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I. COMMENDATORY VERSES PREFIXED TO THE
Latin Verses by S.B., M.D.—The author was Dr. Samuel Barrow, a physician. He was principal physician to the army of General Monk in Scotland in December 1659, when Monk was negotiating for the Restoration; and he was afterwards Advocate-General and Judge-Martial under the Restoration Government, and Physician in Ordinary to Charles II. He died March 21, 1681-82.- -He has taken the liberty, in the title to his verses, and in the first line, of making Paradisus feminine, whereas the Greek and Latin writers make the word masculine.
English Verses by A. M. (i.e. Andrew Marvell).—Marvell's intimacy with Milton had begun in 1652; and he had been Milton's assistant or colleague in the Latin Secretaryship to Cromwell from September 1657, and had retained office with him, after Cromwell's death (Sept. 1658), till the very eve of the Restoration. The present verses are but one out of many testimonies of Marvell's profound and affectionate regard for his illustrious friend. When they appeared, Marvell was about fifty-four years of age, had been M. P. for Hull in the Restoration House of Commons for about fourteen years, and was a marked public man both for his political honesty and for his literary ability. The last he had recently exhibited, with much popular effect, in his celebrated satirical invective, The Rehearsal Transprosed (1672-3), directed against Dr. Samuel Parker, who, after a youth of peculiarly strict Puritan professions, had turned renegade at the Restoration, was receiving ecclesiastical pro
motion on his way to the Bishopric of Oxford, and had published several works of a notoriously time-serving character. Milton's name had been dragged into the controversy by Parker and his friends, on the pretext that it was he that was inspiring Marvell; and this had given occasion to a passage in the second part of the Rehearsal Transprosed, in which Marvell explained his real relations to Milton, and protested against the liberties that had been taken with the name of such a man. That was about a year before the appearance of the present verses, all that needs annotation in which is the attack on Dryden which they veil under the compliment to Milton.- -Dryden must have been personally known to Milton and Marvell since 1657, when he was an undistinguished young man of six-and-twenty, hanging on about the court of Oliver, and receiving occasional employment from Oliver's Chief Secretary, Thurloe. Since then, accommodating himself to the Restoration, he had sprung into deserved celebrity as the very highest man of the Restoration Literature. His supremacy had been formally recognised by his appointment in 1670 to the Laureateship, vacant by the death of Davenant in 1668. Now, since the beginning of Dryden's celebrity, one of his special distinctions had been his championship of rhyme in poetry, in opposition to blank verse. Not only had he assumed, with most of his contemporaries, that rhyme was absolutely essential in all serious non-dramatic poetry; but he had contended that in the Drama itself, and especially in the Tragic Drama, there ought to be a return to rhyme, the practice of Shakespeare and the other Elizabethans to the contrary notwithstanding. He had maintained this doctrine in prose-essays, and he had tried to enforce it by his own example in his Heroic Plays. The appearance, therefore, of Milton's Paradise Lost in 1667 must have come upon Dryden like a blow. An epic in blank verse was a startling novelty, almost a monstrosity. All the more creditable to Dryden's generosity and critical discernment is the fact that he had been among the first to recognise and proclaim the extraordinary merits of the new poem. He had even been drawn by it into personal intercourse, or rerenewed personal intercourse, with the blind poet, in his retirement in the Bunhill suburb. Of one visit of the Poet Laureate to Milton in his last years we have a very particular account. It was in the winter of 1673-4. Dryden had con
ceived the idea of an adaptation of some parts of Paradise Lost for what was then called an 'opera," i.e. a stage-representation with scenery and appropriate song and recitative. He therefore called on Milton to ask leave to turn portions of the poem into a dramatic and rhymed form. "Mr. Milton received him civilly, and told him that he would give him leave to tag his verses," is Aubrey's account of the result of the interview. The exact meaning of Milton's words will be understood when it is explained that tags were the metal points at the ends of the laces or cords then so much used for the fastenings of dresses. A blank verse, in Milton's humorous fancy for the moment, was an untagged line, and to make it rhyme was to put on a tag or shining point. Dryden did to some extent perform this process on a portion of Milton's epic, the issue being his "heroic opera" entitled The Fall of Angels and Man in Innocence. The strange performance was not published by Dryden till after Milton's death in the end of 1674; but many copies of it had been in private circulation already, and Milton must have received one. In the third paragraph of Marvell's verses he distinctly refers to Dryden's operatic transversion of Paradise Lost, characterising the attempt as impudent. In the last paragraph, where he touches on the controversy between Blank Verse and Rhyme, we have a curious proof that Milton must have talked to him of Dryden's recent visit, and repeated to him the very words of the reply given to Dryden. Two of the lines in that paragraph are simply an expansion of Milton's jest about tagging his verses. In the following lines Marvell's meaning is: "In this kind of verse, which is Dryden's favourite kind, you see how the necessity of finding a rhyme to offend forces me to end the next line with commend, though it is a weaker and less natural word than might otherwise have suggested itself. Generalise this one instance, and the superiority of Milton's unrhymed verse for all great purposes will be apparent." Though Dryden is not named, no reader in 1674 could have misunderstood the reference. In the Duke of Buckingham's famous farce called The Rehearsal, brought out at the King's Theatre in the winter of 1671-2, expressly for the purpose of satirizing Dryden's dramatic notions and turning himself into ridicule, Dryden had been personated, as poet-laureate, in the character of Bayes; and this nickname of Bayes had stuck to him.
II. AUTHOR'S PREFACE CONCERNING THE VERSE. There can be no doubt that Milton was thinking of Dryden and his championship of Rhyme when he wrote this preface. It is perhaps the most thorough-going contradiction of Dryden's doctrine to be found in the language, though a very strong passage to the same general effect will be found in Ascham's Schoolmaster (1570). Milton, it may be observed, takes no notice of Surrey's memorable first introduction of blank verse into English in his translation of the Second and Fourth Books of the Æneid, but only glances at the remarkable phenomenon of the sudden adoption of Blank Verse for English Tragedy by Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, in 1561, and the general persistence in that form by all the subsequent Elizabethan dramatists. But, though citing this prevalence of Blank Verse in English Dramatic Poetry for nearly a century past as a precedent in his favour, and though doubtless aware that there had been stray specimens of English non-dramatic poetry in blank verse subsequent to Surrey's, he closes his Preface, truly enough, with a claim for his own Paradise Lost "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." In other words, Milton regarded himself as the first to apply English Blank Verse to a great epic subject and to show how the music of Blank Verse might be modified for epic purposes. - Milton's present invective against Rhyme is to be received, I imagine, cum grano. Though he had used blank verse in his own earlier poetry, as in Comus, had not the bulk of that poetry been in rhyme? Nay, though he was to persist in blank verse in the two remaining poems of his life-Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, -was he not, in the choruses of Samson Agonistes, to revert occasionally to rhyme, and to use it in a most cunningly artistic manner?
NOTES TO PARADISE LOST.
I-26. " Of Man's first disobedience sing, Heavenly Muse," etc. It is expressly the HEBREW Muse that Milton invokes,-the Muse that may be supposed to have inspired the shepherd Moses, either on Mount Horeb, when he was keeping the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro, and the Angel of the Lord appeared to him out of the burning bush (Exod. iii. 1, 2), or at a later date on Mount Sinai, when he was alone with the Lord for forty days, receiving the Law (Exod. xxiv. 12-18). On either of these occasions Milton supposes Moses to have received that inspiration which enabled him to reveal, in Genesis, how the Heavens and the Earth were made; and it was the same Heavenly Muse, he assumes, that afterwards, by Siloa's brook or pool, near the temple at Jerusalem (Isaiah viii. 6, and Nehem. iii. 15), inspired also David and the Prophets. This Muse, and no other, must inspire the present poet. For the theme that he proposes requires such aid: his song is one that intends to soar above the Aonian Mount-i.e. above that Mount Helicon, in old Aonia or Boeotia, which, with the neighbouring region, was the fabled haunt of the Grecian Muses. In the end, however, this form of an invocation even of what might be called, by a bold adaptation of classic terms, the true, primeval, or Heavenly Muse (Milton afterwards, P. L., VII. I, calls her Urania), passes into a direct prayer to the Divine Spirit. Milton believed himself to be, in some real sense, an inspired man.
50--53. "Nine times the space," etc. The nine days in this passage are not the nine days of the fall of the Angels out of Heaven into Hell (vI. 871), but nine subsequent days