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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 must yield 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 or dialogue, and all the stratagems that surprize 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 hindrance: he did not refuse admission to the thoughts or images of his predecessors, but he did not seek them. From his contemporaries 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.
PARADISUM A MISS AM
UI legis Amissam Paradisum, grandia magni
Carmina Miltoni, quid nisi cuncta legis? Res cunctas, & cunctarum primordia rerum,
Et fata, & fines continet iste liber. Intima panduntur magni penetralia mundi,
Scribitur & toto quicquid in orbe latet : Terræque,tractusque maris,cælumque profundum,
Quæque colunt summi lucida regna poli:
Et sine fine Chaos, & sine fine Deus :
In Christo ergo homines conciliatus amor.
Et tamen hæc hodie terra Britanna legit.
Quæ canit, & quanta prælia dira tuba !
deceret agros ! Quantus in æthereis tollit se Lucifer armis !
Atque ipso graditur vix Michaële minor !
Quantis, & quam
funestis concurritur iris, Dum ferus hic stellas protegit, ille rapit ! Dum vulsos montes ceu tela reciproca torquent,
Et non mortali desuper igne pluunt :
Et metuit pugnæ non superesse suæ.
Et currus animes, armaque digna Deo, Horrrendumque rotæ strident, & sæva rotarum
Erumpunt torvis fulgura luminibus,
Admistis flammis insonuere polo:
Et cassis dextris irrita tela cadunt; Ad pænas fugiunt, & ceu foret Orcus asylum,
Infernis certant condere se tenebris. “ Cedite Romani Scriptores, cedite Graii," Et quos
fama recens vel celebravit anus. Hæc quicunque legit tantùm cecinisse putabit
Mæonidem ranas, Virgilium culices.
SAMUEL BARROW, M. D.
ON PARADISE LOST.
HEN 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 a while misdoubting his intent, That he would ruin (for I saw him strong) The sacred truths to fable and old song, (So Samson 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; Thro' that wide field how he his way should find, O'er which lame faith leads understanding blind; Lest he perplex'd the things 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 show 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: