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ful, instructive; his wit on all occasions at command, facetious, grave or satirical, as the subject required. His judgment, when disengaged from religious and political speculations, was just and penetrating, his apprehension quick, his memory tenacious of what he read, his reading only not so extensive as his genius, for that was universal. And having treasured up such immense store of science, perhaps the faculties of his soul grew more vigorous after he was deprived of sight; and his imagination, (naturally sublime and enlarged by reading romances, of which he was much enamoured in his youth) when it was wholly abstracted from material objects, was more at liberty to make such amazing excursions into the ideal world, when in composing his divine work he was tempted to range
Beyond the visible diurnal sphere.
With so many accomplishments, not to have had some faults and misfortunes to be laid in the balance with the fame and felicity of writing. Paradise Lost, would have been too great a portion for humanity.
WHEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
In slender book his vast design unfold;
Messiah crown'd, God's reconcil'd 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 truth to fable and old song;
(So Sampson grop'd the temple's posts in spite)
The world o'erwhelming to revenge his sight.
Yet as I read, soon growing less severe,
I lik'd 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 perplex'd the thing he would explain,
And what was easy he should render vain.
Or, if a work so infinite he spann'd,
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 shew it in a play.
Pardon me, mighty Poet, nor despise
My causeless, yet not impious surmise.
But I am now convinc'd, and none will dare
Within thy labours to pretend a share.
Thou hast not miss'd 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.
That 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 nam'd from that Paradise you sing
So never flags, but always keeps on wing.
Where couldst thou words of such a compass find?
Whence furnish such a vast expanse of mind?
Just Heav'n thee, like Tiresias, to requite,
Rewards with prophecy thy loss of sight.
Well might'st thou scorn thy readers to allure
With tinkling rhyme of thy own sense secure ;
While the town-boy writes all the while and spells,
And, like a pack horse, tires without his bells :
Their fancies like our bushy points appear,
poets tag them, we for fashion wear.
I too transported by the mode commend,
And while I mean to praise thee, must offend.
Thy verse created like thy theme sublime,
In number, weight, and measure,