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PREFIXED TO THE SECOND EDITION
IN PARADISUM AMISSAM SUMMI POETÆ
Qui legis Amissam Paradisum, grandia magni
Carmina Miltoni, quid nisi cuncta legis?
Res cunctas, et cunctarum primordia rerum
Et fata, et fines, continet iste liber.
Intima panduntur magni penetralia Mundi,
Scribitur et toto quicquid in Orbe latet;
Terræque, tractusque maris, cœlumque profundum,
Sulphureumque Erebi flammivomumque specus;
Quæque colunt terras, pontumque, et Tartara cæca,
Quæque colunt summi lucida regna poli;
Et quodcunque ullis conclusum est finibus usquam;
Et sine fine Chaos, et sine fine Deus;
Et sine fine magis, si quid magis est sine fine,
In Christo erga homines conciliatus amor.
Hæc qui speraret quis crederet esse futurum?
Et tamen hæc hodie terra Britanna legit.
O quantos in bella duces, quæ protulit arma!
Quæ canit, et quantâ prælia dira tubâ!
Cœlestes acies, atque in certamine Cœlum!
Et quæ cœlestes pugna deceret agros!
Quantus in ætheriis tollit se Lucifer armis,
Atque ipso graditur vix Michaele minor!
Quantis et quam funestis concurritur iris,
Dum ferus hic stellas protegit, ille rapit!
Dum vulsos montes ceu tela reciproca torquent,
Et non mortali desuper igne pluunt,
Stat dubius cui se parti concedat Olympus,
Et metuit pugnæ non superesse suæ.
At simul in cœlis Messiæ insignia fulgent,
Et currus animes, armaque digna Deo,
Horrendumque rotæ strident, et sæva rotarum
Erumpunt torvis fulgura luminibus,
Et flammæ vibrant, et vera tonitrua rauco
Admistis flammis insonuere polo,
Excidit attonitis mens omnis, et impetus omnis,
Et cassis dextris irrita tela cadunt;
Ad pœnas fugiunt, et, ceu foret Orcus asylum,
Infernis certant condere se tenebris.
Cedite, Romani Scriptores; cedite, Graii;
Et quos fama recens vel celebravit anus:
Hæc quicunque leget tantum cecinisse putabit
Mæonidem ranas, Virgilium culices.
WHEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
In slender book his vast design unfold—
Messiah crowned, God's reconciled decree,
Rebelling Angels, the Forbidden Tree,
Heaven, Hell, Earth, Chaos, All-the argument
Held me awhile misdoubting his intent,
That he would ruin (for I saw him strong)
The sacred truths to fable and old song
(So Samson groped the temple's posts in spite),
The world o'erwhelming to revenge his sight.
Yet, as I read, soon growing less severe,
I liked his project, the success did fear-
Through that wide field how he his way should find
O'er which lame Faith leads Understanding blind;
Lest he perplexed the things he would explain,
And what was easy he should render vain.
Or, if a work so infinite he spanned,
Jealous I was that some less skilful hand
(Such as disquiet always what is well,
And by ill-imitating would excel,)
Might hence presume the whole Creation's day
To change in scenes, and show it in a play.
Pardon me, mighty Poet; nor despise
My causeless, yet not impious, surmise.
But I am now convinced, and none will dare
Within thy labours to pretend a share.
Thou hast not missed 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.
The majesty which through thy work doth reign 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 seize;
Thou sing'st with so much gravity and ease,
And above human flight dost soar aloft
With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft.
The bird named from the 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 Heaven, thee like Tiresias to requite,
Rewards with prophecy thy loss of sight.
Well might'st thou scorn thy readers to allure
With tinkling rime, of thy own sense secure;
While the Town-Bayes writes all the while and spells,
And, like a pack-horse, tires without his bells.
Their fancies like our bushy points appear;
The poets tag them, we for fashion wear.
I too, transported by the mode, offend,
And, while I meant to praise thee, must commend.
Thy verse, created, like thy theme sublime,
In number, weight, and measure, needs not rime.
THE measure is English heroic verse without rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin-rime being no necessary adjunct or 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 metre; graced 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 expressed 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 set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem from the troublesome and modern bondage of riming.