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Pardon me, mighty Poet, nor defpife
My caufelefs, yet not impious, furmife.
But I am now convinc'd, and none will dare
Within thy labors to pretend a share.

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 majesty 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 doft foar aloft
With plume fo ftrong, fo equal, and fo foft.
The bird nam'd from that Paradise you fing
So never flags, but always keeps on wing.

Where could'ft thou words of fuch a compass find?
Whence furnish fuch a vast expense of mind?
Juft Heav'n thee like Tirefias to requite
Rewards with prophecy thy loss 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 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 fublime,

In number, weight, and measure, needs not rime.

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HE measure is English heroic verse without rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; rime being no neceffary adjunct of true ornament of poem or good verfe, in longer works efpecially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to fet off wretched matter and lame meter ; grac'd indeed fince by the ufe of fome famous modern poets, carried away by cuftom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwife, and for the most part worse than elfe 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 also long fince our best English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true musical delight; which confifts only in apt numbers, fit quantity of fyllables, and the fenfe 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.




By Mr.


Cedite Romani Scriptores, Cedite Graii.

HERE is nothing in nature more irkfome than general discourses, especially when they turn chiefly upon words. For this reafon I fhall wave the difcuffion of that point which was ftarted 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 pleafe) a Divine poem. It will be fufficient to its perfection, if it has in it all the beauties of the higheft kind of poetry; and as for thofe who alledge 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.

1 fhall therefore examine it by the rules of epic poetry, and fee whether it falls fhort of the Iliad or Æneid, in the beauties which are effential to that kind of writing. The firft 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 thould have three qualifications in it. Firft, 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, Eneid, and Paradife Loft, in these three feveral


lights. Homer to preferve the unity of his action haftens into the midst 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 epifode in the fecond and third books of the Æneid: the contents of both which books come before thofe 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 in imitation of these two great poets, opens his Paradife Loft with

an infernal council plotting the fall of Man, which is the action he propofed to celebrate; and as for thole great actions, the battle of the Angels, and the creation of the world, (which preceded in point of time, and which, in my opinion, would have entirely deftroyed the unity of his principal action, had he related them in the fame order that they happened) he caft them into the fifth, fixth and feventh books, by way of epifode, to this noble poem.

Ariftotle himself allows, that Homer has nothing to boat of as to the unity of his fable, tho' at the fame time that great critic and philofopherendevors to palliate this imperfection in the Greek poet by imputing it in fome mcafure to the very nature of an epic poem. Some have been of opinion, that the Æneid alfo labors in this particular, and has epifodes which may be looked upon as excrefcencies rather than as parts of the action. On the contrary, the poem, which we have now under our confideration, hath no other epifcdes than fuch as naturally arife from the fubject, and yet is filled with fuch a multitude of aftonishing incidents, that it gives us at the fame time a pleasure of the greateft variety, and of the greateft fimplicity uniform in its nature, tho' diverfied in the execution.

I muft obferve alfo, that, as Virgil in the poem which was defigned to celebrate the original of the Roman empire. has defcribed the birth of its great rival, the Carthaginian common-wealth. Milton, with the like art in his poem on the fall of Man, has related the fall of thofe Angels who are his profeffed ene

mies. Befides the many other beauties in fuch an epifode, its running parallel with the great action of the poem, hinders it from breaking the unity to much as another epifode would have done, that had not fo great an affinity with the principal fubject. In short, this is the fame kind of beauty which the critics admire in the Spanish Fryar, or the Double Difcovery, where the two different plots look like counterparts and copies of one another.

The fecond qualification required in the action of an epic poem is, that it should be an entire action: An action is entire when it is complete in all its parts; or as Ariftotle defcribes it, when it confifts of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Nothing should go before it, be intermix'd with it, or follow after it, that is not related to it. As on the contrary, no fingle flep fhould be omitted in that juft and regular progrefs which it must be fuppofed to take from its original to its confummation. Thus we fee the anger of Achilles in its birth; its continuance, and effects; and Eneas's fettlement in Italy, carried on through all the oppofitions in his way to it both by fea and land. The action in Milton excels (I think) both the former in this particular; we fee it contrived in Hell, executed upon earth, and punished by Heaven The parts of it are told in the moft diftinct manner, and grow out of one another in the most natural order.

The third qualification of an epic roem is its greatness. The anger of Achilles was of fuch confequence, that it embroiled the kings of Greece, deftroyed the heroes of

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