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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.




HE measure is English heroic verse without rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; rime being no neceffary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verfe, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to fet off wretched matter and lame meter; grac'd indeed fince by the use of fome famous modern poets, carried away by cuftom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to exprefs many things otherwise, 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 shorter works, as have alfo long fince our best English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true mufical delight; which confists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of fyllables, and the fense 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 seem 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.

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Cedite Romani Scriptores, cedite Graii.

HERE is nothing in nature
more irksome than general
difcourfes, especially when they
turn chiefly upon words. For this
reafon I fhall wave the difcuffion of
that point which was started fome
years fince, Whether Milton's Pa-
radife Loft may be called an Heroic
Poem? Thofe who will not give
it that title, may call it (if they
please) a Divine Poem. It will be
fufficient to its perfection, if it has
in it all the beauties of the highest
kind of poetry; and as for those
who allege it is not an heroic
poem, they advance no more to
the diminution of it, than if they
should say Adam is not Æneas, nor
Eve Helen.


Paradife Loft, in these three feveral lights. Homer to preserve the unity of his action haftens into the midft 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. Ho 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 I fhall therefore examin it by within fight of Italy, because the the rules of epic poetry, and fee action proposed to be celebrated whether it falls fhort of the Iliad was that of his fettling himself in or Æneid, in the beauties which Latium. But because it was necefare effential to that kind of writing. fary for the reader to know what The first thing to be confider'd in had happened to him in the taking an epic poem, is the fable, which of Troy, and in the preceding is perfect or imperfect, according parts of his voyage, Virgil makes as the action which it relates is his hero relate it by way of epifode more or lefs fo. This action fhould in the fecond and third books of have three qualifications in it. First, the Eneid: the contents of both It should be but One action. Se- which books come before thofe of condly, It fhould be an Entire ac- the first book in the thred of the tion; and Thirdly, It fhould be a ftory, tho' for preferving of this Great action. To confider the unity of action, they follow it in the action of the Iliad, Eneid, and 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 those 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 seventh books, by way of episode to this noble poem.

Ariftotle himself allows, that Homer has nothing to boast of as to the unity of his fable, tho' at the fame time that great critic and philofopher endevors to palliate this imperfection in the Greek poet by imputing it in fome measure to the very nature of an epic poem. Some have been of opinion, that the Æneid alfo labors in this particular, and has episodes 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 epifodes 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 greatest variety, and of the greateft fimplicity; uniform in its nature, tho' diverfified in the execution.

like art in his poem on the fall of Man, has related the fall of those Angels who are his profeffed enemies. Befide the many other beauties in fuch an episode, its running parallel with the great action of the poem, hinders it from breaking the unity fo much as another episode would have done, that had not fo great an affinity with the principal fubject. In fhort, this is the fame kind of beauty which the critics admire in the Spanish Fryar, or the Double Discovery, where the two different plots look like counterparts and copies of one another.

I muft obferve alfo, that, as Virgil in the poem which was defigned to celebrate the original of the Roman empire, has described the birth of its great rival, the Carthaginian common-wealth: Milton, with the

The fecond qualification required in the action of an epic poem is, that it fhould 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 fhould go before it, be intermix'd with it, or follow after it, that is not related to it. As on the contrary, no fingle ftep 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 Æneas'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 see it contrived in Hell, executed upon Earth, and punished by Heaven. The parts of it are told in the most diftinct manner, and grow out of one another in the moft natural order.

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The third qualification of an a much greater than could have epic poem is its greatness. The been formed upon any Pagan anger of Achilles was of fuch confequence, that it embroiled the kings of Greece, deftroyed the heroes of Afia, and engaged all the Gods in factions. Eneas's fettlement in Italy produced the Cæfars, and gave birth to the Roman empire. Milton's fubject was ftill greater than either of the former; it does not determin the fate of fingle perfons or nations, but of a whole fpecies. The united Powers of Hell are joined together for the deftruction of mankind, which they effected in part, and would have completed, had not Omnipotence itself interpofed. The principal actors are Man in his greatest perfection, and Woman in her highest beauty. Their enemies are the fallen Angels: The Meffiah their friend, and the Almighty their protector. In fhort, every thing that is great in the whole circle of being, whether within the verge of nature, or out of it, has a proper part affigned it in this admirable poem.

In poetry, as in architecture, not only the whole, but the principal members, and every part of them, fhould be great. I will not prefume to fay, that the book of games in the Æneid, or that in the Iliad, are not of this nature, nor to reprehend Virgil's fimile of the top, and many other of the fame kind in the Iliad, as liable to any cenfure in this particular; but I think we may fay, without derogating from those wonderful performances, that there is an indifputable and unquestioned magnificence in every part of Paradife Loft, and indeed

But Ariftotle, by the greatness of the action, does not only mean that it fhould be great in its nature, but alfo in its duration; or in other words, that it fhould have a due length in it, as well as what we properly call greatnefs. The just measure of this kind of magnitude, he explains by the following fimilitude. An animal, no bigger than a mite, cannot appear perfect to the eye, because the fight takes it in at once, and has only a confufed idea of the whole, and not a distin&t idea of all its parts; If on the contrary you fhould fuppofe an animal of ten thousand furlongs in length, the eye would be fo filled with a fingle part of it, that it could not give the mind an idea of the whole. What these animals are to the eye, a very fhort or a very long action would be to the memory. The firft would be, as it were, loft and fwallowed up by it, and the other difficult to be contained in it. Homer and Virgil have fhown their principal art in this particular; the action of the Iliad, and that of the Æneid, were in themselves exceeding fhort, but are fo beautifully extended and diverfified by the invention of epifodes, and the machinery of Gods, with the like poetical ornaments, that they make up an agreeable ftory fufficient to employ the memory without overcharging it. Milton's action is enriched with fuch a variety of circumftances, that I have taken as much pleasure in reading the contents of his books, as in the beft invented story I ever met with.

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