity ; uniform in its nature, tho'ticular; we see it contrived in Hell, diverfied in the execution.
executed upon earth, and punished I must observe also, that, as Vir- by Heaven The parts of it are gil in the poem which was designed told in the most distinct manner, to celebrate the original of the Ro- and grow out of one another in man empiie, has described the birth the most natural order. of its great rival, the Carthaginian The third qualification of an epic common-wealth : Milton, with the poem is its greatness. The' anger like art in his poem on the fall of of Achilles was of such consequence, Man, has related the fall of those that it embroiled the kings of Angels who are his profesied ene- Greece, destroyed the heroes of