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THE VERS E.
HE measure is English heroic verfe without rhyme, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; rhyme being no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verfe, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame meter; graced indeed fince by the use of fome famous modern poets, carried away by cuftom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and conftraint to exprefs many things otherwife, and for the most part worse than else they would have expreffed them. Not without caufe therefore fome both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rhyme both in longer and fhorter works, as have alfo long fince our beft English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true mufical delight; which confifts only in apt numbers, fit quantity of fyllables, and the sense 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 rhyme so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem fo perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be efteemed an example fet, the firft in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem, from the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming.
This firft Book proposes, firft in brief, the whole fubject, Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was plac'd: Then touches the prime cause of his fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the ferpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his fide many legions of Angels, was by the command of God driven out of Heaven with all his crew into the great deep. Which action pafs'd over, the poem haftes into the midft of things, prefenting Satan with his Angels now falling into Hell, describ'd here, not in the center (for Heaven and Earth may be fuppos'd as yet not made, certainly not yet accurs'd) but in a place of utter darkness, fitlieft call'd Chaos: Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonish'd, after a certain fpace recovers, as from confufion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; they confer of their miferable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the fame manner confounded: They rife, their numbers, array of battel, their chief leaders nam'd, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his fpeech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them laftly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven; for that Angels were long before this vifible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determin thereon, he refers to a full council. What his affociates thence attempt. Pandemonium the palace of Satan rifes, fuddenly built out of the deep: The infernal peers there fit in council.