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ENGLISH LATIN GREEK
ARRANGED IN CHRONOLOGICAL
TH to produce HE chief purpose of this edition of Milton's poems is to produce the poems in a beautiful type and that in as exact chronological order as can be ascertained, irrespective of the language-Greek, Latin, Italian, or English-in which they were written. This involves a breaking up of the groups-sonnets, elegies, epigrams, pastoral poems-in which Milton arranged some at any rate of the pieces issued in 1645 and 1673. The size of "Paradise Lost" has relegated it to a volume by itself, and I have therefore divided the first volume into two parts to remind the reader that the longer epic would properly come between these two parts. Even so a few of the short poems would be out of place because they were written later than "Paradise Lost," but these are few and unimportant.
To fix the exact order of Milton's shorter poems is a task involving some serious difficulties, but the attempt to do so is interesting and worth making. For a student of Milton's art it is not unimportant to realise how much Latin verse Milton had written before he composed any considerable poem in English. If, also, Mark Pattison's contention be just that Milton's development was the inevitable unfolding of what is dimly present to the individual's own consciousness from the beginning, it is equally true that Milton was not less, but more sensitive, than others to the events that were happening around him, the spirit that was moving on the waters of men's minds; and these influences, while they developed and intensified strains which are discoverable in his earliest verses, as certainly blighted and warped others which had been the most bewitching and lovely in the poems written before his return
from Italy. To read Milton's poetry from the first chapters in the Latin elegies (not well enough known to all readers but of great biographical interest) and the first Cambridge and Horton English poems on to "Paradise Regained" and "Samson Agonistes" is to contemplate a tragedy as sublime and poignant as any in the history of literature, more clearly outlined and not less moving than that which has been gathered from the better ordering of Shakespeare's plays. For if the note of disillusionment is audible enough in the last group of Shakespeare's romances the impression of the whole is of a life richer in those human charities which were some of them denied to Milton, others proudly and sternly rejected by him, and disillusion is not the only note of the last plays, there is also resignation, the voice of one who has learned to be wise and to forgive. But Milton's is the tragedy of the idealist, whose cultured and sheltered youth has sent him forth unprepared for the disappointments which were bound to beset one so confident and pure in his quest of the ideal, overweening in his self-confidence but equally confident in humanity, that needed only, he believed, to have the truth put clearly and eloquently before it to respond to the call of freedom. And then the domestic love, for which he had so carefully trained and restrained himself, fails him in his marriage; and the cause, in which he has enlisted so passionately and for which he has been willing to forgo and to disown even some of the innocent delights of his youth, that too leads from one embittering disappointment to another. Presbyterians, Independents, Cromwell, all fall short; and when the cause has suffered overwhelming defeat Milton reveals himself in "Samson,' stern, sublime, stoical, protesting his faith in the unfathom