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selected the melodious words with such diligence, that from his book alone the Art of English Poetry might be learned.
After his diction, something must be said of his versification. The measure, he says, is the English heroic verse without rhyme. Of this mode, he had many examples among the Italians, and some in his own country. The Earl of Surrey is said to have translated one of Virgil's books without rhyme; and, besides our tragedies, a few short poems had appeared in blank verse, particularly one tending to reconcile the nation to Raleigh's wild attempt upon Guiana, and probably written by Raleigh himself. These petty performances cannot be supposed to have much influenced Milton, who more probably took his hint from Trissino's Italia Liberata ;' and, finding blank verse easier than rhyme, was desirous of persuading himself that it is better.
Rhyme,' he says, and says truly, 'is no necessary adjunct of true poetry.' Perhaps, of poetry, as a mental operation, metre or music is no necessary adjunct: it is however by the music of metre that poetry has been discriminated in all languages; and, in languages melodiously constructed with a due proportion of long and short syllables, metre is sufficient. But one language cannot communicate its rules to another; where metre is scanty and imperfect, some help is necessary. The music of the English heroic lines strikes the ear so faintly, that it is easily lost, unless all the syllables of every line co-operate together; this co-operation can be only obtained by the preservation of every verse unmingled with another as a distinct system of sounds; and this distinctness is obtained and preserved by the artifice of rhyme. The variety of pauses, so much boasted by the lovers of blank verse, changes the measures of an English poet to the periods of a
declaimer; and there are only a few skilful and happy readers of Milton, who enable their audience to perceive where the lines end or begin. Blank verse, said an ingenious critic, seems to be verse only to the eye.
Poetry may subsist without rhyme, but English poetry will not often please; nor can rhyme ever be safely spared but where the subject is able to support itself. Blank verse makes some approach to that which is called the lapidary style; has neither the easiness of prose, nor the melody of numbers, and therefore tires by long continuance. Of the Italian writers without rhyme, whom Milton alleges as precedents, not one is popular; what reason could urge in its defence has been confuted by the ear.
But, whatever be the advantages of rhyme, I cannot prevail on myself to wish that Milton had been a rhymer; for I cannot wish his work to be other than it is; yet, like other heroes, he is to be admired rather than imitated. He that thinks himself capable of astonishing may write blank verse; but those that hope only to please must condescend to rhyme.
The highest praise of genius is original invention. Milton cannot be said to have contrived the structure of an epic poem, and therefore owes reverence to that vigour and amplitude of mind to which all generations must be indebted for the art of poetical narration, for the texture of the fable, the variation of incidents, the interposition of dialogue, and all the stratagems that surprise and enchain attention. But, of all the borrowers from Homer, Milton is perhaps the least indebted. He was naturally a thinker for himself, confident of his own abilities, and disdainful of help or hinderance: he did not refuse admission to the thoughts or images of his predecessors, but he did not seek them. From his con
temporaries he neither courted nor received support; there is in his writings nothing by which the pride of other authors might be gratified, or favour gained; no exchange of praise, nor solicitation of support. His great works were performed under discountenance, and in blindness; but difficulties vanished at his touch; he was born for whatever is arduous; and his work is not the greatest of heroic poems, only because it is not the first.
Encomiums upon Milton.
PARADISUM AMISSAM SUMMI POETÆ JOHANNIS MILTONI.
SAMUELE BARROW, M. D. AUCTORE.
QUI legis Amissam Paradisum, grandia magni
Et sine fine magis, si quid magis est sine fine,
In Christo erga homines conciliatus amor.
Et quæ cœlestes pugna deceret agros! Quantus in æthereis tollit se Lucifer armis ! Atque ipso graditur vix Michaële minor!
Quantis, et quàm funestis concurritur iris,
Et metuit pugnæ non superesse suæ. At simul in cœlis Messiæ insignia fulgent,
Et currus animes, armáque digna Deo, Horrendúmque 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,
Et quos fama recens vel celebravit anus. Hæc quicunque leget tantùm cecinisse putabit Mæonidem ranas, Virgilium culices.
ON PARADISE LOST.
BY ANDREW MARVELL.
WHEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,