Puslapio vaizdai


HEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
In flender book his vast design unfold,
Meffiah crown'd, God's reconcil'd decree,
Rebelling Angels, the forbidden tree,
Heav'n, Hell, Earth, Chaos, all; the argument
Held me a while misdoubting his intent,
That he would ruin (for I faw him strong)
The facred truths to fable and old fong,
(So Sampfon grop'd the temple's pofts in fpite)
The world o'erwhelming to revenge his fight.

Yet as I read, foon growing lefs fevere,
I lik'd his project, the fuccefs did fear;
Through that wide field how he his way should find,
O'er which lame faith leads understanding blind;
Left he perplex'd the things he would explain,
And what was eafy he should render vain.

Or if a work fo infinite he spann'd,
Jealous I was that fome lefs fkilful hand
(Such as difquiet always what is well,
And by ill imitating would excel)

Might hence prefume the whole creation's day
To change in scenes, and show it in a play.


My causeless, yet not impious, furmise.
But I am now convine'd, and none will dare
Within thy labors to pretend a fhare.

Thou haft not mifs'd one thought that could be fit,
And all that was improper doft omit:

So that no room is here for writers left,

But to detect their ignorance or theft.

That majefty which through thy work doth reign,
Draws the devout, deterring the profane.
And things divine thou treat'ft of in such state
As them preferves, and thee, inviolate.
At once delight and horror on us feife,
Thou fing'st with so much gravity and ease;
And above human flight dost foar aloft
With plume so strong, fo equal, and so soft.
The bird nam'd from that Paradise you fing
So never flags, but always keeps on wing.
Where couldst thou words of fuch a compass find?
Whence furnish such a vast expense of mind?
Juft Heav'n thee like Tirefias to requite
Rewards with prophecy thy lofs of fight.

Well might'st thou fcorn thy readers to allure
With tinkling rime, of thy own sense secure;



While the Town-Bays writes all the while and spells,
And like a pack-horse tires without his bells;
Their fancies like our bufhy-points appear,
The poets tag them, we for fashion wear.
I too tranfported by the mode offend,

And while I meant to Praise thee must Commend.
Thy verfe created like thy theme fublime,
In number, weight, and measure, needs not rime.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]



HE measure is English heroic verse without rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; rime being no neceffary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verfe, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to fet off wretched matter and lame meter; grac'd indeed fince by the use of fome famous modern poets, carried away by cuftom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to exprefs many things otherwife, and for the most part worse than else they would have exprefs'd them. Not without cause therefore fome both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rime both in longer and fhorter works, as have alfo long fince our best English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true mufical delight; which confifts only in apt numbers, fit quantity of fyllables, and the fense variously drawn out from one verfe into another, not in the jingling found of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned Ancients both in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then of rime fo little is to be taken for a defect, though it may feem fo perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be efteemed an example fet, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem, from the troublesome and modern bondage of riming.

[blocks in formation]




Cedite Romani Scriptores, cedite Graii. Propert.

THERE is nothing in nature more irksome than general difcourfes, especially when they turn chiefly upon words. For this reason I shall wave the difcuffion of that point which was started fome years fince, Whether Milton's Paradife Loft may be called an Heroic Poem? Those who will not give it that title, may call it (if they please) a Divine Poem. It will be fufficient to its perfection, if it has in it all the beauties of the highest kind of poetry; and as for thofe who allege it is not an heroic poem, they advance no more to the diminution of it, than if they fhould fay Adam is not Æneas, nor Eve Helen.

I fhall therefore examin it by the rules of epic poetry, and fee whether it falls fhort of the Iliad or Eneid, in the beauties which are effential to that kind of writing. The first thing to be confider'd in an epic poem, is the fable, which is perfect or imperfect, according as the action which it relates is more or less fo. This action should have three qualifications in it. First, It fhould be but One action. Secondly, It should be an Entire action; and Thirdly, It fhould be a Great action. To confider the action of the Iliad, Æneid, and

Paradife Loft, in these three feveral lights. Homer to preserve the unity of his action haftens into the midft of things, as Horace has obferved: Had he gone up to Leda's egg, or begun much later, even at the rape of Helen, or the investing of Troy, it is manifeft that the ftory of the poem would have been a feries of feveral actions. He therefore opens his poem with the difcord of his princes, and artfully interweaves, in the feveral fucceeding parts of it, an account of every thing material which relates to them, and had paffed before this fatal diffenfion. After the fame manner, Æneas makes his first appearance in the Tyrrhene feas, and within fight of Italy, because the action propofed to be celebrated was that of his fettling himself in Latium. But because it was neceffary for the reader to know what had happened to him in the taking of Troy, and in the preceding parts of his voyage, Virgil makes his hero relate it by way of episode in the fecond and third books of the Eneid: the contents of both which books come before those of the first book in the thred of the ftory, tho' for preferving of this unity of action, they follow it in the difpofition of the poem. Milton,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »