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wise ; and the highest deference is due to the general decision. I do not complain of Mr. Knight's not feeling Milton's music: but I think neither Mr. Knight or myself have a right to make our own feelings the test and standard of taste and feeling in numbers.” Though it
feldom be safe to oppose the criticisms of Mr. Knight, yet, I am persuaded, my heresy, in some respects, will find fupporters. When Mr. Knight says, that “ * Hall, Donne, Hobbes, and Crafhaw are as licentious in their pauses as Milton,” are we to admit the implication that Milton is a versifier no better than these? No insinuation can be more unjuft
. Nor in the anomalies of Milton's versification, which are faltidiously termed the “ d stains of negligence and rust of antiquity,” can the discerning reader find many causes of offence. The care, rather than the negligence, of the poet, in regard to these matters, may be also inferred from his own affertion : “ e This good hap I had from a careful education, to be inured and seasoned betimes with the best and elegantest authors of the learned tongues, and thereto brought an ear that could measure a just cadence and scan without articulating; rather nice and humourous in what was tolerable, than patient to read every drawling verhfier.” We are indebted, it seems, to an “f hobbling distich" for this remarkable affertion of Milton.
To the more brilliant parts of Paradise Loft, Mr. Knight, however, concedes even the beauty of versification; yet still argues, that blank verse “ 6 requires so many inversions and transpositions to keep it out of profe, as render it quite unsuitable to the enthusiastic spirit and glowing fimplicity of heroic narrative."-It was an obfervation of Dr. Woodford, not long after the publication of Paradise Lost, that “b though Blank Verse, as we call it, that is, number metrical (as they would have it) without rhythm, considering the natural fitness and customary tendence of our language, may do excellently in the drama, because it comes nearest the ordinary way of speech, wherein the interlocutors are supposed to converse, &c. yet in an Epick Poem, to mention no other, I know not how with us it can be well maintained. For it wants the proper and particular character, which we assign Verse, Rhythm I mean; and were it written as Profe usually is, in its just periods, would both be read, and be, as indeed it is, no other than poetical Profe, that is, masculine Profe, drest up like Hercules by Omphale in the attire of one of her women, but whose shape and warlike limbs could not be concealed by the disguise. He offers an instance from that most excellent and divinely flowing 'speech of our first mother, in the fourth book of Paradise Lost; than which neither Milton himself ever said any thing fofter
6 Ellay, ut supr. p. 121.
Preface to a Paraphrase upon the Canticles, &c. By Samuel Woodford, D.D. 8vo. 1679.
Par. Loft, B. iv. 440, &c.
and more poetical, nor can almost be imagined to be faid of man.” Having exhibited this passage * written as prose usually is, he adds, “Who now in the world would ever dream that this were Verse, and verse too the softest and most tuneable, and with as great a wabos, suitable to the occasion, as can be conceived ? I confess some few words, and manner of contexture, and an image of the thing different, and some things more tender than that which Profe commonly renders, would make it suspected that the writer was in a poetical rapture ; but still, through the disguise, the prose appears, or rather cannot be hid.”_
I have thus stated perhaps the earliest, as well as the latest, condemnatory criticism on the usage of blank verse in an Englith heroick poem. Dryden
pretends, that the true reason why Milton wrote the Paradise Lost in blank verse was, that Rhyme was not his talent. This is a misrepresentation, to which no unprejudiced reader of Lycidas, or L'Al. legro, or Il Penferoso, can liften with patience. However, let the reader perufe Milton's own apo
* Mr. Knight's exhibition of this kind, (B. v. 404–413.) is certainly one of the least tuneable passages, although taken (he reminds us) from one of the most admired books of the poem ; as it is also one of the few passages, concerning which no admirer of the irregular variety of Miltonic paufes” will be difposed to flight the critick's friendly hint of scansion.-For what purpose our American brethren adopted this method of writing blank verse as profe in the following instance, I am unable to say; but it may amuse the reader to be informed of a work entitled, Psalterium Americanum: The Psalms in blank verse, yet printed as profe. 12mo. Boston, 1718.
See the dedication of his Juvenal.
logy for the verse, which was prefixed to his first edition of the Paradise Loft, with a new title
page, in the year following its original appearance. For an explanation of that formidable circumstance which had “ stumbled many,” WHY THE POEM RIMES NOT, had, it seems, been demanded. TODD. .
* Now prefixed to all editions of the Poem. See the notes ou this apology in the present edition,
AN INQUIRY INTO THE
ORIGIN OF PARADISE LOST.
“ The petty circumstances, by which great minds are led to
the first conception of great designs, are fo various and volatile, that nothing can be more difficult to discover: Fancy in particular is of a nature so airy, that the traces of her step are hardly to be discerned; ideas are fo fugitive, that if poets, in their life time, were questioned concerning the manner in which the feeds of considerable productions first arose in their mind, they might not always be able to answer the inquiry; can it then be possible to succeed in such an inquiry concerning a mighty genius, who has been consigned more than a century to the tomb, especially when, in the records of his life, we can find no positive evidence on the point in question? However trifling the chances it may afford of success, the investigation is assuredly worthy our pursuit; for, as an accomplished critick has faid, in speaking of another poet, with his usual felicity of discernment and expression, the inquiry cannot be void of entertainment whilft MILTON is our constant theme: whatever may be the fortune of the chace, we are sure it will lead us through pleasant prospects and a fine country.” Hayley's Conjectures on the Origin of Paradise Lost.
THE earliest observation respecting the Origin of Paradise Lost appears to have been made by Voltaire, in the year 1727. He was then studying in England; and had become so well acquainted with our language as to publish an English essay on epick poetry; in which are the following words: